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Reflections on Paul Molnar’s Divine Freedom and the Doctrine of the Immanent Trinity


Reflections on Paul Molnar’s Divine Freedom and the Doctrine of the Immanent Trinity

Dr Victor Shepherd



M speaks everywhere of the need to root the Economic Trinity (e.t.) in the Immanent Trinity (i.t.).


E.T.: Father, Son and Holy Spirit are interrelated forms in which divine revelation functions.

I.T.: F, S and HS constitute the being of God eternally, regardless of creation or revelation.


Background: God is known to Israel as the transcendent one. He is not a human projection.

This God is one; i.e., unique among the deities. Eventually Israel recognizes God to be one in the sense of sole: there are no other deities. God is one eternally.


The Nazarene appears, and repeatedly makes at least an implicit claim to do what are prerogatives of God: e.g., forgive sins (when only God can since God has been victimized), provide definitive interpretation of the God-given Torah (which Torah pre-existed the world), be the judge at the last day, satisfy the human heart as God alone claims to do, speak to his Father in an intimacy he recognizes in no-one else, accept worship as his right.

In all of this the transcendent one remains transcendent; i.e., God hasn’t collapsed himself into the Nazarene (as in pagan incarnations).


The God ‘above’ and God ‘among’ is recognized to be God ‘within’ as well. What God has done extra nos, pro nobis in Christ is now done in nobis as well. The result is that God manifests himself to us as giver, gift and the act of effectual giving. Giver, gift, and effectual giving are identical. [F, S and HS are alike God.]


Question: Is this merely how God manifests himself, or is this who God is in himself? Do we need to move beyond the e.t. to the i.t.?

Question (the same): is God’s revelation merely the “face” God wears as he turns to us, or is it who God is in himself? Is his face something he merely displays, or does his face unambiguously disclose his heart?


Humans frequently wear false faces. The face, e.g., can be benign when the heart is treacherous. God’s face and God’s heart are always one: he is as he manifests himself, and manifests himself as he is. There is no dissimulation or inconsistency in him. Otherwise the economic t. isn’t a faithful and true revelation of the transcendent communion of F, S and HS – which transcendent communion the eternal being of God is in himself.


The i.t. is the e.t. – or else God himself is ultimately unknowable (and therefore can’t be known as eternally F, S and HS.)

The e.t. is the i.t. – or else the e.t. is an act of God that may be merely what God has done without in any way reflecting who God is, his “heart” or identity; that is, an act of God unrelated to the eternal purpose of God.


The e.t. and the i.t. interpenetrate each other and regulate each other.


MOLNAR: (preface)

ix: the purpose of the doctrine of the i.t. is to uphold God’s freedom. Note the understanding of “freedom” here: there is no impediment, inner or outer, to God’s acting in accord with his true nature. (This understanding of freedom has nothing whatever to do with philosophical indeterminism, “freedom of choice.”) As will be shown later, God is eternally self-sufficient: God is love in himself, requiring nothing creaturely to love in order to be love. God is life; he lives in the ongoing dynamic of F, S and HS as the Father eternally begets the Son and the Spirit. God needs nothing creaturely to be who he is.


While we can speak of God only in terms of human categories (they are the only categories we have), it isn’t our human experience that prescribes who God is or what he is toward us. I.e., while we know God only in faith (faith is unquestionably a human event) we can’t read our experience and concepts of God back into God. [Rather, as Molnar will say later, once we are admitted by grace/faith into the orbit of God’s self-knowing, we thereafter think God from a centre in God, not from a centre in ourselves.] Athanasius, therefore, is sound when he says it is more devout and more accurate to signify God from the Son and call him “Father” than it is to signify God from the creation and call him “Unoriginate.”


x: We speak of God ultimately as “F, S and HS” rather than as “Creator, Mediator and Redeemer” since God is F,S and HS even if he never creates anything. [“Creator, Mediator and Redeemer” describes God’s relation to the creation.]


xi: Grace, faith and revelation therefore always remain grounded in God and not in (a compend of) God and the creation. We know God only by God. The Holy Spirit (that by which we know God) is God.


xii: Where the e.t. isn’t seen to be grounded in the i.t., one-sided attention is given to the e.t. and this in turn gives rise to the following distortions:

[1] God is made dependent on history and (at least in part) is indistinguishable from history.

