Article | A Trinitarian Perspective on Christian Spirituality by Mark McIntosh

blackwell companion to christian spiritualityMark McIntosh’s work is important to my research. He has done an incredible job of connecting Trinitarian theology to spirituality. This is obviously important to my research question in which I ask how an increased awareness of social Trinity might impact spiritual formation.

Holdmcintosher, Arthur, ed. The Blackwell Companion to Christian Spirituality Blackwell Companions to Religion. Oxford; Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub., 2005.

Chapter 10
Trinitarian Perspectives on Christian Spirituality by Mark A. McIntosh

“In a real sense, the whole of Christian life might well be said to spring from this new and transforming access to a divinely sharing life that frees us from the dominion of death. But especially we could say that this is the source of all Christian prayer and that journey into ever-greater intimacy with God we sometimes call ‘spirituality.'” (178)

He points out three common marks of of Christian Spirituality: self-transcendence, a deepening love for others, a growing sense of freedom and agency. (179)

On their own, each of these, in their shadow forms, would contradict each other


“So I am suggesting in all this that the yearning desire that beckons toward the spiritual journey is, in its most authentic depths, God the Holy Spirit: the same Holy Spirit who beckons the divine Source or Father yearningly towards Another, and the same Holy Spirit who impels this Other, the Word and Wisdom of God, to give voice to the loving source from within the utter alterity of creation, and even human alienation from God, int eh suffering and living of Jesus. God the Holy Spirit may thus be identified as fostering Christian spirituality by pouring out within believers a beginning of that transforming state of existence that opens up toward the infinitely sharing life of God: Father sharing all in love and freedom with Son, who does not count equality with God a thing to be grasped but also equally and eternally shares divine life, and Holy Spirit whose very yearning and power of sharing both eternally unite and infinitely diversify the Trinity.” (179)

“At the heart of these paradoxes of the Christian spiritual life seems to lie the same paradox announced in the Gospels: ‘Those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it’ (Mark 8:35). what I have been suggesting, then, is that the ground of all this is the constitutive dynamic of trinitarian life itself, that is, life in which each One is by giving way to the Other, in which the personhood of each is not diminished but eternally realized by sharing the whole of divine life with each. Trinitarian relational life, in other words, is the sep structure of spiritual growth, illuminating the human spiritual journey with eternal significance–a journey in which human beings are consummated by an ecstatic journey of love beyond the selves given them by biology or culture, in which they ar not depleted but free and authoritative in their life for and with others, including the divine Others.
“Trinitarian belief, unfolded within the community’s continuing participation in the trinitarian life of God, is not an artificial set of formulas by which to regulate Christan spirituality. Rather, trinitarian belief is an itinerary, a call beckoning believers to a shared journey into mystery. So the point of thinking ‘trinitarianly’ about Chritian spirituality is to become enlightened and empowered by the real life of God, to which (Christians believe), the doctrine of the Trinity directs us. As Thomas Aquinas puts it, the human spiritual act of faith does not reach its goal in a statement of belief but in the divine reality itself (Summa theologiae 2-2, 1.2 reply 2).” (180)

“Not only does the Holy Spirit open a spirituality of the passion to an ever-fuller relational and communal depth; the Spirit also awakens new voice and agency within those drawn into the mystery of Christ’s incarnation and passion. In other words, this trinitarian dimension within spirituality preserves it from collapsing inward–either into a divine monism in which the soul is simply annihilated (with all the dangerous potentials for quietism, passivity, or even the legitimizing of an abusive condition) or into a peculiar form of idealism in which the ‘divine’ metamorphoses into a mere cipher for the most exalted forms of human narcissism.” (183)

“The idea is that the fullness and joy of the eternal trinitarian processions include, as a dimension of their relational self-sharing, the ideas of all the ways in which God can share this giving life with the other, not only the divine Others (i.e., the three divine Persons) but with completely other others (i.e., the creatures)!” (184)

I find the following quote especially interesting, since it was written before Polkinghorne’s book The Trinity and an Entangled Word.

Traherne (( (accessed June 8, 2014).)) is not somehow denigrating the material creation: spirit, in his theology, is not so much set in opposition to matter as to isolation and bare essence, the muting of creatures’ inherent relationality so that they become mere ‘nature.’…he is suggesting that their ‘matter’ is inherently far more relational, an event of communication, than our usual treatment of creation suggests (perhaps Traherne is in their sense saying something not far from recent thought in quantum physics; see Polkinghorne 1996 on the relational energy of sub-atomic reality).
In this trinitarian perspective on creation, then, we not only recover a new an blessed generosity in every creature, but rediscover also a role for humankind more conducive to creation’s praise and consummation than its exploitation. Traherne envisages humanity not as reducing creation to useful, consumable form, but in fact extending creation into its intended fullness and resonance, precisely by appreciating it in praise.” (188)

The following images are my annotated copy of the chapter: