Essay / Theology

What Books Should I Read on the Trinity? A Top Ten List

Every few months I get e-mails from people asking what books I would recommend on the Trinity. These are not requests for the latest scholarly work. They’re not focused inquiries with specific topics in mind. Nor are they requests for the greatest books of all time on the doctrine of the Trinity, the kind of thing I would use in a seminar class on the doctrine. These are just people asking, “I heard you talking about the Trinity, and I want to think harder about that doctrine. What books are in print (or not far out of print), readable, and broadly trustworthy on this subject?”

Here are the books I usually recommend.

1. Peter Toon, Our Triune God: A Biblical Portrayal (Victor Books, 1996). Toon is at home in church history and theology, but here he focuses his attention on the biblical foundation of trinitarianism.

2. Brian Edgar, The Message of the Trinity (IVP, 2005). After a brief introduction, Edgar’s book is just pages and pages of exposition of scriptural passages. If you’re looking for proof to build a case for the Trinity, go with Toon. If you want to see how much you can get out of sixteen classic places in Scripture, dig in to Edgar.

3. Timothy George, editor. God the Holy Trinity: Reflections on Christian Faith and Practice (Baker Academic, 2006). A scattershot of nine essays by various authors, this book is a great place to sample a variety of approaches to the doctrine.

4. Roderick Leupp, Knowing the Name of God: A Trinitarian Tapestry of Grace, Faith & Community (IVP, 1996). Leupp starts with the idea of “Father, Son, and Spirit” as the name of God, and works it out with sensitivity to Christian thought and experience. Leupp has read widely, but he writes simply.

5. James B. Torrance, Worship, Community, and the Triune God of Grace (IVP, 1996). Just over a hundred pages of big print, this is a quick read that –for some people– answers once and for all the “why does this doctrine matter” question. You may not have that experience, but I think Torrance puts his finger on the main thing.

6 and 7. Millard J. Erickson, Making Sense of the Trinity: Three Crucial Questions (Baker, 2000). The three questions are: Is it Biblical, Does it Make Sense, and Does it Make Any Difference. 106 pages to cover all three? Yep. Or try the longer Erickson book, God in Three Persons: A Contemporary Interpretation of the Trinity (Baker, 1995).

8. Bruce Ware, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: Relationships, Roles, and Relevance (Crossway, 2005). Ware writes very clearly, and has an especially good grasp of both the eternal equality of the three persons and the distinct personhood of each. He goes a bit too far with the submission language, but I think you can see what he’s after.

9. James White, The Forgotten Trinity: Recovering the Heart of Christian Belief (Bethany House, 1998). White’s a fighter, so if you’ve got some sort of argumentative reason for studying the doctrine (anti-trinitarians hassling you into finally thinking about what you believe, for instance), you might want to start here.

10. Robert Letham, The Holy Trinity in Scripture, History, Theology, and Worship (P&R, 2005). This is probably the most satisfying book on the list. If you think you’ve already got the basics and you want something a little tougher, but you’re not quite ready to go for the rigor of purely academic works, go with Letham.

Even as I make the list, I can think of things I’d like to change in every one of the books. But I’m not promising perfect books, just sharing some good places to start. Any one of these would work well as your first good book on the Trinity.

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