The Holy Trinity; by Stephen R Holmes: A boook review


This is an important book on a vital doctrine of the Christian Faith, here we find careful scholarship which guides us through the discussions about the doctrine of the Trinity throughout Church history. One of the things that really impressed me about this volume is the way the author treats his primary sources. Stephen Holmes has a firm grasp of the issues and unlike other recent authors I did not find myself having to check out whether somebody was being treated fairly. This is a good example of how historical theology should be done.
In the first chapter Holmes guides us through the twentieth century revival of Trinitarian theology, here we find helpful insights into Barth, Rahner, Moltmann, Jenson and Volf. He raises some important questions about these theologians.
In chapter 2, we find a helpful outline of the Bibles trinitarian theology and he looks at how the Church Fathers treated Scripture again there is much that is helpful and constructive here. This chapter closes with a helpful section on the Development of Christian Worship.
Chapter 3 skillfully guides us through the teachings of the early church fathers, I hope this study will stimulate the reader to go back to the original sources. the section on Irenaeus of Lyons shows the vital contribution this Church Father made to the discussion. He also guides us through the contribution that Origen made, I found this section helpful because he brings out the various strands of Origen’s thinking,which is no easy task.
In chapter 4 We get to the heart of many recent discussions of the Trinity because nearly all scholars would agree that the fourth century is the century when serious advances were made in articulating the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. In this chapter we are introduced to the theology of Nicea and the writing of Athanasius and the continuing debates of this time.
Chapter 5continues the fourth century history with helpful guidance and exposition of The Cappadocian Fathers. Anyone familiar with the recent debates will know that much is made of how the Cappadocian Fathers made a distinct contribution to the doctrine of the Trinity and how supposedly their theology is at variance with Western Trinitarian thinking. We are once again shown the immense contribution the Cappadocians made and this part will be helpful to all who want to grasp this teaching better..
Chapter 6 discusses western teaching on the Trinity with an in depth discussion of Augustine of Hippo, early in the chapter Holmes makes the astounding claim that Augustine  is the  is the greatest interpreter of  Cappadocian Theology. In the books surrounding the revival of trinitarian theology it has been fashionable to contrast Augustine and The Cappadocians however I believe establishes his claim. I have found much of the recent interpretation of Augustine frustrating to put it mildly, it was refreshing to read an interpretation of Augustine where Augustine was treated fairly, for once I was not having to go back to check every detail out in the primary sources because this was actually the Augustine I know and love. This chapter makes a v ital contribution to the debate surrounding the development of the doctrine. Just reading this chapter justifies the price of the book for me.
Chapter 7 introduces us to the key medieval thinkers and it is demonstrated that their is a rich continuity of thought from the patristic period to the medieval period. We are treated here to an exposition of some key medieval thinkers including Anselm and Thomas Aquinas reading the summaries of these two great theologians thought has given me an appetite to back to the primary texts and read again some of the profound thinking mfrom this period.
Chapter 8 Introduces us to the debates at the time of the Reformation and beyond, there are some helpful historical insights into the development of Calvin’s thought.
This chapter demonstrates both the fact that the Reformers were faithful to the tradition at this point and then also the sad development of rationalism which questioned the doctrine of the Trinity.
Chapter 9 is about the doctrine of the Trinity since 1800. The view as such writers as Coleridge and Hegel are examined before moving onto an intriguing section on Schleirmacher and Hodge. Hodge wants to make the doctrine of the Trinity useful and is unable to do so, this is a sad statement because if Trinitarian Theology can not be preached with a direct relevancy to the hearer then much of our investigation into the doctrine has been wasted.
This last chapter sums up the argument of the book and calls us back to the classic teaching about the Holy Trinity.
This is not an easy to read book but it is an extremely profitable read, there are gems on every page. It is not often that I find a book of this size so compelling in its arguments that I have finished reading it within four days of buying it, but that is what happened with this book. I am sure this is going to be a book that I refer to whenever I am thinking about this important and central doctrine of our Faith

About pneumaandlogos

David Rollings was born in Luton in1949 and raised by my Christian parents in the Gospel Standard Strict Baptist denomination( Hyper-Calvinistic} in the sixties I rebelled against this background and got involved in left-wing politics. I became a Christian in 1969 and soon started reading Francis Schaeffer's books and came to embrace a Christian Worldview. I had the privilege of being on the staff of L'Abti Fellowship from1975 - 1979. After L'abri I studied at London School of Theology where I gained my BA.(1983) A few years later I studied for my MA by distance learning with The Nazarene Theological College Manchester (1999) For the last 22 years, I have been an elder of Shoreham-by-Sea Baptist Church. I also regularly attend the Christian Doctrine Study Group of the Tyndale Fellowship.
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