Trinity

There are two things that most Christians have in common:

  1. They believe in the Trinity–you know, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
  2. They don’t really understand it…at all.

The Christian scripture mentions three people and gives them each divine qualities: the Father, the Son (Jesus), and the Holy Spirit. They all showed up at Jesus’ baptism at the same time, so they are distinct from each other. Yet, the Bible is pretty clear that there is only one God. Thus, the problem. Are there three gods, or one? Who are these three characters and how do they relate to each other and to the world?

These are questions that have always fascinated me. They captivate me so much so that I worked them into my Ph.D. dissertation. This page is the home base for all my studies and doodles revolving around the trinity. I like to think about the Trinity in terms of Social Trinity. Allow me to explain…

The following playlist of four short animations will walk you through the basic introduction to the Social Trinity.

A More Academic Introduction…

The Trinity lies at the heart of the Deep in the Burbs (DITB) project. The research question asks:

How might an increased awareness of the social Trinity impact the ideation and praxis of spiritual formation in suburban ELCA congregations?

It was my experience with the social Trinity that sparked the creation of this project. It is necessary, then, to define the term social Trinity in light of the larger theological conversation of the Triune God.

It might be easy to imagine the social Trinity as a doctrinal statement—a chunk of knowledge—that could be presented to the research team for objective evaluation and ultimate acceptance or rejection. This idea, however, is (a) not congruent with my pedagogy, and (b) contrary to the nature of the Triune God. The research was conducted in the understanding that God is not an object that can be studied or a concept to be considered, but that God is the ground of being itself from which all life springs forth.1 All human speech about God is, at best, an analogy, metaphor, or simile. All theology is a human construction of symbols—models—that point to the unknowable God, but can never define or explain God.2

God is not an object to be studied, therefore, the DITB project raised a question that wonders (a) whether the models of the Triune God that we have inherited from our Western Theological predecessors are adequate and helpful for the current context in which the church finds itself3, and (b) if an alternate model of the Trinity might provide more space for a missional imagination of spiritual formation in the local congregation. It was my assumption that the RT would have a traditional, Western model of the Trinity as their frame for understanding God as we began this project.

Entangled Trinity-04Deep in the Burbs is a story of the Triune God. The research question asks “How might an increased awareness of the social Trinity impact the ideation and praxis of spiritual formation in suburban ELCA congregations?” It might be easy to think of this as if the social Trinity was a chunk of knowledge that could be presented to the Research Team for objective evaluation and ultimate acceptance or rejection. This idea is (a) not congruent with my pedagogy,4 and (b) contrary to the nature of the Triune God. The research was conducted in the understanding that God is not an object that can be studied or a concept to be considered, but that God is the ground of being itself from which all life springs forth.5 All human speech about God is, at best, an analogy, metaphor, or simile. All theology is a human construction of symbols—models—that point to the unknowable God, but can never define or explain God.6 Therefore, this is a question that wonders (a) whether the models of the Triune God that we have inherited from our Western Theological predecessors are adequate and helpful for the current context in which the church finds itself,7 and (b) if an alternate model of the Trinity might provide more space for a missional imagination of spiritual formation in the local congregation.

Reframing the Model

What then, is the alternate model that I proposed to the research team? I named this model the social Trinity in the research question. It was my attempt to present a model that was true to the contemporary conversation about the Trinity. Western theologians have wrestled with the Trinity question throughout the twentieth century. Stanley Grenz offers a helpful schematic to help us map out the landscape of this conversation. He articulates three major types of Trinitarian thought in the twentieth century: (1) those emphasizing the historicity and futurity of God—Moltmann, Pannenberg, Jenson; (2) those emphasizing the relationality of God—Boff, LaCugna, Zizioulas; and, (3) those emphasizing the transcendence, or otherness of God—Johnson, Urs von Balthasar, Torrance.8

Each of these theologians contribute important aspects to the conversation. The term social Trinity, however, is most readily associated with Moltmann and Volf. I must confess that my language has changed since the initial crafting of this research question. I no longer find the term social to be the most helpful label for this model of the Trinity. This became apparent to me early on in the research project. The first indication came when I had the initial meetings with my pastoral contacts in the congregations. Whenever I got to the term social Trinity I could tell that there was pensive hesitation. They shuffled in theirs seats, and eventually asked the awkward question, “What do you mean by social Trinity?” This was a helpful experience for two reasons. First, it affirmed my assumption that the terminology was not commonplace, even among clergy. Second, upon further conversation, I realized that the term social was a trigger associated with one of two prejudices. One prejudice was the immediate association with the term social Gospel that harkens back to the liberal/fundamentalist schism of the early twentieth century. The other prejudice was the immediate association with the issue of social justice which signals work projects and activist movements.

