Introduction by Derrick Peterson
What good is the Trinity? Unbeknownst to some, a sort of internecine war amongst theologians regarding the practical, blue-collared upside to believing God is a Trinity rather than merely a "monotheistic" singularity has been raging as of late.
If one were to ask Miroslav Volf, for example, he would boldly declare (as he does in his famous essay by the same title) that "The Trinity is our Social Program." While wanting to be cautious, saying that we cannot conflate the infinite and the finite, or the eternal and the temporal, nonetheless for Volf the Trinity models for us the perfect (egalitarian) society. The same could be said of many others like Leonardo Boff, or Volf's mentor, Jurgen Moltmann.
Or, to put it somewhat cynically, when it was noticed by my own evangelical brethren that the trinity could be weaponized on behalf of prior party lines, it became the centerpiece of the so-called "subordination debate" regarding relationships between men and women. The point being that both egalitarians and complementarians believed the structure of internal relations among the Trinity had important things to say regarding how the church and society at large are structured.
And yet that the "Trinity is our social program" (whatever that might be) has not gone uncontested. A disquiet with this "blueprint" model of the Trinity has been brewing. Among the likes of theologians such as Kathryn Tanner, Karen Kilby, and Stephen Holmes, there arises the suspicion that the Trinity often in these projects becomes distorted as a mere cipher for other goals. In addition, this new breed of "social" trinitarianism (taking that term broadly) seems to often get the history of its own discipline badly wrong.
So what is the rosy-eyed trinitarian to do? Often overlooked in these discussions is the excellent work of Thomas F. Torrance. For this Throwback Thursday post, we invite you to read Eric G. Flett's work on T. F. Torrance and his efforts producing a "Trinitarian Theology of Culture," originally published in New Wine, New Wineskin's academic journal Cultural Encounters: A Journal for the Theology of Culture vol. 5 no. 1 (Winter 2009). After, check out his equally excellent book on the same topic, Persons, Powers, and Pluralities: Toward A Trinitarian Theology of Culture.
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