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http://itq.sagepub.com Experience and Knowledge of the Trinity in the Theology of Ted Peters: Occasion for Clarity or Confusion?
Paul D. Molnar Irish Theological Quarterly 1999; 64; 219 DOI: 10.1177/002114009906400301 The online version of this article can be found at: http://itq.sagepub.com
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Pontifical University, St. Patrick's College, Maynooth, Co. Kildare, Ireland
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Paul D. Molnar
Experience and Knowledge of the Trinity in the Theology of Ted Peters: Occasion for Clarity or Confusion?
In his attempt to link the immanent and the economic Trinity more closely together, Ted Peters seems to limit the task of the Trinitarian doctrine to that of a hermeneutical device needed to comprehend salvation. This basically Rahnerian approach to the mystery of the Trinity, it is argued, could lead to God’s freedom being compromised and his nature being confused with the process of salvation history. [Editor]
theologians recognise while nowt collapsing Trinity nevertheless think that the task the doctrine
the importance of
into the economic
of of the Trinity is to ponder God’s work as creator, redeemer, and sanctifier, and is thus simply a theoretical device for grasping the drama of salvation occurring in Jesus Christ.’ In part, as we shall see, this reasoning stems from the idea that experience in the Church ought to be equated with special revelation. This thinking intends to tie the immanent and economic Trinity more closely together, but because of the way it begins from experience, it does not actually clarify the task of Trinitarian doctrine, as I propose to show. While there is indeed no knowledge of the Trinity without experience in the Church, I hope to show that it would be more than a little problematic to equate such experience with special revelation. In his book on the Trinity, Ted Peters relies on the theology of Karl Barth in order to affirm God’s sovereignty and involvement with humanity in the history of Christ and the Spirit. He then moves beyond Barth, with the help of Karl Rahner and other contemporary theologians, in order to tie the immanent and economic Trinity more closely together. What I hope to show in this article is, that, because Ted Peters does not fully understand the function of the doctrine of the immanent Trinity in Barth’s theology, he is unintentionally led to compromise God’s freedom in se and ad extra. Ted Peters properly contends that Karl Barth did indeed believe in one Trinity and not two But, unlike Peters, Barth would not equate experience within or outside the Church with special revelation because he believed that a strict doctrine of the Trinity ’must speak about 1. Ted Peters, God as Trinity: Relationality and Temporality in Divine Life (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1993), 24 and 70 (hereafter abbreviated: Trinity).
2. Ibid., 10. 219
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C. & T. That is why he opposed the idea that the maxim ’know thyself’ could lead to knowledge of the good: ’There is no realisation of the good. this thinking tends to make human history the norm for God’s history with us and thus to reverse the creator/creature relation. 541.. All rights reserved. ed.com by Ilie Chiscari on November 30. Torrance. This of course leads her to believe that ’an "immanent" trinitarian theology of God is nothing more than a theology of the economy of salvation’. Clark.g. 1: The Doctrine of the Word of God. Bromiley (Edinburgh: T. God For Us: The Trinity and Christian Life (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco. Peters seizes upon the fact that Jü.. 108-09 correctly argues ’that we cannot think of the ontological [immanent] Trinity as if it were constituted by or dependent on the economic Trinity. and the immanent doctrine of the Trinity is its summarizing concept’. But the problem with this is that a doctrine of the immanent Trinity will then be limited by human experience instead of being a statement of God’s eternal being and action which. pt.. Karl Barth. (Edinburgh: T. theologians who do not make the kind of distinction between the immanent and economic Trinity for which Barth argued compromise divine and human freedom in significant ways. W. G. 96. Son and Spirit. in 13 pts. 1975). This thinking had ethical implications for Barth. God as the Mystery of the World : On the Foundation of the Theology of the Crucified One in the Dispute between Theism and Atheism. Hence for Barth ’The content of the doctrine of the Trinity .ngel gives unqualified agreement to Rahner’s Rule to show that he may no longer be arguing for an immanent Trinity as a presupposition for the economic relations. Clark." Downloaded from http://itq. & T.. 4 vols. when recognised. 1991). One Being Three Persons. 1/2. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. 5.. I shall argue that the doctrine makes sense only as a statement about God acting for us within history. ibid. 1996). Among these difficulties is the problem of simply making the doctrine of the immanent Trinity a summarising concept for Christian experience. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.. which is not identical with the grace of Jesus Christ and its voluntary or involuntary confirmation. Guder.ngel’s thought while disregarding his important emphasis on the need for a doctrine of the immanent Trinity that describes God’s free eternal existence as Father.D. trans. trans.’4 This article will explore some of the difficulties which result from limit- ing the task of Trinitarian doctrine to its use as a hermeneutical device for comprehending salvation. 346.220 God in isolation from man’3 in order to speak properly about our relation with God which is grounded in grace (Christ) and is not conditioned by our experience. Vol. Following Barth’s initial insight. 2/2. (hereafter referred to as C.D. e. C. W. 224. For there is no good which is not obedience to God’s command. 878. Eberhard Jü.. See Catherine Mowry LaCugna. the immanent Trinity has already been collapsed into the economic Trinity. What begins with the human self cannot end with the knowledge of God and of His command. To the extent that this is thought to be true. Thus Peters believes that ’the relationality God experiences through Christ’s saving relationship to the world is constitutive of the trinitarian relations proper’. E Torrance. And there is no obedience to God’s command which is not the obedience of Jesus Christ.ngel. Trinity. argued that the only permissible distinction between the immanent and economic Trinity occurs ’when the economic doctrine of the Trinity deals with God’s history with man..sagepub. 2007 © 1999 Irish Theological Quarterly. Mediator and Redeemer. Church Dogmatics. I hope to show that the issue here is a methodological one involving a choice of 3. . 1. 172. Its meaning is thus established ultimately in God’s antecedent existence. 4. Catherine LaCugna exploits this aspect of Jü.D.. Son and Holy Spirit. The Christian Doctrine of God. but that God in Himself is eternally God the Father. is not that God in His relation to man is Creator. Bromiley and T.). by Darrell L.’ In my view. Thomas F. might clarify human experience. 1983). which is neither grounded in history nor defined by history. Hence. Nor can it end with the knowledge of the real man in his real situation’. G.
. trans. This is what gives theology its unshakable certainty and the comfort which really transcends any humanly conceivable comfort (1 Cor. which is identical with God Himself.sagepub. If this statement is to remain coherent then our understanding of God must start with God’s action ad extra.. 725 and The Holy Spirit and the Christian Life.. Hence: Faith is the conditio sine qua non. Birch Hoyle.221 starting points: should ence we or from the gospel and conceive the task of the doctrine from experithrough experience? That is the question. man obeys by his decision the decision of God. (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press. because the object (God) is neither a human invention nor under human control. in the form of articles of faith. In believing. C. The first option leads to clarity while the second leads to confusion. 6. It is God’s own revelation.. and remain grounded in God and not in our experience of faith. Forword by Robert McAfee Brown. rather God is the one who freely loves and whose free love cannot be established or called into question from a point outside itself. Karl Downloaded from http://itq. also C.com by Ilie Chiscari on November 30. On the other hand it can mean that our experience of faith is seen as a source or ground for theology. It lives by the call to which it responds . Credo. All rights reserved. 1/1. 2. . On the one hand this that knowledge of the Christian God comes from God through history and thus through our experience of faith. 1/2. 2:9). Cf. . but it also opposes any attempt to dissolve it into thoughts and Barth. Lovin. The seriousness and the power of faith are the seriousness and power of the truth.. Christians must believe in order to understand the truth of who God is in himself and for us. and which the believer has heard and received in the form of definite truths.D. but not its object and theme. by R. 2007 © 1999 Irish Theological Quarterly. a decision. 1993). the indispensable condition of theological science. because and in et in jesum so far as that is the call of God: credo in unum Deum Christum et in Spiritum sanctum... How could it ever be its central theme? The real object of theology certainly demands faith. I believe it is important to stress that it received and must receive its meaning from the Trinitarian and not from our experience. Thus. I. .. Experience and the Doctrine of the Trinity While the doctrine of the Trinity was and is constructed within the matrix of the Christian experience of faith.. 1962). 8.’ . 61 and 12.. (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons. Foreword by Robin W.D. And even the disclosure of this truth is a free gift that positively comes to meet the believing man. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. As Barth observed God acting ad extra statement can mean what gives faith its seriousness and power is not that man makes nor even the way in which he makes it faith lives by its object..
