“[The turn] to social Trinitarianism often becomes another version of the Spirit-centered view of Trinity in mission in that it detaches the political formation of the church from Christ and disperses the church into the world. This view starts by positing the analogy that as God is immanently in God’s self so also should the church be in mission. This in turn reduces the Creator/creature distinction, which in effect offers “an inordinately idealist account of social relations” and by extension, an idealistic (conceptual) account of mission (Husbands 2009: 125).

“This opens the door to a correlation of the work of the Spirit with whatever discourse of justice is offered to us by empire. In the words of Karen Kilby, social Trinitarians turn to the concept of divine perichoresis “to name what is not understood, to name whatever it is that makes the three Persons one.” But what happens in fact is that the concept perichoresis “is filled out rather suggestively with notions borrowed from our own experience of relationships and relatedness” (Kilby 2000: 442).

“This borrowing from the human experience is then problematically projected onto the inner-life of the Trinity, and then offered back as a model for human society (441). The social Trinitarian approach therefore leaves us susceptible to being absorbed by, as opposed to resisting, the political formation of empire because human society is the unacknowledged source of Trinitarian speculation. The church becomes a reflection of the predominant view of ‘shalom’ as found within the political discourse it finds itself in, reinforcing the logic of the Spirit-centered view of mission.”

3 Comments on limits of social Trinitarianism for political formation

  1. Patrick says:

    Resisting a “Spirit-centered view of mission”? I need to read the whole article, but that phrase leads me to think something is off-base? Isn’t mission Spirit-centered? (Not just in speculative theology, but in the NT, and particularly Luke-Acts)? Well, I guess it depends on what it means by Spirit-centered. But it seems to me that the trinitarian logic of grace implies the centrality of the Spirit, in terms of how we participate in what God is doing. As Nyssa put it, all things proceed from the Father through the Son and in the Spirit; and all things return to God (i.e., our serving him) in the Spirit through the Son unto the Father. It seems to me there is a pop-social trinitarianism that gets criticized by a pop-anti-social-trinitarianism. I think there are valid critiques. For example, many that have to do with people misrepresenting what the Father’s actually said (Gundton, Zizioulas come to mind). But that doesn’t mean that some version of social trinitarianism (as a theological construct) cannot be meaningful or suggestive for human sociality. I’ve actually been thinking about writing an article on this during the summer.

    Thanks for sharing this, Len!

  2. Patrick says:

    Oops, to clarify “what the Father’s actually said” refers to the church fathers (and the critique I have in mind is the typical East-West, threeness-oneness, Cappadocians-vs-Augustine paradigm).

  3. len says:

    I will send you the link – the paper is in draft form and not yet published.. an interesting read though, and I have been back and forth with Geoff on the subject of the Spirit in mission.