The Death of God & Transcendence

“God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?”

-Friedrich Nietzsche

“The true God is the hidden God”

-Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics II.1, 193

In reflecting about the death of God we want to read a certain kind of atheism back into the haunting words of Nietzsche. We want to view him the same way we view guys like Dawkins and Hitchens, but this is ultimately a mistake. If we put him in the same category we do to the New Atheists, we would miss the weight of his words. The death of God for Nietzsche is a cultural event. This poses an opportunity and a catastrophe, wherein the belief in transcendence has come to an end and when the culture wakes up to this reality, nihilism (infinite meaninglessness) will come creeping in. Nihilism, for Nietzsche, must be overcome. This is where his Übermench rises and overcomes.

Tomáš Halík, in his wonderful book ‘I Want You to Be’, argues that Nietzsche’s claim that “God is dead” can be seen maybe “not as only a sentence about God and against God but also one containing something of God’s message to us.” (p. 20) In this chapter Halík is writing about God speaking to us, and how often we only stop at God’s first word to us. Halík says this is a mistake. Like Abraham, who ‘at the moment God was hidden from him in incomprehensibility’ waited to hear God speak to him for a second time. Hope, no matter how small or incomprehensible, says Halík, is the chink in the armor through which the “still small voice” of God’s message can reach us. (p. 21)

We live in the shadow of Nietzsche’s Madman’s proclamation to the death of transcendence, Halík argues that this should be viewed as only the first sentence to us, which like Good Friday (the death of Christ), must be followed by a second sentence. Good Friday is an important message to us from God, but it certainly was not the final one. Here Halík offers his most lucid analysis:

“‘God is dead!’ That sentence uttered at the end of the nineteenth century continued to fascinate for the next hundred years. Maybe it was not only a sentence about God and against God but also one containing something of God’s message to us. A God who has not endured death is not truly Living. A faith that does not undergo Good Friday cannot attain the fullness of Easter. Crises of faith –– both personal and in histories of culture –– are an important part of the history of faith, of our communication with God, who is concealed and returns again to those who do not stop waiting for the unique and eternal Word to speak to them once more.” (p. 20)

The author of the book of Hebrews tells us much the same:

“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” (Hebrews 3:15)

David Bentley Hart thinks the time we live in the death of God, which is the death of a god that did not exist in the first place, is an opportunity to reclaim the true transcendence of God. For Hart the death of God was the death of the God of modernity and nihilism. In his essay “Impassibility as Transcendence”, Hart takes on both Thomists and modern fundamentalists alike. For him the language within the Thomist scheme of transcendence does not actually speak to God’s utter difference and transcendence, but falls short and looks as modern as any theology does today. The statement Hart seeks to give an answer to comes from Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange:

“God determining or determined: there is no other alternative.”

God, under both the Thomist  and the modern fundamentalists scheme, cannot avoid the problem that Lagrange puts forth, because He is simply another being among beings and is thus caught in the scheme of finite existence and causes. This is a grave mistake because God properly defined within the classical theistic metaphysical tradition is that God is the ground and source of all being. Hart expounds (at length) on the definition of God’s transcendence:

“God’s being is necessary, that is, not simply because it is inextinguishable  or eternally immune to nothingness, but because it transcends the dialectic of existence and nonexistence altogether; it is simple and infinite actuality, utterly pure of ontic determination, the “is” both of “it is” and of the “it is not”. It transcends, that is to say, even the distinction between finite act and finite potency, since both exist by virtue of their participation in God’s infinite actuality, in which might be always supereminently is. God is absolute, that is to say, in the most proper sense: he is eternally “absolved” of finite causality, so much so that he need not––in any simple univocal sense––determine in order to avoid being determined. His transcendence is not something achieved by the negation of its “opposite””.

He ends his scathing essay calling for Christians to see to it that this god remains dead:

“It is principally the god of modernity––the god of pure sovereignty––who has died for modern humanity, and perhaps theology has no nobler calling for now than to see that he remains dead, and that every attempt to revive him is thwarted: in the hope that, in becoming willing accomplices in his death, Christians may help to prepare their world for the return of the true God revealed in Christ, in all the mystery of his transcendent and impassible love.”

