Book Review – The Trinity and the Christian Life

Dr Robert Solomon has written an impressive introduction to the doctrine of the Trinity. Approaching this subject both as a theologian and as a pastor, this book is divided mainly into two parts – historical doctrine and practical implications. In the first part, Dr Solomon does a historical survey of the Trinity by labouring to go through passages in both the old and new testament that makes references to each person of the Trinity. This is followed by looking at how the early church fathers understood and further developed this doctrine. Even though some technical language is used, Dr Solomon takes pain to explain what these terms mean historically and why they matter. While history may not be everyone’s cup of tea, this historical survey is particularly helpful as it points and reveals to us how the creeds that we often recite in church came to be and the various false teachings that these creeds were meant to address. Learning the historical language of the Trinity also informs us on how not to speak about Trinity. For instance as Christians, we believe that Jesus is not merely of similar substance to the Father but is of the same substance as the Father seeing that he is truly God as the Father is. If anything, this section on doctrine helps to deepen our appreciation of the uniqueness of Christianity and the importance of reciting the creeds.

The second half of the book explores the implications of the Trinity. Here Dr Solomon explains how all three persons are involved not just in our salvation but even in the formation of Christian community. Drawing on the distinctiveness of the each person within the Godhead, he reminds us that Christians too are distinct in terms of the various gifts that we each have and yet we are called to unite in the same manner that there is only one Lord and one God. At the same time, Dr Solomon is careful to distinguish the difference between the unity of the church and the unity within the Godhead. The church is not one in being unlike God. Rather the unity that the church shares in, speaks about its oneness in heart and voice (Rom 15:6). For me, the most practical aspect of this segment is when he begins talking about how the Trinity informs and shapes our understanding of mission. He points to a few biblical text in John to show how God the Father sends the Son to redeem us. In turn, we are sent just as the Father sends the Son (John 20:21). Yet we are not alone because the Spirit who is sent by both the Father and the Son is with us leading, guiding and empowering us. The willingness of the Son to forgo his heavenly comfort in order to redeem us also informs the kind of posture we ought to take in missions. We are to adopt the attitude and character of Jesus who is compassionate, loving and humble.

Much can be drawn from this valuable book but space does not permit me to go further. Reading this book spurs us to re-examine our understanding of the significance of the Trinity. Over time, Western Christianity has highlighted the centrality of the cross and for good reasons. However, I think it is equally true, if not more accurate, to learn from the church fathers who said that the start point of man’s salvation begins not at the crucifixion but at the incarnation. If so, then the doctrine of Trinity cannot be neglected for it is the foundation of the Christian faith as Dr Solomon argues passionately. I highly recommend this book!

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