by Adrian Thatcher
from Signs of the Times No. 69 - Apr 2018

In response to John Goodchild’s reflection on the Trinity, I wonder:

  • why, in his title (‘…not three persons’) he denies, without a single argument, what is central to the Christian doctrine of God?
  • why he conflates Trinitarianism with polytheism?
  • whether he has considered that, perhaps like any triptych, God might just be One and Three? Whether the Athanasian Creed might be right in insisting we think of God in both these ways, knowing our language can never capture the fullness of God’s being? Whether the ‘unity model’ and the ‘social model’ are both necessary in our thinking about God? Whether, without both, our thinking about God falls into disequilibrium?
  • whether he cares that his Christology is Arian? If Christ is divine, it is not enough to say he ‘existed from the beginning of time’?
  • whether he has confused the ancient metaphysical concept of ‘person’ with the modern ‘philosophical’ one?
  • whether the modern idea of person, while it goes back a long way - to Boethius - emphasizes the individuality and isolation of the single human being, and, as many theologians are now saying, is a disastrous ‘modern turn’ which the doctrine of the Trinity is able to help us undermine and replace with something better?
  • whether, in wishing to preserve the dynamism of God, the Trinity, in which the life of God resonates between the Persons, is a better way of emphasizing dynamism (‘the divine dance’) than the single divine individual of ‘monotheism’?
  • whether the role of the Spirit, ‘active in the Church’, places an impossible restriction on the life of God as she/he/it courses through all religions and none, and throughout all creation? And whether this restriction is a consequence of that devaluation and neglect of the Spirit that ‘monotheism’ has always produced?
  • whether the sociality of God which supports our fundamental sociality as relational beings, is a much-needed corrective to the analogy he would have us make between a single human individual and a single divine individual (a god made in the image of a ‘man’)?
  • and above all, whether he has overlooked the great contribution which the rich vocabulary of speaking of God as Trinity can make to the vexed question of gender? In speaking of the Persons of the Trinity, and their relations, theologians have found it necessary to speak of their relationality, equality, reciprocity, absence of hierarchy, a veritable ‘communion of persons’, etc. Here is a heritage of faith shining with contemporary relevance and application.

Why give all this up? And for what?