Postfoundational theology is a story of hope. Hope has a future orientation. It invites us to look forward with anticipation and imagination. Proverbs tells us that, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life” (Proverbs 13:12). Spiritual formation in the missional church is a hopeful endeavor. The DITB project is one of a public prophetic imagination of hope in God’s preferred and promised future. This is a countercultural move. Taylor suggests that the modern, buffered self has lost this hope. The modern schism between fact/value, public/private, and science/faith has collapsed our public sense of identity to radical individualism, the loss of meaning and purpose, and the reduction of life to that of utilitarian transactions for the sole purpose of individual survival. The modern self is left in isolation and with no ultimate hope.
What then, is the alternate model that I proposed to the RT? I named this model the social Trinity in the research question. It was my attempt to present a model that was true to the contemporary conversation about the Trinity. Western theologians have wrestled with the Trinity question throughout the twentieth century. Stanley Grenz offers a helpful schematic to map the landscape of this conversation. He articulates three major types of Trinitarian thought in the twentieth century: (1) those emphasizing the historicity and futurity of God—Moltmann, Pannenberg, Jenson; (2) those emphasizing the relationality of God—Boff, LaCugna, Zizioulas; and, (3) those emphasizing the transcendence, or otherness of God—Johnson, Urs von Balthasar, Torrance.
My use of social/relational draws most heavily on relational ontology as presented by Zizioulas. To summarize, Zizioulas proposes that humanity, both as particulars and collectively, has the imago dei of the robust Trinity imprinted on/in us ontologically. The image of the relational Trinity is this: God is three-in-one and one-in-three. God is transcendent, immanent, and relational. God’s transcendence is the immanent Trinity that is constituted by relationality. This relational union is wholly other from its creation. God is also immanent in the economic Trinity. The Father is arche, the Son incarnate is the demonstration of God’s love and the great victor over death. The Spirit is the animator and mediator of life and relationality. God is also relationality that constitutes all being and out of which human particularity is formed. Humanity is created in the imago dei. We are homologues of the robust Trinity described above. We are many-and-one and one-and-many. We are individual selves constituted by the relatedness to each other, to nature, and to God, the transcendent other.
Chapter two explored the theoretical frames for the Deep in the Burbs (DITB) project and why it was necessary to use participatory action research to explore the question. This chapter will explore the theological and Biblical frames that formed the heart of the project. The research team (RT) team asked: How might an increased awareness and understanding of the social Trinity impact the ideation and praxis of spiritual formation in suburban ELCA congregations? It is my conviction, as I have stated earlier, that a reasonably adequate Christian theology is done in, with, under, against, and for the local congregation. Therefore, the DITB project was deeply theological because it was communicative Trinitarian action done within the context of the suburban congregation.