Sunday, November 16, 2008

On Moltmann and the Trinity

       "If... we have to recognize the unity of the triune God in the perichoretic at-oneness of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, then this does not correspond to the solitary human subject in his relationship to himself; nor does it correspond, either, to a human subject in his claim to lordship over the world. It only corresponds to a human fellowship of people without privileges and without subordinances."
 - Jurgen Moltmann, The Trinity and the Kingdom of God (London: SCM Press, 1981).

       If I understand this correctly, basically, the Perichotic unity of the three divine persons is a non-hierarchical fellowship of open love -the image of the trinity is based on relationship. Moltmann's thesis is that love and relationship are the axiom of the Trinity and not distinction based on hierarchy in relationship. Hence, Moltomann is trying to avoid hierarchy (and "domination" in distinction) and bring to light "human freedom" found in a relationship of love. Further, a "person" takes part in this relationship by grace and thus one's understanding of the immanent Trinity comes from relationship. Moreover, our relationships in the world should reflect the image of God and therefore, one should focus on love and a non-hierarchical distinction in relationships. Fair enough, however, Moltmann is mistaken in five ways.
  1. First, in the Trinity, there is indeed equality and love; however, there is indeed distinction and hierarchy. Jesus does the work of the Father and the Spirit is also in clear subordination to both the Father and the Son (John 5:30; 8:42; 12:49; 14:10; 16:13).
  2. Second, a person does not relate equally to each person of the Trinity. Namely, one does not relate to God the Father the same way one relates to God the Son (I am too lazy to tease this out more).
  3. Richard Bauckham supports the second point and also adds a third criticism: "[this view] encourages us to apply to the term 'person' as univocally to the three divine persons as we do to human persons. But this is precisely what Moltmann himself warns should not be done in his useful section on 'trinitarian principle of uniqueness' (TKG, pp. 188ff; quoted at pp 189f)."
  4. Fourth, along with criticism three, Moltmann appears to focus too greatly on the subjective man-centered view of the Trinity. As if, a finite, sinful person should dictate the ontological reality of the transcendent God. The relationship that Moltmann presents is far too flexible. The distinction between immanence and economic is muddied by the rhetoric of socialism and relationship grounded in community.
  5. Fifth, Moltmann's trinitarian framework is founded in unbiblical axioms. The trinity does provide freedom. However, freedom isn't found in liberation from hierarchy. Instead, freedom is found in Christ, it is found in obedience to Christ and freedom from slavery of sin (Rom. 6:20; 8:1f). If one wants to discuss oppression, focus on sin; if one wants to discuss freedom (and the Kingdom of God for that matter), focus on the Cross of Christ (Lk. 9:23-27 cf. Mt. 10:40ff).
Here are Christ's sobering words:
       And He was saying to them all, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. For what is a man profited if he gains the world, and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and the holy angels. But I say to you truthfully, there are some of those standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God."
Luke 9:23-27

1 comment:

Ched said...

As if, a finite, sinful person should dictate the ontological reality of the transcendent God.

Well Said, MrMark.