sagepub. And John A. of the source of your being. For Barth. As the intellectus fidei. 462. and cf. 2007 © 1999 Irish Theological Quarterly..222 expressions of faith. 1963). trans. but they are descriptions of who God is who meets us in his Son and by the power of the Holy Spirit. Knowledge of God is thus ’an event enclosed in the mystery of the divine Trinity’. 1/1..e. 1963). But the problem with both approaches is that. Son and Spirit as a gift of grace. C.that object which is the very origin of faith. . 92ff. with Anselm. 9. the Father. In this regard Barth’s frequent opponent of course was Schleiermacher. 84. and speak of the depths of your life. perhaps even that word itself. translate it. Eerdmans Publishing Company. Perhaps.. Karl Barth. you know much about Him. faith has the fundamental character of knowledge. 2/1. 57. 2/1. Haught. (New York/Mahwah: Paulist Press. Anselm’s Proof of the Existence of God in the Context of His Theological Scheme (Richmond: John Knox Press.D. of your ultimate concern. in order to do so. Cf. Son and Holy Spirit. 22 appeals to this same text of Tillich to speak of God without adverting to the creeds and doctrines. 1/2. 8. 1948).. and Anselm: Fides quaerens intellectum. to the extent that they ignore both the creed and the doctrine of the Trinity.D. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. that faith is not just trust in God but knowledge of the truth. 1960). For if you know that God means depth.com by Ilie Chiscari on November 30. faith could not mean faith even in a depth of life that are not the deepest aspects of our identical with God’s actions in his Son and Spirit which experience. Downloaded from http://itq. Honest To God (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press. Their truth is and remains grounded in God himself. Paul Tillich. i. He who knows about depth knows about God.’o depth is much meaning for The lives contrast we is clear. and C.’ Doctrine therefore can neither be ignored. All rights reserved. just because 7.’ And of course that object is the Trinitarian God. and 102ff. 1986)..’ By comparison. of what you take seriously without any reservation. What Is God? How To Think About the Divine.D. it is knowledge of its object . Evangelical Theology: An Introduction. substituted for God nor constructed arbitrarily on the basis of our experience of faith.. Robinson. 100-01. Paul Tillich sought to understand God on the basis of the human experience of depth: That what the word God means. Such a definition of faith includes definite articles of faith. they allow our experiences of depth to define God.. The Shaking of the Foundations (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons. 14-15 cites this text to argue that God can be understood as the horizon within which we experience ourselves and which makes experience possible. 2/1. 4ff. by Grover Foley (Grand Rapids: William B.D. Those articles are not themselves God and do not control God. In its most extreme form this could end with Feuerbach’s reduction of theology to anthropology. 10. T. Barth argued. instead of allowing our knowledge of God to come from God the Father. 820. C. In C. this would amount to creatures substituting themselves for the creator (sin) and would end by collapsing theology into anthropology. And if that word has not you. John F. 181. 204f. you must forget everything traditional that you have learned about God.
Here he believes that Barth’s view that ’God can be known solely through God’ leads Barth to pay less attention to what is happening within creation. 61-62.. & T. ’It is the task of theology to revision God in the light of contemporary experience . 1/1. guarantee hearing of the Word’. of course. If.. The important point here. is that the statement that God can be known only through God refers us away from our experiences as the source of theology and toward God himself as the gracious source of truth. Colin Gunton. 12. i. Hence one cannot lay down conditions which. Clark Ltd.. And for Barth to know God as an object distinct from ourselves. 1/2.. Son and Holy Spirit so long as we continue to insist that God is incomprehensible. Word of God. Downloaded from http://itq..&dquo. . 2007 © 1999 Irish Theological Quarterly. not by faith. not according to our own ultimate concerns but according to God’s free inclusion of us in relationship with himself in Christ and the Spirit. For Barth ’Faith. In a very real sense we genuinely must allow God to decide what ought to concern us ulti- mately.’. This particular thinking inspires two critical insights. 13.com by Ilie Chiscari on November 30. acknowledges the importance of Barth’s stressing the miracle of a new divine initiative in connection with the Virgin birth. at 45. with more stress on the Holy Spirit. we could not forget the articles of faith in and through which we really know God.. since God is incomprehensible and all language is metaphorical we can change our metaphors for God from Father. also C.D. Second. 1988). 207. We may know God as he is in himself as we acknowledge Jesus the Son through the power of the Holy Spirit. Thomas F. Gunton believes. astutely recognises that the Arians ’operated with the principle that what they could not humanly conceive could not be’ and that this method of understanding stood opposed to the method of Nicene theologians which was ’that God can be known only through and out of himself. But he thinks this overstresses the divine action towards creation ’at the expense of that action within the structure of time and space’. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. 738. All rights reserved. this can be corrected. Eerdmans. It hears man speak with himself’. See C.’4 But if the being and action of God dictates the task of theology.&dquo.13 Both of these viewpoints however lead to confusion rather than to clarity when thinking about the triune God. This could be an occasion for clarity.. The Trinitarian Faith (Edinburgh: T. then the task of theology would be dictated by the nature of the God we experience in faith. God may be known through God. a human experience.D. C. 46 and 56. Ellen Leonard ’Experience As A Source For Theology’ in the Proceedings of the Annual Convention of The Catholic Theological Society of America (1988). But whether or not this these thoughts the thoughts of the faith that has heard the experience is the experience. is also 183.223 positively come to meet us in our life experiences.e. as I wish to argue. Barth objected to ’Modernist dogmatics’ because it ’hears man answer when no one has called him. 51.sagepub.. 11. 1/1. . 44-61. Torrance. Cf.D. 751. is decided spiritually. 14.D. 1992). but by the Word believed. secure knowledge of God comes from God through our experience of faith. Views of experience which lead to confusion would argue in a manner similar to Tillich that ’any authentic experience of self may be interpreted as an experience of God’. 1/2. Christ and Creation (Grand Rapids: William B.. First. Some would even hold that human experience should be seen ’as ground for theology’ so that we can overcome bias by including those whose experience has been ignored or marginalised. if observed. C. however. and realise both that all theology is political (shaped by a particular context) and that ’no theology can claim universality’.
Christology which suggests either that Jesus’ deity is grounded in the Downloaded from http://itq. supposes that experience in the Church should be equated with special revelation. Here the problem we are exploring becomes clearer. however. All rights reserved. We are truly freed from the need to define God for ourselves or to imagine that we can create truth for ourselves. 8:36). the promise of the Holy Spirit is our promise of comfort and truth. Barth would never have equated Christian experience with special revelation because revelation which meets us in our experiences always remains an action of the Holy Spirit in union with the Word and the Father. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. we may know God as our Father who sent his Son to become flesh for our sakes and who can and will preserve us from the uncertainty which comes from belief in many gods. . As we have seen..e. as just noted. no theology can claim universality. the triune God.224 then we cannot begin to think literally or metaphorically outside of faith in the particular object confessed by Christians. I believe Barth accomplished this task more credibly than those post-Barthians who unequivocally accept Rahner’s axiom. however. Such thinking factually makes human experience both source and norm for the truth of faith. this cannot be done if experience is considered a source or ground for theology. As I have just argued. just because he began and ended his doctrine with Jesus himself and not with our experiences or ideas.com by Ilie Chiscari on November 30. It is my contention that the truth of the Trinitarian doctrine can be preserved only if that truth is clearly and consistently grounded in God and known in faith. false gods or no God. he thus avoided what he termed Ebionite and docetic Christology. The Relationship between the Immanent and the Economic Trinity As noted above. various and conflicting human experiences will allow us to define God in accordance with whatever particular context has shaped our theology in the first place. leads to a dissolution of the doctrine of the Trinity rather than toward the true God. then the Trinitarian God cannot be the sole source of comfort and truth. 2007 © 1999 Irish Theological Quarterly. If. then any revision in our concept of God can only come from God. and also makes faith and not God its object. I will contend. God may be known through God. as some believe. Thus. We do not have to pick and choose our images of God in accordance with the myriad of religious or irreligious images available. i. II.e. Such a view of pluralism. Ted Peters appeals to Barth’s theology but contrary to Barth’s view sketched above. i. If.. Confession of and knowledge of this particular God excludes the idea that experience is a ground or source for theology and that the task of theology is. that the immanent Trinity is identical with the economic Trinity and vice versa. This can lead to clarity and certainty in theology.sagepub. indeed we are freed from the need to make such choices just because we are bound by faith to Christ who alone sets us free (Jn. to ’revision God’ in light of our experiences of faith.
