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The Trinity and Jesus: Some Reductive Expostulations

1.  In human man Jesus we encounter the full revelation of the Trinitarian God.  Therefore humanity as such is only authentically at home in the Trinitarian life of God.  The Triune God is God in and for humanness.

2.  In that the man Jesus is the presence of the Trinitarian God to the world we must say that the Triune life of God always and eternally is identical to what we see translated into the history of the world in Jesus.

3.  When human persons encounter Jesus what occurs is fundamentally an experience of hospitality.  Therefore a fundamental characterization we are able to make about the quality of God’s internal life is that it is a life of hospitality.

4.  When human persons encounter Jesus we kill him.  Therefore the Trinitarian God’s hospitality has the character of complete and total self-expenditure for others.

5.  When human persons encounter Jesus they do so predominately in the context of table-fellowship.  Therefore the life of the Trinitiarian God is best understood as the realm of feasting.

6.  When human persons encounter Jesus they are directed to the Father.  Therefore the Trinitarian God is God in the deferral of the divine persons to one another.  The Trinitarian God is the God whose life eschews competitiveness and self-assertion.

7.  When human persons encounter Jesus they do so through the Holy Spirit.  Therefore the fellowship of persons with Triune God is never a given object which we can possess, but always a free and apocalyptic gift which comes to us from outside ourselves in unpredictable and dynamic ways.

7 Comments

  1. Ben wrote:

    I would add some sort of indication of the availability of Christ now in the Church, bodily through her members and the eucharist, an availability which indicates Christ’s willing self-defenselessness towards his creatures, in that he allows them to manifest himself to the world despite the possibility (certainty) that we will screw it up.

    Monday, March 3, 2008 at 2:17 pm | Permalink
  2. Halden wrote:

    Yes, moving into some stuff on the church would have been the next logical step. This was little more than jotting down a few thoughts. Mostly I’m intersted in how we might move from basic affirations about Jesus to affirmations about the Trinity. I think that the conceptual link there must be extremely close.

    Monday, March 3, 2008 at 3:06 pm | Permalink
  3. Mike Higton wrote:

    Hi Halden – I can’t immediately see how to e-mail you rather than reply in a comment. I’m struck by the connections between you approach here, and one I’ve taken in something I published recently – but to go into that in a comment is going to sound too much like I’m spamming you with advertising, so it’s probably better to e-mail you about it.

    Mike Higton

    Monday, March 3, 2008 at 3:34 pm | Permalink
  4. Blackhaw wrote:

    “In human man Jesus we encounter the full revelation of the Trinitarian God. ”

    I am not sure what this means. Jesus Christ was more than just a human man.

    “Therefore humanity as such is only authentically at home in the Trinitarian life of God. ”

    I like this part. I have heard something similiar from the Church Fathers and from Thomas Merton.

    “The Triune God is God in and for humanness.”

    I do not know what this means again.

    “In that the man Jesus is the presence of the Trinitarian God to the world we must say that the Triune life of God always and eternally is identical to what we see translated into the history of the world in Jesus.”

    Okay unless you are saying that the Economic Trinity is the Essential trinity or vice versa. That is only true if one says (like Zizioulas) that there is more to the essential trinity than the economic Trinty.

    “When human persons encounter Jesus what occurs in fundamentally an experience of hospitality. Therefore a fundamental characterization we are able to make about the quality of God’s internal life is that it is a life of hospitality.”

    What is meant by hospitality? Do you mean that the Father, Son, and Spirit are reaching out to us to include us in to the community, life, or perichoresas (sp?) of the Trinity? If so I am okay with that.

    “When human persons encounter Jesus they do so predominately in the context of table-fellowship. Therefore the life of the Trinitiarian God is best understood as the realm of feasting. ”

    I guess by “table fellowship” you mean the Eucharist or the LS. But what does feasting mean? How are you getting from one to the other?

    “When human persons encounter Jesus they are directed to the Father. Therefore the Trinitarian God is God in the deferral of the divine persons to one another. The Trinitarian God is the God whose life eschews competitiveness and self-assertion.”

    I think this might be saying too much.

    I think the main problem I have with your post here (although I can’t put my finger on it exactly (my wife just had a baby Thursday.)) is the way your trying to understand the essential Trinity and seemingly taking that to an understanding of us and our nature. Maybe you are not doing that but if so I think that is a misuse of the doctrine of the Trinity.

    Again my mind is somewhat elsewhere so please forgive my ignorance.

    Monday, March 3, 2008 at 3:35 pm | Permalink
  5. Derrick wrote:

    Blackhaw,

    Not to put words into Haldens mouth, but in regards to your first question I believe I can venture to what he means. Halden is not denying the divinity of Christ. Rather (if I am correct in understanding him) we know of Jesus’ divinity, his eternal Sonship, precisely in his human nature. There is nothing “beyond,” Jesus humanity regarding his Sonship that is not disclosed by this humanity.

