Some Important Books on the Trinity

As some of you may know, I have been studying the Trinity rather extensively recently, and not just because it is important in the FV discussions. I have always loved this doctrine with my entire soul. So, I thought I’d put together a list of some of the more important books on the Trinity. In my opinion, the two most important are this book (volume 4 of the set) and this book. They complement each other very well, since one is a general historical, doctrinal study that does not pay much of any attention to the post-Reformation tradition, and the other fills that gap magnificently. So, if you read those two together, you will quite likely have a very adequte understanding of the Trinity, both in the Bible, and in church history (not to mention modern studies, as well!). For rounding out a yet more fully orbed study, I would recommend Augustine, Torrance, this book, which is a very nice collection of essays, and Aquinas. Yes, we should not neglect the Roman Catholics on the doctrine of the Trinity, because this is something we hold in common with them, and some of the more important theological reflection on the Trinity recently has been by Catholics (such as Rahner). For understanding the Trinity in the discussion of the FV, you need to start with Ralph Smith’s books here, here, and here. For modern feminist understandings of the Trinity, one could go with Lacugna. One cannot leave out Moltmann in modern discussion, or Pannenberg.


  1. tim prussic said,

    February 4, 2008 at 4:24 pm

    Thanks for that, Pastor. Aside from FV stuff, very little theological has interested me since seminary save the doctrine of the Trinity. Augustine and Aquinas have been spectacular – I’ve not picked up Letham (sorry to say). A book that is often overlooked and is really excellent is Bickersteth’s _The Trinity_. It’s real cheap and offers BOAT LOADS of Scriptural support for the doctrine.

    Also a professor mine in seminary did his PhD on this doctrine – specifically against Rahner. His CV can be found here:
    One can see his many articles on Trinitarianism and on Rahner.

    His dissertation has been published and can be previewed on Google books by doing a google search on “Jowers Trinity” – it should be the first hit.

  2. greenbaggins said,

    February 4, 2008 at 4:30 pm

    Letham is quite good. He deals with the East-West issues better than anyone I’ve seen. Furthermore, he interacts with recent issues and modern thought on the Trinity in a very helpful way. But, as I said, his main gap is the post-Reformation tradition. That is a very sizable gap, especially considering that the post-Reformation tradition had to deal with the Socinians on this issue.

  3. tim prussic said,

    February 4, 2008 at 5:29 pm

    I’ll get him.

  4. tim prussic said,

    February 4, 2008 at 7:09 pm

    You say for an FV angle on the doctrine to start with Smith. I’ve read some of his work and I’ve read an article by Pr. Leithart in the Pros and Cons book, but that’s all the work I’ve seen… what else is there? Also, what do you see that’s distinctively FV about FV articulations of this doctrine?

  5. February 4, 2008 at 11:08 pm

    My soul creaks when I hear the name Pannenberg, Had to read him last year. Awful Stuff.

  6. rjs1 said,

    February 5, 2008 at 4:25 am

    Letham is good.

    Have you read David Engelsma’s Trinity and Covenant?

  7. GLW Johnson said,

    February 5, 2008 at 8:10 am

    Cal Beisner has written a very helpful book on the subject entitled ‘God In Three Persons’ ( Wipf & Stock,2004). He gave me a copy last Feb. when I spoke at Knox-which, as many of you know ,has undergone a massive upheaval since D. James Kennedy’s passing. Robert Reymond ,Fowler White and Cal are all gone.

  8. greenbaggins said,

    February 5, 2008 at 10:21 am

    The emphasis of Trinity as covenant is something that is all over the FV writings, and as far as I can tell, it comes from Smith, although actually Hoeksema has some leanings in that direction as well (and therefore probably Engelsma as well, which I haven’t read).

  9. rjs1 said,

    February 5, 2008 at 11:32 am

    Ralph Smith pays great deference to Hoeksema’s view arguing that his own view comes from HH. Engelsma interracts with the doctrine of the social trinity which I found interesting. I am not convinced of the PRC’s doctrine of the pactum salutis.

