Colin Gunton, Trinitarian Theology

Theological Frustrations

This is also a repost from my myspace (and my last), but it is also fairly recent, as in… oh last friday.

I was reading a friend’s blog and the comments left on an article of his. One of the comments cites theopedia and I came away annoyed for two reasons.

First, I’ve looked at theopedia before, but I’ve been put off because on first look it seems like a democratized wikipedia, but it really *only* allows for a reformed and a hyper-literalized methodolical outlook which in my book restricts the conversation about the subject or the richness of the articles themselves. Encyclopedia’s do not have statments of faith.

“All of Theopedia’s content is, in accordance with the writing guide, required to conform to the following:

… Calvinism – Inasmuch as this refers to the five points of Calvinism and absolute predesination, we affirm it.

… Creation – We affirm a literal understanding of six-day creation.”

Not to mention that personally an editor must affirm:

“We believe the Bible is the written word of God, inspired by the Holy Spirit and without error in the original manuscripts. The Bible is the revelation of God’s truth and is infallible and authoritative in all matters of faith and practice.”

Barth could not be allowed to be involved in the shaping of the website. Um… thats a fairly large exclusion and seems entirely counter to the point of theology – discussion. So point #1, one ought to proceed through theopedia with caution.

Unfortunately on the other hand, Gunton summaries do not seem to have a large presence on the internet, or Trinitarian Theology as a whole for that matter. Neither the Boston Collaborative Encyclopedia of Western Theology or Religion Online devote specific space, which is clearly a hole that will hopefully be fixed. The hole is worrisome, but points to a greater problem, or at least something that I think is problematic – the conversation about, or lack thereof, of Trinitarian theology.

Here at Union, whenever I refer back to a social Trinitarian God within my papers, teachers write good marks about it, but it rarely comes up in class. Thus, there isn’t necessarily a lack of acceptance in a very liberal seminary, but rather, little talk on it. And so I wonder, if Trinitarian theology is accepted by all manner of theologians, why is there seemingly little talk about it on the internet? It is not that people don’t ever talk about Gunton’s work or are impacted by it, so why is there seemingly, on the whole, a lack of talk on recent Trinitarian work?


3 thoughts on “Theological Frustrations

  1. Halden says:

    Couldn’t it maybe be the fact that classic liberal institutions are more intersted in talking about humanity than God in general? Not to be too cliche, but that seems to be a significant reason what God-talk, be it trinitarian or not has little place in liberal seminaries. They seem more interested in talking about sociology, politics, culture, etc. Often as if God somehow had nothing to do with those arenas.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Hi, Im from Melbourne. Apart from being an abstract idea in your “mind” what exactly is the “trinity”?
    Have you ever seen “it” in operation?
    Does your “trinity” even begin to take the overwhelming reality of death into account?
    What is the purpose of theolgy anyway?
    Does it lead to the Holy Jumping Off Place where True Spiritual Practice is engaged via the Blessing Grace and Guidance of a LIVING Realized Spiritual Master–male of female?
    Or is just a never ending word game to console yourself in your fear, which is the ever present Fear & Trembling at the core of your egoic being?
    Please check out these related essays.

    Halden’s comment is typical of “righteous” “reform” types—it amounts to this: our interpretations and understandings are the only true ones–everyone else is deluded—including the 5 billion humans on this planet who are not Christians. On this last point please check out Truth & religion: Who Owns The Holy Brightness

  3. d. w. horstkoetter says:

    Okay anonymous from Melbourne, I’ll bite. However, I am unsure about how fruitful a conversation this might actually be. It seems to me that this is a trolling act, rather than engagement with an open mind. In fact, it seems to me that you are coming with quite a bit of baggage; nevertheless, I think it would be neglectful of me not to address you as a human being and give you some sort of answer. This also seems to me to be a good excuse to talk about the Trinity.

