Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Journal of the Institute of Reformed Baptist Studies
Volume: JIRBS 03:0 (NA 2016)
Article: Book Reviews
Author: Anonymous

Book Reviews

Faith, Freedom and the Spirit: The Economic Trinity in Barth, Torrance and Contemporary Theology
Paul D. Molnar (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2015, 448pp.),
reviewed by James E. Dolezal

A few years ago Bruce McCormack of Princeton Seminary ignited a civil war among Barthian scholars by insisting that God’s act of election in the covenant of grace is constitutive of his being as triune. McCormack maintains:

The decision for the covenant of grace is the ground of God’s triunity and, therefore, of the eternal generation of the Son and of the eternal procession of the Holy Spirit from Father and Son. In other words, the works of God ad intra (the trinitarian processions) find their ground in the first of the works of God ad extra (viz. election). (“Grace and Being,” in The Cambridge Companion to Karl Barth [Cambridge University Press, 2000], 103)

Debate has since raged over whether or not this account of divine actualism is the genuine position of Barth himself, and indeed whether the notion of a God who freely decides to become triune falls within the bounds of broad Christian orthodoxy. One could interpret McCormack’s thesis as a literalistic outworking of Karl Rahner’s famous “Rule” that the economic Trinity is identical with the immanent Trinity and vice versa. But if God’s very being is grounded in his decision regarding the historic economy, does this not undermine his freedom? Is he not made to depend upon the created redemptive-historical order to be the God he is? This concern motivates Paul Molnar’s recent volume, Faith, Freedom and the Spirit (FFS). Molnar, a Catholic Barthian who teaches at St. John’s University in New York, has previously detailed his objection to collapsing the immanent Trinity into the economic in his volume,

Divine Freedom and the Doctrine of the Immanent Trinity (T&T Clark, 2002).

Molnar’s central argument in FFS is that if God is not free in the economic actions of his Word and Spirit, then he cannot give freedom of faith to the Christian. This freedom of God’s economic activity in his Son as incarnate and his Spirit as the enabler of faith is “grounded in God’s eternal election as the election of the Triune God” (419). God must be free to be God with creation or without creation. But if God must necessarily choose to elect man in the covenant of grace simply in order to exist as triune, then, Molnar contends, he is no longer free as God but needs the world and the history of redemption in order to be the Trinity. Molnar’s objection to this notion of a dependent Trinity dominates the lion’s share of ...

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