Gunton on Taxis in the Trinity

I know I’ve been doing a lot of quoting recently, but my blogging time is limited and quoting is easier than writing—not to mention that you’d probably rather read Gunton’s perspective on the Trinity than mine anyway.

I stumbled across this relevant bit from Colin Gunton in his The Promise of Trinitarian Theology, which I have as part of the Colin E. Gunton Theology Collection. (I sure do love having a digital library!)

It is often said that when the New Testament writers use the word ‘God’ simpliciter, they are referring to God the Father, so that Irenaeus is true to Scripture in speaking of Son and Spirit as the two hands of God, the two agencies by which the work of God the Father is done in the world. Indeed, Paul’s account of the progress of the risen and conquering Christ in 1 Corinthians 15 ends with the confession that when he hands the Kingdom over to the Father, God will be all in all (v. 28). Here, however, the priority of the Father is not ontological but economic. Such talk of the divine economy has indeed implications for what we may say about the being of God eternally, and would seem to suggest a subordination of taxis—of ordering within the divine life—but not one of deity or regard. It is as truly divine to be the obedient self-giving Son as it is to be the Father who sends and the Spirit who renews and perfects. Only by virtue of the particularity and relatedness of all three is God God.

Therefore, while it is right to affirm both Western and Eastern emphases on the Father as the ‘fount’ of the Trinity—though noting and disapproving its possibly impersonal connotations—this should not be at the expense of being able to speak of a kind of equality. . . . Despite the danger that it might suggest a subordination of the personal to the impersonal, the use of the concept of the homoousion—probably best translated today as ‘one in being’ rather than ‘of one substance’—is of great value in this context. It should not be understood as in any way implying that God is in some sense ‘substance’, or that there is impersonal being under- or over-lying the three persons in relation. Its function rather is to ensure that we do not suppose there to be degrees of deity in the Godhead. The Son and the Spirit are as truly and fully God as is the Father, in and through their economically subordinate functions of doing the will of the Father in the world. (197-98)

I find these remarks particularly interesting since, to my knowledge, Gunton wasn’t writing to either defend or rebut a particular view of the man-woman relationship.

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One Response to Gunton on Taxis in the Trinity

  1. Dax May 19, 2008 at 3:08 pm #

    Hi Phil,

    Just looking for the SBCC wordpress softball update site and ran across you… so, greetings! Edifying blog, thanks for the good quotes and depth of thought on the economic functions of the Trinity… especially good for me, teaching a class on the Holy Spirit… one of the three persons whose activity in us makes me pause in wonder!

    In Him,
    Dax (associate, SBCC)