Does Trinitarian Theology Support Women in the Pulpit? (Part 2 of 3)

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Part one discussed the need to address the issue of women preaching by examining what it means to be created in God’s image. Part two is a reflection on the Triune God. Part three will focus on the implications of the relationship of the immanent Trinity to understanding the imago Dei.

 

Part 2: Reflection on the Trinity

The Christian faith asserts that God is one, yet three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. To state in theological terms, God has a single divine essence (ousia), which is shared with three distinct persons (hypostaseis). “To say that God is one is intended to negate division, thus affirming the unity of divine being. To say that the persons are three is intended to negate singleness, thus affirming a communion in God.”[1] God is both diversified and unified. “Theologians sometimes employ the term perichoresis (‘interpenetration’) to refer to the interrelation, partnership, and mutual dependence of the Trinitarian members not only in the workings of God in the world but even more foundationally in their very subsistence as the one God.”[2] In other words, one cannot separate the immanent Trinity (God’s interior life) from the economic Trinity (God’s acts).

Though distinct, the three persons of the Trinity are interdependent of one another. Barth writes, “We have first of all to remember that the distinctions of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit do not signify a partition in God’s nature and activity. As Father, Son and Holy Spirit He is in His nature the one God completely and not partially.”[3] Barth continues to explain that the entirety of God is always at work, even in those things, which appear to be a distinctive work of one of the persons (modes) of the Trinity. Even the incarnation of the Son does not occur without the Father or the Spirit. “The Word’s becoming Man, like all the works of God, has to be regarded as the common work of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.”[4] Elizabeth Johnson beautifully sums up the cohesion of the personhood and community of the Trinity. She writes,

“At its most basic the symbol of the Trinity evokes a livingness in God, a dynamic coming and going with the world that points to an inner divine circling around in unimaginable relation. God’s relatedness to the world in creating, redeeming, and renewing activity suggests to the Christian mind that God’s own being is somehow similarly differentiated. Not an isolated, static, ruling monarch but a relational, dynamic, tripersonal mystery of love—who would not opt for the latter?”[5]

 

The relationship between the persons of the Trinity is foundational, yet the model of the Trinity that is most prevalent in classical theology is generational and processional. This model puts the Father as the first person, the Son as the second person, and the Holy Spirit as the third person in the Trinity. The Father receives precedence because it is from the Father that the Son is generated, and the Holy Spirit then proceeds from the Son. However, “Such a model carries an implicit subordinationism, for the second and third persons are in some sense aspects of the first and can never be genuinely and equally persons as is the first.”[6] This model is problematic in understanding the egalitarian relationship that exists within the Triune God. Instead of viewing the relationship of the Trinity as generational and processional, a relationship of mutuality is best. The persons of the Trinity express love through “mutual giving and receiving according to each one’s capacity and style.”[7]

Since theologians agree that God’s one essence is shared with all three persons of the Trinity, it is not possible to continue to affirm a hierarchal model of the Trinity. The term perichōrēsis “emerged as a substitute for the earlier patristic notion that the unity of God belonged to the person of God the Father.”[8] The mutual indwelling of the persons of the Trinity—perichōrēsis—implies that there is relational equality, or as LaCugna says, “Perichōrēsis provides a dynamic model of persons in communion based on mutuality and interdependence.”[9] Trinitarian theology speaks of an egalitarian relationship between the persons of the Trinity; therefore, this egalitarian relationship that exists in the immanent Trinity must guide us as we seek to interpret the meaning of humankind being created in the image of God.

 

[Next post, Part 3-Humankind, The Imago Dei]

 

[1] Elizabeth A. Johnson, She Who Is: The Mystery of God in Feminist Theological Discourse, 10th Anniversary ed. (New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 2009), 204.

[2] Stanley J. Grenz, Theology for the Community of God, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2000), 68.

[3] Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, vol. 1, The Doctrine of the Word of God, Part 2, ed. G.W. Bromiley and T. F. Torrance, trans. G. T. Thomason and Harold Knight (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2010), 33.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Johnson, 192.

[6] Ibid., 194.

[7] Ibid., 196.

[8] LaCugna, 270.

[9] Ibid., 271.

2 thoughts on “Does Trinitarian Theology Support Women in the Pulpit? (Part 2 of 3)

  1. Even if subordination of the Son and Holy Spirit were the case (I do not believe that it is based on the Athanasian Creed), what many fail to take into consideration is that every human being, male and female, is made in the image of G-d. Therefore, every one of us is reflects the image of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

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    1. Thank you for taking the time to comment! My post tomorrow will deal with the relation btw the Triune God and humankind created in the image of God. Instead of individual persons being created in the image of God, I believe that the scriptures show that it is male and female together/relationally and communally that is the image of God. Therefore all are equal regardless of gender and the emphasis is on humankind as a community and not individualism. Also this demonstrates that one gender does not reflect the image of God more the other.

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