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The following material was originally written for academic purposes. For this blog post, I am taking the liberty to interject comments [in brackets] to bring out certain aspects of the material. As we saw in our last post (8/22/09), among contemporary trinitarian theologians there is a return to the trinitarianism of the Patristic era. Following Karl Barth, Karl Rahner, and many others, modern theologians are calling the Western Church to return to a doctrine of God that is firmly grounded in God's triune self-revelation in redemptive history (oikonomia) rather than in substantialist metaphysics [see last post] rooted in pagan philosophy. Among contemporary Trinitarians, a renewed interest has arisen in formulating a doctrine of God that is firmly grounded in God's unique selfrevelation in the incarnate Son, Jesus Christ. Gunton (2003:25-27) rightly and cogently argues that whenever our doctrine of God is separated from Jesus, we move either into abstraction or idolatry. Hence, God's self-revelation in the incarnate Son is central to the doctrine of the Trinity. One of the values of the doctrine of the Trinity is that it ties our speech about God to Jesus and helps us not to create gods of our own making [as in certain forms of Protestant evangelicalism]. To be sure, any doctrine of the Trinity which loses its hold on the historical Jesus no longer represents the ancient faith of the Church [Irenaeus, Athanasius, and the Cappadocians are in full agreement!] In the end, argues Gunton (2003:18), the doctrine of the Trinity is only worth knowing if it helps us to know who the God is who reveals himself in the redemptive activity of the Son and Spirit. "Without the doctrine of the Trinity we might have a God of power, or a God in some way identical with the world, but not the God of the Bible, who is a God of love, and whose love takes shape in the story of creation and redemption." [Comment: God's essential nature is love; God IS love! His power and sovereignty are in the service of love. If you want a deterministic god of power and unrelenting sovereignty, buy a camel and become a Muslim.] As Migliore (2004:72) notes, the doctrine of the Trinity "redescribes" God in the light of the incarnation of Jesus Christ and the transforming work of the Spirit. It describes a God whose love for the world is not accidental or capricious. The doctrine of the Trinity assures us that there is no sinister, demonic deity different from the God we know in the stories of Jesus who befriended the poor and forgave sinners. If talk of the Triune God is to be more than "wild speculation," argues Migliore (2004:69, 70), it must be grounded in, and limited by, the scriptural witness to the love of God that is mediated to the world in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit. Thus, proper Trinitarian theology does not first speculate on a Trinity in eternity ( theologia), only afterward to search for
God's triune self-revelation in the Father. he turns away from God's self-revelation in the incarnate (i. Nor do we follow Augustine and look for "vestiges" of the Trinity in the human mind (see "The Wedding Cake Cosmos: Augustine and Neoplatonism. Instead. 70) argues that the eternal transcendent being of God (theologia) must not be considered in an abstract way divorced from God's self-revelation in salvation history (oikonomia) [This is the problem of natural theology. According to that tradition. Son and Spirit revealed in salvation history ( oikonomia). it makes sense that Augustine would look for "vestiges" of the Trinity in the human mind. We'll examine that in detail in an upcoming post." 4/09).] The issues important to Medieval Scholasticism. as a committed Neo-Platonist. human beings are essentially "sparks of divinity" imprisoned in a physical body. But note that in turning to that Platonic spark within. and the Western Split. pagan tradition) is trapped in a damaging dualism that asserts that spirit is good and matter is bad. "Christian theology must begin from the premise that because the mystery of God is revealed in the . Son and Spirit. the awful and dreaded omniGod of Western Christianity (see "How to Make a Western Omelet God.e. can no longer be the primary concern of Trinitarian thought. Western Christians have suffered greatly as a direct result of Augustine's epistemological and methodological error. and developed from. 2/09).If we really want to know what God is like. "To this beginning point in God's relationship to us through Christ in the Spirit Trinitarian theology must return again and again. it begins with the history of revelation and salvation attested by Scripture and experienced by Christians from the beginning of the Church." [Comment: Real and accurate knowledge of God must be grounded in. Real and accurate speech about God does not begin with speculative inferences on the nature of God based on the observation of the cosmos. Responsible Trinitarian thinking must begin with the 'economic' Trinity. for example.." 3/09). then we need to take a long look at Jesus!] [By the way.evidence of the Trinity in revelation (oikonomia). bodily) Jesus. the threefold agency of Father. numbers of processions and relations or whether person precedes relation. Therefore. that leads to abstraction or idolatry. that is. I recently realized something about Augustine that may seem obvious to one or two of you. As Gunton noted above.] LaCugna (1991:69. rather. for he initiated a movement of theological thought that finally turned the Church away from Jesus (and toward the veneration of the saints) and put in the place of the Triune God. The entire Platonic-Neoplatonic (i. as in Aquinas and Aristotle (see "Tommy A. whose nature is revealed as love.e.en-fleshed. for that is where one finds the spark of divinity.