(E.g., the surge of history is the power of God, and God never fully – if at all –                    transcends historical process.)

[2] A naturalistic Christology arises wherein humans have a natural capacity to apprehend              the truth and reality of Jesus Christ. (Needless to say, the “Christ” therein                            apprehended is never exactly the Christ whom the apostles confess.)

[3] The Holy Spirit is rendered indistinguishable from human spirit.

[4] The human phenomenon of self-transcendence becomes the starting point and the norm                       of theology, wherein God is “allowed” to be, do and speak only in conformity with                 the human experience of finite self-transcendence.

(Molnar maintains that the rest of the book discusses the aforementioned four points.)



Chapter One

1: Kaufman and McFague illustrate the declensions found in a theology that doesn’t think God from a centre in God but rather from a centre in ourselves, and doesn’t allow the nature of God to determine what can properly be said of God (and what not.)

K and McF insist that speech about God is reducible without remainder to our attempt at giving meaning to human existence; i.e., theology is no more than a way of describing human depths.

2: When they speak of theology as an “imaginative construction” [Shepherd they have confused “imaginative” with “imaginary.”] K. is obvious: God is not an extra-human reality of which our theological language speaks, however ineptly. What is real is the meta-myth that theological language articulates.

4: LaCugna maintains that the doctrine of the Trinity says nothing about God but rather about our life in God and our life with each other. [We can’t speak of ‘our life in God’ unless we know the nature of God.]

5: When she speaks of “divine life as all creatures partake and literally exist in it” she is thoroughly pan(en)theistic: she has blurred the ontic distinction between God’s being and the being of the world.

6: McF. makes the same error in speaking of God as dependent on the world and intrinsically related to the world.

7: Ultimately McF’s theology indicates we can’t know God at all; we can know only our own experiences.

8: Result: unknowingly she’s sabotaged human freedom, since human freedom presupposes God’s freedom. [Unless God is free from the world – i.e., is ontically distinct from it – then “humans”, so-called, are emanations from God or extensions of God and therefore lack human freedom.]

Feminist Theology: God is named from the matrix [=womb] of women’s experience. They forget something crucial: nowhere in the Christian tradition does God’s self-declared name – F, S and HS– mean that God is male.

13: Molnar’s warning: whenever the humanness of Jesus is set aside as essential to revelation, God is defined not by himself [i.e., in the Son] but by our experience. Rather, God is to be defined by himself, albeit through our experience [since revelation is known only in faith, and faith is a human act/event/affirmation/experience.] Lost here is the logic of scripture: God can by known only by God.

15: Warning: the error of thinking God from a centre in ourselves – Karl Rahner will later be seen to have written this error LARGE. [1]

16: Elizabeth Johnson confuses the mystery of human (creaturely) depths with the mystery of God. Result: the experience of one’s self is the experience of God. [God is women’s experience of themselves projected onto a cosmic screen.] E.g., conversion is self-acceptance.

19: Johnson maintains that Jesus is the paradigm of “Christ” for many, but can (and should) be substituted; modernity must be allowed to adopt multiple redemptive role models.

[In all of this a redemption myth replaces the sole mediatorship of Jesus of Nazareth.]

20: Result: the door is opened to gnosticism, dualism, pantheism, polytheism. (22: Women can represent Christ because they are other Christs.)



Chapter Two

27: Barth: to think accurately about revelation is to begin neither with our own ideas nor with our own experiences. Beginning with our ideas yields a Docetic Christology (wherein history is ignored); with our experiences, an Ebionite Christology (wherein God as the Lord of history is ignored).