For Halík and Hart alike, the death of God is something to be seen as a hopeful event, because the death of this particular god is not the transcendent Triune God revealed in Christ, but a god who has never existed in the first place. Let us see it as an opportunity, not a catastrophe, that the true God revealed in Christ will once again speak His eternal Word to those of us who wait patiently in the midst of His seeming hiddenness and silence.

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Beauty

“Beauty is the word that shall be our first. Beauty is the last thing which the thinking intellect dares to approach, since only it dances as an uncontained splendor around the double constellation of the true and the good and their inseparable relation to one another. Beauty is the disinterested one, without which the ancient world refused to understand itself, a word which both imperceptibly and yet unmistakably has bid farewell to our new world, a world of interests, leaving it to its own avarice and sadness. No longer loved or fostered by religion, beauty is lifted from its face as a mask, and its absence exposes features on that face which threaten to become incomprehensible to man. We no longer dare to believe in beauty and we make of it a mere appearance in order the more easily to dispose of it. Our situation today shows that beauty demands for itself at least as much courage and decision as do truth and goodness, and she will not allow herself to be separated and banned from her two sisters without taking them along with herself in an act of mysterious vengeance. We can be sure that whoever sneers at her name as if she were the ornament of a bourgeois past — whether he admits it or not — can no longer pray and soon will no longer be able to love.”

-Hans Urs von Balthasar, THE GLORY OF THE LORD: A THEOLOGICAL AESTHETICS, VOL. 1 -SEEING THE FORM

Sacrifice & Obedience

And it is by God’s will that we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

-Hebrews 10:10, NRSV

“And take up their cross.” That cross is already there, ready, from the very beginning; we need only take it up. But to keep us from believing that we must simply choose any arbitrary cross, or simply pick out our suffering as we will, Jesus emphasizes that each of us has his or her own cross, ready, appointed, and appropriately measured by God.”

-Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

This year as part of my Lenten reading schedule, one of the books I am going through is Rowan William’s “The Sign and the Sacrifice: The Meaning of the Cross and Resurrection”. William’s has some wonderful reflections on the Cross and what it means for us today. In the second chapter “The Sacrifice” Williams seeks to reflect on the Cross as a “sacrifice”. He explores first what sacrifice means in the Old Testament, which for many may come as a surprise that sacrifice was a pretty diverse in its meaning. It wasn’t just sacrificing animals to keep God happy, it was much more nuanced and context specific than that. At length Williams writes about what is the common thread between the different meanings and purposes for sacrifices:

“But in the middle of it all is one great governing idea: a sacrifice is something given over into the hands of God, most dramatically when it is a life given over with the shedding of blood. That gift of life or blood somehow casts a veil over the sin or sickness or disorder of an individual or of a whole people. It removes the consequences of sin; it offers the possibility of a relationship unclouded by guilt with God; it is a gift that stands between God and the failures or disorders of the world. The gift is given – and it’s a costly gift because it’s about life and blood – so that peace and communication may be re-established between heaven and earth. And this was always symbolized by the fact that a sacrificed animal would be cooked and cut up and shared in the meal, which expressed not only fellowship with one another, but restored fellowship with God.” (Kindle Locations 290-296)

It is something given to God to restore fellowship. Sacrifice is done out of obedience, and Williams links Christ’s obedience at every moment of his life as a sacrifice to God for us. “Obedience”, Williams writes, “is not springing to attention and hastily doing what you’re ordered. Obedience is a harmony of response to God so that God sees in the world a reflection of his own life. Our actions in obedience reflect his.” (Kindle Locations 375-376) This a helpful frame for what it means to be obedient to God. He is not just an arbitrary rule giver shouting at us to stand at attention like mindless drones. No, obedience to God is us participating in the work of God. In our action we reflect God’s action towards us back to Him. This is what Christ did. The obedience of Christ “is a loving gift which directly and uninterruptedly and perfectly reflects God’s own loving gift. It’s the Son watching what the Father does and ‘playing it back’ to him. (John 5.19)”(Kindle Locations 382-383)

In Jesus, Williams continues, “we see all of that vast infinite eternal reality happening in a human life, happening in a weary, dusty-footed unkempt man completing a long journey, sitting down with his friends at the end of the day, breaking bread and pouring wine.”(Kindle Locations 391-393)

