Monday 27 December 2010

Trinitarian musings

Castle Perichoresis
What a load of rubbish some people write about the Trinity. Daniel Migliore is among the more lucid. It's all about, according to these sages, interpenetration and relationship. Chuck in a few more syrupy synonyms - mutuality, communion and perichoresis (to trot out a really big one to impress the plebs) and the cake is baked (or perhaps more accurately, half baked.)

The word perichoresis means "mutual indwelling" or "being-in-one-another." What does that actually mean? That God is "up himself"? The model theologians of this ilk offer could just as easily be used to proclaim that the Trinitarian God is not so much generous and self-giving, but congenitally self-absorbed.
The three of the Trinity "indwell" and pervade each other; they "encircle" each other, being united in an exquisite divine dance...
That's nice as poetry and metaphor, and on that level most Christians would have no problem with it, but the key question is whether it describes anything real outside Migliore's head?

The thing is, the perichoresis brigade are, almost always, convinced that this is a matter of revelation and does describe God's actual nature and essence. This in turn makes it attractive - though certainly not exclusively - to the intellectual wing of the Reformed tradition, as championed by their Chief Priests; Torrance, Kruger, and of course...
The notion of a cosmic perichoresis implicit in the writings of recent trinitarian theologians, and articulated more precisely in Colin Gunton’s 1992 Bampton Lectures, represents the culmination of more than half a century of trinitarian reflection and debate since Karl Barth re-opened the door in his biblically-based [cough, splutter] presentation of the doctrine of the Trinity.
Thus, on this dubious bit of dogma are many shining, multi-turreted castles-in-the-air built. And do note, the version of perichoresis hawked around today is to the understanding of the Church Fathers what refined sugar is to molasses. What would those crusty old bishops at Nicea have made of it all?

Catholic writers like Leonardo Boff at least have the good sense to see perichoresis as having a functional political value. "The mutual relationships among three coequal persons within the Godhead have been argued to provide a model  both for human relationships within communities and for Christian political and social theorizing."

Uh oh, I think he just lost most of the Kruger crowd.

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