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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Alister McGrath unpacks the complexities of the Trinity.
Alister McGrath with his usual clarity (coming from a brain the size of Neptune)is able to guide us through the potential mine-field of understanding the complexity of the Trinity. He writes in a way that is very easy to follow, yet not at all simplistic. He unpacks several models to help us get to grips with the triune Godhead, as well as outlining various heresies...
Published on 16 Feb 2002

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Confused
I didn't find this book helpful. I was looking for a book I could recommend to young Christians or to those from another background, such as Muslims, who traditionally struggle with the Trinity. This clearly isn't it - in that regard I've found Millard Erickson's 'Making Sense of the Trinity' to be much more clear.

McGrath devotes almost the first half of the...
Published on 17 Nov 2010 by Baruch


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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Alister McGrath unpacks the complexities of the Trinity., 16 Feb 2002
By A Customer
Alister McGrath with his usual clarity (coming from a brain the size of Neptune)is able to guide us through the potential mine-field of understanding the complexity of the Trinity. He writes in a way that is very easy to follow, yet not at all simplistic. He unpacks several models to help us get to grips with the triune Godhead, as well as outlining various heresies that have historically resulted from a reductionistic view of the Trinity.
One model is an extension of an analogy first used by Anselm of Canterbury back in the 11th century. We are invited to consider a river journey, from the estuary of the River Nile right back to its source. The estuary, stream and source are all part of the same river - the absence of any one part is unthinkable. The exciting thing here is that it is the stream itself which guides us to the source, and provides the means by which we can get there. And while we are searching for the source, we are already encountering water from the source in the very act of journeying there.
If you are intrigued to hear how this parallels to the Trinity, along with many other models that help our understanding of the triune God, then this book could well be for you!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Confused, 17 Nov 2010
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I didn't find this book helpful. I was looking for a book I could recommend to young Christians or to those from another background, such as Muslims, who traditionally struggle with the Trinity. This clearly isn't it - in that regard I've found Millard Erickson's 'Making Sense of the Trinity' to be much more clear.

McGrath devotes almost the first half of the book to defending the idea that there is a God, for example against the suggestion that God is the opiate of the masses, as in Marxism, and to attacking ideas, such as universalism, which he disagrees with. Some of his arguments are a little eccentric - God cannot save everyone because some choose not to be saved, and God will not overrule their free will since that would be the equivalent of raping them. This antipathy to rape on God's part doesn't mean he can't deliver the lost into eternal torture.

McGrath makes plentiful use of the idea of a 'model'. Mostly by a model he simply means what is generally called an image. An example is God as a shepherd - we're not saying that God actually IS a shepherd when we use the image, we're using it to convey, for example, the way the shepherd cares for his sheep, rescues them when lost, defends them against wild animals, and so on.

However, when he moves on to the Trinity McGrath continues to work with models and images, some of which are more confusing than they are helpful. So he mentions the lunar explorations bringing to earth samples of moon rocks. For sure, something which was remote and inaccessible is made available to us to examine and touch, as Christ is God made flesh, tangible and observable. But McGrath seems at times to imply that somehow Christ is only a sample of God, and a small sample at that, with God the Father made of the same 'stuff' but bigger and still remote.

Worse, McGrath turns briefly at the end of one chapter to the model, as he puts it, of God being three persons. He points out that the early language of the Trinity made use of the Latin word persona, which was the word for the mask through which actors spoke in the theatre. Father, Son and Spirit, he suggests, are simply three masks through which the same God appears or speaks, and in a passing remark McGrath says we mustn't confuse this classical sense of persona with the modern sense of a unified, singular person, in which sense God is one person. But surely in seeing God as three distinct persons the church has historically meant something more than a single person with three masks. It seems equally clear that the church (regardless of the word's etymology) has not seen 'persona' as a model or image in the same sense in which it has seen the word shepherd.

It seems odd that McGrath should so ponderously lay down an initial understanding of God, only to whip through the really tricky stuff in less than a page of text and then exit the chapter sharpish. I was left wondering if McGrath really is presenting the historic doctrine of the Trinity, or if his use of the notion of the model hasn't actually confused him.

The book isn't helped by its lack of historical reference. The development of the doctrine of the Trinity has involved much very careful examination of the meaning and implication of particular words. By and large McGrath dismisses all this - the filioque controversy, for example, zips by without being named as such in as much space as it takes McGrath to pronounce it unimportant.

Overall, a disappointment.
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Understanding the Trinity
Understanding the Trinity by Alister E. McGrath (Hardcover - Aug 1988)
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