Periodical Reviews -- By: Anonymous
Bsac 162:646 (April 2005) p. 231
By The Faculty and Library Staff of Dallas Theological Seminary
Robert D. Ibach, Editor
“The Trinity in Contemporary Theology: Questioning the Social Trinity,” Norman Metzler, Concordia Theological Quarterly 67 (July/October 2003): 270-87.
Metzler, professor of theological studies at Concordia University, Portland, Oregon, expresses concern for the lack of biblical and patristic moorings among some contemporary theologians for what is popularly termed “social Trinitarianism”—what has become “the common denominator for virtually all contemporary trinitarian explorations” (p. 270).
Over half of the article traces the Trinitarian thought of primary thinkers in the twentieth century beginning with Karl Barth and Karl Rahner. Metzler rightly observes that over against the classical idea of “person” as an “individual substance” even the most eclectic schools of Christian theology today unify around the concept of “person” as “person-in-relationship.” Metzler articulates the theologies of Jürgen Moltmann, Wolfhart Pannenberg, and Catherine LaCugna. While the work mentions in passing Leonardo Boff, Elizabeth Johnson, Ted Peters, and John Zizioulas, it surprisingly ignores other major Trinitarian theologians such as T. F. Torrance, Colin Gunton, and fellow Lutheran Robert Jenson.
Metzler’s critique of the “social Trinity” affirms certain social Trinitarian insights, such as “the biblical dynamic of the God who acts” rather than “the more static substantialist explications of God in the scholastic tradition” (p. 281). Yet he questions whether recent Trinitarian expositions project current concepts of personhood back onto God. Metzler states that the church fathers were far too sensitive to accusations of tritheism to purport the modern social formulations “in which three distinct and separate personalities are in some fashion not only economically but eternally three subjectivities mutually interrelating, as being-in-communion” (p. 283). A case in point, Metzler alleges, is that social Trinitarianism seems to force the Holy Spirit into a role of interpersonal equality, in spite of patristic formulations that suggest otherwise.
The author writes, “I am asking whether it could be possible for God economically to be relational, and indeed in the relations between the Father and the Son to be incarnationally interpersonal, and yet to acknowledge that this relationality has to do with the creation and the incarnation economically, and does not warrant being read into the divine personal being of God in se” (p. 284, italics his). Though acknowledging that social Trinitarians like Panne...
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