I found myself immediately using the terms relational and relationships in order to explain the meaning of the social Trinity. One pastor suggested that I simply change the question to read “the relational Trinity.” This was a valid suggestion, but I opted to leave the language as it is because it is associated with a certain body of theological literature, whereas the term relational Trinity is not as widely used. My language has expanded through the course of my research and I have found another term that is, perhaps equally foreign, but slightly more provocative and interesting. The term is entangled and is borrowed from Quantum Physics.9

I would like to append the question to read, “how might an increased awareness of the social, relational, entangled Trinity impact the ideation and praxis of spiritual formation in suburban ELCA congregations?”

A Brief Summary of the social/relational/entangled Trinity

The social/relational dimension

My use of social/relational draws most heavily on relational ontology as presented by Zizioulas.10 To summarize, Zizioulas proposes that humanity, both as particulars and collectively, has the imago dei of the robust Trinity11 imprinted on/in us ontologically. The image of the relational Trinity is this: God is three-in-one and one-in-three. God is transcendent, immanent, and relationality. God’s transcendence is the immanent Trinity that is constituted by relationality. This relational union is wholly other from its creation. God is also immanent in the economic Trinity. The Father is arche, the Son incarnate is the demonstration of God’s love and the great victor over death.12 The Spirit is the animator and mediator of life and relationality. God is also relationality that constitutes all being and out of which human particularity is formed. Humanity is created in the imago dei. We are homologues of the robust Trinity described above.13 We are many-and-one and one-and-many. We are individual selves constituted by the relatedness to each other, to nature, and to God, the transcendent other.

Relational ontology connects to the theoretical lens of Robert Kegan’s fifth order of consciousness, as mentioned in the Spiritual Formation Frame. Here it is enough to mention how the social/relational Trinity is connected, not only to theological language, but to ideas about and formation of the human self-in-relation to the other.14 Zizioulas proposes that it is not only our eschatological hope that is connected to the social Trinity,15 but it is our very essence, our ontological essence, that is constituted by the relationality of the persons of the Godhead. The use of communicative action as the research methodology in this project assumes that the congregations might discover the reality of their interdependence with the other, both within the congregation and within the suburban and metropolitan community as a whole.

Entangled Trinitarian Panentheism

I have added the term entangled to my Trinitarian model based upon a growing body of research that explores the interface of Theology with Quantum Physics.16 Simmons provides a helpful metaphor with his proposal of Entangled Trinitarian Panentheism. He borrows the term entanglement from Quantum Physics and attaches it to the ancient Greek term perichoresis.17 He finds this helpful for discussing the apparent dualisms in the theological debates about the Trinity, namely (1) is God one or three persons, and (2) is God the Immanent Trinity or the Economic Trinity?18 Simmons proposes that “perichoresis entanglement can be understood as the energy of the divine Trinity through which the creation is expressed. The immanent Trinity exists in superposition with the economic Trinity and evolves within the entangled life of God with the creation, thus supporting a panentheistic model of God.”⁠19

Simmons claims that his proposal of Entangled Trinitarian Panentheism may:

  1. Through phase entanglement and non-local relational holism provide metaphors for the perichoretic activity of the Trinity immanently and economically in sustaining and sanctifying the creation from within a scientifically consistent panentheism;
  2. Through quantum indeterminacy, affirm the freedom and openness of the creation in relation to divine self-limitation and the problem of suffering;
  3. Provide a conceptual bridge between creation and the Trinitarian character of the divine life;
  4. Contribute to the mutual understanding and interaction of theology and science;
  5. Assist interested persons in deepening their understanding and appreciation for the divine mystery of the Trinity; and
  6. Help provide a basis for interfaith dialog and cooperation as we collectively address the global issues of our time.”⁠20

The Trinity and the Research Team

It is the assumption of this research that the suburban, ELCA congregation is the product of the dominant Western, immanent Trinitarian view mentioned above, and that its ideation and praxis of spiritual formation has been heavily influenced by it. The introduction of the social/relational/entangled Trinity, to the congregations through participatory action research methodologies will both expose the congregations to a, presumably, new way of thinking about God, and will allow them to experience the relationality of God through the communicative action inherent in the process itself.