28: Still, Jesus’ humanity as such doesn’t reveal [since history doesn’t yield a knowledge of God]. While Jesus’ humanity is essential to revelation, it isn’t sufficient: only the Holy Spirit, the power in which the Resurrected One acts, can acquaint us with the truth and reality of the Incarnate One. I.e., revelation is the unveiling of the God who remains veiled to all but the eyes of faith. Revelation therefore is always and everywhere a miracle.

29: Molnar contrasts Barth with Moltmann, Pannenberg and Jenson, for whom Jesus is Lord not because this is who he is but because God raised him from the dead. [This entails adoptionism.]

30: Barth maintains that the Resurrection doesn’t give something new to the Incarnate One, but it does make visible what is proper to him: his glory. [JC is the Son regardless of any impression he makes on us.]

31: Moltmann commits the [Bultmannian] error of denying the Resurrection to be an event in the life of Jesus and affirming it to be (only) an event in the lives of the apostles, a “visionary” episode.

33: MacQuarrie: ‘Christ’ shouldn’t be restricted to Jesus of Nazareth; it should be predicated of the ‘Christ event’ – Jesus and the community. [This, of course, makes humankind its own redeemer and the church its own Lord.]

35: Barth’s point: the power of the Resurrection is the power of the Word and Spirit evident in Jesus from Christmas to cross to Easter to Ascension – a power over which we have no conceptual, existential or ontological control. [If true, this point ends all attempts at rendering God’s acts, ultimately God himself, human extrapolations or projections or aspirations.]

36: Barth: the Resurrection discloses who Jesus is. Molt, Pann, Jen: the Resurrection constitutes Jesus’ being as eternal Son. [See above comment re: Adoptionism.] Pann advances another distortion: thanks to the Incarnation, Christ’s Sonship must be perceivable in his human existence. [This renders the truth and reality of JC naturally intelligible – thereby rendering rev. superfluous.] Little wonder Barth viewed Pann “with horror.”


In Docetic Christology Jesus’ historicity is dispensable – leaving only his [discarnate] deity? No. The God-man is the only true deity. The core of the NT isn’t incarnation (found everywhere in paganism) but rather that Jesus of Nazareth is the eternal Son of God Incarnate, and that the Son of

God Incarnate is Jesus of Nazareth.

41: To say this is to say that God can be known only where God ‘tabernacles’ with us and acts: J of N. To say this is to say that God can be known only by grace, never by us alone. Therefore God can’t be known on the basis of an analogy with something already known to us. Therefore ransacking human experience of self-transcendence yields neither the knowledge of God nor the possibility of it. [This point will loom huge in Barth’s repudiation of the analogia entis and Molnar’s recognition of the a.e. throughout Rahner’s work.]

45: Those who deny this affirm myth; e.g., John Hick: “Incarnation” speaks not of the truth re: Jesus but rather of our ascription and attitude concerning him.

48: In the same way ‘Christ’, says Kaufman, points to the complex of events that grew up around J of N. Christians were wrong in using “Christ” to speak of J as the God-man, and Jewish/Muslim critics were correct in faulting Christians for it. J of N is not “the only begotten Son of God.”

50: Rahner is famous for reorienting Roman Catholic theology to the doctrine of the Trinity. Yet he doesn’t begin thinking about it from a centre in God but rather from humankind’s transcendental experience. All experiences of human hope, fear, goodness, aspiration, wonder, mystery, love are unthematic experiences of God. [This is paganism.]

51: To confess Jesus Christ is ultimately to confess the mystery that human beings are. Theology is reducible to anthropology. Jesus is the ultimate instance of self-tr’ce. [Schleiermacher: Jesus is the most elevated instance of God-consciousness.]

Note what is forfeited here:

F1: revelation as God’s act, and therefore miracle.

F2: the R’n of Jesus as that which governs our theology. The tra’l exp. of hope does. (54: The R’n         is “the realisation and crystallisation of man’s deepest aspirations.”)

