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Introduction Christophe Chalamet and Marc Vial When people seek to know God, and bend their minds according to the capacity of human weakness to the understanding of the Trinity; learning, as they must, by experience, the wearisome difficulties of the task, whether from the sight itself of the mind striving to gaze upon light unapproachable, or, indeed, from the manifold and various modes of speech employed in the sacred writings (wherein, as it seems to me, the mind is nothing else but roughly exercised, in order that it may find sweetness when glorified by the grace of Christ); such people, I say, when they have dispelled every ambiguity, and arrived at something certain, ought of all others most easily to make allowance for those who err in the investigation of so deep a secret. —Augustine of Hippo, On the Trinity, Preface to Book 2.1 The doctrine of the Trinity has been enjoying a striking “revival” for several decades. Any eighteenth- or nineteenth-century theologian would probably be astonished if she or he could witness all of the recent publications on this topic. Things looked very different back then. According to Immanuel Kant, . . . [the] doctrine of the Trinity, taken literally, has no practical relevance at all, even if we think we understand it; and it is even more clearly irrelevant if we realize that it transcends all our concepts. Whether we are to worship three or ten persons in the Divinity makes no difference: the pupil will implicitly accept one as readily as the other because he has no concept at all of a number of persons in one God (hypostases), and still more so because this distinction can make no difference in his rules of conduct. On the other hand, if we read a moral meaning into this article of faith (as I have tried to do in Religion within the Limits etc.), it would no longer contain an inconsequential belief but an intelligible one that refers to our moral vocation.2 1. Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, ed. Philip Schaff, trans. Arthur West Haddan and William G. T. Shedd (Edinburgh/Grand Rapids: T&T Clark/Eerdmans, 1993), 3:37 (trans. rev.). 1 Theological doctrines that have no implications for the conduct of our lives have become irrelevant, according to Kant. In order to salvage a theological theme such as the Trinity, one would have to show how it pertains to the moral life, to practical reason. As Friedrich Schleiermacher famously wrote, “this doctrine itself, as ecclesiastically framed, is not an immediate utterance concerning the Christian self-consciousness, but only a combination of several such utterances.”3 The most important nineteenth-century thinker on the Trinity was arguably G. W. F. Hegel, who was not a professional theologian, stricto sensu, but a philosopher. Yet Hegel had a deeper sense for the importance of trinitarian thought than most theologians of his time. He criticized August Tholuck, a well-known Pietist theologian and professor at the University of Halle who had published a historical study on early trinitarian constructs, for his lack of real understanding of what is at stake and what comes to expression in trinitarian theology: Does not the eminent Christian knowledge of God as the Triune merit a completely different respect than merely to ascribe it to an externally historical process? Throughout your essay I could neither feel nor find a trace of your own sensibility for this doctrine. I am a Lutheran, and through philosophy I am all the more confirmed in Lutheranism. I will not permit myself to be satisfied with external historical explanation when it comes to such basic doctrines. There is a higher spirit there than merely that of such human tradition. It is an outrage to me to see these things explained in a way comparable to the lineage and dissemination of silk manufacture, cherry growing, the pox and so forth.4 2. Immanuel Kant, The Conflict of the Faculties (Der Streit der Fakultäten), trans. Mary J. Gregor (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1979), 65–67. 3. Friedrich Schleiermacher, The Christian Faith, trans. H. R. Mackintosh and J. S. Stewart (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1989), 738 (§170). Does such a sentence, and the locating of trinitarian doctrine as a sort of “appendix” (Claude Welch), represent a marginalization of trinitarian doctrine? No, according to Paul J. DeHart, in his insightful article: “Ter mundus accipit infinitum. The Dogmatic Coordinates of Schleiermacher’s Trinitarian Treatise,” Neue Zeitschrift für systematische Theologie und Religionsphilosophie 52 (2010...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781451487480
Related ISBN
9781451470406
MARC Record
OCLC
883820200
Pages
224
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-16
Language
English
Open Access
No
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