Friday, January 11, 2008

A 'new' project...Reading the Trinity

Since I finished my seminary studies at VTS last May, and was ordained to the transitional diaconate in June (at Philadelphia Cathedral), and then to the priesthood (at St. James, Richmond), I have been incredibly busy while working in the truly 'incarnational' ministry of school chaplaincy. I have also served as clergy associate at a wonderful church here in Richmond -- St. Mark's Episcopal on the Boulevard. I really love my work, and while there are some real challenges and struggles - internal and external, all in all, I feel blessed having the privilege of serving in this way. Working alongside some truly wonderful people, and having the opportunity to teach, advise, and assist students as they develop and grow is a blessing.

In my spiritual practices, I continue to read the Daily Office - that Anglican Practice of reading the scripture and praying in a mode that goes back to ancient monastic practice. I also lead several services each week - as many as 5-7 a week; and find my prayer life growing deeper and broader through these practices. What I have not done as much since leaving seminary is to read theology.

So, my project (I worry that if I say it is a "resolution," I'll never complete it) is to do some reading and study of the Trinity, and also get further grounding and understanding of Ecclesiology. So, to begin, I ran across these two wonderful blog posts over at the "Faith and Theology" blog. Here I begin to explore the Trinity and also Ecclesiology even more deeply.

First:

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Ten propositions on the Trinity

1. The Trinity is not an optional doctrine, it is essential. God’s unity is not behind God’s threeness, God’s unity is in God’s threeness. This is not speculative mathematics, it is a descriptive theology of revelation.

2. The Trinity is not an academic doctrine thought up by clever scholars, rather it grew out of the Christian experience of worship, i.e. it expressed the early church’s pattern of prayer to the Father, through the Son, in the Spirit.

3. The driving force of the development of the doctrine of the Trinity was Christological and soteriological, i.e. it served to articulate the Christian experience of salvation in Christ. The first Christians already knew God; through Jesus they came to know God as Jesus’ Father and Jesus as God’s Son; while in the Spirit Jesus continued to be present to them, forming a family of prayer to the Father and building a community of witness to Christ.

4. The church’s thinking was this: As God discloses himself in worship and salvation, so God must be in Godself. In the technical language of (Karl) Rahner’s Rule: the “economic” Trinity is the “immanent” Trinity, and the “immanent” Trinity is the “economic” Trinity. What you see is what you get, and what you get is what there is.

5. At the heart of the doctrine of the Trinity is God’s being-as-communion. God’s unity is not monadic, it is relational. The doctrine of the Trinity is the church’s exegesis of I John 4:8b: “God is love.” Father, Son and Spirit indwell each other in love, giving, receiving and returning love in an eternal dynamic of gift-exchange.

Read the rest of the Ten HERE.


Second:

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Trinitarian reading for laypeople

A friend asked me yesterday about works on the Trinity which could be recommended to interested laypeople who have no theological background. I sent her this list of annotated suggestions – but I’d be interested to know if you have any alternative or additional suggestions:
  • Frederica Mathewes-Green, “The Old Testament Trinity,” in God the Holy Trinity: Reflections on Christian Faith and Practice, ed. Timothy George (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006), 83-90. [The title might sound dull, but this is a very beautiful little essay, written by the popular Orthodox writer. The essay is a brief meditation on Rublev's great icon of the Trinity.]

  • Cornelius Plantinga, “Deep Wisdom,” in God the Holy Trinity: Reflections on Christian Faith and Practice, ed. Timothy George (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006), 149-55. [Another chapter from the previous book: a rich and moving homily on the Trinity.]

  • Benedict XVI, “Introduction: An Initial Reflection on the Mystery of Jesus,” in Jesus of Nazareth (New York: Doubleday, 2007), 1-8. [A brief discussion of the Father–Son relation as the central dimension of Jesus’ human existence. The basis of the doctrine of the Trinity lies here, in the humanity of Jesus.]

  • Rowan Williams, “A Man for All Seasons,” Chapter 3 in Tokens of Trust: An Introduction to Christian Belief (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2007), 57-78. [Like the previous reading, this isn’t strictly focused on the Trinity, but it’s a superb, illuminating, jargon-free account of the relation between Jesus and God – which is the most important thing to grasp when thinking about the Trinity.]

  • Hans Urs von Balthasar, “The Triune Life,” a chapter in Prayer (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 177-97. [A moving reflection on the mystery of the Trinity as the heart of ecclesial life.]

  • Vladimir Lossky, Orthodox Theology: An Introduction (Crestwood: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1978), 36-50. [An important and accessible passage from one of the greatest modern Orthodox thinkers, focusing on the relation between the Trinity and human personhood.]

  • Kim Fabricius, “Ten Propositions on the Trinity”. I might seem a bit biased here, but you really can’t go past Kim’s post on the Trinity – it’s concise, profound, beautiful, and best of all true.]

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hat tip to "Faith and Theology" ... read it HERE.

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