F3: the biblical truth that rev. causes offence. [How could it?]

F4: the biblical notion of faith. Faith [that by which we have fellowship with God] is ‘owning’     one’s experiences of mystery, wonder, etc; i.e., all the experiences of creaturely mystery        and depth.

F5: the Immanent Trinity as the God who is for us. [God is now the world in its aspirations.]

F6: redemption as the content of revelation. [Since revelation is knowledge of ourselves,                         redemption is ultimately self-wrought.]



Chapter Three

Logos asarkos: the notion that the Word is the eternal second person of the Trinity. To be contrasted with the notion that the Word occurs as it is enfleshed; i.e., an e.t. isn’t grounded in an i.t.

62: McCormack: if election is an eternal decision, then election is part of God’s being.

Molnar: God exists eternally as F, S and HS. Therefore the covenant of grace can’t be the ground of God’s triunity. God’s essence in no way depends on his works ad extra. [Q: Has Molnar read McCormack correctly? Q: Would McCormack question whether election is only ad extra?]

64: Molnar maintains that according to McC God is triune only because of God’s self-determination to be our God. There i.t. and e.t. are the same. For this reason we always need the logos asarkos to preserve the eternal, ontic triunity of God.


66: Farrow: “That he {Jesus} goes {ascends} makes him the way {to the Father.} “Makes”? Molnar: The Son is homoousion with the Father apart from the Ascension. Therefore logos asarkos must be upheld.

67: Concomitantly Farrow omits any affirmation of Christ’s active Lordship, wherein the Ascended One encounters his people now. If this is lost then so is human freedom, for our freedom is being claimed for and freed by this One for obedience to him.


70: Jenson: Jenson appears to blur the distinction between events in history and acts of God, with the result that history is deemed able to reveal the Incarnate One. Once again e.t. and i.t. are identical. Molnar rightly recognizes that if history can reveal JC, then the truth, reality, presence and significance of God are naturally intelligible.

72: Once l.a. is rejected, history constitutes God’s eternal being, and God is dependent on history.

73: Once the eternality of the l.a. is denied, God becomes the process of divine self-realization. [Here we have Hegel’s understanding of God as the Infinite that ‘others’ itself in nature and history and returns to itself as Absolute Spirit. Incarnation is a stage in the process of God’s self-realization.] Molnar denies Jenson’s Hegelian presupposition and with it the notion of God’s becoming anything in the course of Incarnation and Ascension.

76: Molnar also disagrees with Jenson concerning Jesus’ own glorified body. For Jenson, church and sacraments are that body; i.e., Jesus rose into the church and its sacraments. Jenson’s omission of the HS here is crucial [the HS binds Christ to his people], with the result that Christ needs the church to be who he is.

79: Molnar disagrees when Jenson maintains that God’s eternity isn’t his self-sufficiency as F, S and HS but his faithfulness to history. For Jenson God isn’t eternally self-sufficient but is becoming [Hegel] who he will be because of his relation to the world.



Chapter Four   (Rahner)

84: R develops his doctrine of God from his concept of mystery. [This is idolatry.] The human self is the point of departure for knowing God. [“God” is no more than a projection of human experiences, replete with pagan immediacy. Note how seldom R speaks of faith.   There is no need for the Mediator, since God is apprehended through human experiences of self-transcendence.]

86: R’s assumption is that an experience of one’s ‘horizon’ is an experience of God.   This assumption is rooted in a prior assumption: 88 – Humans are “a being oriented towards God.” [In the wake of the Fall, humans are oriented away from God.]

[Forfeited: any notion that God is the sole originator of our knowledge of God; that God ever remains Lord of his own revelation.] Here the transcendence of God, and therefore the freedom of God, is abandoned.

88: “Man is forever the articulate mystery of God.” [This reduces all theology to anthropology. Jesus Christ alone is the articulate mystery of God, and this is because he is God.]

