Monthly Archives: September 2015

Socrates, Nestorius, and the “Hard Work” of Theology

Socrates Bk vThe ancient church historian and contemporary of Nestorius, Socrates of Constantinople, evidently did not think much of Nestorius, despite his defence of Nestorius’s orthodoxy.

What sort of a disposition he was of in other respects, those who possessed any discernment were able to perceive from his first sermon. … [those] did not fail to detect his levity of mind, and violent and vainglorious temperament, inasmuch as he had burst forth into such vehemence without being able to contain himself for even the shortest space of time; and to use the proverbial phrase, “before he had tasted the water of the city,” showed himself a furious persecutor.[1]

Nestorius had been appointed as bishop of Constantinople by the Emperor in 428AD, chosen for his “excellent voice and fluency of speech.” Nevertheless it seems controversy dogged his episcopate from the start, and he eventually was condemned for his christological views at the Council of Ephesus in 431. It seems Socrates believes this was an unfair judgement:

Having myself perused the writings of Nestorius, I have found him an unlearned man and shall candidly express the conviction of my own mind concerning him; … I cannot then concede that he was either a follower of [known heretics] Paul of Samosata or of Photinus, or that he denied the divinity of Christ … He does not assert Christ to be a mere man, as Photinus did or Paul of Samosata, his own published homilies fully demonstrate. In these discourses he nowhere destroys the proper personality (hypostasis) of the Word of God; but on the contrary invariably maintains that he has an essential and distinct personality and existence. Nor does he ever deny his subsistence… Such in fact I find Nestorius, both from having myself read his own works, and from the assurances of his admirers. But this idle contention of his has produced no slight ferment in the religious world (171).

How was it, then, that this gifted and charismatic speaker occupying one of the most prestigious pulpits in the empire caused such an uproar? Socrates is blunt:

He seemed scared of the term Theotocos [sic; i.e. “God-bearer,” or “mother of God”], as though it were some terrible phantom. The fact is, the causeless alarm he manifested on this subject just exposed his extreme ignorance: for being a man of natural fluency as a speaker, he was considered well educated, but in reality he was disgracefully illiterate. In fact he contemned the drudgery of an accurate examination of the ancient expositors; and, puffed up with his readiness of expression, he did not give his attention to the ancients, but thought himself the greatest of all (171).

Alister McGrath translates that last sentence: “In fact he had no time for the hard work which an accurate examination of the ancient expositors would have involved…”[2]

Theological work can be hard. Yet this observation from the early fifth century is just as relevant today. Some pastors, leaders, teachers and others rely on their excellent gifts, charisma and charm to carry their ministry, dismissing the work of those who have gone before as though it were of no value or benefit. In their pride they may become arrogant, and may even, as Nestorius did, cause great dissention in the body of Christ. The work may be difficult, may even be “drudgery,” but it is necessary work, especially for those charged with the responsibility of shepherding the people of God.


[1] Scholasticus, Socrates, “The Ecclesiastical History of Socrates Scholasticus,” in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (Second Series) Volume 2: Socrates, Sozomenos: Church Histories ed. Schaff, Philip & Henry Wace, (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 1890; reprint, 1995), 169.

[2] McGrath, Alister E., ed. The Christian Theology Reader, Third ed. (Oxford: Blackwell, 2007), 273, emphasis added.

Oh, Barth!

berlin-wall-8I began reading Church Dogmatics II/2 from the beginning the other day with the hope that I can read a few pages a day. I have not read Barth’s doctrine of election since my honours year in 2001 and am looking forward to a systematic engagement with the grand master once again. Of course I read the preface because it is amazing what one finds in some of Barth’s prefaces. Take this, for instance:

