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3 The Necessity for Theolog Theologia ia Thinking the Immanent Trinity in Orthodox Theology Aristotle Papanikolaou In this essay, I will discuss the three most dominant trajectories of trinitarian theology in contemporary Orthodox theology: the apophaticism of Vladimir Lossky, the communion models of John Zizioulas and Dumitru Stăniloae, and the sophiology of Sergius Bulgakov. While none of these thinkers are anglophone theologians, and none of them wrote in English, with the exception of Zizioulas, the English translations of works by these particular theologians have dictated the influence of Orthodox trinitarian theology in the anglophone world. Indeed, there really is no anglophone Orthodox theology to speak of other than the influence of the translated works of these theologians. I will end by bringing Bulgakov in conversation with Rahner in order to offer suggestions for what is needed not simply in current Orthodox discussions of the Trinity, but in the wider discourse of Christian theology on the Trinity. Let me give a hint by simply saying that a Christian theology of the Trinity is deficient if it does not recognize the doctrine of the Trinity as the rationally defensible Christian response to understanding the God–world relation in terms of communion, and against both nominalism or pantheism. The Apophatic Trinity Vladimir Lossky is one of the best-known Orthodox theologians of the latter half of the twentieth century, and the one who exercised the most influence on the construction of a particular metanarrative of the history of Orthodox Christian thought. According to this narrative, the core of Eastern Christian thought has been an understanding of theology as mystical union with God. 87 In defining theology in this way, Lossky was contrasting this core of Eastern Christian thought with what he perceived to be the rationalism and propositionalism characteristic of the neo-Scholasticism of his time. Throughout his writings, Lossky is a bit harsh on Thomas Aquinas, but in later writings he hints that Aquinas is not so much the problem but, rather, his interpreters.1 The danger with the neo-Scholastic approach to the Trinity, according to Lossky, is that its emphasis on a rationalism in theology, whose end result is propositions to which one must assent in faith, simply diverts attention from the Christian struggle to be united with the living God. The most obvious manifestation of this danger for Lossky is the filioque. As Lossky himself states, “[t]he positive approach employed by Filioquist Triadology brings about a certain rationalization of the dogma of the Trinity. . . . One has the impression that the heights of theology have been deserted in order to descend to the level of religious philosophy.”2 More than simply diverting attention, the neo-Scholastic approach appears to deny the very realism of divine-human communion, which is the very heart of the incarnation. Such is the danger of any rationalistic approach to theology, according to Lossky, which is also evident for him in the Russian sophiologists, including Bulgakov. (As an aside, it strikes me as worthy of discussion for trinitarian theology how many of the greatest theologians of the twentieth century, their differences notwithstanding, had as a common enemy the neo-Scholastic manual style of theology). The doctrine of the Trinity, for Lossky, is a “primordial fact” of revelation, the expression of which defies the rules of formal logic.3 The goal in theology is not so much understanding as it is an articulation to that which is faithful to the paradoxical realism of a God who is transcendent to all human knowing but radically immanent in the person of Christ; and to the paradoxical realism of the created being united with the uncreated. The realization of this divine-human communion was revealed by God as Trinity, that is, in the kenosis of the Son and Spirit, both sent by the Father. Since God revealed Godself as Trinity in order to unite the created with the uncreated, the goal of theology is to provide language to the datum of revelation in such a way that is faithful to the unityin -distinction of God as Trinity, and in such a way that the dogma serves the 1. Vladimir Lossky, review of E. L. Mascall, Existence and Analogy, in Sobornost 3 (1950): 295–97. 2. Vladimir Lossky, “The Procession of the Holy Spirit,” in In the Image and Likeness of God, ed. John H. Erickson and Thomas E. Bird (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1974), 81. 3. Vladimir Lossky, The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church...


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