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Trinity, The: How Not to Be a Heretic Paperback – April 3, 2015
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Brilliantly clear, succinct, readable, informed. Here is winsome erudition that teaches us not only who it is that Christians worship, but also the sheer joy, vitality, and graced intelligence that pertain to worshiping this God. Stephen Bullivant is a breath of fresh air for Christian intellectual life. --Matthew Levering, Perry Family Foundation Professor of Theology, Mundelein Seminary
In this very engaging book, Stephen Bullivant takes us to the truth that lies at the very heart of the Christian faith: God, who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. By exploring sacred scripture and the apostolic tradition, he helps us to appreciate how the challenges that the church faced during her earliest centuries helped her to deepen her understanding of how the Father reveals himself to us, and offers us the free gift of salvation, in Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, calling us to share forever the eternal life of the Blessed Trinity. I recommend this book to all who wish to learn more about who God is. --Most Rev. Malcolm McMahon, OP, Archbishop of Liverpool
Stephen Bullivant's book on the Trinity is a lively and accurate guide on a topic usually described as forbidding. He focuses on what matters in Christian thought about God: that God is one; God is Father, Son, and Spirit; and that Father, Son, and Spirit are distinct. This will be an excellent text book and companion in reflection. --Rev. Andrew Hamilton, SJ, professor emeritus of theology, Jesuit Theological College, Melbourne, Australia
About the Author
Stephen Bullivant is senior lecturer in theology and ethics in the School of Education, Theology, and Leadership at Saint Mary s University, Twickenham, London. In June 2010, he was awarded the Catholic Theological Society of America's Catherine Mowry LaCugna Award for New Scholars. He is the author of Faith and Unbelief (Paulist Press, 2014).
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From the very first page of the book, the author presents the doctrine of the Trinity through three basic statements:
1. There is only one God.
2. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit is each God.
3. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are not the same.
Besides a very good opening chapter on the ability to speak about God at all, the entire book is basically an unpacking of why the Church came to believe in these three statements and the problems (aka heresies) that arise when any one of the three is denied. Over the course of the book, the reader will become familiar with many of the key biblical texts underlying the doctrine of the Trinity and the early theologians who defended it. While this is not primarily a work of doctrinal history, the arguments are almost entirely based on the thought of these fourth and fifth century theologians.
Two points are worth noting, though neither was a "deal breaker" for me:
First, be ready for lots of references to popular culture. I was surprised to see mentions of everything from Wayne's World and Borat to the song Achy Breaky Heart and the Three Amigos. These are no doubt great examples from the author's experience, as university teacher, in connecting the subject matter to his student audience. But in almost every instance I found myself drawn away from the topic at hand and in some cases I was left pondering the usefulness of the gratuitous reference itself. Luckily, I got almost every single one--until a late reference to the British TV series Father Ted forced me to look it up on Google. Second, I'm not sure if this book is still in such an early printing that it hasn't been physically typeset yet, but my edition looked as though an inkjet printer produced it. In an age of Retina display screens, it was a bit odd being disappointed in the quality of actual printed text.
Overall, I highly recommend the book. I've just ordered the author's previous book from Paulist Press and look forward to his future works.
But then to do that justce, it would be a much larger book!
He has given us a good entry, proclaiming the centrality of the Trinity in talking about Christianity, and how it arises from experience of God, before trying to make sense of that experience.
I would also have liked to see more about the pastoral implications of the Trinity, and of trinitarian heresies, but again, that would be a considerably larger book.
For my part, i have often considered it a good thing that i am not a pastor, as almost any premarital counciling session would include at least an attempt at a paper on "The Doctrine of the Trinity, and how it Informs our Understanding of Christian Marriage".
Many couples have been spared.
I am glad to have this little book in my library.
I highly recommend this text.