“Theology for the Church”
I'm always eager to find good books in the hands of my church and to recommend them to others. Much is written on theological issues to advance the conversation between scholars and pastors. I love those books and they are important. We also need good books for those who are growing in their faith or joining the conversation on issues they need to learn, who are not always fluent in the lingo. I believe Delighting in the Trinity (DITT) will bring "delight" to all camps.
DITT comes in three parts: Biblical Foundations, Historical Developments, and Practical Implications -- with 3-4 chapters in each. I'm not going trace the majority of Chester's argument because he isn't making any new ones. That's a good thing. Chester isn't offering a reworked doctrine of the Trinity to his personal liking. He's offers the adventure of delighting in God who wants us to know Him.
I have always found the doctrine of the Trinity exciting. Thinking it through takes us deeper into the triune God who is the foundation of all reality. This is the God who made us to know Him, and who gives meaning and joy to our lives. To explore Him is a wonderful adventure. To delight in Him is our chief end. (p 8)
I found Chester's writing to be fresh and pastoral. He isn't merely rehashing old arguments, though he does that well. He brings clarity and simplicity to what could be something cumbersome. And he quotes generously without burying the Scriptures, and from more than just basic theological stream. You'll get stuff from Owen, Calvin, Luther, N.T. Wright, T.F. Torrence, and more. In the Historical Developments section you'll hear from all sorts as the doctrine of the Trinity is considered throughout church history from heroes to heretics, from the early church fathers to contemporary theologians. But Chester doesn't end there. He says there's a continuing need to reform our theology...
Theology is a continuing project. We need to re-articulate the gospel afresh to our culture. At the same time we need to examine the influence of our culture on our thinking. The development of the doctrine of the Trinity illustrates how a slightly divergent view can turn out to be a wrong turning that will eventually lead us away from the biblical gospel. A shift of emphasis in one generation can become a dangerous heresy in the next generation. So theology is a serious task for all Christians. (p 117)
I maybe most appreciate how the book includes illustrations/diagrams and bullet points. The illustrations are both helpful and careful. Chester makes sure to explain are not complete or definitive explanations. The diagrams for historical thinkers I found very helpful to understand the differences. And the bullet points are helpful as we learn and should be helpful when we reference the book later to refresh.
I particularly like the way Chester deals with the Trinity and the Cross. This is a Gospel-centered book on the Trinity.
God is known only through revelation, but this revelation is hidden so that it shatters human pretensions. God is revealed in what is contrary. The wisdom of God is hidden in the folly of the cross. The glory of God is hidden in the shame of the cross. He power of God is hidden in the weakness of the cross. So if we want to discover the true character of God, we must look to the cross. And the God revealed in the cross is trinitarian. He is both single and plural; one united being and three distinct persons. (p 64)
We cannot understand the cross without the plurality of God. The cross shows us that there are distinctions within God. God can be forsaken by God. But neither can we understand the cross without the unity of God. If God is not one, then the cross becomes a cruel and vindictive act with an angry Father punishing an unwilling Son or a loving Son placating an unwilling Father. Only if God is one can the cross be for us reconciliation and inclusion within the divine community. (p 78)
Part 3 of the book, Practical Implications, is where it all comes together with the world around us. There is stuff on other religions, on individualism and pluralism and how this doctrine corrects cultural issue, and much more. There are pastoral considerations throughout, as well.
My only real critique is that I really wish Delighting in the Trinity had a Scripture index and a subject index. Some may complain they would like a fuller treatment, but that's not Chester's purpose. There are other great books for that. This is highly accessible for your church members, and that's firmly where it belongs.
So I highly recommend Delighting in the Trinity as a resource for your church members. It may be of particular help to Bible study teachers and/or small group leaders. And let me add that one group I hope will pick up Delighting in the Trinity: pastors. I'm always surprised to hear pastors & preachers who don't grasp the Trinity, who speak incorrectly as to who does what and when and how. Or who just default at the generic when the Bible gives us the specifics. Let's sharpen our understanding of our Triune God as we preach His Word! This is a helpful refresher, or something to give you more solid footing on this beautiful doctrine.