A good deal has already been said about the size both of the work as a whole and also of each if its constituent parts. It may be conceded that the Bible itself can put things more concisely. But if dogmatics is to serve its purpose, then I cannot see how either I myself, or any contemporaries known to me, can properly estimate the more concise statements of the Bible except in penetrating expositions which will necessarily demand both time and space. In the last analysis I ask of my readers no greater patience than that already demanded of myself. For our mutual consolation I offer a historical reminiscence. When Schleiermacher was struggling to finish the first draft of his Christian Faith, on September 7, 1822 he wrote to his friend Twesten: “Every time I see this book, I sigh at its bulk.” I know that my own Dogmatics is already a good deal bulkier than Schleiermacher’s Christian Faith. Yet Twesten’s reply on March 9, 1823 might equally well be applied to my own book: “You complain about the size of your book, but do not worry; for most of us the size is indispensable to understanding, and the few who would perhaps have understood you from a lesser work will certainly accept with gratitude all the elucidations you want to give.” Yes, for a right understanding and exposition there is need of a thorough elucidation. May it not be that I have been too short and not too long at some important points? (ix, emphasis added).

Yes, Karl, far too short – not!

Yet actually, it is the depth and penetration of Barth’s analysis that makes reading him so rewarding. If each theological topic is like a brick in the wall, Barth not only describes its length, breadth, texture, colour and placement, he draws the brick itself from the wall for further examination—and—it is two miles deep as well!

In a recent article at First Things that serves as a fine introduction to Barth’s life work, Timothy George, founding dean of Beeson Divinity School and perhaps dean of Baptist scholarship as well, records an interesting anecdote about Barth’s theology:

When Harvey Cox was a student minister in Berlin in 1962, one year after the erection of the Wall, he was able to travel back and forth between East and West because he held an American passport. He thus became a courier for pastors and Christian laypeople on both sides of that divide and was sometimes able to smuggle theological books into the East. What the people wanted most were copies of Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics. “To carry in something by Bultmann would have been a wasted risk,” Cox said. “Let the bourgeois preachers in West Germany agonize about the disappearance of the three-decker universe and existentialism. We had weightier matters to confront.”

Scripture on Sunday – James 2:1

James the Less (Rubens 1612-13)
James the Less (Rubens 1612-13)

James 1:2
My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favouritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? (NRSV)

My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favouritism. (NASB)

With his appeal to his “brothers and sisters,” James again signals the beginning of a new section in his letter, in the first half of chapter two turning to address the issue of favouritism or partiality in the Christian congregation. Although the NRSV treats verse one as a question, it is better to follow the lead of most translations and see this as another imperative rather than a question (cf. 1:2, 16, 19 where James also uses the imperative). The NRSV does better, however, by translating the main term as acts of favouritism, suggesting the repetitive nature of the activity. Both translations clearly indicate that showing favouritism is incompatible with faith in Jesus.

The word for favouritism is prosōpolēmpsiais, actually two words combined into one: prosōpon (“face”) and lambanein (“to receive”), and is likely an echo of Leviticus 19:15 where the two words are found together in the Septuagint: You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbour. “To receive one’s face” is to make judgements based on such things as physical appearance, social status or race (Moo, 87), and James will go on in verses 2-3 to illustrate his meaning with a cameo about rich and poor persons in the assembly.

Perhaps the reason for James’ prohibition on partiality is found, not only in the allusion to the passage in Leviticus, but also in the reference to “our glorious Lord Jesus Christ.” James mentions Jesus by name only twice in this letter, in his opening salutation and in this verse. To refer to Jesus as our glorious Lord is to recall Old Testament language and imagery about the glory of God, “the luminous manifestation of God’s person” (Davids, 107). Thus, continues Davids, it is a term of exaltation, revelation and eschatological salvation. Nonetheless, Jesus is not so glorious that he has nothing to do with humanity in its brokenness and need. Rather, the glorious one has come, entering fully into the weakness and poverty of the human situation. If the glorious Lord does not show partiality against the poor, but enters into solidarity with them, how dare those who have faith in Jesus act in ways counter to his own practice? Thus James’ ascription of the term glorious to Jesus functions not only as a christological image that associates Jesus with the glory of God, but also reminds and perhaps even rebukes his listeners, with respect to an attitude and practice which contradicts the essential nature and orientation of their faith. If God does not play favourites, neither should his people.


