Grenz, Stanley J. Rediscovering the Triune God: The Trinity in Contemporary Theology. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2004.
While in the pastorate (1979-1981), Grenz taught courses both at the University of Winnipeg and at Winnipeg Theological Seminary (now Providence Seminary). He served as Professor of Systematic Theology and Christian Ethics at the North American Baptist Seminary, Sioux Falls, South Dakota from 1981-1990. For twelve years (1990-2002), Grenz held the position of Pioneer McDonald Professor of Baptist Heritage, Theology and Ethics at Carey Theological College and at Regent College in Vancouver. After a one-year sojourn as Distinguished Professor of Theology at Baylor University and George W. Truett Theological Seminary in Waco, Texas (2002-2003), he returned to Carey in August 2003 to resume his duties as Pioneer McDonald Professor of Theology. In fall 2004, he assumed an additional appointment as Professor of Theological Studies at Mars Hill Graduate School, Seattle, Washington. From 1996 to 1999 he carried an additional appointment as Professor of Theology and Ethics (Affiliate) at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary, Lombard, Illinois.
Grenz’ primary contributions were made discussing how evangelical Christianity ought to relate to the world. He wrote on a wide range of subjects, from sexuality to history to basic apologetics, and was one of North America’s leading evangelical voices in the late 20th century and early 21st century.
This book is essentially an amplified annotated bibliography of the major Trinitarian thinkers of the 20th century. Grenz is exceptionally gifted at both historical and theological summary. He names thirteen key theologians that have contributed to the 20th century, Western Trinitarian conversation. There are five categories in which he places these theologians:
The 20th century conversation was actually started by two German theologians at the turn of the 19th century. Schleiermacher and Hegel were both grappling with the theological endeavor in the wake of Post-Kantian dualism and the dominance of rationalism in the western academy. Hegel’s work, especially, framed the 20th century conversation in that he believed the triunity of God was revealed in the self-revelation of the Absolute Spirit in the world process.
The “Fathers” of the Twentieth Century Conversation:
- Karl Barth – God is Triune in Godself and revealed through the Word of God in Jesus.
- Karl Rahner – The immanent Trinity is the economic Trinity and vice versa.
Triunity of God revealed in History and the Eternal Eschaton.
- Jürgen Moltmann
- Wolfhart Pannenberg
- Robert Jenson
Triunity of God Revealed in Relationality
- Leonardo Boff
- John Zizioulas
- Catherine Mowry LaCugna
Immanence of God Revisited and “Protected”
- Elizabeth Johnson
- Hans Urs von Balthasar
- Thomas F. Torrance
Grenz’s categories are artificial, and could be misleading. Each of these theologians stands alone and contributes uniquely to the conversation. However, the categories, if held loosely, are a helpful framework for viewing the larger conversation.
The final chapter of the book offers a concise and insightful summary and synthesis of these thirteen theological voices. This chapter alone is a gold mine for anyone who is attempting to grasp the sweeping story of the Trinitarian conversation in the West. And for me, who is studying for a comprehensive exam in this field, I wish I could just memorize this chapter and write it. It is that spot on for what I am doing. Thank you, Stanley!
See the illustration below to get my synthesis of Grenz’s synthesis.
The Trinitarian drama of the ages that Balthasar narrates has the Father for its author (the one who is the ultimate source of the action), the Son as its chief actor (the one who enters the world to enact the script), and the Spirit as the director (the one who connects other actors to the third actor and ensures the successful enactment of the script). Humans, in turn, take their rightful place in the drama as they fulfill their role or mission as those whom God calls to live in finite freedom. They do so above all as they come to be in Jesus Christ and as a consequence are drawn into the event of infinite freedom that comprises the eternal relationship between the Father and the Son. (189-190)
In a manner akin to Barth, Balthasar launches his attempt to walk the theological tightrope by appealing to the conception of God as “event,” with the attendant idea that the eventfulness of God provides the basis for the becoming found in the world. He declares unhesitatingly, “all earthly becoming is a reflection of the eternal ‘happening’ in God, which…is per se identical with the eternal Being or essence.” In keeping with this outlook, Balthasar postulates that the entire theo-drama in the economy of salvation finds its basis in a theo-drama within the eternal divine dynamic. Hence, drawing from the medieval suggestion that the eternal processions within the dynamic of the triune God provide the condition for the very possibility of a creation, he asserts that the world is the fre extension of the otherness-in-love—the mystery of unity in diversity—that is present already within the divine life because of the generation of the Son from the Father and their union in the Spirit. (196)
In short, the economic Trinity becomes the epistemological source of the immanent Trinity, but the immanent Trinity remains the ontological source of the economic Trinity. (196)