Alister McGrath, Christian Theology: An Introduction
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Alister McGrath, Christian Theology: An Introduction. Chapter 10 The Doctrine of the Trinity. The Origins of the Christian Doctrine of the Trinity. The apparent illogicality of the doctrine Limits of human language Si comprehendis non est Deus (Augustine) Charles Gore
Alister McGrath, Christian Theology: An Introduction

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Slide 1

Alister McGrath, Christian Theology: An Introduction

Chapter 10

The Doctrine of the Trinity

Wiley-Blackwell 2010

Slide 2

The Origins of the Christian Doctrine of the Trinity

  • The apparent illogicality of the doctrine

    • Limits of human language

    • Si comprehendis non est Deus (Augustine)

    • Charles Gore

  • The Trinity as a statement about Jesus Christ

    • Link to the development of the doctrine of the divinity of Christ

  • The Trinity as a statement about the Christian God

    • Transcendence and incarnation

    • A personal God

    • Irenaeus: the economy of salvation

  • Islamic critiques of the doctrine of the Trinity

    • Monotheism or worship of three gods?

    • Jesus as a prophet, or God incarnate

Wiley-Blackwell 2010

Slide 3

The Biblical Foundations of the Doctrine of the Trinity

  • Specific verses

    • Matthew 28:19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit”

    • 2 Corinthians 3:13 “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you”

  • Trinitarian structure or pattern in the New Testament

  • Trinitarian structure in the Old Testament

    • Wisdom

    • The Word of God

    • The Spirit of God

Wiley-Blackwell 2010

Slide 4

The Historical Development of the Doctrine

  • The emergence of the trinitarian vocabulary (Tertullian)

    • Trinitas (Trinity)

    • Persona (person)

    • Substantia (substance)

  • The emergence of trinitarian concepts

    • Perichoresis (“mutual interpenetration”)

    • Appropriation

  • Rationalist critiques of trinitarianism: the eclipse of the Trinity, 1700-1900

    • Radical Reformation, 16th century

    • Rationalism and English Deism

  • The problem of visualization: analogies of the Trinity

    • Gregory of Nyssa: water, chain, rainbow

  • “Economic” and “essential” approaches to the Trinity

    • Karl Rahner, The Trinity (1970)

    • Essential or immanent Trinity: God’s inner life and essential nature

    • Economic Trinity: God in history; economy of salvation

Wiley-Blackwell 2010

Slide 5

Two Trinitarian Heresies

  • Modalism: chronological and functional

    • General features:

      • The aspect of the one God revealed as creator and lawgiver is the Father

      • The aspect of the one God revealed as savior is the Son

      • The aspect of the one God revealed as the one who sanctifies and gives eternal life is the Spirit

    • Chronological modalism

      • Sabellianism

    • Functional modalism

  • Tritheism

    • Gregory of Nyssa

    • Eleventh Council of Toledo (675)

Wiley-Blackwell 2010

Slide 6

The Filioque Controversy

  • The Nicene creed: proceeding from the Father and the Son

  • Eastern (Greek) church: the Spirit proceeds from the Father

    • The Father as the sole origin and source of divinity

    • Son and Spirit having distinct (yet complementary) roles

  • Western (Latin) church: the Spirit proceeds from the Father and from the Son

    • Augustine, On the Trinity

    • Son and Spirit distinguished from one another, but mutually related to one another

Wiley-Blackwell 2010

Slide 7

The Trinity: Six Classic and Contemporary Approaches

  • The Cappadocian fathers

    • “one substance (ousia) in three persons (hypostaseis)”

    • Priority of the Father as the source of the Trinity

  • Augustine of Hippo (354-430)

    • Rejection of subordinationism

    • The Spirit as the love that unites the Father and the Son

    • Psychological analogies

      • Traces of the Trinity in creation - in the human mind

  • Karl Barth (1886-1968)

    • Doctrine of the Trinity as an exegesis of revelation

    • “The Doctrine of the Word of God”

    • Jesus recognized as the self-revelation of God, through the work of the Spirit

Wiley-Blackwell 2010

Slide 8

  • Karl Rahner (1904-84)

    • “The ‘economic’ Trinity is the ‘immanent’ Trinity”

    • Salvation history as the starting-point

  • John Macquarrie (1919-2007)

    • Foundation in existentalism

    • The Father as “primordial Being”

    • The Son as “expressive Being”

    • The Holy Spirit as “unitive Being”

  • Robert Jenson (b.1930)

    • “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” as God’s proper name

    • Consistent with the biblical witness

    • Distinction from Hellenism

Wiley-Blackwell 2010

Slide 9

Some Discussions of the Trinity in Recent Theology

  • F.D.E. Schleiermacher on the dogmatic location of the Trinity

    • At the end of The Christian Faith

  • Jürgen Moltmann on the social Trinity

    • “The Trinity is our social program”

  • Eberhard Jüngel on the Trinity and metaphysics

    • Trinitarian “theology of the cross”: differentiation between Father and Son

    • Recover distinctive Christian vision of God, free from secular metaphysics

  • Catherine Mowry LaCugna on the Trinity and salvation

    • “Theology is inseparable from soteriology, and vice versa”

  • Sarah Coakley on feminism and the Trinity

    • The Trinity and notions of power

    • The role of the Spirit in Christian prayer and prophecy

    • Church’s historical resistance to priority of the Spirit: rationalism over relationality

Wiley-Blackwell 2010

Slide 10

The Trinitarian Renaissance: Some Examples

  • A trinitarian theology of mission

    • Lesslie Newbigin (1909-98)

  • A trinitarian theology of worship

    • Geoffrey Wainwright, Doxology (1984)

    • James Torrance (1923-2003)

  • A trinitarian theology of atonement

    • Colin Gunton, Actuality of Atonement (1989)

  • A trinitarian ecclesiology

    • Miroslav Volf, After our Likeness: The Church in the Image of the Trinity (1998)

Wiley-Blackwell 2010


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