95: The God who is identical with our experience of mystery [is posited] as identical with the i.t.

97: Result (says Molnar): R can’t distinguish between philosophy and theology, reason and revelation, nature and grace. [There is no theology or revelation or grace.]

107: R synthesizes creator and creature under the phil’l category of “absolute being.” [Herein God is subordinate to metaphysics, God being ontically indistinct from the creaturely.]

[In speaking of aspects of human experience w.r.t. the “infinite” R has confused indefinitely large with infinite.      True God, utterly transcendent, alone is infinite. The ‘horizon’ of our experience is indefinitely large and          impenetrably mysterious, but forever creaturely. Creatio ex nihilo – always to be distinguished from creatio ex Deo       – preserves the truth that God is LORD over the creation, not on a continuum with it.]

112: R: Christ is the ‘pure form’ of an experience of God that all religions describe.   [This contradicts scripture on so many fronts there’s no point in listing them. Cf. Elijah and Baal.]

113: R: God’s ‘universal will to save’ is a constitutive element in human experience. [God’s will is God himself (willing.) God is never a constitutive element in the human.>> pan(en)theism]



Chapter Five

— an illustration of what happens to Trinitarian thinking when “relationality” is substituted for the Triune God.

126: once the i.t. is denied as the ground of the e.t., then humankind’s relationship with God is one of mutual conditioning. Result: [see xii.]

128: La Cugna: persons in communion are substituted for Jesus Christ, and the HS is an aspect of creaturely relationships. Result: 130 — an ontology that includes both the being of God and the being of the human. [See 8 and 107.]

132: Molt: The Spirit is God’s immanence in human experience and the transcendence of humans in God. [paganism]

132: Kaufman: God and Christ are symbols [mythological constructs] that we invent to help us transform or ‘humanize’ our society. [paganism]

139: Peters: “God is the process of becoming Godself through relationship with the temporal creation.” [To be sure, how God achieves his purposes is affected by the world’s evil and human recalcitrance; but the nature of God is not. The manner in which God achieves his purposes is flexible; his essence is not. What could God ‘become’ except non-God?]

144: All such notions suggest that God’s relations ad extra eventually become God’s relations ad intra. [God is in the process of becoming what he isn’t at present through the relationships he undertakes. Since the e.t., in this model, becomes the i.t. in the eschaton {if there’s still point to using these terms}, then who God is going to turn out to be remains in doubt.]

160: R: “Man is the event of God’s absolute self-communication.” [Hegel is unmistakable here.]

162: R: “Wherever man posits a positively moral act in the full exercise of his free self-disposal, this act is a positive supernatural salvific act.” [Overlooked (1) religion and morality as antithetical to faith in the gospel – see 191, where to be a person of “morally good will” is to exist in grace, (2) self-salvation (Grace has been made the condition by which we can thereafter save ourselves; grace facilitates self-salvation.) (3) “free” – what became of the bondage of the will?]



Chapter Six

172: TFT: the r’n is the “primal datum” of theology and can’t be abstracted [i.e., into something symbolic or mythological.]

173: neither nature nor history produces the r’n. The r’n in turn is its own validation.(194)

174: while our concepts concerning God don’t allow us to speak of God exhaustively (TFT says elsewhere) they do allow us to speak of God truly and adequately. A concept-less knowledge (experience) of God is impossible.

175: w.r.t. the NT, theology is interested in the different layers of tradition only as they are correlated and controlled by God’s self-revelation. [Here TFT opposes “Q fundamentalism,” the latter being the notion that a NT stratum – neither Mark nor M nor L but merely a ‘sayings’ source (and only hypothetical at that) yields a knowledge of God.]   [Note the Jesus Seminar.]

178: TFT’s disagreement with liberal theology and with R: TFT’s ‘repentant thinking’, wherein such thinking submits to God’s self-rev. Such thinking is not found 1st in experience but first in Jesus Christ and subsequently in experience.

180: On account of the r’n of JC and the eternal Sonship of JC, our human nature is set in the F-S relation. [i.e., there is no natural knowledge ultimately of what it means to be a human being. Our knowledge of the human is a predicate of our knowledge of the humanness of JC. Here TFT opposes R on all fronts. R, beginning with an unthematic human exp. of mystery, longing, hope, etc. has a deity that can never be more than projected or inflated or religionized humanness. It never seems to occur to R that such humanness is fallen as well.]

193: TFT doesn’t deny we have the experiences of which R speaks. [Who would want to deny this?] TFT does deny that we can build a logical bridge from these to rev., since only God can reveal God.



Chapter Seven

198: Moltmann begins with Rahner and then moves beyond him. Note Barth’s criticism that Molt’s Theology of Hope reduces God to the principle of hope, indistinguishable from Marxist Bloch’s principle of hope.

199: Molt’s deity is mutually conditioned by and is never completely independent of human beings – as attested by the fact that God and the world are involved in a cosmic redemptive process (208). [Since both God and the world are on their way to redemption, Molt’s God is never LORD of the creation, but rather is finite and as needy as any creature.]

200: Molt’s theology of suffering renders human suffering the measure of God. The fact that God needs to suffer explains [somehow] the how of Trinitarian self-revelation. Father and Son couldn’t be selfless unless they suffered (211). [F and S are utterly selfless eternally in their self-giving to one another. This does not entail suffering. God’s suffering arises only through God’s self-giving to a tormented world.]

202: Note: Barth regarded panentheism as more dangerous than pantheism. [In pantheism God is the essence of everything. If God is of the essence of everything (panentheism) it becomes impossible to distinguish what is of God from what is not.]

204: w.r.t Molt’s panentheism, God’s indwelling makes “the whole creation the house of God.” [JC is where God ‘houses’ himself.]

208: Molt insists that the Christian doctrine of the Trinity “integrates the truth in monotheism and pantheism.” [What is the truth of pantheism? Monotheism as such is idolatry.]

209: Molt: “a non-creative God would be imperfect.” [Then God creates out of inner necessity and God’s creating is not a free act.]

221: Molt’s assertion that God’s love logically entails suffering eliminates the i.t.

222: Once God’s Spirit is identified with cosmic spirit, the doctrine of sin is lost.

231: In short, God needs creatures in order to be God. God is no longer sovereign as the catholic tradition understands the term; God’s sovereignty is “his sustaining fellowship with his creatures and his people.” [God’s sovereignty as his non-dependence on his creation has been forfeited. Only the God who is free from the world can act upon the world in love.]



Chapter Eight

Alan Torrance

235: recapitulation: the distinction between the i.t. and the e.t. means that God’s works ad extra are not necessities grounded in our transcendental experience or a principle of relationality (communion.).

237: Alan Torrance thinks that Rahner made explicit problems that are implicit in Barth. Molnar disagrees.

240: AT’s strong point: grace draws us into the Trinitarian relations by the Spirit so that Christ living in us doesn’t cancel or compromise the fact that we are agents in our own thinking and doing, even as our own thinking and doing are brought to completion in Christ.

242: AT’s criticism of Barth: Barth’s “revelation model” obscures our communion with God.

243: Molnar’s criticism: AT fails to grasp that for Barth knowledge (of God) and fellowship (with God) are inseparable. For B, knowledge of God is born of fellowship with God (i.e., faith in God.) [Bible passim] [When AT speaks of “communion” he appears to mean “continuity”.]

247: M’s criticism: AT’s und’g of our inclusion by grace in the Son’s eternal communion with the Father is rendered constitutive of our personhood. [Doesn’t this divinise us? Isn’t this a reappearance of the nature-grace continuum?]

248: M: “ Torrance finds the continuity between God and the creatures in semantic thought forms that he believes have become integral to the Christ event.” [Could any thought form be the continuity between God and creation? Is there such a continuity at all?]

