Friday 11 January 2008

Trinitarian reading for laypeople

A friend asked me yesterday about works on the Trinity which could be recommended to interested laypeople who have no theological background. I sent her this list of annotated suggestions – but I’d be interested to know if you have any alternative or additional suggestions:

  • Frederica Mathewes-Green, “The Old Testament Trinity,” in God the Holy Trinity: Reflections on Christian Faith and Practice, ed. Timothy George (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006), 83-90. [The title might sound dull, but this is a very beautiful little essay, written by the popular Orthodox writer. The essay is a brief meditation on Rublev's great icon of the Trinity.]

  • Cornelius Plantinga, “Deep Wisdom,” in God the Holy Trinity: Reflections on Christian Faith and Practice, ed. Timothy George (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006), 149-55. [Another chapter from the previous book: a rich and moving homily on the Trinity.]

  • Benedict XVI, “Introduction: An Initial Reflection on the Mystery of Jesus,” in Jesus of Nazareth (New York: Doubleday, 2007), 1-8. [A brief discussion of the Father–Son relation as the central dimension of Jesus’ human existence. The basis of the doctrine of the Trinity lies here, in the humanity of Jesus.]

  • Rowan Williams, “A Man for All Seasons,” Chapter 3 in Tokens of Trust: An Introduction to Christian Belief (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2007), 57-78. [Like the previous reading, this isn’t strictly focused on the Trinity, but it’s a superb, illuminating, jargon-free account of the relation between Jesus and God – which is the most important thing to grasp when thinking about the Trinity.]

  • Hans Urs von Balthasar, “The Triune Life,” a chapter in Prayer (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 177-97. [A moving reflection on the mystery of the Trinity as the heart of ecclesial life.]

  • Vladimir Lossky, Orthodox Theology: An Introduction (Crestwood: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1978), 36-50. [An important and accessible passage from one of the greatest modern Orthodox thinkers, focusing on the relation between the Trinity and human personhood.]

  • Kim Fabricius, “Ten Propositions on the Trinity”. I might seem a bit biased here, but you really can’t go past Kim’s post on the Trinity – it’s concise, profound, beautiful, and best of all true.]


Anonymous said...

'The Forgotten Trinity' which is the first chapter of Father, Son & Holy Spirit by Colin Gunton (T & T Clark, 2003) - a version of a lecture given for lay people.

JP said...

Difficult to isolate one chapter, but I'd definitely recommend Nicholas Lash, Believing three ways in one God (SCM, 1992 - I think it's probably been republished more recently). The Church Times review rightly called it "a plum pudding of a book, rich, fruity and filling"!

Anonymous said...

Colin Gunton is always clear especially about some of the problems with the Augustinian tradition, so I'd second Andy's recommendation. I noticed that T & T Clark is also publishing a volume by Paul Collins called The Trinity in their A Guide for the Perplexed series, which might be good.

Anonymous said...

I think Gerald O'Collins' The Tripersonal God is a good introduction to the Trinity for laypersons.

Anonymous said...

I would also add James B. Torrance, Worship, Community, and the Triune God of Grace (IVP, 1996).

Anonymous said...

James White - "The Forgotten Trinity" gets pretty in depth, but I don't think any theological background is necessary. That book launched me into a pursuit of theological study.

Anonymous said...

Ben, there's a few books that come to mind, including:

Colin Gunton, The Christian Faith: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine

D.B. Knox, The Everlasting God (if I remember rightly there's a particularly helpful appendix)

Donald G. Bloesch, God the Almighty: Power, Wisdom, Holiness, Love

Thomas Smail, The Forgotten Father

Thomas Smail, Once and For All: A Confession of the Cross

Thomas Smail, The Giving Gift

Thomas F. Torrance, The Christian Doctrine of God

Jürgen Moltmann, The Trinity and the Kingdom: The Doctrine of God

jps said...


For laypeople I would recommend this book:
Worshipping Trinity: Coming Back to the Heart of Worship
by Robin Parry
Paternoster Press, 2005
202 pages, English
Paper, 5.5 x 8.5
ISBN: 1-84227-347-7
ISBN13: 978-1-84227-347-0
List Price: $12.99

It lays out in practical terms what is at stake and how trinitarianism developed. Robin is the acquisitions editor for Paternoster, and is no slouch, theologically.


Anonymous said...

James, an excellent suggestion.

Travis said...

I second Lash's Believing Three Ways in One God - highly recommended as an accessible and creative presentation of the Thomist tradition. Especially helpful to balance out Gunton's excesses, since he's a popular choice here.

Erin said...

read these lists for laypeople and envy the congregations that would read such things. I fear my church is a little less literate and/or motivated, to my shame. I don't think anyone knows what the thomist tradition is..:)

However, Mr Fabricius' 10 short propositions are invaluable to me as a crash course

Jinkins' "An introduction to theology" also has nice discussion that people can get their heads around, as does Ray Anderson's "The Soul of Ministry"

Anonymous said...


good call on Smail's "The Forgotten Father." I have thoroughly enjoyed it. I also think that it is pretty excessible.


I would also suggest "The Message of the Trinity" by Brian Edgar. ISBN: 0-8308-2409-X

Unknown said...

Longtime lurker here (love this blog). I would also recommend, in addition to what's been mentioned above, a little-known book: Experiencing the Trinity, by Darrell W. Johnson (Vancouver: Regent College Publishing). It's essentially a devotional riff on Gunton--a great book.

Ben Myers said...

Many thanks for all these excellent suggestions. There are plenty of books here that I've never read, so I'm glad to hear of them. Another reader also sent me this suggestion via email:

Michael Downey, Altogether Gift: A Trinitarian Spirituality (2000).

::aaron g:: said...

1. The Athanasian Creed

2. Questions #44-49 in Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church

a. steward said...

I would second James Torrance's Worship, Community and the Triune God of Grace. It is an excellent and lay-accessible presentation of much of the material that he and T.F. took into much greater detail elsewhere.

Peter Carey said...

really excellent suggestions! wonderful - I"m starting in on some of these right away - and recommending them around as well! (though, strictly speaking, I'm no longer a lay-person)

Many thanks,


Mike said...

A third amen on James Torrance's book. University students get the Trinity when they read this book by Torrance.

David Williamson said...

I'll quadruple Worship, Community & the Triune God of Grace by James B Torrance! I just spent the weekend reading it in a cottage in Carmarthenshire - utterly beautiful writing and prophetic in its message.

Anonymous said...

Any suggestions for clear trinitarian reading online.


Post a Comment


Contact us

Although we're not always able to reply, please feel free to email the authors of this blog.

Faith and Theology © 2008. Template by Dicas Blogger.