The Trinity: An Introduction – Scott Swain

Scott R. Swain, The Trinity: An Introduction (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2020), 154 pp.

The short Studies in Systematic Theology series by Crossway Books invites readers to dig deeply into the treasure chest of Scripture. Each volume sets out to accomplish five important tasks:

  1. Introduce a specific doctrine
  2. Reveal it in context
  3. Develop it biblically
  4. Demonstrate how the various threads of truth cohere
  5. Show how it practically impacts the Christian life.

The Trinity: An Introduction by Scott R. Swain is the latest volume in the series and accomplishes each of the important tasks above. In eight short chapters, the author casts the important theological vocabulary and shows readers where it may be found in Scripture.

Once the foundation is properly in place, the author unpacks some important theological realities that every reader needs to wrestle with. He focuses on the simplicity of God in a clear and understandable way. Each member of the Trinity is seen as co-equal and co-eternal and each person is fully God.

The remaining two chapters discuss the shape and the end of God’s triune work and prove to be the most valuable contributions in the book. The grand conclusion is the culmination of God’s redemptive plan:

God the Father has given a bride to God the Son, and God’s cosmic palace-temple is constructed to be their marital habitation (Rev. 19:6-10; 21:2). Within the divine King’s cosmic palace-temple, those united in marriage to Jesus Christ are welcomed into God’s household as Jesus’s redeemed siblings.

While much may be gained in Swain’s short volume, one weakness is his critique of what is commonly referred to as eternal relations of authority and submission (ERAS). The author unfairly (and unwisely) includes this understanding of the Trinity (held by notable theologians such as Wayne Grudem, Bruce Ware, and Owen Strachan) alongside the heresies of modalism and subordinationism. Incidentally, Dr. John Frame, a distinguished Reformed theologian also holds to the eternal subordination of the Son and argues persuasively that “hierarchy does not compromise the equality of nature, glory, and honor among the persons.”1 Swain seeks to undermine ERAS and fails in the end. In my mind, his argument generates more heat than light and needlessly detracts from the rest of the excellent material in the book.

Overall, however, The Trinity: An Introduction successfully carries out the stated aims in the Short Studies in Systematic Theology series. The great benefit of Dr. Swain’s treatment of the Trinity is its brevity. While the book only weighs in at 154 pages, it packs a powerful punch. The author does not short-change his readers. Rather, he offers a introduction to the Trinity that educates and leads to reverent acts of worship.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

  1. John M. Frame, The Doctrine of God (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian & Reformed, 2002), 721.

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