Trinity Bibliography

  • Book | The Social God and the Relational Self by Stanley Grenz Grenz, Stanley J. The Social God and the Relational Self: A Trinitarian Theology of the Imago Dei. 1st ed. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001. Author – Stanley Grenz Grenz traces the historical backdrop of the concept of self in the West in order to warrant his proposal of the ecclesial self as the best response to the postmodern deconstruction of self. The following sketch attempts to follow his logic. In the final analysis, then, the imago dei ...
  • Book | The Practice of Communicative Theology by Scharer and Hilberath Scharer, Matthias Hilberath Bernd Jochen. The Practice Of Communicative Theology: Introduction To A New Theological Culture. New York: Crossroad Pub. CO. 2008. The Authors — Matthias Scharer and Bernd Jochen Hilberath My Reflections Sharer and Hilberath are two German, Roman Catholic theologians who have adopted Ruth Cohn’s Theme-Centered Interaction (TCI) model as the means of doing theology. This pedagogy comes from a long history of Catholic theology and is rooted, most apparently, in Habermas’ communicative rationality. The combination ...
  • Book | The Entangled Trinity by Ernest Simmons Simmons, Ernest L. The Entangled Trinity: Quantum Physics and Theology. Minneapolis: Fortress Press. 2014. I need to give a special thanks to my friend, Pastor Kevin Doely, for recommending this book. The Author: Ernest Simmons My Summary Ernest Simmons proposes that Entangled Trinitarian Panentheism is the most helpful model for discussing God and the God-World relationship in the context of the twenty-first century Modern/late modern West. He pursues this proposal in three movements. First, he frames his argument in terms ...
  • Article | A Trinitarian Perspective on Christian Spirituality by Mark McIntosh Mark McIntosh’s work is important to my research. He has done an incredible job of connecting Trinitarian theology to spirituality. This is obviously important to my research question in which I ask how an increased awareness of social Trinity might impact spiritual formation. Holder, Arthur, ed. The Blackwell Companion to Christian Spirituality Blackwell Companions to Religion. Oxford; Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub., 2005. Chapter 10 Trinitarian Perspectives on Christian Spirituality by Mark A. McIntosh “In a real sense, the whole ...
  • Book | The Trinity and an Entangled World edited by John Polkinghorne Polkinghorne, J. C. The Trinity and an Entangled World: Relationality in Physical Science and Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. 2010. Editor – John Polkinghorne This book is a collection of essays that deals directly with one of the core theological frames of my research: relational ontology. One of the essays is an article by Wildman that I have reviewed here. Simply put, relationality is the essence of God, and thus, the essence of ...
  • Article | Augustine in Contemporary Trinitarian Theology by Michel Barnes My research relies heavily on the Social Trinity and draws upon theologians like Lacugna, Moltmann, Zizioulas, among others. It is important to note that not everyone agrees with their theological constructs. Michel Barnes is a key voice that has pointed out a fundamental flaw in the recent Trinitarian conversation. The flaw centers on a misunderstanding and misappropriation of Augustines’s doctrine of the Trinity. Barnes statement can be summarized: I have argued that contemporary systematic appropriations of ...
  • Book | God the Spirit by Michael Welker Welker, Michael. God the Spirit. 1st English-language ed. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1994. The Author – Michael Welker Welker is the Director of the Research Center for International and Interdisciplinary Theology at the University of Heidelberg. This book has had a significant impact on my research. The key ideas that I glean from Welker are that the Spirit is pluriform and polycentric. In other words, the Spirit takes on many different forms (pluriform) throughout the world, depending upon the ...
  • Book | The Quest for the Trinity by Stephen R. Holmes   Holmes, Stephen R. The Quest for the Trinity. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2012. The Author – Stephen R. Holmes My Thoughts This book is a helpful and refreshing counterbalance to my growing bibliography concerning the 20th century Trinitarian conversation in the West. Stephen Holmes is a brilliant scholar from the UK who speaks to this topic from the English Evangelical perspective. The book itself is essentially an historical survey of the Doctrine of the Trinity in Western theology. What ...
