Saturday, February 04, 2006

Gunton and the Trinity

In his posthumously published work, Act & Being: Towards a Theology of Divine Attributes, Gunton laments the detrimental influence of Hellenistic philosophy upon the manner in which the doctrine of the Trinity has been historically conceived. In particular, he critiques the disconnected way in which many theologians have described God via “attributes” in distinction from God as Trinity, stating at the outset of his book: “To speak of the Trinity is already to say something of God’s characteristics, while to speak of the attributes apart form the Trinity - as is often done - is a mistake, and one which we shall be exploring below.” Accordingly, Gunton asserts that many systematic theologies begin in the wrong place. Instead of beginning with the Trinity, which is itself characteristic of God, the majority of systematic theologies begin with Theology proper and extended discussions on God’s attributes, often to the neglect of the triune God. Gunton notes this problem in Hodge’s Systematic Theology, quoting a lengthy description of God which makes no reference to God as triune. In agreement with Gunton regarding Hodge’s oversight, Robert Letham writes: “he does not get around to suggesting that God is triune until after 250 pages of detailed exposition of the doctrine of God…” Thus, in the tradition of Lombard, Aquinas, Barth and Rahner, Gunton proposes that discussion about God should begin with his threeoneness.


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