248: Such a continuity occurs in that communion takes primacy over revelation. [Redemption is always the content of revelation. Therefore communion [=fellowship, not continuity] between God and [sinful] creatures can never take primacy over rev. We know God only as we are reconciled to God in faith. Note the absence of a discussion of faith in AT.]

250: AT’s notion of communion obscures God as the acting subject in his relations with us. Result: AT has reintroduced a form of the analogia entis.

251: AT’s description of revelation as “epistemic atonement” distorts the meaning of revelation; i.e., revelation is a result of communion rather than of God’s act. This in turn suggests that Christ’s humanity as such reveals.



262: Jl seems to understand God not merely from revelation but also from the human context of theological statement; e.g., an experience of gratitude is at the same time an exp. of God [[Rahner has returned.] Jl herein blunts experience of God as our knowledge of God born by the Spirit’s ‘introducing’ us to the Son – and all of this as God’s soteriological act.]

264: One problem arising from this: humanity is part of the Godhead. [Human love is not an aspect of God’s love. [Hegel]]

268: A FATALITY: the i.t. is merely the summarizing concept of the e.t.; i.e., the i.t. is merely a way of speaking of the e.t. This renders impossible the i.t. as the ground of the e.t.



Chapter Nine

274: Note Gunton’s warning that we understand the e.t. as scripture does [revelationally/soteriologically] not as the foundation of an agenda for socio-political alteration wherein Christ becomes a principle subserving, e.g., cultural transformation.

277: M’s disagreement with Gu: Gu undervalues the noetic damage of the Fall [w.r.t. God], and therefore Gu undervalues the extent to which revelation is offensive. E.g., rev. doesn’t merely “liberate energies that are inherent in created rationality.” [M’s implicit point: fallen rationality needs to be restored to its integrity (since Fallen reason is devastated with respect to knowledge of God), not merely ‘released.’ In this context M points out that “faith” appears infrequently in Gu’s theology of the Trinity.]

278: Barth doesn’t undervalue the noetic damage of the Fall.

270: M on Gu: the Virgin Birth doesn’t suggest that Jesus isn’t fully human.

295: Note M’s detection of a naturalistic element in Gu: relationality as such – “the relations in which we stand” (Gu) – acquaint us with who we are. [Human self-knowledge is a predicate of our knowledge of God – and therefore must be revealed.] [Shepherd finds a naturalistic element in many places throughout Gunton’s work; e.g., Gu’s insistence that humans need to be perfected, rather then redeemed/corrected and then perfected. What lurks here once again is the nature/grace continuum.]


Chapter Ten: Conclusion

311: M’s book has been (i) a sustained protest against the tendency to allow experience “to dictate the meaning of theological categories”; (ii) a sustained insistence that while our experience of God gives rise to our articulation of the e.t., the same experience directs us away from experience to the Word and Spirit (i.t.) as the source of our theological knowledge.


311: Recapitulation: the four indicators of contemporary theology’s failure to discern the need for a doctrine of the i.t.:

i) God is made dependent on and indistinguishable from history;

ii) the humanity of Jesus itself reveals [implicit denial of the Incarnation and Holy Spirit;
explicit marginalizing of faith.

iii) Holy Spirit is confused with human spirit;

iv) experience and self-transcendence are made the origin and substance of theology.


313: M: “God sets the terms for theological insights.” [=God is the author and object of revelation. As God acts upon us he forges within us the capacity and desire for knowing him and the categories whereby we may speak of him.]

313: If Trinitarian life is no more than our life, we are doomed. However – our real life is hidden with Christ in God.

The bottom Line: Either the Immanent Trinity – or We Are Still in Our Sins.


[1] Rahner in nuce: “Rahner explores human self-transcendence assuming that we have an obediential potency for revelation and a supernatural existential which identifies revelation and grace with our transcendental dynamisms.     But these very assumptions blur the distinction between nature and grace.” P.165