Book Review: 'The Good God'
If you've ever found yourself engaged in a conversation with a non-Christian (or even a Christian for that matter) discussing the nature of God, then it's very possible that like me you've been faced with the dreaded request; "Explain the Trinity". Few questions successfully perplex and perturb the average Christian quite as much as this demand for a succinct summary of the triune nature of our God. Responses often go one of two ways, and I have found myself reverting to both on various occasions. In the first case, one may adopt a misty eyed, thousand-yard stare as you wistfully reply that "Well we don't really know... I don't think we ever can". The second response is typically to grasp for some material illustration, waxing lyrical about how the creator and sustainer of our universe is in fact just like an egg, comprising shell, white and yolk, or perhaps a cup of tea, or a shamrock leaf...
Now clearly I'm being flippant, but the truth of the matter is that too often Christians, myself included, are intimidated by the doctrine of the trinity, something frequently seen as a deeply complex and daunting aspect of our faith. While this is by no means untrue, the trinity is such a foundational aspect of the our understanding of God and the Christian faith that to neglect it for fear of an intellectual workout is folly.
Fortunately, help is at hand. In his book 'The Good God: Enjoying Father, Son and Spirit', Michael Reeves offers a clear and concise look at the trinity, unpacking this most critical of doctrines in an engaging, accessible but also deeply gospel centred way. This short book (a mere 144 pages) goes a long way to demystifying an unnecessarily intimidating topic; as Reeves points out early on, God has revealed himself to us, therefore this 'mystery' is something we can actively strive to understand. The reader is equipped not only with the knowledge to tackle any sceptic's questions, but also with a deeper understanding and appreciation of just who our God is and why his triune nature is so central to both his own character and his relationship with his people. In my limited experience few books serve to simultaneously fill the mind and warm the heart, yet here Reeves clearly succeeds at both.
Reeves wastes no time in clearly stating the centrality of the trinity to the Christian faith, highlighting that it is in fact the triune nature of God which truly sets Christianity apart from all other world religions; not even salvation by grace can be uniquely attributed to Christianity. No, it is first and foremost our God who is distinctive, and from his distinctive triune nature stems all those other good works which we identify with Christianity. Reeves boils down our understanding of faith and God to it's single most foundational aspect and proceeds to build from there upwards, at the same time destroying any possibility of a 'one god, many paths' view of religion. The author frequently uses comparisons, particularly to the god of Islam, to demonstrate why a triune God is in fact the only kind of god who could feasibly be loving, capable of intervention and sacrifice, and therefore worthy of our worship.
After demonstrating the true significance of the trinity and the necessity of our understanding, the author first unpacks a Biblical understanding of the relationships between Father, Son and Spirit, before continuing to describe God's act of creation in the context of the trinity. As he progresses in this fashion, Reeves is able to show how God's triune nature is intrinsically and inseparably linked to each key aspect of our faith, reflected in the way each of his chapters flows into the next. A consideration of the Son is closely tied to the nature of our salvation, while the role of the Spirit is treated alongside it's influence on the Christian life. Reeves closes by examining the only true and correct definition which we can therefore apply to God; a definition informed by a well rounded understanding of the gospel. Reeves goes so far as to claim that an historic retreat by the church on the trinity, and the associated loss of understanding in just what kind of God we believe in, has contributed to the growing boldness and belligerence of atheism in the modern world. This powerfully brings home the real importance of striving for a Biblically informed, well rounded appreciation of God's triune nature.
Alongside his consistently scriptural analysis, Reeves utilises the works, teachings and examples of many historic Christian 'heavyweights', ranging from Athanasius in the 4th century AD to Martin Luther and John Calvin. His easy going and often colloquial style make for an easily accessible read, while the book's short overall length means that this shouldn't provide too daunting a challenge to even just the occasional reader.
Overall this is a thoroughly enjoyable and insightful read, one which I would heartily recommend to anyone seeking to get their teeth into a serious topic of the Christian faith without having to break much of a mental sweat. Before reading 'The Good God' I definitely suffered from a limited and narrow appreciation of the trinity and it's meaning for our faith; now I'm able to recognise the massive significance of this most critical doctrine, not only from an intellectual perspective but also for my own relationship with Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Read this book, you won't regret it!
About the Author
Jon is a member of the City Students team and currently an intern on the Intentional Discipleship (ID) course at City. Originally from Sheffield, Jon studied Military History at the University of Kent in Canterbury for the past 4 years. Amongst other things, Jon loves Lord of the Rings and hates sharing his food at an Indian restaurant.