Jesus and BrianWhat to do with New Testament scholars? Here is a new must-have release from Bloomsbury: Jesus and Brian: Exploring the Historical Jesus and his Times via Monty Python’s Life of Brian. Perhaps it is another case of “Will reading the book spoil the movie?”

I have not heard of Lincoln Harvey, but found this list of his tweets on Andy Goodliff’s blog. Some are very funny, such as:

1. So you want to know where the Babylonians came from? Well, when Mummylonian and Daddylonian love each other very much… 

2. The bible is wholly ghostwritten.

After one of my students beat me at a game of chess he thought he would console me with blog post on theology as a chess game

Ascension and Mission

Benjamin West (1801)
Benjamin West (1801)

One of my favourite books on the creeds is Luke Timothy Johnson’s The Creed: What Christians Believe and Why it Matters. Johnson’s exposition is concerned with the biblical background and foundations of the Nicene Creed, and so traces these aspects with respect to each statement of the Creed. Recently I read again his exposition of the phrase “he ascended into heaven and sits on the right hand of the Father” (pp. 186-192), and came across the following comment:

The fact that Luke himself has provided two distinct versions of the same event—both remarkably restrained—liberates us from the tedious work of trying to literalize either of them and argue that the ascension is a historical event. As in the case of the resurrection narratives, let us recognize that the experience and conviction of Jesus’ exaltation are not to be identified with the story, and also that these narratives are written to suggest through their choice of symbols the deeper significance of the event (189).

I have often wondered at the two ascension accounts in Luke, with the first reported in Luke 24 as occurring on the evening of the first Easter, and the second (Acts 1) occurring some forty days later. Modern cosmology also challenges a strictly literal reading of the ascension stories since we know that heaven is not located vertically above us. But Johnson is not merely demythologising in the interests of providing an account more palatable to modern sensibilities or worldview:

Although the story of Jesus’ ascension appears in only two New Testament writings, Mark and Luke-Acts, the conviction that Jesus is now in heaven and “exalted,” and “glorified,” and “enthroned” is found everywhere in the New Testament (188).

The ascension is a remythologisation of the world. Jesus is now ascended, now enthroned, now reigning; the church are those gathered around his throne, receiving the gift and gifts of his Spirit to witness to his reign in the midst of the world. He is at the right hand of the Father, and we, in him. And so Barth says,

Christ is now, as the Bearer of humanity, as our Representative, in the place where God is and in the way in which God is. Our flesh, our human nature, is exalted in Him to God. The end of His work is that we are with Him above. We with Him beside God (Dogmatics in Outline, 125).

But not simply with God but also sent by God.

His departure means not only an end but also a beginning… Christ founds his Church by going to the Father, by making Himself known to His Apostles. … Christ is the Lord. That is what all creation, what all nations should know. The conclusion of Christ’s work is therefore not an opportunity given to the Apostles for idleness, but it is their being sent out into the world. Here there is no rest possible; here there is rather a running and racing; here is the start of the mission, the sending of the Church into the world and for the world (127).

Migliore on Same-Sex Relationships

Three FriendsIn his chapter on the doctrine of humanity, Migliore includes the following paragraph:

Barth’s second assertion must also be carefully qualified to avoid the implication that unmarried persons are any less called to a life in relationship with others than are those who marry, or that abiding friendships and committed partnerships of persons of the same sex may not also reflect in their own way the divine intention that human life is to be lived with and for others. As Paul Lehmann has contended, while Scripture unquestionably sees the relationship of man and woman as a paradigmatic and foundational instance of life in reciprocal love and fidelity, of commitment to life together with full respect for otherness and difference, this is not to be understood as a limiting or exclusive instance. A reading of Scripture governed by the centrality of God’s steadfast covenantal love and the call to new life in community with God and others will not be constrictive in scope but open to a multiplicity of signs or parables of life in depth of fellowship made possible by God’s grace (Migliore, Faith Seeking Understanding, 3rd ed, 150; original emphasis).

