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THE IMMANENT AND THE ECONOMIC TRINITY THOMAS WEINANDY Greyfriars Hall Oxford, England I N HER MAJOR study on the Trinity, God For Us: The Trinity and Christian Life, Catherine Mowry LaCugna contends that theology should abandon the distinction between the immanent and the economic Trinity as it has been understood within contemporary theology. She believes that such a distinction segregates " God in himself " from " God for us " and thereby fixes an unbridgeable gap between them. This divorce renders the Trinitarian God irrelevant to the Christian life. In contrast, LaCugna proposes-and this is the theme of her entire bookthat the whole trinitarian enterprise must be executed within a soteriological context.1 Since the Council of Nicea, however, the history of the development of the doctrine of the Trinity has focused, both in the East and in the West, on the immanent Trinity and the intradivine relationships between the persons. This is especially true of Latin trinitarian theology where Augustine and Aquinas founded their trinitarian conception on substance and articulated a trinity of persons who are enclosed upon one another.2 The more theology developed the doctrine of the immanent Trinity, 1 Catherine Mowry LaCugna, God For Us: The Trinity and Christian Life (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1991). See pp. 15, 211. 2 With reference to the Western conception of the Trinity in contrast to the East, LaCugna comments: " However, the economy of salvation a Patre ad Patrem becomes all the harder to see once the consubstantiality of persons is situated in the intradivine domain, or beyond, in a permanently unknowable and imparticipable divine essence" (ibid., p. 73). For comments on how Augustine 's trinitarian thought brought about a rupture between God in himself and God for us see pp. 80, 91, 97, 101-02, 104. For a similar criticism of Aquinas see pp. 157, 167-68. 655 656 THOMAS WEINANDY the more the doctrine of the Trinity became irrelevant. LaCugna completes her lengthy, and often insightful, study of the historical development of the doctrine of the Trinity by concluding: " The history of doctrine and theology tells the story of the emergence and defeat of the doctrine of the Trinity." 3 Even if one argues, as Rahner and many others do, that the immanent Trinity is the economic Trinity, the very distinction still places a gulf between God as he exists in himself and the God who exists for us.4 There remains, according to LaCugna, a separation between theologia, that is, knowledge and speculation about God qua God, and oikonomia, that is, knowledge and speculation about God-for-us. For LaCugna, if theologia is to be relevant it must be inherently and thoroughly soteriological. Hence it follows that theologia can only be theologia of the oikonomia, that is, a theology of God's action within the world. A theologia of the Trinity must then be a theologia of the trinitarian pattern of God's self-revelation within the economy. Her governing principle is : " theologia is fully revealed and bestowed in oikonomia, and oikonomia truly expresses the ineffable mystery of theologia." 5 [The economy is not] a mirror dimly reflecting a hidden realm of intradivine relations; the economy is God's concrete existence in Christ and as Spirit. The economy is the 'distribution' of God's life lived with and for the creature. Economy and theology are two aspects of one reality: the mystery of divine-human communion.6 Thus the Trinity that is revealed is not a Trinity apart or distinct from the economy, but a Trinity of the economy. " The referent for the immanent Trinity is not 'God in se,' or 'God's essence as it is in itself.' Theories about what God is apart from a Ibid., p. 198. Also, pp. 209-10, 392. 4 LaCugna gives a clear exposition of Rahner's position on the distinction and relationship between the immanent and economic Trinity (cf. ibid., pp. 211-21). She concludes: "Finally, according to Rahner at least, distinctions in the economy originate in and are grounded in distinctions ' in ' God. It is on the last point that we part ways with Rahner" (p. 221). 5 Ibid., p. 221. a Ibid., p. 222. IMMANENT AND ECONOMIC TRIN11'Y 657...


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