For He is the Word of God (John 1) and “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.” (Hebrews 1.3) When we think of sacrifice let us reflect on the obedience of Christ that His whole life, at every moment, was a sacrifice to His Father. When we think of the cross “as sacrifice, however complex the ideas around it, what the language is trying to get us to see is that this new possibility is something objectively done for us, done on our behalf for us.”(Kindle Locations 410-412) Moreover, because of Christ it is possible for us to be human again, “to grow as we move along that living pathway to reconciliation with God and each other.” (Kindle Locations 421-422)

I have quoted Williams at quite some length, but let me cite him once more to drive home the fundamental truth which we should daily meditate on:

“Priests make atonement by performing sacrifices. But in the New Testament the subject is God. God makes peace with us, working through us, acting for us. It is God’s act, outside us, not up to us; something that God has accomplished.” (Kindle Locations 434-435)

God in Christ has done what we never could have. He reconciled us to Himself, not because of any foreseen faith or obedience on our part, but on the faith and obedience of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Shallot Acrobats and The Joy of Creation

“The Christian apprehension of creation requires and involves the principle that creation is benefit. It shows us God’s good pleasure as the root, the foundation and the end of divine creation.”

-Karl Barth, CD III.1 p.331

“God’s gracious action in creation belongs from the first to that delight, pleasure, and regard that the Trinity enjoys from eternity, as an outward and unnecessary expression of that love; and thus creation must be received before all else as a gift and as beauty.”

-David Bentley Hart, The Beauty of the Infinite, p. 249

Being a father of two young children you come across things you would not otherwise discover if you didn’t have kids. In particular we came across a wonderful cartoon called “Sarah and Duck”. It is a British cartoon in which a 7 year old girl lives life with her pet duck named “Duck”. They do very quirky and fun things in each episode, all filled with the joy of existence. What I enjoy most about the show is how everything in creation (bugs, the moon, clouds, rainbows etc) all are charged with a personal existence, and joy is an essential part in which Sarah and Duck participate in. It sees the ordinary as something deeply joyful and magical; from shallots desiring to be acrobats, to bugs playing in a bluegrass band for a bug party, or Venus rearranging the stars; all of creation is important and interesting.  Creation here is not something accidental, but purposeful, good and meant to be explored and enjoyed. Here is a little clip of the show. I highly recommend it.

In a way the show reflects something very true about creation and the way we should see it and experience it. To see creation the way God sees it we must become like children; to enter the kingdom Christ says we must become like little children. (Matthew 18:3) Moreover, David Bentley Hart in his book ‘The Beauty of the Infinite’ gives us some reflection on creation and delight:

“The delightfulness of created things expresses the delightfulness of God’s infinite distance. For Christian thought, delight is the premise of any sound epistemology: it is delight that constitutes creation, and so only delight can comprehend it, see it aright, understand its grammar. Only in loving creations beauty — only in seeing that creation truly is beauty — does one apprehend what creation is.” (p. 254)

Growing Old

“It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”

G.K. Chesterton, in a post I shared earlier, says that God “has the eternal appetite of infancy” and we have sinned and grown old. I came across these words of Chesterton’s months ago, and I can’t seem to get them out of my head for even one day. Possibly because it reveals so much in myself about my condition and how I spend my days running from the truth of who I have become. I have sinned and grown old. The days are spent looking at screens, and going to bed looking at screens. Even though a lot of my time looking at screens tends to be for school and writing, even now as I write this post, it is still shaping my idea of what delight is. Or it is eroding whatever delight I have left in me for the ordinary things around me. More than this I feel the aching of longing for Christ to return and restore the beauty and peace creation began with. I no longer take much true delight in the gift and beauty which creation is.

