God for Us: The Trinity and Christian Life

God for Us: The Trinity and Christian Life

by Catherine M. Lacugna

An extraordinary work that revitalizes theology and Christian life by recovering the early roots of Trinitarian doctrine and exploring the enduringly practical dimensions of faith in God as a community of persons.

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An extraordinary work that revitalizes theology and Christian life by recovering the early roots of Trinitarian doctrine and exploring the enduringly practical dimensions of faith in God as a community of persons.

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HarperCollins Publishers
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6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x 1.01(d)

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Chapter One

Chapter One

God's Economy Revealed InChrist And The Holy Spirit

The doctrine of the Trinity is the summary statement of faith in the God of Jesus Christ. Even though God "dwells in light inaccessible," Christ is the visible icon of the invisible God, making tangible within human history and within human personality the ineffable mystery of God. The Spirit, present and active in creation from the very beginning, leads all of creation back to its origin, God. The shape of salvation history is described in the liturgical hymn of thanksgiving in Eph. 1:3-14:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before God in love. God destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In him [Christ] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a plan [oikonomia] for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in Christ, things in heaven and things on earth.(NRSV)

"In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of the one who accomplishes all things according tohis counsel and will, so that we who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God's own people, to the praise of God's glory.

The central theme of trinitarian theology is the relationship between this economy and the eternal being of God. The doctrine of the Trinity is the attempt to understand the eternal mystery of God on the basis of what is revealed about God in the economy of redemption. Theology of God is at the same time theology of Christ and the Spirit. The economy of salvation is the basis, the context, and the final criterion for every statement about God. Trinitarian doctrine focuses on the relationship between oikonomia and theologia, or between what many contemporary theologians loosely and somewhat inexactly refer to as the 'economic' Trinity and the 'immanent' Trinity.

If, in the history of doctrinal development, Christian theologies of God had adhered closely to the trinitarian pattern of redemptive history, it all speculation about the nature of God were based explicitly on God's selfrevelation in the economy of redemption, then there would be no difficulty seeing how a teaching about the mystery of the triune God would be germane to the various aspects of Christian life. But for a number of historical and theological reasons leading up to the contemporary situation, the doctrine of the Trinity for the most part now has little bearing on other areas of theology, and even less on Christian life. The project of restoring trinitarian theology to the center of faith requires that we come to terms with the historical and theological reasons that produced the current situation; this is the task of chapters 1 through 6.

From Economy To Theology

Although there is no doctrine of the Trinity in the New Testament, there is a definite binitarian or trinitarian pattern to salvation history: God redeems through Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. How are we to think of the manifestation of God in Jesus Christ, and God's abiding presence as Spirit, in relation to God's eternal being? This theological question occupied the most talented minds of early Christianity. The corresponding liturgical question was, How are we to worship God, if we believe that Jesus Christ not only reveals God but is himself divine? How did Christian theology move from the narratives, images, and symbols of the New Testament to a full-fledged doctrine of the Trinity, including claims about intradivine persons, processions, relations? The various answers given to the theological and liturgical questions comprise the history of trinitarian doctrine.

There is no need to retrace here the entire history of trinitarian doctrine, nor its connection with christological controversies; this has been done already several times in general and specialized studies. The topic of this chapter is very specific: How did theologians in different periods understand the relationship between the pattern of salvation history and the eternal being of God? In other words, what did they understand to be the connection between oikonomia and theologia? Christian theologians answered this question by the end of the fourth century in the doctrine of the Trinity: God exists eternally as Father, Son, Spirit, and this eternal triune life is what is given in the economy of redemption. In other words, there is an essential connection between the threefold pattern of salvation history and the eternal being and identity of God.

In reaching this position, Christianity and the method of Christiantheology underwent a sea change. In the earliest centuries of Christian theology, the relationship of God, Christ, and the Spirit to each other was not pursued in its ontological dimensions, assisted by precise philosophical concepts. This would only come later. The focus of early theologians was the scriptural revelation of the one God (Father) in the incarnation of the Son and the sending of the Holy Spirit. The concern was with what was disclosed in oikonomia, not in contrast to theologia, nor with the Incarnation over a against the Trinity, but simply the relationship of the one God (Father) to us as revealed in the drama of redemption.

God for Us copyright © by Catherine M. Lacugna. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All Rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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