  • Edmund Hill’s Translation of Augustine’s De Trinitate I am very pleased to have found Edmund Hill’s Translation of Augustine’s De Trinitate. Previously I had been reading Phillip Schaff’s late 19th century translation and found it difficult to digest. Hill brings a brightness to the text that I find much more comprehensible, and actually enjoyable to read. Special thanks to Fred Sanders for the nudge. It is my goal to make a thorough reading of this text before the New Year dawns.
  • Book | Beyond Foundationalism by Stanley Grenz and John Franke Grenz, Stanley J., and John R. Franke. Beyond Foundationalism: Shaping Theology in a Postmodern Context. 1st ed. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001. The Authors Stanley J. Grenz While in the pastorate (1979-1981), Grenz taught courses both at the University of Winnipeg and at Winnipeg Theological Seminary (now Providence Seminary). He served as Professor of Systematic Theology and Christian Ethics at the North American Baptist Seminary, Sioux Falls, South Dakota from 1981-1990. For twelve years (1990-2002), Grenz ...
  • Book | After Our Likeness by Miroslav Volf Volf, Miroslav. After Our Likeness: The Church as the Image of the Trinity Sacra Doctrina. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 1998. The Author Professor Volf is the founding Director of the Yale Center for Faith and Culture. His books include Allah: A Christian Response (2011); Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace (2006), which was the Archbishop of Canterbury Lenten book for 2006; Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, ...
  • Book | Systematic Theology by Robert Jenson Jenson, Robert W. Systematic Theology. Vol. 1. 2 vols. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. The Author After two decades of teaching at Lutheran Theological Seminary in Gettysburg, Jenson moved in 1988 to the religion department of St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. He was joined in Northfield by his friend Carl Braaten, and together they founded the conservative Center for Catholic and Evangelical Theology in 1991. The founding of this Center marked a new period of ...
  • Book | Rediscovering the Triune God by Stanley Grenz Grenz, Stanley J. Rediscovering the Triune God: The Trinity in Contemporary Theology. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2004. The Author While in the pastorate (1979-1981), Grenz taught courses both at the University of Winnipeg and at Winnipeg Theological Seminary (now Providence Seminary). He served as Professor of Systematic Theology and Christian Ethics at the North American Baptist Seminary, Sioux Falls, South Dakota from 1981-1990. For twelve years (1990-2002), Grenz held the position of Pioneer McDonald Professor of Baptist Heritage, ...
  • Article | No Trinity, No Mission by Gary Simpson Simpson, Gary. “No Trinity, No Mission: The Apostolic Difference of Revisioning the Trinity.” Word and World, vol. XVIII, number 3, Summer 1998. No Trinity No Mission – Simpson – flattened – my annotated copy of the article. The Author Gary Simpson is a professor of Systematic Theology at Luther Seminary on St. Paul, MN. He is also an ordained pastor in the ELCA. My Thoughts This article traces the history of Trinitarian thought in the west and demonstrates how, without the ...
  • Book | A Theology of the Built Environment Gorringe, Timothy. A Theology of the Built Environment: Justice, Empowerment, Redemption. Cambridge, U.K.; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002. The Author Tim Gorringe worked in parishes for six years before going to South India to teach theology at the Tamil Nadu Theological Seminary, where he worked for seven years. On return to Britain he was for nine years Chaplain, Fellow and Tutor in Theology at St John’s College, Oxford. In 1995 he became Reader in Contextual Theology ...
  • Book | Christopraxis by Edmund Arens Arens, Edmund. Christopraxis: A Theology of Action. 1st Fortress Press ed. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1995. The Author Edmund Arens is a catholic theologian and professor of Fundamental Theology at the University of Luzern, Switzerland. Fundamental Theology is “a relatively recent theological discipline whose object and method has not altogether been clarified by theologians themselves. It is clear, however, that a task of fundamental theology is to verify the foundations of theology. Thus, before deepening in the knowledge ...
  • Book | God For Us by Catherine LaCugna LaCugna, Catherine Mowry. God for Us : The Trinity and Christian Life. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1991. A Substantial Inquiry into  Catherine LaCugna’s God With Us, focusing on Part I | by Steve Thomason | A Term Paper Presented to Professor Gary Simpson | Luther Seminary | As a Requirement in Course CL8950 Trinity and Mission | St. Paul, Minnesota | 2012 Introduction The purpose of this paper is to engage in dialogue with the first part of Catherine LaCugna’s book God for Us: Trinity and Christian Life. The scope and ...
