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Best Books on the Trinity

February 23, 2007

Few topics in theology are as exhilarating and daunting as the doctrine of the Trinity. Yet, despite its density and mystery, the Trinity remains the essential touchstone in all theological studies.

Here are a few of what I consider to be the very best contemporary books on the doctrine of the Trinity. I highly recommend them to anyone who is interested in coming to a fuller understanding of the historical development, the speculative dimension and, perhaps most importantly, the practiced spirituality of Christianity’s core teaching.

Gerald O’Collins
The Tripersonal God: Understanding and Interpr
eting the Trinity

This is where I started, well before I began formal theological studies. O’Collins takes you through the biblical, historical and systematic developments of the doctrine of the Trinity. O’Collins is clear and precise, even critical of figures such as Karl Rahner. This book was written for a wide audience, so it’s not too difficult for the beginner to tackle.

Karl Rahner
The Trinity
In this pivotal book, Rahner seeks to re-bridge the neo-Thomist gap between the De Deo Uno and the De Deo Trino. A remarkably quick but profound read, Rahner seeks to remind us that ultimately the imminent and economic Trinity, that is, God as He is in his inner Life and God as He is toward us, is the same tri-personal God. You’d be surprized how much the neo-Thomist division caused Catholic theology to divide the two conceptually.

Hans Urs von Balthasar
Credo: Meditations on the Apostles Creed

Though this small book contains a series of meditations on the entire Apostles’ Creed, some of Balthasar’s most soaring prose on the Trinity is contained in its pages. Especially moving is his account of the Father.

Walter Kasper
The God of Jesus Christ

In my opinion, this is the most significant work on the doctrine of God written during the twentieth century. Kasper is a master synthesiser, bringing together philosophy, sociology, biblical scholarships and historical studies into one dense volume. I recommend saving this one until after you’ve gained an acquaintance with the theology of the Trinity.

David Coffey
Deus Trinitas: The Doctrine of the Triune God

Coffey does an outstanding job of critically presenting contemporary approaches to the doctrine of the Trinity, including those of Moltmann and Balthasar. What’s truly remarkable is Coffey’s own development of an Augustinian-Rahnerian model for understanding the Trinity, one that takes seriously the pneumentological disclosure of the inner life of God.

John Zizioulas
Being as Commuion: Studies in Personhood and the Church

Though intended as a study in ecclesiology, Zizioulas provides a stunning Eastern Orthodox account of the doctrine of the Trinity, ultimately showing that our understanding of person and communion extends beyond the inner life of God and into the reality of Christian life in the Church.

Basil Studer
Trinity and Incarnation: The Faith of the Early Church

Still my favorite historical account of the development of the Church’s understanding of the Trinity during those critical first five centuries. Studer covers everything from the New Testament record, the Apostolic Fathers, the Greek apologists, the Latin theologians, the Cappadocians, Augustine and the conciliar period. Dense but worth the effort, this gem not only provides a suberb account of the early Church’s teaching, but it also points you to other scholarly works on the topic by means of its comprehensive and thematic bibliographies.

If you’d like to speak intelligently on the subject of the Trinity, get ahold of some of these books!


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