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Radical Trinitarianism §1: Introductory Theses

In the last few years everyone has been talking about the “renaissance of Trinitarian theology”, either to affirm it as a blessing from on high, or an aberration from the pits of hell.  Or was it Hegel?  Whatever, they’re basically the same thing, right?  Regardless, the point is that everyone is in some way interested in being the most authentic Trinitarian possible.  For some that means figuring out how the Trinity models social relationships for us.  For others it is about figuring out how God is so different from us that trying to model our social relationships on the Trinity would be rather like an octopus trying to model its number of arms on an opossum.

I hope my theology may fall somewhere in the middle and still be quite recognizable as radically Trinitarian in all its dimensions.  And to that end, here are a few theses about the Trinity that I would offer towards the construction of a truly “radical Trinitariansim.”  What I mean by this is a theology that is Trinitarian through and through, not slavishly or simplistically, but radically (radix=from the root).

  1. The reality of the cross and resurrection of Christ is the epistemological ground of the theology of the Trinity.  The event of Christ’s cross and resurrection is the event of God in the world, and that event is the outpouring of absolute love.  It is only on the basis of a Trinitarian understanding of the cross of Christ that the statement “God is love” can be true.
  2. The Trinity is not merely the culmination of Christian theological reflection on the mystery of God, but its presupposition, ground, and structuring principle.  The Trinity is not a question which theology seeks to solve, but rather the framework from within which all of theology’s questions are to be posed and solved.
  3. The relations between the persons of the Trinity are not, as such a model for human relations, to be slavishly imitated.  Rather, the richness of the Triune being is the ground of all creaturely being which shapes creaturely existence into its own distinctive shape.  The shape of creaturely existence grounded by the Trinity is one of persons is covenantal communion.  This is grounded centrally in the incarnation of Christ, the second person of the Trinity.  The shape of authentic human existence is revealed in Christ as communion between human and Triune persons through the covenantal self-giving of God in Christ and the Spirit.
  4. The life of the Trinity is not closed off from the world.  Rather the life of the Trinity is love, the very same love which creates, sustains, and redeems the world.  All creation, then has its own contingent, creaturely existence within the relations of love that constitute the Trinity.  Apart from participation in the life of God, creatures descend into non-being.  This attempt to reject the communion of divine love which sustains the world is the essence of sin.  Sin the the active seeking of non-being; that is, it is seeking to extricate ourselves from the circle of Triune love.
  5. Salvation is the exercise of God’s Triune love in Christ which overcomes all boundaries and subsumes within its ardor every distance which we would seek to impose between ourselves and God.  It is the embracing love of the Triune God which holds the world in all its contingency and rebellion from the non-being and death it seeks in striving for authomoy from God.  The fire of the Triune love, precisely by subjecting itself to the very experience of non-being, godforsakenness and death thus triumphs over sin, death, and godlessness through the Spirit of resurrection. 
  6. The church is the location in the world where the outpouring of Triune love is visibly and palpably located.  Through the church’s practice of the form of Christ, in word, sacrament, and deed, the Triune love continues to take human shape in the world of sin and death in the form of covenant communion.  The outpouring of the Triune communio that is the church is the shape of redemption in our world and manifests theeschatological telos of world its in the communal-covenantal fellowship of the sacramental church.
  7. The future of the world is the Trinitarian life.  And that future is present now, through the Spirit of Christ in and through the sacramental-spousal body of Christ, the church.  The future of the world is shalom and New Jerusalem, glimpsed now in the koinonial fellowship of the ekkelsia.  This future is not consummated now, but it is present in the sacramental-spousal life of the body of Christ.  It is to this place, this people, where the presence of the Triune God is embodied for the world that we must look to discern and experience the shape of redemption, sanctification, new life, and hope.

7 Comments

  1. bobby grow wrote:

    Amen Halden! I am very much so a radical trinitarian myself, and I think you have provided an excellent via media between the extremes that you have mentioned. I love the beauty that and intention that the trinitarian God provides for all of reality–and I agree it is indeed the ontological reality that shapes and defines our epistemological endeavors, i.e. the doing of theology.

    Saturday, June 16, 2007 at 10:46 am | Permalink
  2. udo wrote:

    You say: “The reality of the cross and resurrection of Christ is the epistemological ground of the theology of the Trinity. The event of Christ’s cross and resurrection is the event of God in the world, and that event is the outpouring of absolute love”

    But….

    Could one just as easily and necessarily say the outpouring generally at Pentecost and more importantly the experience individually of the Holy Ghost is the epistemological ground of the Trinity and the outpouring of God’s love or the event of God in the world?

    Speaking of epistemology, one can’t “know” and experience the truth of the cross and rez without the Spirit. It is the fact that “Christ is the Spirit” and “the Spirit is Lord” and “Jesus is Lord” which makes the whole Trinitarian movement in theology necessary and possible. I don’t know that I am disagreeing with what you say about the “event” but I would just say the Pentecost and individual indwelling events are equally primary. This avoids binitarianism with the Spirit “added on”, and avoids undue historicism abstracted from our experience. Ultimately we should know the truth of Trinity by experience it seems not just as a necessary truth of some “events” long ago.

    Tuesday, June 19, 2007 at 11:19 am | Permalink
  3. Halden wrote:

    Yeah, perhaps some stuff about Pentecost would ahve been important. I certainly do think that Pentecost is a peer of Easter (Jenson). What my emphasis was on, though was the concrete, christological ground of the revelation of God. I have in mind here John’s gospel particularly. It was Christ who was “full of grace and truth” and whoever has seen him has “seen the Father”. And thus, when the Spirit comes, he does not speak on his own, but testifies to Christ.

    But you’re right, we certainly can’t know Christ except in the Spirit.

    Tuesday, June 19, 2007 at 11:40 am | Permalink
  4. Excellent. I look forward to seeing the rest of this series!

    Wednesday, June 20, 2007 at 7:42 pm | Permalink
  5. thom wrote:

    Halden, thank you so much for taking the time to put this together. I found your condensation and codification of so many of the fantastic insights of the trinitarian renaissance very helpful, and, indeed, meditative. I bookmarked this post for more reflection over the next few days. Thanks!

    Friday, June 22, 2007 at 9:17 am | Permalink
  6. Byron wrote:

    A radical via media!

    Wednesday, July 4, 2007 at 10:01 pm | Permalink
  7. Nick Norelli wrote:

    Halden,

    Thanks for pointing me to this series! I think point 6 is key as Trinitarianism is more than merely dogmatic and theological — it’s practical. I believe that the Church by and large has a string Trinitarian apologetic yet a weak Trinitarian praxis. You’re definitely onto somthing with that… keep up the good work!

    Thursday, October 25, 2007 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

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