    To merely look at the structure of you comment makes you look rude. There is one line that merely locates you geographically; followed by a series of questions (worded in a rather patronizing fashion) that culminate in what is apparently your basis for spiritual thought/belief; and a bunch of links that are your position. Then, to top it all off, you categorize a friend of mine into disingenuous and improper categories, without defining your words. Name calling is not smooth.

    First, Halden can take care of himself; so I feel no need to defend him here against an attack on his character – he’ll be fine. However, I think you should define “reform” because in theology that word means something special (Calvinist theology) and probably not what you intend to mean. And “righteous” I take it is also a negative term, but again, your connotative definition (whatever it is) does not carry through the internet.

    Second, you ask what the trinity is and I think confusedly so. First off, Trinity is not intended to explain death. The explanation of death is found generally in theodicy (the question about evil and innocent suffering), anthropology (the space in theology that speaks about humanity), and eschatology (the future raising of the dead). Christianity does more than “begin to take the overwhelming reality of death into account”, you are just looking in the wrong place. You are asking the wrong kind of question.

    What is Trinity then? The Trinity is who God is. We can quote attributes of God left and right: God is just, God is merciful, God is kind, etc.; yet, neither any of the attributes of God’s personality encompass or speak to who God is. The theology of the Trinity is the attempt by human beings to describe God; it is not actually referenced in the Bible, just the distinct persons – the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Thus Christians have come up with a creed that describes the workings of the Trinity:

    “We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.

    We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father; through him all things were made.

    For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven, was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became truly human. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.

    We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets.

    We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
    We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
    We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.”

    Thus, the proper Christian response is that the Trinity is God, however, to ask a Christian to prove the Trinity is absurd because you are asking a question without understanding the nature of Christianity, which is essentially revelatory and faith based (the definition of faith is “believing in the evidence of things unseen”). Through the community of faith and the scripture, that we take to be authoritative, combined with tradition and reason, we interpret and attempt to talk about this text and experience that we have with this divine being and amongst the community of faith (by the way, this is the definition of theology).

    Honestly, to ask us to prove an existence of the Trinity is really asking a question that puzzles a Christian – not because you’ve finally “pinned them to the wall”, but because to ask such a question is really asking two other questions: 1. prove the existence of God (apparently if God is not tangible in the here and now, she/he is of no use) and 2. why do you have faith? Both these questions hit at an assumption of yours: God must be tangible, for if God is not tangible, then God is not real and if God is not real, then conceiving of this divine being is worthless and harmful.

    So this really is an epistemological question, not a question on the Trinity. I disagree with your fundamental assumption, in fact, I think it is rather narrow. The metaphysical can inform and enrich our lives as humans; it provides a way of spurring us on towards the help of others and a greater hope beyond pitiful humanity. The natural world around us is terrific, but that does not mean I need to move to a northern Californian Buddhist way of thinking to find spiritual fulfillment. Rather, as I said, I think you view is limiting because in my fulfillment, I seek the fulfillment of others, rather than just spending money and time on myself.

    Thus, I disagree with your epistemological question because it in turn results in an anti-sociological emphasis on the self and to do so puts the rest of humanity in a world of hurt. My theology, derived from a social (Trinitarian) God, shows humanity a way of caring for the needy and suffering and that is “Living [a] Realized Spiritual Master” because I, through the community of faith, live as Jesus Christ to the world. That is personal/spiritual fulfillment, a Christianity rooted very much in this reality – not word games that console my fear – for it is an active and transformative Christianity. I do not huddle in the corner of my room, surrounding myself in a belief system so as to hide myself from reality, instead I am engaging. Unfortunately it seems that you have had run ins with Christians who seem blind and scared, and have been turned off by them. I am sorry for that, I truly am. Perhaps it is right to be turned off by a Christianity that is scared, but to assume that Christianity worldwide is like your experiences is ridiculously blind.

    There, I think I have said plenty so far, and perhaps this will spark a civil conversation.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s