See Paul D. Thus Jesus’ humanity is full of that which is symbolised (divinity) and his humanity as such reveals.15 But Rahner’s formulation of this axiom via his symbolic theology does indeed lead to the idea that we can to some extent define God by our experiences within this world of grace. he thinks that logical or analytic explanations of Scripture must ’always refer back to the origin 15. 46 (1985). reconciliation and redemption. for one. in the Scottish Journal of Theology. 1989]. 1972]. 28). 17.225 community’s experience of Jesus or in the community’s prior ideas of divinity. Thomas F. I agree with J. 1994]. Trinity. Trinity. 338 (reprinted in Trinitarian Perspectives: Toward Doctrinal Agreement [Edinburgh: T. He believed that if this could be cleared away then there might be some agreement between Reformed and Roman Catholic theology. because symbolic realities necessarily express themselves to attain their nature and Rahner believes the incarnation is a continuation of the immanent self-expression of God ad extra. 2007 © 1999 Irish Theological Quarterly. Torrance. Molnar ’God’s SelfCommunication in Christ: A Comparison of Thomas F. as many recent theologians have done. DiNoia. 1965] ’Theos in The New Testament’. see Paul D. . Downloaded from http://itq. 50 (1997). Molnar. Peters correctly indicates that Rahner himself did not wish to equate directly the immanent and economic Trinity. I believe.com by Ilie Chiscari on November 30. chap. 197). Clark Ltd. in Theologische Zeitschrift. Hence. 1. Peters. & T. trans. O. ’Can We Know God Directly? Rahner’s Solution from Experience’ in Theological Studies. 228-61 and ’Is God Essentially Different From His Creatures? Rahner’s Explanation From Revelation’ in The Thomist. when he says there is a perfectly non-controversial way of understanding Rahner’s axiom ( The Modern Theologians. 98) and that Christology and anthropology condition each other ( Theological Investigations 9. A. [Oxford: Blackwell.P. 4). [Baltimore: Helicon Press. 143. edited by David F. 42 (1989). Ford. See also Paul D. This blurs the Chalcedonian distinction and leads to the mutual conditioning inherent in the vice versa of his axiom. trans. Cf. I am arguing that there is an irreversible relationship between revelation and natural knowledge and between Christology and anthropology. even though ’at first blush’ that seems to be what he did. Molnar ’The Function of the Immanent Trinity in the Theology of Karl Barth: Implications For Today’ in the Scottish Journal of Theology. ’Theology and Anthropology’.’7 He believes the issue here is not a methodological one that concerns the priority of revelation over our experience of faith. I believe it cannot. 49 (1996) 311-57. Vol. O. 16. Moltmann and Pannenberg experience does ’not refer to common or natural experience but rather specifically to the Christian church’s experience of Jesus Christ.sagepub. Paul D. recognised that Rahner may have introduced a logical necessity into the immanent Trinity ’Toward an Ecumenical Consensus on the Trinity’. at 345-57. The question I am raising is whether this non-controversial way of understanding can be maintained within the logic of Rahner’s theology of the symbol. 288-320. It also explains why those who follow his basic method (not to mention those who move beyond him) end by failing to maintain God’s actual freedom in creation. which is tantamount to special revelation’. 367-99. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.. All rights reserved. Molnar. The central issue. Such Christology compromises the fact that Jesus is the Son of God simply because he is the eternally begotten Son of the Father and not because he receives the title of deity from the community. 51 (1987) 575-631.P. Torrance and Karl Rahner’. following Rahner. For a clear contrast between Rahner and Torrance as it relates to experience in theology. 31 (1975). Cornelius Ernst. 214.’6 On this important matter Peters contends that for Jungel. Thus Rahner believes that natural knowledge of God and revealed knowledge of God mutually condition each other ( Theological Investigations 1. Graham Harrison [New York: Herder and Herder. Peters. concerns uncritical acceptance of Rahner’s axiom of identity with its vice versa. ’Toward a Contemporary Doctrine of the Immanent Trinity: Karl Barth and the Present Discussion’ in the Scottish Journal of Theology.
71. Downloaded from http://itq.22 Therefore ’The life of God is not something that belongs to God alone.226 from which they came. 70. 98. 131 and C. All rights reserved..21 Accordingly.. or the Holy Spirit acting in and through that experience. 2007 © 1999 Irish Theological Quarterly. Trinitarian life is also our life.com by Ilie Chiscari on November 30. 126-7. 3/2.. cit. he believes that ’anthropology and Christology mutually determine each other within Christian dogmatics if they are both correctly understood’.. However.. 19. apart from what has been revealed in the econ- the term ’mystery’ [applies] to our inability to comprehend have experienced ... Peters. 22. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. 126.19 But for Barth this mutual conditioning compromises theology’s foundation in the immanent Trinity because ’There is a way from Christology to anthropology. He writes briefly explore the problem here. what we 18.18 The crucial question here concerns whether or not it is the experience of faith that gives us assurance. C.sagepub. Ibid. 28. 9. Rahner. I think the issue is indeed sis proves my point. op... Peters argues that mystery does not belong to the doctrine of the Trinity as a doctrine Nor does mystery refer to the inner trinitarian life of God apart from the creation. God remains ineffable because we creatures are incapable of fully receiving or understanding the one who is imparted. Ibid.’23 omy . The notion of one being in three persons is simply a conceptual device for trying to understand the drama of salvation that is taking place in Jesus Christ. A. the experience of faith that assures us that the incomprehensible God is really . Contrary to Ted methodological and that Peters’ analy- The task of trinitarian theology is to explicate the biblical symbols in such a way as to gain an increasingly adequate set of ideas for conceiving of God’s creative and redemptive work. 1/1. Theological Investigations 20.. there is no doubt that Rahner’s theological starting point is our common human ’transcendental’ experience and that this starting point causes serious difficulty for his theology. 21.. There is no inherent reason for assuming that the three persons have to be identical or equal in nature.. Methodological Issues: Let us Revelation and Experience Peters.. It is enormous. Trinity. Ibid. but there is no way from anthropology to Christology . namely.. In this article I will not explore Rahner’s transcendental method in any detail because my focus is on how Ted Peters appropriates Rahner’s axiom of identity. .D. 23.... For instance. given to us in Christ and his Spirit’ .. .D.. .
Shapland. he was not always creator or incarnate and that he brought creation into existence as something external to his nature.e. (London: The Epworth Press. no inherent reason for assuming that the identical or equal in nature. B. by Neuner. 95. salvation and redemption are not Second. trans. or undivided. For God is not as man. For Athanasius this point was crucial: ’The Father. which is not diminished in the individuals nor augmented in the three. then the main point of Trinitarian doctrine is lost. Arianism.. (Cork: The Mercier Press. 1966). and in the Godhead alone the term "Father" and the term "Son" keep to their meaning and are ever thus . independent of history. being One and Only. For it is not less when one individual Person is called God. like all other doctrines. But in fact the task of Trinitarian theology is not simply to describe creation and redemption. 1/2.. 1951).’ in The Letters of Saint Athanasius Concerning the Holy Spirit. it is said that there is are three persons 24. 25. then. Roos and Rahner. C. Son and Spirit so that we may understand our creator. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. They have one. or modalism and even to polytheism and pantheism (idolatry). . is Father of a Son who is One and Only. creation and redemption. and redeemer without absolutising human experiences using Trinitarian thinking to create God in our own image. it is rather to enable us to recognise who God is antecedently in himself as Father. a God who is thus capable of acting freely within history as our savior and redeemer.24 Revelation is identical with Jesus Christ who as the actuality of God’s Word freely precedes and determines our views and dogmas without compromising our human self-determination. we will have no true knowledge of God and we will then define God from the works of creation and include Christ as one of those works. In the traditional doctrine. The Teaching of the Catholic Church ed.sagepub. equal godhead. R. The doctrine intends to say who God really is. 100-2. Son and Spirit. it is said that the Trinitarian doctrine is a conceptual device for understanding salvation history. This is important. majesty or power. 879. and not greater when all three Persons together are called God’. Unless our knowledge of God the creator is governed by the eternal relation of the Father and Son made accessible in the incarnate Word through the Holy Spirit. reconciler. is preceded by the fact of revelation itself and as such’..com by Ilie Chiscari on November 30. All rights reserved. As the creed of the eleventh Council of Toledo (675) put it: ’It must also be confessed and believed the each single Person is wholly God in himself and that all three Persons together are one God. i.227 Notice the train of thought. But on the other hand he cannot grant full deity to each hypostasis because the task of Trinitarian theology for him is primarily to describe the events of salvation and not the being of God as the one who alone gives meaning to those events.. 2007 © 1999 Irish Theological Quarterly. First it is said that the task of Trinitarian theology is to gain clearer concepts for describing the events of salvation history. by C. Downloaded from http://itq.. On the one hand Peters wants to stress that each of the persons is distinct.D. This is why Barth insisted that ’The doctrine of the Trinity. But if this is true. there is every reason to affirm that the three are equal in nature just because any other assumption at all leads to adoptionism. nor is his nature divided . Barth distinguished God in se from God for us in order to stress that while God was always Father. 15 Third.