  • Book | Communion and Otherness by John D. Zizioulas Zizioulas, Jean, and Paul McPartlan. Communion and Otherness: Further Studies in Personhood and the Church. New York: T & T Clark, 2006. Author John Zizioulas (Greek: Ιωάννης Ζηζιούλας; born 10 January 1931, Kozani) is the Eastern Orthodox metropolitan of Pergamon. He is the Chairman of the Academy of Athens and a noted theologian. My Thoughts on Communion and Otherness I will be brief and to the point in this reflection. There is one thing that I glean from this ...
  • Book | Systematic Theology by Pannenberg Pannenberg, Wolfhart. Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1991. Author Wolfhart Pannenberg (born on October 2, 1928) is a German theologian. He has made a number of significant contributions to modern theology, perhaps most notably his concept of history as a form of revelation centered on the Resurrection of Christ, which has been widely debated in both Protestant and Catholic theology, as well as by non-Christian thinkers. My Thoughts on Pannenberg On Pannenberg’s Methodology In his Introduction to Systematic Theology, ...
  • Book | The Trinity and the Kingdom by Jürgen Moltmann Moltmann, Jürgen. The Trinity and the Kingdom: The Doctrine of God. 1st HarperCollins paperback ed. San Francisco, CA: HarperSanFrancisco, 1991. Author Jürgen Moltmann (born 8 April 1926) is a German Reformed theologian who is Professor Emeritus of Systematic Theology at the University of Tübingen. Moltmann is a major figure in modern theology and was the recipient of the 2000 Grawemeyer Award in Religion, and was also selected to deliver the prestigious Gifford Lectures in 1984-1985. He has ...
  • Article | The Incarnation and the Trinity by Christopher B. Kaiser Kaiser, Christopher B. “The Incarnation and the Trinity: Two Doctrines Rooted in the Offices of Christ.” Greek Orthodox Theological Review 43, no. 1-4 (1998): 221-255. Author Chris Kaiser began his professional life as a scientist and went on to become a theologian, and his teaching vocation has always included working to build bridges between his two disciplines. He has been part of Western’s faculty since 1976. He has also served as lecturer at the University of Edinburgh and at ...
  • Article | A Trinitarian Grammar of the Liturgy by E. Byron Anderson E. Byron Anderson says: In their attempts to work out a practical theology of the Trinity, LaCugna, Moltmann, and Boff share three points. They argue, first, that language about the Trinity is inherently and primarily doxological. Second, a reading of the ...
  • Paper | An Introduction to Relational Ontology by Wesley J. Wildman Abstract This paper argues that there is value in a systematic philosophical approach to relations and surveys some of the major issues in the philosophy of relations. Rather than siding withrelational ontology over substantivist ontology, however, the paper argues that the best philosophical approaches are causal theories of relation in which both relations and entities take their rise from an ontologically fundamental causal flux. The causal theories of relation and entities discussed here are Neoplatonist participation ...
  • Book | Spirituality and Theology: Christian Living and the Doctrine of God by Philip Sheldrake Spirituality and Theology by Philip Sheldrake This book is a gold mine for my research. Sheldrake connects the contemporary study of Christian Spirituality directly to the Social Trinity. He also provides an excellent historical summary of why spirituality and theology have been estranged since the dawn of the modern era. My Annotated Scan of the section  The Significance of Trinitarian Theology. (75-83) He defends Augustine against accusations of individualism. The fundamental truth of our existence is that human beings ...
  • Article | Appropriating the Divine Presence: Reading Augustine’s On the Trinity as a Transformative Text by Edward Howells Appropriating the Divine Presence Reading Augustine as Transformative my annotated copy This article contributes to my case that I must delve deeply into Augustine’s On The Trinity. The paper I wrote back in the spring is proving to be a bit prophetic for the course of study. Here Howells helps me understand Augustine’s pre-modern understanding of the relationality of the trinitarian persons and the better understanding of interiority. Dr. Edward Howells is a lecturer in Christian Spirituality at ...
  • Article | Spirituality and Social Change: Rebuilding the Human City by Philip Sheldrake Sheldrake, Philip. “Spirituality and Social Change: Rebuilding the Human City.” Spiritus 9, no. 2 (2009): 137-156. “To be human embodies a common life and a common task…it is important to note the intimate link between human identity and a Trinitarian theology of God.” (138) This article is important for my work. It addresses some of my main points: Trinity, Augustine, space and place, urban/suburban planning, interiority and exteriority in spirituality.

