Deep in the Burbs is a story of the Triune God. The research question asks “How might an increased awareness of the social Trinity impact the ideation and praxis of spiritual formation in suburban ELCA congregations?” It might be easy to think of this as if the social Trinity was a chunk of knowledge that could be presented to the Research Team for objective evaluation and ultimate acceptance or rejection. This idea is (a) not congruent with my pedagogy, and (b) contrary to the nature of the Triune God. The research was conducted in the understanding that God is not an object that can be studied or a concept to be considered, but that God is the ground of being itself from which all life springs forth. All human speech about God is, at best, an analogy, metaphor, or simile. All theology is a human construction of symbols—models—that point to the unknowable God, but can never define or explain God. Therefore, this is a question that wonders (a) whether the models of the Triune God that we have inherited from our Western Theological predecessors are adequate and helpful for the current context in which the church finds itself, and (b) if an alternate model of the Trinity might provide more space for a missional imagination of spiritual formation in the local congregation.
Grenz, 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.
Author – Stanley 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.
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)
I will reflect theologically on the DITB project by bringing the three primary themes from the data into conversation with the three types of frames that I mentioned at the beginning of chapter two. I make this move because a key assumption that I brought into this project—and one that has only been deepened as a result of it—is that all knowledge is interpreted knowledge. Human being, as Kegan notes, is the action of constructing meaning from experienced data that is received through one’s filter. As the individual human moves through time and space, in communal relationships, both the individual and society evolves.
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.