By Michael Reeves
I must admit to being a little indifferent to reading about the Trinity. Many standard systematic theologies make it sound like the dullest and most difficult Christian teaching. The reader of such tomes is often left wondering what the practical benefit of the Trinity is. Also, I may be like many people and like my doctrine to be easily grasped by the mind and simply dismiss something that is too difficult (at least for me).
The Good God is not like some of the previous books and sections in books that I have read on the subject of the Trinity. Reeves frequently has a great turn of phrase that makes the book an entertaining read – “Far, far from theological clutter, God’s being Father, Son and Spirit is just what makes the Christian life beautiful.” (p. 82)
The point of the book, according to the author, is to help the reader see the real difference the Trinity makes: “For all that we may give an orthodox nod of the head to belief in the Trinity, it simply seems too arcane to make any practical difference to our lives.” (p. ix)
And what is the practical difference? Reeves summarises: “…but if God were just one person, then love of the other would not be central to his being. There would have been nobody in eternity for him to love. Thus the only God inherently inclined to show mercy is the Father who has eternally loved his Son by the Spirit. Only with this God do such winning qualities as love and mercy rank highly.” (p. 91)
The book is structured very simply in to four chapters dealing with the Trinity as presented in the Bible and church history and a fifth chapter acting as a capstone focusing on the glory of the Trinity. These chapters are:
What was God Doing before Creation?
“Before creation, before all things, we saw, the Father was loving and begetting his Son. For eternity, that was what the Father was doing. He did not become Father at some point; rather, his very identity is to be the one who begets the Son. That is who he is. Thus it is not as if the Father and the Son bumped into each other at some point and found to their surprise how remarkably well they got on.” (p. 15)
Creation: the Father’s Love Overflows
“Single-person gods, having spent eternity alone, are inevitably self-centred beings, and so it becomes hard to see why they would ever cause anything else to exist … [c]reating just looks like a deeply unnatural thing for such a god to do. And if such gods do create, they usually seem to do so out of an essential neediness or desire to use what they created merely for their own self-gratification. Everything changes when it comes to the Father, Son and Spirit. Here is a God who is not essentially lonely, but who has been loving for all eternity as the Father has loved the Son in the Spirit. Loving others is not a strange or novel thing for this God at all; it is at the root of who he is.” (p. 23)
Salvation: the Son Shares what is His
“It means that this God makes no third party suffer to achieve atonement. The one who dies is the lamb of God, the Son. And it means that nobody but God contributes to the work of salvation: the Father, Son and Spirit accomplish it all. Now if God were not triune, if there was no Son, no lamb of God to die in our place, then we would have to atone for our sin ourselves. We would have to provide, for God could not. But – hallelujah! – God has a Son, and in his infinite kindness he dies, paying the wages of sin, for us. It is because God is triune that the cross is such good news.” (p. 55)
The Christian Life: the Spirit Beautifies
“But the Spirit’s first work is to set our desires in order, to open our eyes and give us the Father’s own relish for the Son, and the Son’s own enjoyment of the Father.” (p. 80)
“Love for the Lord, love for neighbour – that is the heart of holiness and how the triune God’s people get to be like him.” (p. 95)
This book has given me a hunger to study more about the Trinity, in the Bible and in church history, but even more importantly, it has given me a great hunger for the triune God I claim to worship. I recommend it to all Christians as well worth a slow, contemplative read. It would be great for book clubs to read and discuss. Maybe it could result in healthier Christians who just want to overflow with love.