Here, Migliore cautiously opens the door to same-sex relationships and more precisely, same-sex marriage, as a parable of God’s intent for life-in-relation, though he also admits that such relationships are not in accordance with the foundational creational paradigm, and they must also pattern covenantal fidelity.

At one level, of course, same-sex relationships as examples of life-in-relation may certainly reflect God’s creational intent for humanity; all manner of friendships and partnerships may demonstrate the kind of love, kindness, compassion, mutuality and inclusivity that God intends for his human creation. Whether, however, this life of depth-in-fellowship made possible by divine grace includes same-sex sexual relationships is an entirely different question and the blurring of these lines should not taken lightly. Here, it seems to me, it is precisely the sexual differentiation between male and female—and not simply the personal differentiation between partners—that is crucial. It is the fruitful union of male and female resulting in children in the divine image that is “foundational” and “paradigmatic” of God’s intention, not only as a sign of covenantal life in fidelity and relationship, but more deeply, of the oneness and unity that exists between Father, Son and Holy Spirit, between Christ and his church, between Christ and the believer.

That not every heterosexual coupling is fruitful in actually producing a child does not set this fundamental creational reality aside, but rather underlines the reality that it is this kind of differentiated-in-unity sexual relationship that functions as a sign of God’s covenantal fidelity.

Fishing buddiesIt is worth noting, finally, that it is Migliore’s hermeneutical lens—the “centrality of God’s steadfast covenantal love and the call to new life in community”—that allows him to make this reading. Also at work is his earlier dictum that “a major task of theology today is to recover a liberative understanding of the authority of Scripture” (46). Together, these hermeneutical moves allow Migliore to set aside a consistent biblical witness against homosexual sex in the name of what he considers a more central theological ideal.

This highlights a crucial issue with respect to theological interpretation of Scripture—whether and to what extent we may use a theological lens derived from scripture to set aside particular biblical texts. That everyday Christians and academic theologians do this regularly is unquestioned. For example, most Christians set aside strict observance of the Sabbath and other aspects of Mosaic law on the basis of a theological account of the significance of Jesus. But is such a procedure always legitimate? Specifically, is Migliore’s contention in this paragraph legitimate?  Given the unequivocal nature of both the Old and New Testaments with respect to this matter, Migliore’s judgement (following Lehmann) that the “unquestioned” biblical paradigm and foundation is not to be understood as “limiting” or “exclusive” is unwarranted.

If my account of how the Scriptures are to be read with respect to this matter is accurate, this leaves the church in a much more difficult cultural space when seeking to maintain what it considers faithful witness to the gospel, while extending generous and authentic welcome and acceptance to gay people. This will become even more difficult and complex should anticipated legal changes in this country with respect to gay marriage go ahead.

Scripture on Sunday – Philippians 2:12

Phil 2-12Philippians 2:12
So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Paul has just written or included the magnificent “Christ-hymn” of vv. 6-11 which speaks of Christ’s self-emptying, his humiliation, obedience and subsequent exaltation, which he also prefaced with the exhortation to “let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (v. 5). Therefore, in view of the graphic example of Jesus’ commitment and obedience to the will of the Father, Paul now exhorts the Philippians also to “work out” their own salvation.

As already indicated, the first thing to remember with respect to Paul’s admonition here is to set it in its own historical and literary context. It is possible to treat this text as a piece of general Christian advice separated from its context so that to “work out one’s salvation” can be filled with just about any kind of content. Further, it can be treated in such an individualistic way that working out one’s own salvation is something one does and achieves on one’s own, apart from and without the community of God’s people. Finally, the text can be approached as a theological battle ground where the issues of salvation by faith apart from works, or the relation between God’s work and human work are discussed in an abstract manner as though there were no context at all, and as though we need to carefully explain what Paul really meant, because Paul was not quite careful enough in what he has written here. So the major question for us is: What did Paul mean when he wrote this phrase?

The context for this verse probably goes all the way back to Paul’s exhortation in 1:27 which also includes a reference to Paul’s presence and absence:

Only, live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent and hear about you, I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel.