dynamic (not static) terms as disclosed in God's triune self-revelation as three distinct persons perichoretically united in one being. the Nicene homoousion is the "hinge" upon which the whole [Nicene] Creed turns as well as the "ontological and epistemological link" to knowledge of God in his eternal. although that is exactly what has been enshrined in the Westminster Confession of Faith. unmoved by human plight. in a way governed by God's self-revelation in redemptive history as attested in Scripture. ousia should be understood in terms of the oneness and identity of being of the Father. "for in his own eternal Being he is the . statements about the nature of God must be rooted in the reality of salvation history. F. for "the one Being of God is intrinsically personal. 1996:30). To be sure. God is. nature] was familiar in the various schools of Greek philosophy. in formulating the doctrine of God. Thus. 1991:3. for it is only through God's self-revelation as incarnate Son and Sprit that "the unknowable God (Father) who dwells in light inaccessible is revealed to us. 1996:3. rather. We want to develop our understanding of the nature of God in personal (not impersonal). in sovereign freedom. transcendent nature. if God really is in his eternal. Son and Holy Spirit" (Torrance. He notes that. Son and Spirit. 4).] For Torrance (1995:132. LaCugna's assertion. impassibility). the "real question" is whether or not one begins with God's self-revelation in the economy of salvation. and indeed as intensely personal as God is in the manifestation of himself to us in the Gospel as Father.mystery of salvation. transcendent being (theologia) what he is revealed to be in the person and activity of his incarnate Son (oikonomia). Thus. God's self-revelation in the incarnate Son demands a "revolution" in our thinking about God. then the being (ousia) of God must be understood in a very "un-Greek way" (Torrance." Hence. is persuasively articulated by T. but not Augustine] used the term differently. while the term ousia [substance. it is "impossible" to think of the divine essence or substance of God apart from the concrete particularities of the Triune Persons. dumb being but rather living. [Wow! I love LaCugna! Read those last two sentences again!] For LaCugna (1991:97). being. rather. imprisoned and isolated in his own aloofness. not the remote deity of Greek philosophy. as the Nicene homoousion would indicate. therefore. Christian theologians [particularly Athanasius and the Cappadocians. God is the one who. theologia must once again be considered primarily in terms of oikonomia (LaCugna. 129). the divine ousia should not be understood in the static sense of Aristotelian metaphysics variously translated by Western Latin theologians as essentia andsubstantia. 1995:131). of the impossibility of speculation on the being ( ousia) of God apart from God's self-revelation in salvation history." In other words. We don't want to articulate our understanding of the being of God in terms of pagan Greek philosophy (immutability. speaking. Torrance (1996:116). passionately engages and interacts with his creation. personal being. [Comment: That last sentence is what we want to get. to denote not static.
who is "of one substance with the Father" (homoousios to Patri). to establish accurate knowledge of God. and final selfrevelation of God" in Jesus Christ. Son and Holy Spirit is wholly commensurate with who God is "inherently and eternally in himself" (Torrance. "God defines himself for us. for in Jesus. [Comment: Linger on that quote. therefore. As Torrance (1996:18) rightly argues: [T]o know God in Jesus Christ. loving and acting God who will not be without us but who in his grace freely determines himself for us as our God and Saviour" (Torrance. the Fatherhood of God revealed to us through the incarnate Son determines precisely how we are tounderstand God's being (Torrance. as the Nicene Creed asserts and all orthodox Christians believe. for. and to know him as the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. God's historical self-manifestation to us in the Gospel as Father. the Word of God incarnate. definitive. Torrance. 1996:116). must be developed from the "unique. God can no longer be viewed as remote. for Jesus Christ is one in both being and agency with the Father he came to reveal. 1996:1). Jesus Christ is the complete revelation of God to man. Tom!!] [Comment: Jesus is the ontological link to knowledge of God because he is one in 'being' with the Father. Tom is the man!] A 'Christian' doctrine of God. active and intensely personal. The incarnation of Jesus Christ is the "actual source" and "controlling centre" of the Christian doctrine of God. therefore. He is in himself not other than what he is toward us in his loving. God defines and identifies himself for us as he really is. 1996:4). In short. 1996:118). revealing and saving presence in Christ. aloof. folks. In light of the divine self-disclosure in Jesus Christ. Because Jesus Christ is "of one substance with the Father" ( homoousios to Patri). in the incarnate Son. rather God must be viewed as dynamic.] Abstract philosophical speculation on the being (ousia) of God in terms of the presuppositions of the substantialist metaphysics of Greek philosophy is no longer tenable in the light of God's self-revelation in Christ (cf. we start with Jesus. is really to know God as he is in himself in his eternal Being as God and in the transcendent Love that God is." so that we may rightly apprehend and know God as he really is (Colyer. In Jesus. all speculation about the nature of God rooted in Greek metaphysics and natural theology must be abandoned in favour of a return to the Patristic (pre- . immutable and impassible.ever living. he is the epistemological link to knowledge of God because only Jesus 'knows' the Father and he is the express Word ( Logos) of God to us. 2001:76). [Way to go.
2001. C.Augustinian) thinking about the essence or substance of God as revealed particularly in the incarnate Son and his ongoing self-communication to the Church through the Holy Spirit. D. "Theologia is recapitulated inoikonomia. MI: Eerdmans Publishing. T. T. the inner being of God is revealed in salvation history: "the invisible is made visible. and Holy Spirit: Essays toward a Fully Trinitarian Theology.M. San Francisco. 2009. LaCugna. 2004. Torrance: Understanding His Trinitarian & Scientific Theology. CA: HarperSanFrancisco. Torrance. London: T & T Clark.L. 439pp.F. 345pp." In LaCugna's (1991:70) terse but trenchant phrase.E. London: T & T Clark.F. One Being Three Persons . E. The Christian Doctrine of God. Grand Rapids. Gunton. Downers Grove. 1991. How to Read T. C.F.M. Son." References: Colyer. 260pp. 2003. London: T & T Clark. 1995. 240pp. The Trinitarian Faith: The Evangelical Theology of the Ancient Catholic Church. Migliore. Torrance. See you then! . IL: IVP. Look for next post on or shortly after October 1. 393pp. Father. Faith Seeking Understanding: An Introduction to Christian Theology . 434pp. God for Us: The Trinity and Christian Life. 1996. Through the incarnation of Jesus Christ and the sending of the Holy Spirit.
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