it is said that mystery not only does not belong to the doctrine as a doctrine but it does not belong to the inner life of the Trinity apart from creation and revelation... our inability to comprehend what we have experienced. Downloaded from http://itq. One could make a case for the fact that the doctrine itself is not a mystery since it is intended to explain the mystery as far as possible. ’it is not the doctrine of the Trinity in itself. Barth clearly understood this. God’s incomprehensibility does not depend upon our inability to comprehend.com by Ilie Chiscari on November 30.e. it is said that God remains ineffable not because he is by nature ineffable in himself (apart from creation and redemption). reconciliation and redemption. an actual recognition of the task of the doctrine may enable theologians to avoid both Origenist monism and Arian dualism. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. Barth deliberately attempted to avoid this conclusion by insisting that the doctrine of God cannot be exhausted in a doctrine of the Trinity but must be treated together with the doctrines of creation.’. Thus. for Barth. 879. Sixth. Fifth. and redeemer finds its meaning in his eternal antecedent existence as Father. Fourth. since the ‘Subject God Himself cannot be dissolved into His work and activity’. But the reason for this is because God is totally other than us and totally other than anything we may experience in this world.D. But one could never argue that mystery does not belong to the inner life of the Trinity without creation and redemption unless the immanent Trinity had already been collapsed into the economic Trinity. Human experience now defines the nature of God. Son. and Holy Spirit. In these circumstances it is almost superfluous to state and explain our inability to who approve the course adopted by many modern dogmaticians with more or less inward justification and consistency have constructed their dogmatics according to a trinitarian plans .. C. insisting that nothing in history defines who God is in eternity. 1/2. such a view compromises God’s freedom by negating our experience to attain comprehension.. Certainly all theologians would agree that we are unable to comprehend God. but again the work and activity of God that even this doctrine can only attest. And it is certainly correct to say that we cannot understand the immanent Trinity apart from the economic actions ad extra. mediator. Seen in this way. 2007 © 1999 Irish Theological Quarterly. God’s history with us as creator. Hence the impression can and must be destroyed that at every point we have to do with a system of trinitarian doctrine. If this is true.228 simply categories we use to reassure ourselves that God is with us but descriptions of God’s actions in relation to us. All rights reserved.. i. then Peters’ own argument demonstrates the collapse of the immanent Trinity (mystery) into human experience. What follows is the 26. it is said that mystery refers only to our experience. .sagepub. but because of our inability to comprehend him.. which also forms the source of the doctrine of God.
the question remains: should we begin thinking about salvation and redemption and thus about God from our experience of the gospel or from Christ and the Spirit as proclaimed by the gospel and experienced in faith? The former starting point tends to make the task of Trinitarian theology a study of salvation history and tends to reduce the immanent Trinity to the economic Trinity. Torrance provides a helpful corrective here when he notes. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.sagepub. i. This methodological starting point leads Peters to think it is perfectly appropriate to consider the Christian Trinity in light of non-Christian terminology without regard for the fact. This opens the door to pantheism and the collapse of theology into pantheistic anthropology. beginning with experience. Downloaded from http://itq. The Trinitarian 28.both belong to the experience of God as apprehended by the symbols of the Christian faith’.2’ Positively stated. All rights reserved. Peters mistakenly supposes that Christian experience is in continuity with other religious experience and suggests that theologians concerned with world religions examine ’the experience of Jesus and the 27. 50-51. Neither element can be lost and it is the task of Trinitarian thinking to preserve this paradox which Christians and others experience.e. B. . Trinity. 2007 © 1999 Irish Theological Quarterly.. Thomas F. it is the relation of the Father and Son that should determine our thought about God and not some form of thought external to God himself. The latter clearly distinguishes God’s freedom in se and ad extra so as to see a real relation between creator and creatures established and maintained in grace. God’s presence with us. I am contending that a false starting point leads to at least two practical errors with far reaching consequences: 1) the idea that creation arises from God’s nature. Thomas F. and 2) the idea that God needs the world.229 dissolution of the Trinity into our own life experience: ’the life of God is not something that belongs to God alone’.28 This he believes is the driving force behind Trinitarian thinking which should lead to what he calls ’emmanuelism’. While we do indeed need experience of the God of the gospel in order to theologise in the first place. because God is revealed to us by the Son.com by Ilie Chiscari on November 30. that if we cannot say positively who God is in himself. following Gregory Nazianzen. Torrance. then we have no choice but to rely on our own experience and to define who God is on the basis of what we then negate in our experience of ourselves. Torrance is asserting that. he begins his reflections with the experience of the beyond and intimate: ’The Beyond and the Intimate . Peters. Experience of the Beyond and the Intimate Just because Peters equates our experience in the Church with special revelation. 19. it seems clear from what has been said that the issue here is methodological. that if language is changed so also is Christian faith and understanding. In sum. In this sense. mentioned above. Faith.
Peters.. Ibid. by its very nature pantheistic. which comes from the Holy Spirit.34 Thus he applies ’what we understand to constitute human personhood-in-relation to the inner life of God’.. if we follow this nondualism..sagepub. 15. what is it that the Spirit unites and distinguishes? What is the sense in talking about unity if we do not have two here? What is the sense in talking about the deity of the Father and the Son if they are not intrinsically one as two? Moreover.. God himself in all the superiority of creator over creature meets us in the history of Jesus Christ and is experienced through faith.3’ But the whole point of distinguishing the immanent and economic Trinity is to be able to affirm that the ultimate ground of reality is indeed encountered as something (someone) over against us. Cf. Peters explains that nonduality means that the duality of God and the world is overcome and that the ultimate ground of reality (Brahman) ’cannot be encountered as something over against us’. he must be recognised in his otherness. 74ff. 9 and 89. 21 Peters uncritically presents the nondualism of Panikkar without asking whether or not his version of nondualism is. ’Some Dogmatic consequences of Paul F. 33-4.33 While Peters criticises process theology for beginning with ’common human experience’ rather than with ’special revelation’. Molnar. Downloaded from http://itq..’. See Paul D. Even as the Holy Spirit indwells Christians. Ibid. . All rights reserved. following a number of contemporary theologians who relate the Trinity to other religions. for more on the problems with Panikkar’s Christology. 30. 35. 33. ’Relationality is becoming the key for unlocking newer understandings of the divine life’. this very reversal is what a clear doctrine of the immanent Trinity was designed to protect against. Relying on Hegel and eschatology. 34. Trinity. with its neither one nor two. Ibid.. 32.30 Invoking nondualism... Ibid. A God who cannot be recognised as something (someone) over against us then.com by Ilie Chiscari on November 30.3z Consequently for Peters. Peters cites Panikkar to the effect that the Father and Son are neither two nor one but that the Spirit unites and distinguishes them. 77. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. Yet. 76. the fullness of God as . . Knitter’s Unitarian Theocentrism’ in The Thomist. 29... Ibid.3’ Yet. 36. Peters concludes that: ’The trinitarian life is itself the history of salvation . 479 ff. is nothing other than us. Beginning with the experience of the beyond and intimate leads Peters also to appeal to social psychology and the idea of cosmological time in physics in order to understand the Trinitarian relations.. Ibid.. Surprisingly Peters offers no critique of Panikkar’s overtly docetic Christology which insists that the Christ can go by many historical names and cannot be identical to Jesus of Nazareth. 55 (1991).230 experience of Jesus’ disciples that eventually led to the formulation of the doctrine of the Trinity’. and that indeed is the pantheism which Trinitarian theology rejects. as I believe it is. 31.. 2007 © 1999 Irish Theological Quarterly. his starting point for modifying substantialist metaphysics is the idea that ’God must be reconceived in terms of relationality ..