Recently I finished reading the second novel in C.S. Lewis’s space trilogy “Perelandra”. Lewis has a way of penetrating through and cause you to live in wonder with his writing even if it is for just a moment. This theme of growing old comes up when Ransom (the protagonist) meets the Green Lady (Eve). The Green Lady represents what humanity was before the fall. Ransom is sent to Perelandra (Venus) by Maleldil to keep Green Lady and the King from falling the way of the people on Thulcandra (Earth). When Ransom encounters the Green Lady he struck by her radiant beauty and innocence. He struggles to find the words like “evil” in her language, because she does not know of sin and evil. In their conversations the Lady says that their conversations make her grow older. A phrase she uses is “come, let us grow older” in reference to conversation and knowledge. As the story moves on, sure enough evil finds its way to Perelandra in the form of Ransoms nemesis Weston. “It”, as Ransom refers to Weston’s body, attempts to get the Green Lady to lived on the fixed land because Maleldil has forbidden it. In the end, spoilers, the Lady and the King do not go the way of Adam and Eve, and are crowned at a year long ceremony. The King makes an observation about growing old properly and growing old like Adam and Eve. Maleldil caused them to grow older in a way that was not corrupting.

We however have grown old in the corrupted way. What we need is the Word to take up residence in our hearts and make us young again. Through growing in knowledge of Christ (2 Pet 1:3, 2:20, 3:18) we will escape corruption and be fashioned in His image. In this way we may begin to see creation as a gratuitous gift overflowing from the eternal Triune love of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Rhythm

Bonhoeffer in his wonderful book ‘Creation and Fall Temptation: Two Biblical Studies‘ in which he comments his way through the first three chapters of Genesis dealing with creation. When Bonhoeffer comments on verses 4-5 in which God separated the light from the darkness, he writes that for us the ‘creatureliness and miraculousness of the day has completely disappeared. We have deprived the day of its power. We no longer allow ourselves to be determined by the day. We count and compute it, we do not allow the day to give to us… for technology is a campaign against the day.’ (Creation Fall, p. 28) For Bonhoeffer the six days of creation do not mean days in a computable sense, “it thinks of it in terms of the power of the day which first makes the physical day what it really is, the natural dialectic of creation”. (ibid, p. 29) What Bonhoeffer means by this what the day in its rhythm points to:

“In the morning the unformed becomes form and then by evening sinks back into formlessness. The bright polarity of light dissolves into unity with the darkness. Living sound grows silent in the stillness of the night. An expectant awakening in light follows sleep… The rhythm- repose and movement in one -which gives and takes and gives again and takes again, which thus eternally points towards God’s giving and taking, to God’s freedom on the other side of repose and movement- that rhythm is the day.” (p. 29)

Shallot Acrobats and Communion

What does this all have to do with a children’s cartoon? Well, everything. To delight in creation the way a child does is the way we begin to see it the way God intended for us. We live in the aftermath of the fall, in the brokenness and mire. The good news is that God became man, and in becoming man broke into our existence to reconcile all things to Himself, and to consume the world with His presence like the burning bush. Let us pursue delighting in what God has made, and what He is currently in process of reconciling and restoring. Let us be like the little children. Shallot acrobats point us to the eternal pleasure, delighting and communion of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Reflecting & Rejoicing

“It was not worthy of the goodness of God that those created by Him should be corrupted through the deceit wrought by the devil upon human beings. And it was supremely improper that the workmanship of God in human beings should disappear either through their own negligence or through the deceit of the demons… But now He comes, condescending towards us in His love for human beings and His manifestation.”

-Athanasius, On The Incarnation, pp. 55-57

“The election of grace is the eternal beginning of all the ways and works of God in Jesus Christ. In Jesus Christ God in His free grace determines Himself for sinful man and sinful man for Himself. He therefore takes upon Himself the refection of man with all its consequences, and elects man to participation in His own glory.”

-Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics II.2, p. 94

This Advent season has been one on reflecting on my utter brokenness before God. I love and adore theological dialogue, doing theology and pressing into the ocean of mystery that is the depths of God and the Christian faith; but there are times when reading theology can itself become a distraction. Many times I’m quicker to pick up some work by Barth or Bonhoeffer than I am to dive into the Scriptures. Partly this is because I am afraid of the ways in which I am confronted with the reality of my sinfulness, and my complete unworthiness of approaching the throne of the infinite God. But then when I do engage Scripture, I am confronted with an unrelenting, loving God who is always moving towards not only Israel, but all human beings. This pure, holy love is not something I can bear at all. In being confronted by it, I am totally aware of my utter depravity and dread overwhelms the very core of my being. Like John says in his Revelation: “I fell at his feet, as though dead.” (Rev 1:17) Barth puts to words what I’m feeling better than I ever could:

