Book Reviews

The Trinity Guide to the Trinity

William J. La Due Harrisburg, PA 2003-01-01

La Due has taught at St. Francis Seminary and the Catholic University of America and is author of several works, including Jesus among the Theologians: Contemporary Interpretations of Christ (Harrisburg, PA: Trinity, 2001). The present work discusses Trinitarian teachings in Scripture and church history, giving special attention to the views of various recent theologians.

The ten chapters unevenly divide between the Old and New Testaments (chaps. 1–2), Trinitarian developments in the ante-Nicene period (chap. 3), Augustine and post-Nicene conciliar development (chap. 4), the early Middle Ages (chap. 5), Aquinas, the Reformation and the Enlightenment (chap. 6), Schleiermacher and the nineteenth century (chap. 7), recent Catholic thought (chap. 8), recent Protestant thought (chap. 9), and other contemporary voices (chap. 10). About sixty percent of the work discusses modern Trinitarianism. After discussing the viewpoints of leading theologians, La Due then gives a chapter summary of each theologian. While his Roman Catholic orientation is evident, the author is open-handed in his presentations, making almost no value judgments and simply setting forth the Trinitarian perspectives of often divergent theologians. A nine-page bibliography and ten-page index enrich the book, written on an entrance level for theological students.

The work’s strength is its concise statements of the teachings of dozens of leading theologians. For example “Old Testament Traces of the Trinity” (chap. 1) gives little attention to La Due’s own perspective; instead it distills the relevant teachings of Walter Eichrodt, Gerhard Von Rad, Walter Brueggemann, and Roland Murphy. Chapter 2 on the New Testament does the same with Karl Rahner, Raymond Brown, James Dunn, and Yves Congar (John Meier and N. T. Wright are not included but should have been). Having churned through primary Western Trinitarians, the author in the final chapter presents the perspectives of Eastern Orthodoxy (Vladimir Lossky), liberation theology (Leonardo Boff), feminist theology (Elizabeth Johnson), process theology (Joseph Bracken and Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki), and the “new triune configurations” of Kathryn Tanner and Peter Hodgson. While some may disagree with the author’s interpretations, he demonstrates a masterful ability to condense lengthy, complex material into manageable packages. As a classroom text this allows freedom for the professor and students to form their own judgments.

From an evangelical vantage the strength of the work is also its weakness. As a Guide to the Trinity there is in fact little guidance. Minimal attention is given to the biblical text, and what is presented generally represents a historical-critical perspective. More doubts are encouraged than faith. Even the heterodox (by classical standards) proposals, for example, of process theology are left without suggestive cautions. La Due concludes the book with the comment, “The current ferment reflected in this volume is a strong indication of the collective Christian mind searching out a more convincing and satisfying appreciation of the doctrine that lies within the very matrix of our faith” (p. 191). This reviewer concurs that even eternity will not be sufficient to comprehend the complexity and glory of the triune God. La Due points toward the goldmine, leaving it to the reader to sift through dirt and stone to find what rightly endures.

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J. Scott Horrell
The author of From the Ground Up: New Testament Foundations for the 21st-Century Church, Dr. J. Scott Horrell is professor of Theological Studies at DTS. He has been a theologian in various world cultures including years spent as a missionary in Brazil. Along with cofounding and editing a leading Latin American theological journal, he has written several books in Portuguese and English. He especially loves to introduce students to a global understanding of Christian faith, often taking teams of them with him as he travels.
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