The Trinity: An Introduction | Book Review


The Trinity: An Introduction by Scott R. Swain is the second book in Crossway’s Short Studies in Systematic Theology series. The first was Graham A. Cole’s Faithful Theology: an Introduction. According to series editors, Cole himself and Oren R. Martin, “each volume (1) introduces the doctrine, (2) sets it in context, (3) develops it from Scripture, (4) draws the various threads together, and (5) brings it to bear on the Christian life.”

Unfortunately, The Trinity does not accomplish the first two items in the editors’ list. In my opinion, one cannot understand Trinitarianism, the Christian doctrine of God, without understanding its historical development and creedal/confessional definition. Swain justifies this in terms of space limitations: “The book’s limitations in space and focus mean that it will not give extensive attention to the doctrine’s historical development, polemical uses, or more sophisticated dogmatic elaborations.” Given that this text is explicitly introductory, Swain’s choice to skip those topics—not to mention his editors’ decision to allow it—is difficult to understand.

Fortunately, what The Trinity focuses on is very helpful. Swain focuses on “the basic grammar of scriptural Trinitarianism.” He writes: “If Scripture provides the primary discourse of Trinitarian doctrine, theology is that discipline concerned with understanding and communicating Scripture’s basic grammar so that Christians may become fluent, well-formed readers and speakers of scriptural teaching.” This approach is helpful because the doctrinal definition of Trinitarianism employs terms that are not found in Scripture, terms that clarify what Scripture means and demonstrate is internal coherence. One must understand the interplay of these texts—along with the worship patterns of the early church—in order to understand why Christian theologians employed philosophical terms to define the doctrine. Only by doing so could they show the meaning and coherence of those biblical texts.

Here is the book’s table of contents:

  1. The Bible and the Trinity: The Basic Grammar
  2. The Bible and the Trinity: Three Types of Texts
  3. The Simplicity of God
  4. God the Father
  5. God the Son
  6. God the Holy Spirit
  7. The Shape of God’s Triune Work
  8. The End of God’s Triune Work

Although The Trinity describes itself as an introduction, readers need to have at least a passing familiarity with the doctrine and its basic terms before they read the book, or they might feel a bit lost in it. My guess is that the Short Studies in Systematic Theology is directed at Bible college students and seminarians, who are the most likely to consume introductory books on systematic theology. I believe pastors and theologically proficient church leaders and members can also benefit from the book. It will enrich their understanding of why sound biblical theology results in Trinitarianism, and it will help them connect what sometimes seems like an abstract doctrine to the Bible’s core concern, namely, God’s salvation of lost humanity.

Book Reviewed
Scott R. Swain, The Trinity: An Introduction (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020).

P.S. If you liked my review, please click “Helpful” on my Amazon review page.

The Soul of a Team | Book Review


“What separates the truly great teams from the mediocre ones?” asks Tony Dungy in The Soul of a Team. His answer is “four simple yet highly effective principles — selflessness, ownership, unity, and larger purpose.” The principles form a memorable acronym: S.O.U.L.

Here’s how Dungy defines the principles:

  • Selflessness: Putting individual needs aside for the good of the team.
  • Ownership: Fulfilling your role by learning it thoroughly and by consistently giving 100 percent.
  • Unity: Understanding and rallying around your team’s mission, philosophy, and culture through open communication and positive conflict resolution.
  • Larger Purpose: Contributing to the wider community in a lasting and significant way.

Selflessness, ownership, and unity constitute the what of teamwork, but larger purpose constitutes the why. Teams often find that defining their larger purpose is a difficult task, but once they have done so, writes Dungy, that purpose “guides their decision-making, shapes their relationships, and influences their conduct,” as well as gives a team “a vibrancy and sense of worth it wouldn’t otherwise have.”

To illustrate the S.O.U.L. principles, Dungy narrates the turnaround of a fictional football team, the Orlando Vipers, in desperate need of a winning season. The principles themselves are transferable to any endeavor that requires teamwork, however, including ministry. Throughout the book, Dungy’s leadership advice is rooted in his Christian faith.

The Soul of Leadership is written in the vein of Patrick Lencioni’s “leadership fables.” If you like the format of Lencioni’s books — tell a story, then explain its meaning — you may like this one too.

Book Reviewed
Tony Dungy with Nathan Whitaker, The Soul of a Team: A Modern-Day Fable for Winning Teamwork (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale Momentum, 2019).

P.S. If you liked my review, please click “Helpful” on my Amazon review page.

P.P.S. This review is cross-posted from InfluenceMagazine.com with permission.

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