“It is not the case that we ourselves can put ourselves in the position in which all that we can do is to seek what is above. We do, of course, put ourselves in many awkward positions. We can even plunge ourselves into despair. But we cannot put ourselves in the position, that saving and blessed despair, in which we can only seek refuge in God. But God plunges us into this despair when He reveals Himself to us, when His Word made flesh and the judgment of our flesh by the Holy Spirit, who opens our eyes and ears and therefore kindles our faith.” [1]

Even in this dread, God is tender and gentle in His approach. Paul in the second chapter of his letter to the Ephesians speaks about the richness of God’s grace towards us:

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Eph. 2:1-10, ESV)

God desires to show us the richness of His mercy. God is a God who is seeking us out. Barth speaks about the love of God and the language used in Scripture to convey it:

“In Holy Scripture the love of God to us speaks the language of this fact-the fact of His election, guidance, help and salvation-and it is in this language that it has to be heard and understood. But all the expressions of this factual language meet in the name of Jesus Christ. In this name the approach of God to man consists in one fact alone. This is, of course, the even of revelation and reconciliation in the one Word, which is the Son of God. It is the fact that God intercedes for man, that He takes upon Himself the sin and guilt and death of man, that laden with it all He stands surety for him.” [2]

The language we must use when speaking of the love of God is bound up in the name of Jesus Christ. To proclaim the love of God is to proclaim Jesus Christ. In the Christmas season we must be confronted by the profound mystery of God becoming man. We must be confronted by a God who is not far off; who is not indifferent to the plight of human beings. The Incarnation is a saving act. This saving act is also not one of conditionality. God moves towards us unconditionally. He is not moved out of necessity, but out of His free love for us. We see the goodness of God fully on display in the person of Christ, from His incarnation, life, death and resurrection. In this move we catch a glimpse of the eternal choice of God, to pledge His very being for us. To quote Barth some more:

“…God has no need to love us, and we have no claim upon His love. God is love, before He loves us and apart from it. Like everything else that He is, He is love as the triune God in Himself. Even without us and without the world and without the reconciliation of the world, He would not experience and lack of love in Himself. How then can we for our part declare it to be necessary that we should be loved by Him? It is, in fact, the free mercy and kindness of God which meets us in His love.” [3]

This Advent season, it is my desire to live in light of this work that God has done and is doing. God has moved towards us, and is still ever moving towards us moment by moment.

“Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us.

-1 John 4:15-19 ESV


[1] Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics 1.2, p. 372

[2] ibid, p. 378

[3] ibid, p. 379

‘Theological Theology’: Reflections on the work of John Webster

News has been circling around social media that my favorite living theologian, John Webster, has passed away (1955-2016). I was deeply saddened by this news, and thought to reflect on his work that has meant so much in my life as a Christian and training to be a theologian. It will probably end up being mostly quotes from Webster.

“…dogmatics is that delightful activity in which the Church praises God by ordering its thinking towards the gospel of Christ.” -John Webster, Holiness

Revelation and Scripture

One of the most influential books for me in my time doing theology is Webster’s ‘Holy Scripture: A Dogmatic Sketch‘. This book alone has shaped a major part of my views on the way Scripture functions in God’s economy of salvation. The first chapter and the third are by far my favorites in the book, in them you find a deeply rich Trinitarian exposition of revelation and Scripture’s place in the economy of salvation.

The problem for the Christian doctrine of revelation for Webster is that it “suffers from the distortions of its shape introduced by attempts to formulate and expound it in relation to and, in some measure, in dependence upon, dominant modern intellectual and spiritual conventions”. (p. 11) Even more troubling, the language of revelation became “a way of talking, not about the life giving presence of God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Spirit’s power among the worshipping and witnessing assembly, but instead of an arcane process of causality whereby persons acquire knowledge through opaque, non-natural operations.” (p. 12) This is an important point, theology (doctrine especially) abstracted from the context of worship and participation within the Church, it becomes something else entirely.