  10. rjs1 said,

    February 5, 2008 at 11:34 am

    I forgot to link to it!

    The Covenant Concept by Herman Hoeksema

  11. Ruben said,

    February 5, 2008 at 12:27 pm

    I would suggest adding Boethius to your list.

  12. Tom Wenger said,

    February 5, 2008 at 12:52 pm

    I have not read anything as profound on the Trinity as Colin Gunton’s “The One, the Three and the Many”; you will not be able to put it down. I”m not saying that I recommend it over Muller’s 4th volume, but it really is a must – read. And his “The Triune Creator: A Historical & Systematic Study” is also excellent. He is (like may others) critical of Augustine, but his arguments are constructive and very helpful. I have not yet read his “The Promise of Trinitarian Theology” but it is on my list.

  13. tim prussic said,

    February 5, 2008 at 1:18 pm

    In response to Pr. Lane’s comment – I think that Ralph and Leithart focus in the the interpersonal relations in a big way, without much stress on divine simplicity. In so doing, they’ve opened themselves up to raised eyebrows and possible accusations of social trinitarianism. Pr. Leithart calls himself a personalist (or something like that… can’t quite remember). He stresses the personal and relational aspects of God and tends to disparage the scholastic-type language regarding the theological distinctions around essence, attributes, ktl. He reminds us that when we speak of the essence of God, we’re speaking of… God. True enough on that score. I suppose scholastic language CAN be a problem, but it certainly not one of necessity. After all, essence is distinguished from attributes so we can, like, talk about God. We, after all, are not simple beings like God. Thus, there’s a language barrier.

    The doctrine of simplicity, however, already answers the problem of essence and attributes. The being (essence) of God is one and the same as his attributes – Augustine labors this constantly. Thus, when speaking of God’s, say, righteousness, we are speaking of God’s essence, and therefore, of God himself.

    I like stress on the personal and relational nature of God, but I don’t like the move away from the classical formulations, which I find far more helpful than difficult. We should have done the one without leaving the other undone.

    Another thing is that Ralph and Leithart seem to have swallowed Rahner’s Grundaxiom without even chewing. Where I come from (Augustine, Aquinas, Jowers), that’s a real mistake.

  14. Jim Cassidy said,

    February 5, 2008 at 9:45 pm

    We should not overlook Lane Tipton’s WTS diss on Van Til and the Trinity. Essential reading.

  15. February 7, 2008 at 11:35 pm

    I think Torrance’s “The Christian Doctrine of God” is one of the most important theological works of the 20th century (published in 1996, when Torrance was 83). It is one of the few rigorously theological works that can also be read devotionally.

    Also not to be missed is Robert L. Reymond’s “A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith” for his dismantling of the doctrine of eternal generation, something that has long since needed dismantling.

  16. February 8, 2008 at 12:03 pm

    Here are some other overlooked books on the Trinity.

    Michel Barnes, The Power of God: Dynamis in Gregory of Nyssa’s Trinitarian Theology,

    Paul Lewis Metzger, Trinitarian Soundings

    Maurie Wiles, Archtypal Heresy: Arianism Through the Centuries

    Philip Dixion, Nice Hot Disputes: The Doctrine of the Trinity in the 17h Century

  17. February 8, 2008 at 12:08 pm

    Trim Prussic,

    The doctrine of simplicity creates more problems than it solves, if it solves any. First the doctrine seems to have no scriptural support whatsover but actually a fairly obvious carry over from Platonism via Rome. 2nd God’s attributes do not seem to be identical because they do not seem to be co-extensive. God knows things that he never wills for example showing that willing and knowing are not even co-extensive so that they couldn’t be identical. 3rd, Such a view also seems to imply that God’s creaiton of the world is not necessary rather than free since his will to create is identical with his essence. Since the latter is necessary and identical with the former, then the former is necessary too. Surely this is wrong.

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