Paul, imprisoned in Rome and so very far away from his beloved Philippians, writes to encourage them to stand firm in the gospel in the face of persecution and suffering (vv. 28-30), disunity (2:1-4), and the crooked and depraved age in which they live (2:14-16). Whether he is present or absent he wants them to live “in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” So, too, in 2:12 he writes that he wishes them to obey his commands “not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence.”

The particular command Paul now wants them to observe is that they “work out their own salvation” (tēn heautōn sōtērian katergazesthe). It should go without saying that Paul is not here saying that we save ourselves by our own works, as is perhaps suggested by Zerwick & Grosvenor: “do your best to bring about your own salvation in fear and trembling…” (596). Elsewhere Paul insists that believers are saved, not on the basis of their own works, but by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ (e.g. Romans 3:21-26; 11:6; Ephesians 2:8-10; Titus 3:5). Even in Philippians Paul refuses to seek any righteousness of his own, but only that which comes from God alone through faith in Jesus Christ (3:9).

To say this, however, is not to say that the believer is passive, that no response or action is required. Just the opposite! Having been “found in Christ” and having received the gift of righteousness that “comes through faith in Christ,” believers

Must apply to its fullest consequences what is already given by God in principle. The believer is called to self-activity, to active pursuit of the will of God, to the promotion of the spiritual life in himself, to the realisation of the virtues of the Christian life, and to a personal application of salvation. He must “work out” what God in His grace has “worked in” (Müller, The Epistle of Paul to the Philippians [NICNT (1955)], 91).

Even Müller’s good counsel, however, is too abstracted from the immediate context. Within the flow of Paul’s argument, to work out one’s salvation means adopting the way of Christ in humility and service to others, in costly obedience to the will of God, pursuing a unity of love and purpose amongst the people of God, offering steadfast witness to the world as we live as the children of God, holding fast to Christ as our only righteousness, and looking forward to his coming as our only hope. To work out one’s salvation entails shouldering our share of the mission, and resisting all attempts to dilute our faith, and all threats to the unity and work of the church.

One of the wonderful features of the letter to the Philippians is the catalogue of vibrant examples presented for the church to emulate; Jesus, Timothy, Epaphroditus and Paul himself, are all set forth as exemplary examples of Christian dedication and service, and all show what it means to work out our salvation. The Christian is called to live the Jesus way today and tomorrow, looking for opportunities to humbly serve others for their benefit, and the gospel for God’s glory, as they long for and await the Lord’s return.

Reading a Wordsmith…

David Bentley Hart 2In the last week I have been reading David Bentley Hart’s The Doors of the Sea, which I bought because (a) I had heard more and more of Hart as a theologian with a growing reputation, and (b) it looked like a popular treatment of theodicy, the subtitle being Where Was God in the Tsunami?. Hart is an eastern orthodox theologian, philosopher and cultural commentator who has taught at a number of institutions in North America.

The Doors of the Sea is only a short work (109 small-format pages), and although I am only halfway through the book, I now know more than I did previously—for example, that Hart is a wordsmith—a man of letters, exhibiting a breadth of knowledge encompassing diverse disciplines and several languages, writing with a beautiful, literary hand, all the while straining and extending the limits of my vocabulary with words such as supererogatory, mellifluous and littorals (at least I have seen them before), as well as catenate, captious, longanimity, irrecuperable and vegetal (I can guess what these last two mean), apotropaic, delitescent and umbratile; this, together with his very long sentences making for quite dense prose—and which I am trying to emulate in this sentence!—has further enlightened me that this is also probably not the popular level book that I had initially anticipated.