’ and thus Peters believes that the Christ event ’comes to determine the very nature of the Godself’. ’Toward a Contemporary Doctrine of the Immanent Trinity’. Cf.. a deity who depends upon events within history has in fact lost his sovereignty. op.’36 It is one thing to say that creation is something new for God. But it is quite another thing to say that God has not yet achieved fullness. 37. he assumes that Barth’s method was to report ’our primary experience of God in terms of Father.. I agree that it is. Molnar.e. So he suggests that ’absoluteness consists of total inner. 36.sagepub. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. Peters argues that we should ’conceive of absoluteness as total relatedness’4’ and adopts the dependent divinity of Pannenberg with its notion that ’the existence of God as Trinity depends upon the future of God’s coming kingdom . Peters. 179. Rather. Son and Holy Spirit. Son and Holy Spirit&dquo. 42. Ibid. Torrance. Ibid. in the Scottish Journal of Theology.39 Because of his method then.4’ And the very idea. we are looking for a way to conceptualise the actual work of the one God as creator... cit.. 41. 39.231 Trinity is a reality yet to be achieved in the eschatological consummation. Yet Ted Peters’ solution does not derive from the Trinity acting ad extra but from his absolutised principle of relationality. his abstract approach to the doctrine of the Trinity leads unfortu- nately to the second. All rights reserved. Ibid. [thus] the eternal nature of God is at least in part dependent upon temporal events. 137. Both these ideas need to be overcome and can be overcome as long as God’s relations ad extra are grounded in the freedom of God’s grace and will exercised in Christ and the Spirit.. . The Trinitarian Faith. Ibid. Peters’ analysis actually leads to our inability to distinguish God from the world. and that our relations with God are merely accidental. But then he argues that ‘world-relatedness comes indelibly to mark the divine being’. 105. 38.. Ibid.. 16. Trinity.... Consequently. 10. 43. redeemer. 40. 142 But as I have argued elsewhere.and interrelatedness’ and insists that God’s holiness is not compromised here. 13.’3’ Incorrectly. This follows because his eschatological proposal ’issues from sensitivity to the paradox of the beyond and the intimate’ rather than from faithfulness to the unique object of the gospel.com by Ilie Chiscari on November 30. the Father.. Downloaded from http://itq. See Paul D. this allows God’s real relations with us to become necessities inherent in the structure of relatedness rather than free inclusions of us into relationship. 24. i. While Peters clearly wishes to affirm the first statement. 2007 © 1999 Irish Theological Quarterly. 135. When he describes God ’as the absolutely related one’ his good intention is to overcome the ideas that God is isolated and alone. This methodological error leads Peters to think that ’we need not assume that the three persons of the Trinity are of the same kind or order.&dquo. and sanctifier.
&dquo. and pantheism (monism) when he writes that &dquo. Both realities are thus compromised. before time.232 espoused by Pannenberg and adopted by Peters. Trinity.. Here Peters has completely lost the point of Trinitarian theology. 49. there is but one life of the triune God. While Barth regarded panentheism as worse than pantheism.. 2007 © 1999 Irish Theological Quarterly.. 125. 125.’ 46 Missing this detail. At the eleventh Council of Toledo the point was expressed this way: ’We confess also the Son. Trinity. Molnar. . 51 (1991). but the whole need to rely on God’s judgment and grace has been dissolved into the idea that everyone is destined for love and communion. 1/1.. All rights reserved. i. 312. 48.’4’ But to the extent that this is true. nor the Son without the Father. this prevents any reversal between time and eternity and thus prevents any attempt to define God’s eternal relations which give meaning to us within history. which under the name of panentheism has been regarded as a better possibility than undiluted pantheism. 46. Peters thus explicitly follows Catherine LaCugna’s polemic against a doctrine of the immanent Trinity and with her advocates the chiastic model of emanation and return according to which ’there is neither an economic nor an immanent Trinity. C. Molnar. and that life includes God’s relation to us. he never grasped Barth’s point which was that since.g. While appealing to Barth. but not from the Son.the inner life of God no longer belongs to God alone. Peters. e. ’The mythology of a merely partial and .. The Teaching of the Catholic Church.. C. 45. op. that the Father depends upon the Son changes the order within the Trinity and no longer expresses the free and eternal processions within the immanent Trinity. there literally can be no distinction between God and the world. Paul D. By contrast Peters advocates the view that ’the divinity of the Father will be as dependent upon the Son as the reverse’. but not God from the Son. Trinity.&dquo. 47. 45. 41 44. Cf. Peters argues that the only mystery of God is ’the mystery of God with us’. 2/1. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.. The creation of the world and man is not a procession or emanation from God. ’The Function of the Trinity in Moltmann’s Ecological Doctrine of Creation’ in Theological Studies.’4’ Not only is this logic pantheistic. and the Father is God. ’Some Problems With Pannenberg’s Solution to Barth’s Faith Subjectivism’ in the Scottish Journal of Theology. born of the substance of the Father.’ This is because it must mingle God with something else idealistically or materialistically and leads either to materialism or to spiritualism. The divine life is also our life . cit. he thus espouses both a pre-Nicene subordinationism with the idea that Jesus must gain his divinity. Downloaded from http://itq. but the latter is the Son of the Father and God from the Father’. 158. an insight typical within the Hegelian dialectic but excluded from a Christian view. Peters. 673-697.. He is indeed the Father of the Son. Peters does not decisively reject panentheism but gives it a Trinitarian twist just by reducing God in se to God for us via the incarnation. 92-3.. by history itself or by our experience within history. ’no creature can be said to have proceeded from God. Trinity.com by Ilie Chiscari on November 30. is really in a worse case than is that of the latter. 315-39.. 473. Peters.e.D.sagepub. The Son therefore is God from the Father. See also Paul D. to be an emanation of the divine essence.. 48 (1995). What is preserved by maintaining this order within the Trinity? As I see it. the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and Son in eternity. for at no time did the Father exist without the Son. selected identity of God with the world. without beginning..D..
for more on this. Moltmann’s problem is captured in his view that we must speak of nature and grace in a forward perspective in light of the ’coming glory. op. Peters believes that the most basic issue of Trinitarian theology is not ’the so-called threeness of God’ but ’the dynamism of the divine life that can redefine itself by self-separating and reuniting. Peters. 51. I do not think we are mainly referring to a dynamic of self-separation and reunion when we speak of the Trinity. arguing that the economic Trinity will be completed and perfected by being raised into the immanent Trinity when salvation is complete.. 1985). Ibid. which will complete both nature and grace’. 14.. God in Creation: A New Theology of Creation and the Spirit of God. rather than God’s becoming reunited with himself. 15’ Thus Peters does not see the doctrine of the Trinity as an 50.. Ibid.com by Ilie Chiscari on November 30. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. By contrast. He can even argue that: ’As the Holy Spirit. 13. Peters confuses history and eternity arguing that ’God ceases to be God . Peters is forced to this abstraction by the very way he approaches Trinitarian theology from the experience of the beyond and the intimate instead of from God’s free Trinitarian action ad us for in Christ was divinely to live our new extra. If we do. All rights reserved. See Molnar.sagepub. It is our relation with the immanent Trinity which reaches consummation in redemption. 8. 19.52 While it is axiomatic that contemporary theologians argue against substance metaphysics for its abstractness. indeed God’s freedom empowering us effective in reconciling us with God and life in him (in the transition from our lost time to the time of righteousness). cit. Failing to distinguish between the immanent and economic Trinity here.233 Clarity here demands economic that we distinguish between the immanent and Trinity. we now relate with the immanent Trinity. God becomes so inextricably tied to our own inner self that the line between the two sometimes seems to us blurred. Having directed our attention exclusively to history with the idea that God has become part of that history in order to reunite it to his eternity.51 But the whole point of Trinitarian theology was that the economic Trinity is God’s self-sufficient action in our history. 2007 © 1999 Irish Theological Quarterly.. Ibid. That is. it is only natural for Peters to argue that God’s being is dependent upon history and that God will not be fully God until the consummation. in the history of Christ and through faith. which therefore does not need completion in order to become the immanent Trinity.. But clarity here depends upon the fact that God did not cease to be God in that event. .’° Hence he follows Moltmann.. Downloaded from http://itq. in order to become human and die’. 24. 53. I can think of few statements of medieval theology more abstract than this one! Against Hegel. He remained the free subject of that event for us and for our salvation. (New York: Harper and Row. Trinity. which comes from the Holy Spirit. ’The Function of the Trinity in Moltmann’s Ecological Doctrine of Creation’. 52. that is not something that yet needs to happen. by dying and rising’. then we can say that the nature of God as loving and free was revealed in the history of Christ.
