One of the most provocative claims made by Robert Jenson’s Trinitarian theology is that temporality has its source in the eternal life of the Trinity. In his view God is temporality itself, containing the reality of history within God’s own life. This is important to understand in light of God’s claim that the event of Jesus’ resurrection constituted the identity of God. The reason that this does not endanger the freedom of God is because the whole reality of history is itself incorporate into the eternal life of temporal infinity which is the event of God’s being God.
This is important to understand in light of criticisms that Jenson subordinates the doctrine of God to eschatology. What Jenson in fact does is seek to think temporality in light of the gospel of the resurrection. Thus for Jenson past, present, and future find their reconciliation in the life of the Trinity. Protology and Eschatology are united in God’s temporal infinity of love; it is the event of Jesus’ resurrection that is their tabernacle. In him past and future are reconciled in the present. “In the gospel’s usage, ‘God is’ means: ‘Origin and Fulfillment rhyme in the Event of Jesus death and resurrection, without there needing to be a higher timeless reality in which they are encompassed and relativized” (Story and Promise, 117).
Thus Jenson goes on to say: “We can sketch the plot that God is: he is Fulfiller, Creator and the Reconciler of both; he is Goal and Origin enacted together in the history of Jesus; he is God-Future, God-Past, and God-Present; to use the biblical names, he is Spirit, Father and Son. In time, God-Future and God-Past confront each other in Jesus resurrection; and just this Confrontation is God” (Story and Promise, 117-118).
Thus for Jenson the doctrine of the Trinity “states the plot of the temporal event which is the reality of God.” He claims that the gospel “uses the word ‘God’ for the event that what happened with Jesus gives our lives plot by reconciling past and future in the present” (Story and Promise, 117). What is particularly interesting about this is the way in which Jenson unapologetically links the three persons of the Trinity with the temporal realities of past, present, and future.
What are we to make of this? Does such a scheme ultimately work or is it but a suggestive yet incoherent attempt to penetrate the mystery of God? Ultimately I think that it does work though it may need to be described in different language than Jenson’s, particularly with reference to the issue of the personal reality of the three Trinitarian hypostases. Understanding the temporal infinity of the Trinitarian God should never lead us to reduce the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit merely to poles within the structure of temporality. Of course that is not Jenson’s intention, rather he draws attention to the fact that God is event as well as person. What is crucial is that we be careful not to lose the coterminous reality of the personhood of the hypostases in our attempt to describe the actualism of their event of being the infinitely temporal God of Jesus’ cross and resurrection.