Book | The Social God and the Relational Self by Stanley Grenz

The Social God and the Relational SelfGrenz, Stanley J. The Social God and the Relational Self: A Trinitarian Theology of the Imago Dei. 1st ed. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001.

AuthorStanley Grenz

Grenz traces the historical backdrop of the concept of self in the West in order to warrant his proposal of the ecclesial self as the best response to the postmodern deconstruction of self.

The following sketch attempts to follow his logic.

William James to George Herbert Mead to Pannenberg.
William James to George Herbert Mead to Pannenberg.

In the final analysis, then, the imago dei is not merely relational; it is not simply the I-Thou relationship of two persons standing face-to-face. Instead, it is ultimately communal. It is the eschatological destiny of the new humanity as the representation of God within creation. The character of the triune God comes to expression through humans in community. Wherever community emerges, human sexuality understood in its foundational sense–the incompleteness endemic to embodied existence, together with the quest for completeness that draws humans out of isolation into bonded relationships–is at work. This sexuality gives rise to the primal male-female relationship–marriage. Yet more important is the role of sexuality in bringing humans into community with Christ and with his disciples in the fellowship of his church. This community forms the context for all humans, male and female, to come together in harmonious creative relationships of various types. But more important, it is this connection that will eternally draw humankind into participation in the very life of the triune God, as the Spirit molds humans into one great chorus of praise to the Father through the Son, which in turn will mark the Father’s eternal glorification of the new humanity in the son. (303)

The image of God does not lie in the individual person but in the relationality of persons in community. The relational life of the God who is triune comes to representation in the communal fellowship of the participants in the new humanity. This assertion calls for a relational ontology that can bring the divine prototype and the human antitype together. The conceptual context for such an engagement is the philosophical idea of the social self, which, in turn, can be understood theologically as the ecclesial self. (305)