God then would no longer be recognised as the acting divine subject in relation to creation and within creation as the Spirit. And that extreme is captured by Peters’ assertion that: ’the loving relationship between the Father and the Son within the Trinity is the loving relationship between the Father and Jesus’. n. 2/1.sagepub. Cf. 2007 © 1999 Irish Theological Quarterly. At least two issues arise here. 95 and 101. and the historical existence of Jesus. 323 and Paul D.. came to expression in salvation to history. God the eternal Son. Ibid. 1/1. the capacity to make decisions and take actions that will be effective in an otherwise open future. Molnar.. All rights reserved. then the economy of God’s saving work becomes understood as the very expression of God’s freedom. namely. God can and will be conditioned but precisely as one who is free from external and internal conditioning. 192. But Barth rejected the idea that Jesus’ humanity as such revealed his divinity just because it meant that a clear distinction between Jesus’ humanity and divinity could not be maintained by such thinking. 16. thus creating uncertainty in our knowledge of God where we should achieve certainty.e. op. which he believes.: ence If freedom for God means anything close to what it means for us.’8 In the categories developed above.54 He believes that any such view creates a pseudoproblem and he mistakenly criticises Jüngel and Rahner just for thinking this way. 56.. 348) but because he sees the immanent Trinity as a Downloaded from http://itq. Ibid.. Jü.&dquo.D. Ibid. does the humanity of Jesus as such reveal his divinity? Clearly Peters believes it does. First. He sees the doctrine abstractly as our attempt to perceive our experiences of beyondness and intimacy with God. 58. Barth carefully distinguished his position from that of Hermann Schell in order to make this point.. 384. ’The Function of the Immanent Trinity in the Theology of Karl Barth: Implications for Today’. C. 301ff. then Peters believes we can say ’when we look at Jesus we see the real thing’. Insofar as Peters’ definition of God’s freedom is dictated by the experiof the beyond and intimate rather than by Christ who was begotten before all worlds. this is only another instance of the experience of faith replacing a sovereign act of God.55 He argues that God’s freedom must be similar to our freedom.. 379. So does Rahner. The other issue concerns the distinction between the Father and Son. Ibid. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. With this understanding of God’s freedom.ngel sees this as a crucial problem ( God as Mystery. 55. i.com by Ilie Chiscari on November 30.234 attempt basis to understand who God is antecedently in himself and on that grasp the mysteries of salvation history. 22. 57. If we see this. The 54.. 192. i. he literally cannot allow for the idea that God could have existed in eternity ’unaffected by the world of time’.’6 . Here it is extremely important to recognise both the positive and negative aspects of God’s freedom together.e. . C. cit.D. Rahner’s Rule could be pressed to its extreme consequence. 395.
cit. Creation and God’s Nature Does Ted Peters believe that creation arises from God’s nature? When he recognises and affirms God’s freedom. ’Toward a Contemporary Doctrine of the Immanent Trinity’. have all the responsibility for knowing God. 54. i. that he deduces salvation and redemption from God’s nature. But when he uses Trinitarian doctrine to affirm the experience of the beyond and intimate. Hence he can say: ’Incorporated into the divine life proper is the econthe movement as a whole is what counts’. the object of faith. rather than the event of the incarnation. Trinity.com by Ilie Chiscari on November 30. Ibid. Peters. and that God needs the world. . This problem leads us to consider the two difficulties mentioned above in more detail. we may avoid these difficulties.sagepub. But his logic leads to a dissolution of the immanent Trinity when he contends: a) ’that the economy of salvation belongs intrinsically to our understanding of God as Trinity’ and b) since ’God is both beyond and intimate .. op. My desire is to demonstrate the kind of irreconcilable conflicts which result from Ted Peters’ methodological error.. Son and Holy Spirit. the answer is no. Positively. 61. he opens the door to the idea that the immanent Trinity receives its independence from our experience of faith. .. Ibid. he can argue against the feminist ’substitution argument’ because it opens the door to Arianism and the idea that we. 345ff.’o I agree. On the other hand he can argue for the ’ecstatic’ movement of God without distinguishing God’s free existence as Father. Hence he certainly affirms the need to recognise the immanent Trinity in order to preserve God’s freedom and he acknowledges that the distinction between the immanent and economic Trinity ’protects the freedom of God’. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. Emphasis mine. See also Paul D.. 60. 22. for a discussion of how this relates to Rahner’s Christological insight that Jesus is the revealer in his humanity as such. ~--~- summarising concept for ’God’s history with man’ (346) instead of antecedent existence first and a statement of God’s decisively.235 two are collapsed into one in Peters’ thought and this issues in his idea that God will not be fully constituted until the eschatological consummation.61 Both of these insights which are central to Peters’ Trinitarian theology deny what the traditional doctrine of the Trinity intended to affirm. All rights reserved. he argues that this ’confuses the persons of the Trinity with the functions’. while clearly stating who God is and what salvation really means. the answer is yes. 73.. the divine selfdefinition takes place through a divine movement that includes the history of the world.. namely. Peters’ intention is not omy to deny the immanent Trinity but to see it more tightly tied to the economy than the traditional distinction allowed.. I hope to show that if we keep to the starting point for Trinitarian theology.59 On the one hand then. C.e. It includes relationality’. Son and Spirit from his movement ad extra. Molnar. Downloaded from http://itq. 59. the Father.. 2007 © 1999 Irish Theological Quarterly.
Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. Son.236 consistently indicated. Second.. just as Father. His Word will still be His Word apart from this becoming. Son.sagepub. it does not follow either from creation . God is and would be Father. but not in such a way that as such He needs a Second and then a Third in order to be One. and redemption. Son and Holy Spirit would be none the less eternal God..&dquo. this makes God indistinguishable from the historical process. we have to recognise His free good will in doing so. as noted above. does not rest upon any necessity in the divine nature or upon the relation between Father. the economy does not belong intrinsi ally understanding of God as Trinity.. mercy and freedom. C.. On the other hand. Emphasis mine..e.D. he that God is not and will not be fully God in relation until he has incorporated history into his inner being. The reason for this is. Downloaded from http://itq. if no world had been created. this means God cannot fully be until history is redeemed. This insight affirms exactly what the doctrine of the immanent Trinity intended to avoid. There is literally no other necessity for the economy. nor as though he were alone and had to do without a counterpart. Our underof God as standing Trinity recognises that God is Triune and fully God to and from creation. Thus. 135. C. 354. it defines God by the historical process (making God dependent upon history in order to be). 1/1. 63. and nothing else. and therefore again . But this means that we must know that God is not defined by his relations with us. 62.com by Ilie Chiscari on November 30. Emphasis mine. Barth’s thinking reflected God’s freedom: God is One.. Further. as Kail Barth to our there is an economy results from God’s free decision and from his grace. and Spirit. not as though He could not exist without the world and man. All rights reserved. On the one hand. that for Peters the principle of relationality has become the subject and God has become the predicate in his thinking. Recognising this means acknowledging God’s free love in distinction from all other kinds of love. 1/2. as though there were between Him and the world and man a necessary relation of reciprocity.. That prior apart First. 2007 © 1999 Irish Theological Quarterly. The miracle of this becoming does not follow of necessity from this or that attribute of God. and Spirit with or without the world. reconciliation. Therefore the fact that God became man in Christ and is thus with us . .. sovereign and free. i.63 means When Peters argues that God’s self-definition includes relationality..D.. God’s relationality alone is divine. If He has actually done this [called a halt to sin’s destruction of creation by establishing a new creation].
