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A Short, Animated Introduction to the Social Trinity

The four videos in this playlist introduce the Social Trinity and were created for the Deep in the Burbs Research Team.

Here is a Prezi that includes these 4 videos, but goes deeper into the history of the discussion and the theological texts.

Here are links to some of the key ideas and thinkers referred to in these videos.

The social Trinity begins with the three persons of the Trinity (as described in the Christian Scriptures) and seeks to understand how the relationship1 between the persons is the very essence2 of life itself. The fancy-schmansy word for this is relational ontology.3 The social Trinity is also known, by some, as the Economic Trinity.  The term economic comes from the Greek word oikos–meaning house. It does not refer to money, as we understand economy, but, rather, refers to the activity of God within the “house” of the created universe. The social–or Economic– Trinity stands in contrast to the traditional view of God as three persons within Godself. This traditional view is known as the Immanent Trinity (immanent means “operating or existing within”) and emphasizes the oneness of God as God relates to the world from outside of creation. read more

  1. thus the term “social” []
  2. the Greek word for essence can also be translated substance. The discussion of the substance of God–and of all things–is called ontology. Thus, the social Trinity speaks of a relational ontology as opposed to a substance ontology []
  3. Zizioulas is a Greek Orthodox theologian that speaks about this. read a review of his book. Or, view the relational ontology tag for all the related posts. []

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) read more

The Trinity: Reframing the Model

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.[1] read more