 

  1. David Kelsey posits that all knowledge of God is secondary knowledge, and that, to understand God truly, the researcher must observe the activities of the local congregation in its specific context. Thus, the participatory action research methodology used in this research is, in itself, a theological inquiry into the mystery of the Triune God. []
  2. William C. Placher, The Triune God: An Essay in Postliberal Theology (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2007), 40-41. See Peters on the use of the term symbol. Ted Peters, God–the World’s Future: Systematic Theology for a New Era, 2nd ed. (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2000) and Grenz on the use of the term model. Stanley J. Grenz and Roger E. Olson, Who Needs Theology?: An Invitation to the Study of God (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996). []
  3. Here I am referring to the much-rehearsed history of Athanasius’ victory over Arius at the Council of Nicea in which he demonstrated that God is three in person, but one in essence. His Immanent model of God as three-in-one within Godself has been reduced, over time, to monarchial modalism, at best, in Western, modern theology. The Immanent trinity, then, is the transcendent God of divine substance that is separated from the material world in the tradition of Platonic dualism. []
  4. I will posit a communicative pedagogy in the Spiritual Formation Frame. []
  5. David Kelsey posits that all knowledge of God is secondary knowledge, and that, to understand God truly, the researcher must observe the activities of the local congregation in its specific context. Thus, the participatory action research methodology used in this research is, in itself, a theological inquiry into the mystery of the Triune God. []
  6. William C. Placher, The Triune God: An Essay in Postliberal Theology (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2007), 40-41.; see Peters on symbol. Ted Peters, God–the World’s Future : Systematic Theology for a New Era, 2nd ed. (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2000).and Grenz on the use of model.Grenz and Olson, Who Needs Theology? : An Invitation to the Study of God. []
  7. Here I am referring to the much rehearsed history of Athanasius’ victory over Arius at the Council of Nicea in which he demonstrated that God is three in person, but one in essence. His Immanent model of God as three-in-one within Godself has been reduced, over time, to monarchial modalism, at best, in Western, modern theology. The Immanent trinity, then, is the transcendent God of divine substance that is separated from the material world in the tradition of Platonic dualism. []
  8. Stanley J. Grenz, Rediscovering the Triune God: The Trinity in Contemporary Theology (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2004). []
  9. see Simmons.; Polkinghorne. []
  10. Zizioulas and McPartlan. []
  11. I have introduced the term robust into the conversation. This is Shults’ term to distinguish the relationality and futurity of God from the transcendent/Immanent Trinity. []
  12. I will agree with Volf and not go so far as Zizioulas to warrant patriarchal authority in the church based upon the arche. Volf, bringing Moltmann into conversation with Zizioulas, calls for an egalitarian power structure based upon a flattened perichoretic power structure. Volf, After Our Likeness: The Church as the Image of the Trinity. []
  13. I am intentionally hinting at the Augustinian use of “vestiges of God.” A fascinating sub-conversation within the larger Trinitarian conversation is that of Augustine’s culpability for the demise of the Economic Trinity in the modern West. LaCugna, et alia, blames him for the problem. Barnes disagrees and notes that LaCugna’s argument is built upon a resurgence of de Regnon’s claim in the 19th century, which, Barnes argues, is unfounded. I agree with Barnes and follow Sheldrake’s assessment that Augustine understood relational ontology inherently, since he did not breath the air of Cartesian dualism. Michael R. Barnes, “Augustine in Contemporary Trinitarian Theology,” Theological Studies 56, no. 2 (1995).Philip Sheldrake, Spirituality and Theology: Christian Living and the Doctrine of God (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1998), 75-83. []
  14. both Groome and Farley emphasize this as essential to the practice of formation in the congregation and in any theological inquiry. Groome names the individual as “Agent-Subjects-in-Relationship.” Farley names it as “being-together” in the reciprocity sphere. Groome, Sharing Faith: A Comprehensive Approach to Religious Education and Pastoral Ministry: The Way of Shared Praxis.Edward Farley, Practicing Gospel: Unconventional Thoughts on the Church’s Ministry, 1st ed. (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2003). []
  15. Eschatological hope is central to the “historicity/futurity” grouping that Grenz noted: Moltmann, Pannenberg, and Jenson. Zizioulas does not deny this dimension, but simply emphasizes the ontological aspect of this Trinitarian conversation. Here, to, I argue that we must abandon substance dualism in light of relationality and entanglement. []
  16. Polkinghorne. []
  17. This term was used by the Greek Fathers to describe the relationships between the three persons of the Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It means to move in and out of each other, or to dance around. It brings with it the image of a mutual, equal interpenetration and indwelling of all three persons. It, however, existed within Godself, thus was not helpful for how God related to the world. []
  18. the debate made famous by Karl Barth and Karl Rahner. []
  19. Simmons, 144. []
  20. Ibid., 187-188. []
subscribe to my monthly newsletter
Holler Box