52 (1999). we can no longer use the doctrine to refer to God who actually pre-existed the world... Cf. The divine life is also our life. As soon as we free ourselves from thinking of two levels of Trinity. Trinity. No longer can we speak of God in isolation. urrection. Since there is no God but God for us. Peters argues that: By collapsing the distinction between the immanent Trinity and the economic Trinity. instead of replacing it. But Jenson also allows the task of the Trinitarian doctrine to be dictated by history before grasping God’s being: ’The divine ousia is no longer our first concern. It is the work. But the basic difficulty I have noted in this article is apparent in his very conception of the resare indeed bound to the resurrection to know God and to understand our past and future. Jenson. 2007 © 1999 Irish Theological Quarterly. (Philadelphia: Fortress Press. then we can see again that there is but one life of the triune God. in light of the destruction that accompanies the passage of created time due mainly to sin. Therefore simply to say that the resurrection is God’s ousia identifies God’s being with history in such a way that the two are mutually necessary and mutually determined. 65. Thus the historical event of resurrection defines God’s being: ’As all the ontological determinants of the God of classical Western culture-religion came together in his ousia. For more on this see Paul D. The Triune Identity. Jenson. Ibid. 66. present and future. God According to the Gospel. Peters argues ’that God’s eternity cannot be understood as existing outside of time’ but ’it consists in overcoming the destruction that normally accompanies passages Yet God’s time (which precedes created time) does not need to overcome anything to be what it is. death. and that life includes God’s relation to US. This insight was originally developed by Robert Jenson relying on Gregory of Nyssa. And again: ’God is radically future because his occurrence is resurrection from the dead’. We Downloaded from http://itq..com by Ilie Chiscari on November 30. eternity and time are also interchangeable concepts. in Robert W. God After God. Peters contends that ’God’s eternity is gained through the victory of resurrection and transformation’. If we bend the old language a little. we may say that the resurrection is this God’s ousia. this God simply is not.. Molnar’s review discussion of Robert Jenson’s Systematic Theology Volume I: The Triune God in the Scottish Journal of Theology. resurrection . 166. while Barth deliberately defined eternity as God’s pre-temporal. Peters.. 125. 175. 1969). Robert W. the creative event done as Jesus’ life. Hence.’ Ibid. 168. supra-temporal and post-temporal existence in order to affirm that God’s eternity is neither timeless nor defined by time.237 What follows is that God and the world become interchangeable concepts. (New York: The Bobbs-Merrill Company. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. Therefore. 1982). God has indeed exercised his power to fulfill our time without needing to. . 166. It may be noted that the same problems that surfaced in The Triune Identity reappear in Jenson’s Systematic Theology Volume I. Ibid. despite Jenson’s attempts to clarify his thinking. 65 Because his starting point is the experience of the beyond and intimate rather than the freedom of God’s Word and Spirit exercised in the history of Jesus Christ and in the Church. 113. By contrast.66 64. God exists in the simultaneity of past. 117-31. To that extent. All rights reserved. But God is not bound to this history as we are.sagepub. so those of the gospel’s God come together in the event of Jesus’ resurrection.’ Ibid. one ad intra and the other ad extra. If Jesus is not risen. the inner life of God no longer belongs to God alone.
It is just because he divides the persons of the Trinity when thinking of the functions of God in creation that he is unable to see that Father. Instead Trinitarian language has described our sense of the beyond and the intimate by making both part of God’s eternity in an eschatological sense. For Peters. reconciler. the sufficient existence by grace. unfortunately. 184. redeemer and sanctifier and that this actually means opera trinitatis sunt divisa.. While remaining different..&dquo. he fails to recognise that the task of the doctrine of the Trinity is not to retain a sense of the ‘beyond-intimate paradox in the message of salvation’6’ but to see who God really is in himself so that we may appreciate the nature of his actions as creator. the Father ’becomes the primary repository for the appellations indicative of the beyond’ and is thus perceived as ’the dimension of the divine that exists independent of the creation’. Peters allows us to use Trinitarian language to describe our experience of ourselves.. and redeemer.. 69. All rights reserved.238 terms God and world have become interdo I know when I am describing God’s self-sufficient life How changeable. 185. Peters argues that under the conditions of temporal finitude we must distinguish the persons according to their functions as creator. There is no longer any eternal transcendent Trinity. Ibid. The problem here is that God’s oneness has now been defined by the Son’s existence in time so that God’s transcendence is one pole of deity and immanence the other (the Son). both beyond and intimate. Consequently... God draws us into a genuinely free relationship with his self- Here.. 68. Ibid. faith. There is but one God. to be able to say that while the Father is not the Downloaded from http://itq.com by Ilie Chiscari on November 30. Son and Spirit are all equally divine (transcendent) and thus in no way a ’repository’ for our descriptions of our experience of paradox. becomes the focus of intimacy as finitude.. Ibid. By contrast God as Son . 183-84.sagepub. 2007 © 1999 Irish Theological Quarterly. and revelation. .69 But the whole point of Trinitarian doctrine is 67. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. While he correctly criticises social doctrines of the Trinity for exactly this reason.. as the unshakable foundation for my life in time if it can be said that the inner life of God does not belong to God alone? The aim of the doctrine of the immanent Trinity is to show that God’s life is distinctively different from our life just because it belongs to God alone to be and thus freely to act on our behalf according to his free decisions of love. By collapsing the distinction between the immanent and economic Trinity. and the idea of distributing functions so that the beyondness of the Father is complemented by the intimacy of the Son and Spirit provides a conceptual way of binding the absolute with the related. And in light of eschatology we can speak of ’the etemalization of the temporal’ and say opera trinitatis ad extra sunt indivisa.
Interestingly.sagepub.&dquo.’° In other words their functions ad extra do not define their eternal relations but rather reveal these to us as the source of our faith and hope. 74.com by Ilie Chiscari on November 30. Ibid.&dquo. yet he nonetheless chose to create and save the world. however. no such choice would be required. past.382. instead he chooses the model of the kingdom of God in order to affirm ’that God alone is God’. Son. The end result is that he believes we really have to pick one symbol over the other in order to ’enlist religious fervor in behalf of social justice and equality’. cit. it would be unnecessary for us to enlist religious fervor for social justice and equality because the need to work for these would necessarily follow acceptance of God’s sovereign action on our behalf in the atonement. 139ff. Trinity.. (1989). Peters can only speak of an immanent Trinity to come. will avoid ideas which might allow any individual. race or gender to rule over others. We have already seen that he believes we need to affirm the immanent Trinity in order to protect God’s freedom. 73. Jenson. 14 But the very way he and Jenson conceive the immanent Trinity and eternity illustrates the fact 70. and Spirit freely acting ad extra. class. 72. op. each eternally inheres in the other and thus. We have a Trinity in unity and a unity in Trinity. he insists that God the creator does not need the world. to be sure. and future. 186. and Holy Spirit been recognised as the starting point. 2007 © 1999 Irish Theological Quarterly. Had the self-sufficiency of God the Father. Jenson believes a task of Trinitarian theology is to reconcile Rahner’s Rule with God’s freedom. For instance.&dquo. thus Rahner’s axiom is also affirmed. is. at no point their work be divided. God and the World When Peters is especially conscious of God’s freedom. Having lost this. this thinking leads Peters to argue that the immanent Trinity should not be our model for human society. Ibid.. he follows Robert Jenson arguing that God could have been the same God without creation or salvation. he believes. 171. Son. He clearly follows Jenson here. but it need not cancel or annihilate time. D. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. Scottish Journal of Theology 71. 133. Downloaded from http://itq. Ibid. cf. and will be the foundation and meaning of life in the present. he believes: ’Eternity needs to transcend time. he can thus detach the kingdom from the Trinitarian symbol using the former to describe God’s beyondness and the latter to affirm God’s intimacy. Cf. Molnar.239 Son can or the Spirit. This. Peters. This is partially why Barth adopted Aquinas’ doctrine of appropriation and insisted on Thomas’ idea that Deus non est in genere . The Triune Identity.. Indeed. But because he has not in fact identified the kingdom of God with the Father.. cit. op. But we really need to speak of an immanent Trinity which was. .. All rights reserved.
