by Michael Reeves
Downers Grove: IVP, 2012. 135 pp.
Does the mere mention of the doctrine of the Trinity cause you to grasp your forehead in pain? Is the doctrine of the Trinity something you whole-heartedly embrace, but see little relevance to your Christian life other than for the purpose of orthodox affirmation? If so, I have a book for you. It may sound too good to be true, but Michael Reeves’ book Delighting in the Trinity is, well, a delight. Reeves explains the aim of his book with these words:
This book, then, will simply be about growing in our enjoyment of God and seeing how God’s triune being makes all his ways beautiful. It is a chance to taste and see that the Lord is good, to have your heart won and your soul refreshed. For it is only when you grasp what it means for God to be a Trinity that you really sense the beauty, the overflowing kindness, the heart-grabbing loveliness of God. (p.9)
Delighting in the Trinity isn’t filled with mind-numbing doctrine that produces mind numbed people who follow a cold, dead orthodoxy in a catatonic state. Instead, Reeves invites us to have our minds and hearts stirred to greater adoration in the beauty of our God and his ways.
The book contains a substantive introduction that provides the aim of the project, but also addresses the important matter of why God as Trinity is often seen as irrelevant. Reeves notes how ironic it is that the doctrine we tend to see as dull and irrelevant ends up being the “vital oxygen of the Christian life and joy” (p.18).
Chapter one examines what God was “doing before creation.” Reeves looks at the eternal relationship of love between Father, Son, and Spirit. The Father is the loving and kind Father who rules over all things and “so loves the Son that he excites the Son’s eternal love in response” (p. 29). Reeves is emphatic that Scripture tells us that God is love and when we understand the Trinitarian nature of God as Father, Son, and Spirit and that this triune God is love, “having such a God happily changes everything” (p. 38).
Chapter two explains that the creation of man is a natural outworking of God’s own loving triune nature. The Son is the blueprint for creation, so to speak. “Since God the Father has eternally loved his Son, it is entirely characteristic of him to turn and create others that he might also love them” (p. 42). The creation of man is the love of the Father for the Son “brimming over” (p. 43). Through creation God demonstrates that he is not greedy or selfish, but is the source of all goodness and pours forth that goodness in order that his creatures would find their ultimate goodness and happiness in him.
Chapter 3 addresses the triune love of God in the area of salvation. Though God created a good creation, something went wrong, and the object of Adam and Eve’s love turned from God to themselves. Through salvation, God shows the “depth and seriousness of what it means to say that God is love” (p. 69). Again, the love of the Father is the overflow of his love for the Son. In Jesus we see a God that gives himself freely, thus showing that his love is unconstrained and free.
Chapter 4 addresses the Spirit who gives new life. Reeves explains that this new life is not an abstract thing. In fact, it’s not “a thing” at all. “The Spirit gives us his very self, that we might know and enjoy him and so enjoy his fellowship with the Father and the Son” (p. 87). In this chapter we see why the eternal love of the triune God has practical implications. The Spirit opens our eyes so that we might share in the one who delights the Father the most, the Son. Thus, when we love the Son, we love the Father. This, according to Reeves, is what it means to be “godly.” We are like God when we love the Son. Consequently, this eternal triune love motivates the mission of the church. The Father sent the Son to share his love with others. The Son went because he loved the Father. The Spirit enfolds us into this loving fellowship and thus it becomes the church’s desire to make this God known.
In the final chapter, Reeves looks at how the Trinity shapes, defines, and enlarges our understanding of some the terms we use to describe God, namely his holiness, glory, and wrath. To summarize Reeves, we often think that love is entirely disconnected from God’s holiness, glory, and wrath. When we rightly understand God is Trinity we see how absurd this is. The Trinity provides a corrective to atheistic beliefs that want to caricature the Christian God as some kind of self-centered tyrant and shows God to the loving fount of all goodness.
There are several things that are commendable. First, it is written clearly and simply for the average person to understand. In other words, you do not need advanced theological degrees in order to comprehend and appreciate this book. Second, though it is theological in its impetus, Reeves gives us a brilliant example of how our theology needs to be intensely practical. Third, this book is thought provoking and meditative. I grant that this may be a bit subjective, but time and time again I found myself pausing, reflecting, and meditating on the gems found in this book. Consequently, I found my view of God enlarged and deepened.
The only place I wish Reeves would have said more, and perhaps this is fodder for a volume with a different audience, was when he addressed the particular love of the Father for the Son by giving him the Spirit at his baptism. It was a statement used to illustrate his point, but it was provocative enough of a statement that it warranted more development.
When I finished the book I posted the following to my Twitter feed: “If you haven’t read Mike Reeves book Delighting in the Trinity, remedy that immediately. It is a doxological masterpiece.” I repeat this here because I cannot commend this book enough. It is a book that I will read again and again. It is theologically sound and profound and yet thoroughly practical. It is, as I have already said, what good theological writing should look like.
About David Thommen
David is a graduate of Western Seminary. He serves as the Assistant Director of Western Seminary's Doctor of Ministry program and The Spurgeon Fellowship and teaches in the Bible and Theology department. David also serves on the executive committee of the Northwest Chapter of ETS and has served in Pastoral Ministry for over 10 years. He currently serves as the pastor at New Life Church Robinwood.