Reeves, Michael. Delighting in the Trinity: an Introduction to the Christian Faith. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2012. 130 pp. $12.61
The Trinity can be difficult to understand and scary to study for some people, which causes most to refrain from discussion and study of the Trinity. Michael Reeves endeavors to combat this view in his book: Delighting in the Trinity: an Introduction to the Christian Faith. As a theological adviser in the United Kingdom with a Ph.D. from King’s College, Reeves is able to address this seemingly complicated theological subject. In Delighting in the Trinity, Reeves argues that the Trinity is more relevant to theology and the Christian life than the church has given it credit in recent years. He argues this because God as Trinity means that “God is love” (9). Reeves writes Delighting in the Trinity in hopes that “the knowledge of Father, Son, and Spirit will breathe fresh life” into the reader (18).
Reeves begins by addressing the identity of God. God’s fundamental identity is that of a Father loving his Son (29). They key word is “love” here. Most people will start with God as creator when identifying God (19). This can create an image of God being absent and unloving, but this is not the case with the Trinitarian God. God has always been a Father loving his Son, and because of this, it is in his nature to pour out his love. This is why he chose to create. It was not that he was lonely and needs creation for companionship, but it was out of an overflow of his love for the Son (44). God is, “by his very nature, life-giving. He is father” (41-42).
The Father’s love is pure and his creation is good, but something went wrong that caused the need for man’s salvation. Man was created in the image of God (Gen. 1:27). This means that man is created to image the love the Father has for the Son by pouring that love out, but this is not what man did. Instead of expressing love outwardly, man turned that love in on himself (65). Man did not love God as he was created for causing him to misdirect love on himself and disobeying God. To correct this, the Father sent his Son to express the greatest form of love: to die for someone (69). Jesus says, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13, ESV). Reeves also uses 1 John 4:8-10 to support this claim:
Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins (68).
God did this to redeem man by showing him how to correctly express love. This sacrificial love is a pouring out of love, an outward expression of love, and not the twisted and perverted inward love of self. The Father created man because he wanted to share the overflowing love he had for the Son. Also, when man stopped loving God as he was created to, the Father sent the Son to man to rekindle the relationship between God and man (69). Man can know the Father because man is able to know the Son (69, John 17:25-26). What went wrong was that man stopped loving God. For man to love God again, the Father sent the Son so that man can know the Father and share in the love that the Father has for the Son.
The Father allows man to share in the love he has for the Son through the Spirit. Reeves says, “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.” (87). To support this idea, Reeves quotes Paul saying, “God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” (Rom. 5:5). The Spirit is the active love of the Father towards man bringing him into fellowship with the Father and Son. Without fully understanding this, man can often mistake God’s holiness and wrath as separate and distinct from each other, argues Reeves (114). God’s holiness means that he is set apart from man in that His love is true and pure (115). God’s wrath can seem off-putting, but it is his response to evil (118). Reeves shares the story of Miroslav Volf’s experience of ethnic warfare to show this. Volf understands God’s wrath, because if God did not have wrath in the face of evil, then he would not love the good either (119). God pours out his wrath because he is love. God is love because he is Trinity.
Delighting in the Trinity may seem more appropriate for theology students and pastors at first glance, but this is not necessarily the case. As this reviewer is a theology student and pastor, this book was found to be a refreshing reading compared to heavier packed theological readings. Reeves argument can be simplified down to: God is love. God is love because he is Trinity. The Father’s love for the Son overflows, so he created man. The Spirit is the activity of the Father’s love bringing man into and sharing the fellowship and love the Father has with the Son (9, 23, 43, 87). Reeves does use theologians and philosophers such as Edwards, Calvin, and Aristotle to show the folly in not believing in the Triune God and the joy and love of the Triune God (41, 89). With that stated, the subtitle An Introduction to the Christian Faith may be a little misleading. This book is not intended to be used for evangelism. It is intended to help the believer to come to a better understanding of the Triune God. Reeves says, “This book will simply be about growing in our enjoyment of God and seeing how God’s triune being makes all his ways beautiful.” (9). Reeves hopes to refresh the believers faith and relationship with God with Delighting in the Trinity: an Introduction to the Christian Faith.
Reeves does use a lot of side excerpts in this book. These can either be useful or distracting depending on the reader. This reviewer finds them to be both. These are useful in adding to the conversation of the book, but are not necessary to follow Reeves’ argument. For example, in chapter three while discussing how the view of God as the Father can bring about an intimate love for God in contrast to a distant ruling God, Reeves boxes off a story about how Martin Luther’s knowledge of God as being righteous led him to hate God (78-79). He did not dig deeper into who God is as a loving Father which caused him to miss out on understanding and fully experiencing God’s love. He eventually figured this out and corrected his view saying, “Only when God is known as a loving Father is he known aright.” (78). This anecdote is not necessary to follow Reeves’ argument, but it can be useful to add more understanding to it. If the reader so chooses, they can easily ignore these and read straight through Reeves’ actual argument and not come up empty handed in the end.
Reeves endeavors to show the believer that the Trinity is not irrelevant or too complicated for the common believer to study in Delighting in the Trinity. Studying the Trinity is not merely for philosophers or theologians. It is important to gain a better understanding of and deeper relationship with God. To understand the common Christian phrase “God is love” means that the believer needs do understand that God is Triune. God is a Father everlastingly loving the Son. This love overflows so much that the Father created man to share in that love. The Spirit gives itself so that man can share in the love the Father has for the Son. God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit actively work in love for each other and for man to share in that fellowship of love. In Reeves’ conclusion, he asks, “What is your Christian life like? What is the shape of your gospel, your faith?” (129). He says it all depends on one’s view of God. To understand that God is Trinity means to understand that God is love. This will “breath fresh life into you” and should “bring about reformation.” (18, 130).