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,1 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.2 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.3 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,4 and (b) if an alternate model of the Trinity might provide more space for a missional imagination of spiritual formation in the local congregation.
- I will posit a communicative pedagogy in the Spiritual Formation Frame. [↩]
- David Kelsey posits that all knowledge of God is secondary knowledge, and that, to understand God truly, the researcher must observe the activities of the local congregation in its specific context. Thus, the participatory action research methodology used in this research is, in itself, a theological inquiry into the mystery of the Triune God. [↩]
- William C. Placher, The Triune God: An Essay in Postliberal Theology (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2007), 40-41.; see Peters on symbol. Ted Peters, God–the World’s Future : Systematic Theology for a New Era, 2nd ed. (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2000).and Grenz on the use of model.Grenz and Olson, Who Needs Theology? : An Invitation to the Study of God. [↩]
- Here I am referring to the much rehearsed history of Athanasius’ victory over Arius at the Council of Nicea in which he demonstrated that God is three in person, but one in essence. His Immanent model of God as three-in-one within Godself has been reduced, over time, to monarchial modalism, at best, in Western, modern theology. The Immanent trinity, then, is the transcendent God of divine substance that is separated from the material world in the tradition of Platonic dualism. [↩]