As you might be able to tell from my last several posts, I have been looking at various volumes for possible use in the classroom. The latest I have perused is The Renewal of Trinitarian Theology: Themes, Patterns & Explorations by Roderick T. Leupp. I was first interested in this volume because I thought it would be helpful to provide students with an introduction to trinitarian theology that maps the various questions, issues and viewpoints. In the end, this was not exactly Leupp’s intention.
In his introduction, Leupp claims that,
Trinitarian theology is practical. It instructs in the way of Christian salvation and is a shorthand of the gospel. Trinitarian theology is also demanding, calling forth the strict exertions of thought and the purposeful resolve of action. Above all, trinitarian theology glows in its own beauty. Practicality and exertion are caught up into pure delight” (18).
In attempting to address the renewal of interest in trinitarian theology, Leupp spends the first chapter doing what I had hoped he would do for the entire book – surveying the trinitarian landscape (which happens to be the name of the chapter). Throughout the volume he shows his incredible breadth of knowledge in the field, which, at times, may actually hurt his ability to communicate the material. The argumentation in the volume seemed to be more of a development-by-mosaic approach to the issues, painting one small aspect of a theologian’s thought and then moving on until a larger picture became clear. The problem is that the picture didn’t usually become all that clear. I was left wanting to see Leupp do two things: Either, write a purely constructive work; or a simply a survey, tracing through various key viewpoints. As it is, I don’t believe any of the theologians addressed were developed enough for real understanding, and on the other hand, his own constructive work was lost in an overgrown thicket of quotations.
A point of interest in the volume was when Leupp turned his attention to the idea of perichoresis in trinitarian thought. This could be an interesting point of reference for some discussion. Leupp states, “Perichoresis is one of the live points of contact between the doctrine of the Trinity and theological anthropology, which answers the question ‘who is the human?…How can the perichoretic approach to personhood guide and in fact transform the ‘merely’ human grasp of personhood?” Leupp weaves together, or, if nothing else, quotes alongside one another, Boff, Moltmann, Millard Erickson and T.F. Torrance (which seems like an impressive feat in and of itself). Following Boff, Leupp suggests that there are two divergent meanings of perichoresis: first, a static state, which, in Leupp’s words, emphasizes that, “the three divine persons are situated in the same neighborhood. They live together, even under one roof, not begrudgingly but lovingly” (71). The second meaning (circumincessio), means to permeate or interpenetrate. Here, Leupp’s examples get a little more odd than the first, stating,
Here the three divine persons are not merely under one roof. They are playing, singing, even telling jokes together. They are doing what all families do, for they are the Primal Family.”
Now, I fully realize that these kinds of moves are much more common in discussions of the Trinity, invoking the unity amongst the three to make an immediate move into humanity’s social and ethical situations. My question for you is, what are your thoughts about this usage? If you wish to utilize the doctrine of the Trinity in this manner, why and what restrictions (if any) would you put on it? Also, what do you think of Leupp’s language? He certainly qualifies himself from time to time, but he seems to feel free to use a variety of images to talk about the Trinity, most of which are just three things, rather than a trinity. Also, Leupp seems to follow the line of thinking that since no image can fully incorporate the vast truth of the Trinity, then multiplying images is the answer. What are the pedagogical ramifications for these decisions?