Some Recommended Reading on the Trinity


In the comments to my last post Brian asked for a couple of book recommendations for the person who wanted to explore the Trinity further.  Well, about two weeks ago I received an email from a fellow named Jean-Sébastien asking for some book recommendations, so I will reproduce a slightly updated version of that email.


  • The Trinity Guide to the Trinity by William J. La Due.  La Due surveys the development of the doctrine of the Trinity by examining the contributions of some of the most important teachers of history.  He begins in the Old Testament and concludes with the work of some contemporary thinkers. [Read my review here]
  • The Tripersonal God: Understanding and Interpreting the Trinity by Gerald O’Collins.  This is a great book that will serve as a good introduction for anyone, as it is very engaging and easy to read.
  • The Trinity: An Interdisciplinary Symposium on the Trinity, edited by O’Collins, et. al.  This is a collection of essays covering a wide range of topics from some of today’s top scholars (e.g., Gordon Fee, Craig Evans, Stephen Davis, et. al.).
  • The Triune God: An Essay in Postliberal Theologyby William C. Placher.  This is probably my favorite book from the last year.  Placher approaches the subject of God apophatically, opting to focus on what we can say that God isn’t rather than what God is.  [Read my review here]
  • The Trinity by Karl Rahner.  This book seems to be almost necessary reading as Rahner’s axiom “the economic Trinity is the immanent Trinity and vice versa” has stirred quite a bit of discussion in the theological world over the last 30 years.  But for as small as this volume is, it is not light reading.  I wouldn’t suggest this for beginners.
  • The Holy Trinity: In Scripture, History, Theology, and Worship by Robert Letham.  This book is as comprehensive as you can get in 500 pages.  Letham covers just about everything you can hope for in his examination of the Trinity.  From the Scriptures to the Church fathers, to modern theologians, almost no stone is left unturned.  Hands down, my favorite book on the subject.  Again, this is not an introductory book, it assumes some prior acquaintance with the doctrine. [Read my review here]
  • Early Christian Doctrines by J.N.D. Kelly.  Kelly is one of the finest historians on the early Church fathers that I have ever read.  If you can’t read the fathers for yourself, then read Kelly.
  • A Brief History of the Doctrine of the Trinity in the Early Church by Franz Dünzl.  This is definitely my favorite historical book of the last year.  Dünzl’s survey is brief but focused.  It’s probably the best introduction one can get their hands on (at least that I have read). [Read my review here]
  • Arius: Heresy and Tradition by Rowan Williams.  Williams seeks to de-villify the “archtypical heretic” Arius by showing that his foremost concern was with faithfully representing what he believed the Scriptures taught, although he went too far in doing so.
  • The Search for the Christian Doctrine of God: The Arian Controversy, 318-381 by R.P.C. Hanson is a must.  Hands down, this is the most comprehensive study of the time period that led up to the formal creedal affirmation of the Trinity.
  • Nicaea and Its Legacy: An Approach to Fourth-Century Trinitarian Theology by Lewis Ayres.  Ayres criticizes most who have written about the “Arian Controversy” as portraying a wrong picture of the events.  After reading Hanson you’ll want to read Ayres.

I have also reviewed a few books on the Trinity (not listed above):

  1. Trinitarian Theology for the Church: Scripture, Community, Worship
  2. The Trinity: A Guide for the Perplexed (part 2)
  3. Which Trinity? Whose Monotheism?: Philosophical and Systematic Theologians on the Metaphysics of Trinitarian Theology
  4. Life in the Trinity: An Introduction to Theology with the Help of the Church Fathers

17 thoughts on “Some Recommended Reading on the Trinity

  1. I wondered what you think of Nicholas Lash`s Believing Three Ways in One God. I have found it to be one of the best entries into Trinitarian Theology. I have also Colin Gunton`s work to be useful.

  2. Andrew: Sadly, I’ve never heard of Lash’s book. I’ll have to check it out. And other than his essay in Trinity, Time, and Church, I haven’t gotten into Gunton yet. He’s definitely on my ‘to read’ list.

  3. Nick,

    which of these books is the smallest to read (i.e. least amount of pages)?

    Which of these books is your favorite? Is it “The Search for the Christian Doctrine of God”?

    I have a couple of books on the Trinity, no where near the amount that you have. The other ones I have are in my Theology (Doctrine of God) books.

    Well my favorite is: Defense of an Essential – By Nick Norelli, great guy by the way.

  4. Wow, that is a lot to read… I found the Wikipedia article slightly interesting. I guess I’m not persuaded why I would want to learn more about the Trinity?

  5. Robert: Rahner’s book The Trinity is 132 pages (but a slightly difficult read). Dünzl’s book A Brief History of the Doctrine of the Trinity is 148 pages, extremely well-written, and super-informative. Placher’s The Triune God: An Essay in Postliberal Theology is 163 pages and fantastic.

    My favorite is Letham’s The Holy Trinity: In Scripture, History, Theology, and Worship. And thanks for the compliment, but my little project pales in comparison to all of these fine books.

    Nathan: Yeah, and that’s not even counting the books I have on the Trinity that I haven’t read yet! As for the learning about the Trinity thing, I don’t know what to tell you, hopefully your interest will grow one of these days.

    Brian: I recently started Grenz’s book Rediscovering the Trinity. I’m only a chapter in, but so far, so good. And I will check out your post immediately.

  6. I don’t think I will ever get into the Trinity and definitely not at the level you are. : )
    That’s great though that you have a particular topic that really fires you up and makes you want to read about it all the time.

    I may have to pick up one of those books you mentioned though. Actually a few of them look interesting like the Letham book, the Kelly book, the Williams book and the O’Collins, et. al. book.


  7. I too really benefited from Grenz’s Rediscovering the Trinity. Nick, I’m interested in the fact that Thomas Torrance didn’t make your list; say The Christian Doctrine of God, One Being Three Persons. Nor anything by Colin Gunton, such as The Triune Creator, which may be as much about the doctrine of Creation as about the Trinity, but which still demonstrates the importance of the doctrine of the trinity for our thinking about God and how God relates to the world.
    Also, in light of your trinitarian interest, and your past comments on Trinity and gender, I thought I’d direct you to a post by John Stackhouse today, in case you haven’t yet come upon it:
    James K.

  8. James: My finances have not yet allowed me to delve into the depths of Torrance and Gunton. They are definitely on my ‘to read’ list. And thanks for the link, I actually just came across that post like 5 minutes ago through another blog.

  9. Diglot: Rahner is heavy reading to be sure. Take plenty of time with him. Letham’s book is one of my favorites; complete in nearly every way. The only major problem is that he republished a couple of articles in the book and there’s some repetition. I also think he fawns over Calvin a bit too much, but hey, he’s a Calvinist! In any event, both are excellent, so enjoy!

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