    In other words, we might say, there has been, by and large a perceptible confusion in the traditional understanding of the question regarding the inter-relationship of Jesus’ humanity and divinity, hence shaping the answer parallel to this misperception. What the tradition has done is to ask “how can Jesus be fully human and fully divine in one person,” which is, of course, an acceptable question in and of itself, that has unfortunately been loaded with other presuppositions, such as a “substantialist,” ontology that attempts to ask how the two natures, understood as two substances, could co-exist in the single person, Christ. There has been and is, of course, a variety of answers to this question, both orthodox and heretical, that attempt to wrestle within the purview of this framework. The problem they all have in common, in my opinion (and I believe Halden’s as well) is that when this relation is percieved it is, in the words of Robert Jenson, that “Jesus is the eternal Son because he is–somehow–related to the Eternal Logos.” In other words, they all assume the knowledge that Jesus is God and Man, and then ask how this can be, without thereby allowing that the structure of how we came to know this in the first place (i.e. in the history of Jesus’ relation to the Father through the Spirit) as being constitutive of the answer itself.

    Rather, what I, and I believe Halden, want to argue is that Jesus the man is the Trinitarian Son, means that He is the identity whereby the Father affirms Himself as Father in His Spirit. This means, conversely, that Jesus is the Son precisely in His relation to the Father through the Spirit, and is decidedly NOT the Son of God due to His relationship to the Logos. We understand Jesus as the Logos precisely because of His human, historical relationship to the Father through the Spirit. As Pannenberg writes, “One cannot properly understand Jesus’ Sonship without taking his relation to God the Father as the point of departure. The question of the unity of the man Jesus with the eternal Son of God cannot be put and answered directly. That is the common mistake of all theories that attempt to concieve the unity of God and man in Jesus on the basis of the concept of the incarnation of the Logos. This concept is certainly an appropriate and indispensable expression for that unity, but it gives no help in understanding the inner structure and how it came to be. The unity of the man Jesus with the eternal Son of God results rather only by the way of a detour…It is a detour by way of Jesus’ relation to the ‘Father,’ i.e. to the God of Israel whom he called Father. Only the personal community of Jesus with the Father shows that he is himself identical with the Son of this Father.” (Jesus: God and Man p.335) And later Pannenberg observes “In dedication to the Father, Jesus lives his personality as Son. If this statement is correct, Jesus’ divinity is not a second ‘substance’ in the man Jesus in addition to his humanity. Then precisely as this man, Jesus is the Son of God and thus Himself God. Consequently he is not to be thought of as a synthesis of the divine and human…Precisely in his particular humanity Jesus is the Son of God (342).

    I hope this clarifies the position at least (if I have done any justice to Halden’s understanding).

    Monday, March 3, 2008 at 5:16 pm | Permalink
  6. blackhaw wrote:

    Derrick,

    Okay. but isn’t that like answering one question with another’s answer? The first question how can Jesus Christ be God and Man is a Christological question that was mainly asked in the so-called Christological contrroversies. Cyril and Nestorius debated about this.

    The second question (or answer) is from the so-called Trinitarian controversies. That is how the Father, Son, and Spirit relate to each other. The Son’s relationship to the Father is how one would define how the Son is the Son. That is at least Augustinian (as I know it). Gregory of Naz. would put it a little differently but I think in this way they are pretty similiar. The terms Father, son, and Spirit denote what is different about the persons and yet also how they are connected because the Son is the Son of the Father. And the Father is never without His Son.

    But again I would not ask how Jesus Christ is the Son mainly by discussing how he is two natures in one person. Although I do not know if that would be completely foreign to the conversation. But if I wanted to answer how God became flesh. Then I would bring up Cyril and Chalcedon.

    But really maybe it is just two parts to one question.

    How is Jesus Christ who we know through scripture?

    Maybe we first understand that he is God and man. Then we demnonstrate how He relates to the Father and thus is the Son. Although maybe not in sequential order. But it seems that we find Jesus as a man in the Bible who claims that scripture (the OT) is about Him. From there we can speak about the Trinity. And then maybe we would go back and try and understand more of the details about how he is the Godman and how he is the Son of the Father.

    But I see God realting to us as mainly
    Father — Son– Spirit

    And us understanding His revelation as
    Spirit–Son–Father

    But anyways maybe I am rambling some.

    BTW I did not think that y’all did not believe in the deity of Christ. I just did not understand.

    Monday, March 3, 2008 at 6:44 pm | Permalink
  7. blackhaw wrote:

    “The question of the unity of the man Jesus with the eternal Son of God cannot be put and answered directly. That is the common mistake of all theories that attempt to concieve the unity of God and man in Jesus on the basis of the concept of the incarnation of the Logos.”

    I think I will go with Cyril on this one. There is no Logos and man. There is God who became flesh. There is one subject in Christ. not two. Thus I do not ask how the man and the logos are joined. That makes no sense. There is no man and Logos. The Word became flesh.

    Monday, March 3, 2008 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

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