Righteousness: Covenant Faithfulness or Metaphysical Attribute?

Paul Helm, following Piper’s critique of Wright, suggests that God’s righteousness cannot be defined as covenant faithfulness (see post here). I want to think out loud a bit about Helm’s argumentation, and would love to hear your thoughts after reading his post and after reading my impressions here. First, Helm states,

I think we need to pause for a moment or two on this claimed identity between righteousness and covenant faithfulness. It means, for one thing, that there is no other way that God could express his righteousness than by way of covenant faithfulness.”

Now, presumably, if Wright is equating God’s righteousness with covenant faithfulness then this statement presupposes its conclusion. Note Helm’s assumption that God must have “righteousness” behind his covenant faithfulness. This seems, in light of the argument, to be both unhelpful and presumptuous. Next, Helm claims,

Yet it is not merely a question of some definition of righteousness not being adequate, of how we are to understand that righteousness. It is also, and more fundamentally, the question of the coherence of any account of divine righteousness that does not begin with who God is. Being, the being of God, must come first; acting is a consequence of being.”

Likewise, with characterological boldness, Helm continues by adding, Continue reading


Trinitarian Theology for the Church: Social Trinitarianism

The next issue I want to highlight in IVP’s volume trinitarian theology for the churchTrinitarian Theology for the Church is the view of social trinitarianism. We are given two specific essays towards this end, the first by John Franke, discussing the social Trinity and the mission of God, and the second by Mark Husbands whose focus is explicit in his title: “The Trinity Is Not Our Social Program.” Franke follows a stream of interpreters (such as Gunton) who pit Augustine against the likes of Richard of St. Victor, creating a dualism between what is seen as a relational model and a psychological model of the Trinity. This is certainly not my area of expertise, but as far as I understand it, this conception of history is universally deemed anachronistic, positivist and overly-simplistic. Franke fails to interact with the likes of Ayres (amongst others), for instance, and therefore fails to do justice to the scholarship available for this kind of account. Continue reading

The Trinity: A Guide for the Perplexed

As many of you will know, I have been on the search for a good introductory book on the Trinity for use in a seminary classroom. perplexedTowards this end, T&T Clark graciously sent me a review copy of Paul M. Collins’ volume, The Trinity: A Guide for the Perplexed. I should say at the outset that I enjoyed this book, but am not sure if it is exactly what I was looking for. Collins offers an introduction that is not simplistic, but assumes a working knowledge of the major issues, debates and questions for trinitarian thought; which is exactly what I was looking for, but then engages, as seen below, in a reasonably advanced discussion of postmodern concepts which he puts to work for ecclesiology. That being said, that last section could easily be left off, and the remainder of the book stays at a introductory but not overly-simplistic level.

Collins shows a great grasp of the tradition and the various streams of trinitarian thought, offering critique and questions when he deems necessary. The book has only five chapters, looking specifically at: 1) Why the Trinity at all?; 2) Moments of interpretation; 3) Expressing the inexpressible?; 4) The reception of revelation; and 5) Trinity: the Other and the Church. In particular, he charts the rise of social trinitarianism as a response to the overall feeling in the church that the Trinity is without relevance for the life of the body. He develops what he calls the “four moments” in the hermeutical history of trinitarian grammar: 1) the de Regnon paradigm; 2) the problem with Socinus; 3) the Schism of 1054; and 4) Arius and Nicene orthodoxy. Continue reading

More on Trinitarian primers

Kyle mentioned his disappointment in his last post that Leupp’s The Renewal in Trinitarian Theology did not turn out to be the primer on developments in trinitarian doctrine that he had hoped.

karkkainentrinityLet me suggest instead Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen’s book, The Trinity: Global Perspectives (WJK, 2007), as an introductory volume that – while not perfect –  might just fill that category and be a good option for classroom use as well. The book is laid out in five sections encompassing a total of 27 short chapters. Parts one and two look at the Biblical roots of the doctrine of the Trinity and the historical growth of trinitarian doctrine. Part three surveys contemporary trinitarian views from both the European and North American contexts. Included here are short summaries and interactions  with (in typical Kärkkäinen style) the trinitarian theologies of Barth, Pannenberg, Moltmann, Jenson, and LaCugna to name a few. Part four applies the same treatment to non-Western views such as Latin America (Leonardo Boff, Gonzalez), Asia (Jung Young Lee, Raimundo Panikkar), and Africa (C. Nyamiti, Ogbannaya). The final part distills contributions for the future of trinitarian theology.

oxford-handbook-of-systematic-theologyIf I were teaching a class on contemporary trinitarian theology and/or wanted a resource to glean accessible introductions and bibliographic resources for various modern views, then I would certainly consider using this together with, perhaps, Fred Sander’s essay from the Oxford Handbook of Systematic Theology (This is a fantastic volume if you can get your hands on it!) and J.N.D. Kelly’s Early Christian Doctrines for the developments in trinitarian doctrine related to Nicaea and Chalcedon.

Keep in mind, Kärkkäinen makes interpretive decisions throughout that will surely fail to satisfy everyone. However, for the bibliography alone and the exposure to a multitude of trinitarian views in one place, Kärkkäinen’s book is a handy resource. Any other suggestions?

The Renewal of Trinitarian Theology

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.trinitarian 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). Continue reading

David Bentley Hart on Trinitarian Being

In Hart’s final section on the Trinity before turning his attention to the doctine of creation (The Beauty of the Infinite), the author unfolds his trinitarian ontology proper. Along the way he takes up several significant conversation partners including Heidegger , Caputo, Scharlemann, Barth, and Jean-Luc Marion.

James’ Quote and Commentary

Against Karl Barth, Hart defends the analogia entis (analogy of being) as the only way to maintain God’s true transcendence:

To state the matter simply, the analogy of being does not analogize God and creatures under the more general category of being, but is the analogization of being in the difference between God and creatures; it is as subversive of the notion of a general and univocal category of being as of the equally “totalizing” notion of ontological equivocity, and thus belongs to neither pole of the dialectic intrinsic to metaphysical totality: the savage equivalence of univocity and equivocity, Apollo and Dionysus, pure identity and pure difference (neither of which can open a vantage upon being in its transcendence).

For precisely this reason, the analogia entis is quite incompatible with any naive “natural theology”: if being is univocal, then a direct analogy from essences to “God” (as the supreme substance) is conceivale, but if the primary analogy is one of being, then an infinite analogical interval has been introduced between God and creatures, even as it is affirmed that God is truly declared in creation (for God is, again, infinitely determinate and is himself the distance – the act of distance – of the analogical interval). Thus, the analogia entis renders any simple “essentialist” analogy impossible.

I’m just going to let this stand and invite any defenders of Barth to state their protest.

Kent’s Quote and ‘Commentary’

In light of the birth of our second child this week, I will simply leave you with a quote that points ahead to Hart’s theology of creation:

For a trinitarian theology, Continue reading