But it is a very good and thought-provoking book, and I will write a review on it when I am finished. In the meanwhile I will keep the trusty at the ready (though even that was insufficient for three of the words, and I had to go to the Oxford English Dictionary!). To finish, and to further whet your appetite, let me give a sample of a long sentence read yesterday:

As soon as one sheds the burden of the desire for total explanation—as soon as one has come to see the history of suffering as a contingency and an absurdity, in which grace is ever at work but upon which it does not depend, and has come also to see the promised end of all things not as the dialectical residue of a great cosmic and moral process, but as something far more glorious than the pitiable resources of fallen time could ever yield—one is confronted with only this bare choice: either one embraces the mystery of created freedom and accepts that the union of free spiritual creatures with the God of love is a thing so wonderful that the power of creation to enslave itself to death must be permitted by God; or one judges that not even such rational freedom is worth the risk of a cosmic fall and the terrible injustice of the consequences that follow from it (68-69).

The “Practical” Trinity – Catherine Mowry LaCugna

Catherine LaCugnaIn my Introduction to Systematic Theology class I often have students research one of the “great” theologians or engage a classical theological text. I am usually troubled that my selection is entirely male, although thankfully, that is now beginning to change with some outstanding female theologians emerging. The reason for the selection is simply that the history of Christian thought has, until recent decades, been largely a male story. This year, however, I decided I had to change this imbalance and so included a reading by Catherine Mowry LaCugna alongside those by Athanasius, Luther and Barth. I suspect that LaCugna’s God For Us will not actually be viewed in the future as a “classic,” although it was a celebrated volume when it was published in the early 1990s and still commands much respect today. The feminist Catholic theologian died prematurely in May 1997, at only forty-four years of age.

In our seminar we focussed on LaCagna’s final chapter, “The Practical Trinity.” LaCugna writes beautifully and passionately and has an amazing vision of “the household of God” understood through the lens of Jesus’ life and teaching.

The form of God’s life in the economy dictates both the shape of our experience of that life and our reflection on that experience. Led by the Spirit more deeply into the life of Christ, we see the unveiled face of the living God. God’s glory is beheld in Jesus Christ who is the instrument of our election, our adoption as daughters and sons of God, our redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our sins, and the cause of our everlasting inheritance of glory (Ephesians). In order to formulate an ethics that is authentically Christian, an ecclesiology and sacramental theology that are christological and pneumatological, a spirituality that is not generic but is shaped by the Spirit of God, Spirit of Christ, we must adhere to the form of God’s self-revelation, God’s concrete existence as Christ and Spirit. The purpose of the discipline of theology is to contemplate and serve that economy, to throw light on it if possible, so that we may behold the glory of God, doxa theou, ever more acutely.[1]

For LaCugna, the doctrine of the trinity is a way of contemplating the mystery of God and of ourselves, a heuristic framework for correct thought about God and ourselves in relation to God.[2] All correct thought about God begins here, with what God has actually done in the economy of salvation in Christ and through the Spirit. Here we may know the God who comes to us.

At the heart of all reality, including the household of God, is the personal God whose being God for Us by Catherine Mowry LaCugnais communion, the God who exists toward and for another. The reign of God, the household of God exists where this form of life—exemplified by Jesus—is evident and practised. Jesus is both the exemplar and the criterion of the reign of God, both in his life and in his teaching. According to LaCugna, Christian orthopraxis must correspond to what we believe to be true about God, and what is true about God is known via his activity in the economy of salvation.[3]

The divine archē, the divine origin and rule, is of great concern for LaCugna, who insists that the “monarchy” of God refers to the trinity rather than simply to the Father alone. God’s monarchy is “relational, personal and shared,” a rule of “personhood, love and communion.”[4] LaCugna resists the substantialist ontologies that have often characterised Christian reflection on the being of God. God is not a divine “substance,” but three persons. She argues that the Cappadocians understood the trinity such that “hypostasis (person) was predicated as prior to and constitutive of ousia (nature).”[5] This establishes the ontological priority of personhood over nature, and so provides the ontological ground of relation and communion.