Jenson. it could not coincide with the birth of the baby Jesus’. the &dquo. While Jenson has refined his position somewhat in Systematic Theology Volume I. C.D. ’The second "person" of the Godhead in Himself and as such is not God the .D.e. Torrance. The Promise of Trinitarian Theology (Edinburgh: T & T Clark. argues that. Moreover Barth could say: ’Theology cannot speak of man in himself. 140.D. Peters and Jenson cannot say this and so they argue that Christ’s deity should be understood as ’a final outcome. one’s thinking actually must reflect the fact that God is free in se and ad extra. 215) that as long as a theologian affirms God’s eternal freedom. In mutual my criticism of Rahner.75 On the one hand they believe that the immanent Trinity is eschatologically the reality of the economic Trinity. Origen blurred the distinctions between God’s eternal internal relations and external relations with God grounded in grace. i. ’Immanence and Otherness: Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom in the Theology of Robert W Jenson’. . and Pannenberg for introducing conditioning into our relations with God (Molnar. they must deny any logos asarkos.. 3/1. 78. following Jenson. Cf. in isolation from God. and C. The Triune Identity. The eternal generation of the Son is God’s act. The inclusion of us in that act by grace is a new and distinct action neither demanded by nor identical with the first act. 2. Trinity. a logos asarkos. Chapter Seven. 121ff. Peters. 166ff. op.. 52.. 80. Gunton. Peters.sagepub. C. 79. See Molnar. he and Jenson really believe that the two ought to coincide. Otherwise. 135ff. Downloaded from http://itq. Jenson. 17’ But this very desire shows the extent to which they have confused divine and human history. 52ff.80 Unfortunately. 2007 © 1999 Irish Theological Quarterly. And as the final outcome it thereby becomes eternal’. In Himself and as such He is not revealed to us He is the content of a necessary and important concept in trinitarian doctrine when we have to understand the revelation and dealings of God in light of their free basis in the inner being and essence of God’. 1. Peters argues ( Trinity. though we may use Trinitarian language. Cf. 1991). 1989). The Trinitarian Faith. 134. 77. cit. 4/1. 76.. But as in a strict doctrine of the Trinity as the presupposition of Christology.240 that both Jenson’s and Peters’ thinking actually project history into God rather than seeing God freely active within history. While Barth rejected the idea of a logos asarkos insofar as such an idea reflected an arbitrary and dualistic view of the Incarnation and Predestination. C. explains that this was Origen’s error. it must speak of God in Himself in isolation from man’. Colin E.D. For Jenson there can be no timeless begetting of the Son and no not-yet-Incarnate Word because ’this &dquo. But the thesis I am espousing is that a mere assertion of God’s freedom is not enough. C. he nevertheless affirmed such a concept in connection with the doctrine of the Trinity. All rights reserved. if the generation of the Son was ’timeless and eternal. 134. 85 and 89. could not in fact be the same as the temporal relation of Jesus to his Father.&dquo. Reconciler. 1.com by Ilie Chiscari on November 30. Scottish Journal of Theology. we have not in fact spoken of the triune God. Cf. he continues to deny any logos asarkos. insisting upon its necessity.mission&dquo. Moltmann. 4. 172. 140.&dquo. 1/1. Trinity. Scottish Journal of Theology (1999). op. Rejecting this important concept. that is.’ Thus.. cit. The Triune Identity. is aware of this problem. 54. D.78 And indeed. the eschatology here at work denies Jesus’ true divinity just because it insists that the only transcendence which preserves God’s 75.. then the immanent Trinity has not been collapsed into the economic Trinity. Peters. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. Among other things this idea preserved the truth that Jesus existed before creation as the divine Word (the Son of the Father).procession&dquo. In light of our actual reconcilianswer to ation by grace in the incarnate Logos we cannot refer to an abstract Logos as such.
For more on the problems involved in granting futurity priority in an attempt to understand the relationship between time and eternity as it surfaces in Jenson’s recent book on the Trinity see Molnar. Jenson argues: ’The &dquo. the specific form of God’s future is the form in which the eternal Word existed as the Son of the Father in pre-temporal eternity. 140-141.. Jenson.&dquo.. has indeed conditioned God’s eternity. As Thomas F. Trinity. in the form of the future. he expresses the belief that we should go all the way ’and affirm a God whose personhood is itself being constituted through God’s ongoing relation to the creation’. Torrance. The Trinitarian Faith. and ’. This also leads to a view of the earthly Jesus which excludes his eternal Sonship. For instance when he analyses Jungel’s attempt to reconcile God’s aseity with his relation to the world. Peters asks why we must affirm that God is actually related to himself ad intra ’before becoming related to the world ad extra’. 2007 © 1999 Irish Theological Quarterly. for the Tradition. for Jenson. are Jesus and the transcendent Will he called &dquo. What happens between Jesus and his Father and our future happens in God that is the point.. But. 81.. 95-96.83 The problem here is that. time.84 Here relationality has defined and limited God’s eternal relatedness by his relations ad extra. 106 and 140 and Peters. In this respect. although this does not have to imply a philosophical definition of God as timeless in opposition to time.hypostases&dquo. Barth insisted on both the vertical and horizontal in order to avoid reversing time and eternity. he actually denies his freedom by contending that we cannot know the specific form of that freedom (since it is only to be in the future). The Triune Identity. compromising God’s free pre-temporal eternity. Scottish Journal of Theology (1999). The Triune Identity.com by Ilie Chiscari on November 30. Thus.Father&dquo. Emphasis mine. the Trinity is simply the Father and the man Jesus and their Spirit as the Spirit of the believing community. ’Jesus’ historical life was a sending by the Father’.. .sagepub. 84. And once again he clearly compromises God’s actual freedom by suggesting that ’God becomes personal through relationship with the other just as we do’. 83.’82 Whereas Jenson now understands the begetting and procession ’horizontally to time rather than vertically’. All rights reserved. he implicitly and explicitly argues that God needs the world. 104. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. 117-131. Torrance has explained. Peters.’ Instead of seeing Jesus’ history as the history of the eternally pre-existent Son (Barth). when Peters attempts to explain the doctrine of the Trinity from the experience of the beyond and the intimate.. time would apply differently to God’s nature and to our existence in time. The very idea that Christ’s deity is yet to be achieved is a denial of his full equality with the Father and the Spirit before creation. and the Spirit of their future for us. So while Jenson apparently maintains God’s freedom by insisting that God could have been God without the world.241 freedom is his futurity. 82. cit. 134. this not only compromises grace and revelation but it leads to the idea that God is in fact Jenson. The Trinity. Cf. Some idea of a logos asarkos is thus required. op. Downloaded from http://itq.
137-8ff. What is absolute here is the total dependence of each person on its relationship to the other two. by factoring the whole of history into the inner life of God... Son.242 and that Christ’s deity never actually pre-existed his existence in time and that he thus becomes eternal as a result of his experiences in time. those who put their faith in Jesus find themselves putting their faith in God. he believes that the Holy Spirit must yet find his divinity by finally accomplishing community between the Father and Son and with the world. speaks with the authority of God . by serving the Father and the Son. He does not have to gain this. and Holy Spirit whom we know through the articles of the creed and the Trinitarian doctrine. First. Second. nonetheless..when the economic Trinity . God becomes fully God-in-relationship when the work of salvation . 2007 © 1999 Irish Theological Quarterly. 87. Ibid. .com by Ilie Chiscari on November 30. Thus. meaning that the whole of temporal history is factored into the inner life of God.. It is this that constitutes the immanent Trinity.86 Ultimately this convinces Peters that dependent on history 15 the divinity of the Son is gained through his total identification with the Father: Jesus embodies the Father’s will. Therefore. Emphasis mine Downloaded from http://itq. while we cannot ignore or neglect our experiences because God certainly makes himself known within our experience.sagepub. he can and will accomplish redemption because he is the Lord and Giver of Life who is worshipped and glorified with the Father and Son. Conclusion I have argued that the object of the experience of faith is the Father.87 Clearly. 86.is complete. Ibid. he already has and is it. Yet the immanent Trinity is consummated eschatologically. Thus the Spirit does not have to await or find his divinity in accomplishing our redemption. Peters has actually defined the immanent Trinity by events within creation (history). Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. whereas in knowing the immanent Trinity we know that the Son is divine as the only begotten Son and for this reason he can be a saviour for us.. finds its own personhood and divinity in the final accomplishment . Ibid.. All rights reserved. 180-1. he necessarily denies what the Trinitarian doctrine affirms. he believes that the Son must gain his divinity. The Spirit. 134..the loving community of Father and Son with each other and with the world. But in knowing the immanent Trinity we know that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Father and the Son in eternity (before time) and because he already is this he can act for us to create loving community between the Trinity and us in time.. experience should not be seen as a source or 85.
All rights reserved. ground Downloaded from http://itq. the Trinitarian doctrine is more a description of our experience of the beyond and intimate than a description of the object of Christian faith as understood through the articles of the creed and doctrine. The question is: should we begin theology with our experience of faith or with the truth of the gospel as it reaches us in our experience of faith? The priority of revelation over our experience is necessarily compromised when experience is seen as a source or ground for theology in the way it is regularly presented today. God is our unshakable source of comfort and truth who alone can enable us to be in right relation with him and the rest of society through our experiences within and outside the Church.243 for theology or for revising our concept of God because the Christian God is revealed as one who is and remains self-sufficient. This clarifies an important methodological issue which is overlooked by theologians who uncritically adopt the vice versa of Rahner’s axiom of identity. It is my contention that this methodological problem results from failure to perceive God’s actual freedom in se. I have tried to show that Ted Peters compromises God’s freedom because. perhaps inadvertently. As such God is not an arbitrarily imagined concept which we choose in order to construct or reconstruct the Church and society.sagepub. whatever its weaknesses in other respects may be. Inability or unwillingness to acknowledge this particular freedom leads. 2007 © 1999 Irish Theological Quarterly. for him.com by Ilie Chiscari on November 30. to the reduction of theology to anthropology via the principle of relationality. . this is the problem facing contemporary Trinitarian theology. His equation of experience in the Church with special revelation thus neglects the methodological issue which Barth’s theology raises in a decisive way and which I believe cannot be ignored today. In my view. Rather. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.
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