The Center for Trinitarian Spiritualty

Book Reviews

by Chris Hardman

Over the past 30 years there has been a veritable explosion of books on the Trinity and related subjects like Celtic Spirituality, Native American Spirituality, the Christian Mystics, Contemplative Prayer and Quantum Physics. Since few church libraries carry these books, we would like to build a library here at Holy Comforter that we could offer to those both inside and outside our parish.

This month I would like to review two new books, Altogether Gift by Michael Downey and The Luminous Web by Barbara Brown Taylor. The first explores Trinitarian Spirituality and the second explores the unnecessary divide between science and religion. Both are what I would call "basics" on the subject.

Altogether Gift: A Trinitarian Spirituality by Michael Downey

Order hereI call this a basic book on Trinitarian Spirituality, but it is not as basic as I would like it to be. At times it is a bit difficult to read especially if you have no background in theology. But, if you can persevere it is an important book that can help you see why an understanding of God as Trinity is so important.

Michael Downey was a colleague of Catherine Mowry Lucugna who wrote a seminal book in 1991 on the Trinity entitled God For Us. In her book she brought the Imminent Trinity (Who God is in God's self) and the Economic Trinity (How God acts in the world) together as one. Some theologians agreed with her; others disagreed; but her work caused people to think anew about the Trinity. Lucugna asked Downey to help her write a more practical book on Trinitarian Spirituality. Unfortunately, she died at the age of 44 before they had a chance to collaborate. So, after much struggle, Michael wrote this book by himself.

Altogether Gift is a real gift to anyone who wants to know more about the language used to describe the Trinity. Downey explains something of the process that the early church went through to develop our understanding of God as Trinity as well as why certain words were chosen for that description. For example, a "person" is one who is toward and for others. Thus, God is three persons in One Love.

He also helps us get at who we are, made in the image of God. He does so by helping us to see our "basic selves" as we observe people with mental and physical disabilities. Unfortunately, he does not always put "persons" first in his discussion, so his work comes across as a bit dated. If you can ignore that issue, the core of his work is excellent. It explains why an understanding of God as perfect relationship is so necessary for us today.

The Luminous Web by Barbara Brown Taylor

Order hereBarbara Brown Taylor wrote this book at the turn of the millennium when everyone was looking toward the apocalypse-the end of time. That end did not occur in the way many people predicted. The world did not "blow up," at least, not everywhere. What the world did do, however, was change! The old world dominated by an understanding of Newtonian physics passed away, and a new world based on an understanding of quantum physics began. In her book Taylor describes that transition well, taking great care to remind us how we have thought about things for the past few hundred years, and then showing us how that understanding of our world has changed because of modern discoveries in science. As with all of Barbara Brown Taylor's books, it is a joy to read. Please take note of the chapter entitled "The Physics of Communion" as that chapter shows how systems thinking began which is one of those Trinitarian spin-offs. If you are interested in how science and religion go together but do not know much about science, this book is a good starting place.

Both of these books have been added to our shelf in the new Center for Trinitarian Spirituality section in our library. I will continue with more book reviews next month.