LaCugna suggests that the doctrine of the trinity elaborated by the Cappadocians “dared the Christian imagination” to think of God differently, and so to relinquish all forms of domination and hierarchy.[6] This, perhaps, takes us to the very heart of LaCugna’s project: to stir and renew the Christian imagination in ways shaped by the triune God as revealed in the economy of salvation. That is, to imagine a church and a society grounded in values of communion, inclusion, relationship, personhood, equality, mutuality and generous self-giving service. “This is the lofty vocation of the members of the church of Jesus Christ, to be stewards (oikonomoi) of God’s economy, to serve others (diakonia), to preach the message of the reign of God (kerygma), to promote communion (koinonia).”[7]

Living trinitarian faith means living God’s life: living from and for God, from and for others. Living trinitarian faith means living as Jesus Christ lived, in persona Christi: preaching the gospel; relying totally on God; offering healing and reconciliation; rejecting laws, customs, conventions that place persons beneath rules; resisting temptation; praying constantly; eating with modern-day lepers and other outcasts; embracing the enemy and the sinner; dying for the sake of the gospel if it is God’s will. Living trinitarian faith means living according to the power and presence of the Holy Spirit: training the eyes of the heart on God’s face and name proclaimed before us in the economy; responding to God in faith, hope and love; eventually becoming unrestrictedly united with God. Living trinitarian faith means living together in harmony and communion with every other creature in the common household of God, “doing all things to the praise and glory of God.” Living trinitarian faith means adhering to the gospel of liberation from sin and fractured relationship: liberation from everything that misleads us into false worship, from everything that promotes unnatural, nonrelational personhood, from everything that displaces us to an exclusive household, from everything that deceives us into believing self-aggrandizing archisms.[8]

Why do I suspect that LaCugna’s work will not become a “classic”? Although I affirm her approach to the trinity in general terms, and appreciate her insights into the implications of trinitarian doctrine for practical Christian faith and life, I find that I cannot follow her in collapsing the immanent trinity into the economic trinity. I prefer to follow Barth here, and the tradition more generally, than Rahner or Moltmann. It is certainly the case that we know the immanent trinity only by means of God’s self-revelation in the economy, and that what we know of God via the divine self-revelation is true and faithful knowledge. Nevertheless, God is more than has been revealed though not other than what has been revealed. Further, if I understand LaCugna correctly—and I grant the point that I may not—her construal of the trinity makes God dependent on the creation for God’s own being and is thus a panentheistic doctrine of God that compromises both the divine sovereignty and the grace of creation and redemption. The tradition does not make this leap, and I suspect that future orthodoxy will not either. God, fully God within the divine triune being prior to and without the creature, turned toward that which is not God in creation and redemption graciously welcoming and including the creature in the divine life. Barth’s insistence on the immanent trinity retains this emphasis.

[1] LaCugna, God for Us, 378.

[2] Ibid., 379.

[3] Ibid., 383.

[4] Ibid., 390, 91.

[5] Ibid., 389.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid., 401.

[8] Ibid., 400-01.

Worship on Sunday – Glorious Day

Sometimes—not often—I hear a worship song that I like immediately. It happened the first time I heard In Christ Alone, and it happened with this song as well. Perhaps it is because there is a kerygmatic element to them: both songs tell the story, proclaim the gospel, preach Jesus. And yet the pro me element is also palpable—“living he loved me.” Enjoy!

(If the video does not work, go to the band’s website where there are also other videos, including the story behind the song.)

One day when heaven was filled with his praises
One day when sin was as black as could be
Jesus came forth to be born of a virgin
Dwelt among men my example is he
The Word became flesh and the light shined among us
His glory revealed

Living he loved me, dying he saved me  
Buried he carried my sins far away         
Rising he justified freely forever   
One day he’s coming O glorious day! O glorious day!

One day they led him up Calvary’s mountain
One day they nailed him to die on a tree
Suffering anguish despised and rejected
Bearing our sins my Redeemer is he
The hands that healed nations stretched out on a tree
And took the nails for me

One day the grave could conceal him no longer
One day the stone rolled away from the door
Then he arose over death he had conquered
Now ascended my Lord evermore
Death could not hold him, the grave could not keep him
From rising again

One day the trumpet will sound for his coming
One day the skies with his glories will shine
Wonderful day my beloved one bringing
My Saviour Jesus is mine