Revelation is an act of sovereign mercy:

“Revelation is the self-presentation of the triune God, the free work of sovereign mercy in which God wills, establishes and perfects saving fellowship with himself in which humankind comes to know, love and fear him above all things.” (p. 13)

Revelation must be seen in this light, not mere propositions, but the life giving presence of the Lord. Here Webster gives a trinitarian account:

“Revelation, therefore is identical with God’s triune being in it’s active self-presence. As Father, God is the personal will or origin of this self presence; as Son, God actualizes his self-presence, upholding it and establishing it against all opposition; as Holy Spirit, God perfects that self-presence by making it real and effective to and in the history of humankind. To speak of ‘revelation’ is to say that God is one whose being is directed towards his creatures, and the goal of whose free self-movement presence with us.” (pg. 14)

Holiness and Theology

In the first chapter of his book ‘Holiness‘, Webster offers a proposition to shape the thinking of his account of the holiness of theology:

“A Christian theology of holiness is an exercise of holy reason; it has its context and its content in the revelatory presence of the Holy Trinity which is set forth in Holy Scripture; it is a venture undertaken in prayerful dependence upon the Holy Spirit; it is an exercise in the fellowship of the saints; serving the confession of the holy people of God; it is a work in which holiness is perfected in the fear of God; and its end is the sanctifying of God’s holy name.” (p. 10)

From there he works out through the various points made, and shows how the gospel may (and should) order our thinking.

There is much more to be said on the work of John Webster, and those of us doing theology should take pause and reflect on not only his work but his character, and the way he pursued theological work. He really cared about doing a ‘theological’ theology; that is a theology that dares to say something about God. Let us dare to let God speak for Himself, and let us order our thinking around the Gospel.

Trinitarianism and Gospel Narrative

Today is Trinity Sunday and I decided to read some passages from David Bentley Hart’s massive ‘The Beauty of the Infinite‘ which has some wonderful reflections on the infinite beauty of God, who is in His Triune being infinitely peace and beauty. In part 2.1 of the book, Hart discusses Karl Rahner’s simple formula, which Hart claims should be regarded as “axiomatic for all meditation upon the Christian doctrine of God: The ‘economic’ trinity is the ‘immanent’ trinity and the ‘immanent’ trinity is the ‘economic’ trinity.” (p.155) He goes on to lament that liberal Protestant theology’s “dogmatic wasting disease” of abstraction, spiritualization and moralization of the doctrine of the Trinity and in turn made Christ the unique ‘bearer’ (as opposed to unique content) of the Christian kerygma (dogma). (p. 156)

I’ve began to notice this myself, especially in the more analytically driven parts of Protestant theology (even the most conservative). Doctrine has been abstracted from the historical narrative of the Gospel, and in turn becomes improperly understood. I thought some of what Hart has to say here is of extreme importance, and is fitting for the day:

“Trinitarian thought uninformed by the Gospel narratives results, inevitably, in an impoverishment of both that thought and that narrative; hence the importance of the affirmation is that the Trinity as economic or immanent is the one God as he truly is, whose every action is proper to and expressive of His divinity.” (p. 156)

“God does not require creation to ‘fecundate’ his being, nor does he require the pathos of creation to determine his ‘personality’ as though he were some finite subjectivity writ large, whose transcendental Ego were in need of delimitation in an empirical ego; God and creation do not belong to an interdependent history of necessity, because the Trinity is already infinitely sufficient, infinitely diverse, infinitely at peace; God is good and sovereign and wholly beautiful, and creation is gift, loveliness, pleasure, dignity, and freedom, which is to say that God is possessed by the loveliest “attribute”.” (p. 157)

“…as the infinitely perfect reflection of the divine essence that flows forth from the Father, fully enjoyed in the light of the Spirit.. Thus God indeed loved us when we were not, and that he then called us to be (Rom. 4:17) and to participate in the being he pours into us is an act of generosity wholly fitting to, but in no way determinative of, his goodness.” (p. 158)

Finally,

“The maxim stands then as a guard against any kind of nominalism on the one hand, and on the other, any tendency to forget that the dogma of the Trinity is required and defined-and permitted-by the narrative of Christ.” (p. 159)

On a previous post, I made the claim:

“Theology is done from the ground up, and is the language of the church. It is not merely some lofty, dry academic pursuit done in abstraction but is done within the context of participation in the community of believer’s where the Spirit of the Lord is.”

This goes right in line with what Hart is getting at. Theology cannot be done by abstracting and spiritualizing out of the context of Church worship and communal participation in God’s being.