- Tom Morris’s (1986, 1989) or Richard Swinburne’s two-minds approach to the Incarnation (1994)
- Swinburne’s social trinitarian theory (1994)
- Leftow’s earlier Latin Trinitarian speculations (1999, 2004) and his exploration and penetrating criticisms of various social theories (1999)
- Peter van Inwagen’s relative identity construals of the Incarnation and Trinity (1995)
(To new readers – you can find many earlier posts on Swinburne and Leftow using the search box, below right.) I’m limiting myself to (1) uncontroversially top-notch work, (2) by prominent Christian philosopher-theologians, masters of their craft, that (3) has been out for a while, and which (4) is pretty well known among Christian philosophers. Now, for the search:
McGrath, Christian Theology: An Introduction, 4th. ed. (2007)
- Basically, a complete miss. A passing reference to Swinburne as a great philosophical theologian. McGrath does mention “kenotic” approaches to the Incarnation, which are certainly Rational Reconstructions, but his discussion ends in the 19th century.
Grenz, Rediscovering the Triune God (2004)
- Complete miss. But we’ve got Hegel and Schleirmacher! (Sigh – philosophy has come a long way since then.)
Kärkkäinen, The Trinity: Global Perspectives (2007)
- Despite the fact that all the aforementioned philosopher-theologians have lived their entire lives so far on the Globe, a complete miss. This is the more bitter because of the coverage lavished on some surprisingly bad theories. Kenosis is mentioned a few times.
- Towards the end of the book, he says: “…I would call for a much more sophisticated analysis of the relation of threeness to unity than has been done.” (393, emphasis added) My friend, this has been going in earnest since at least the late 80s, among philosophical theologians, with the pace picking up more recently.
Olson and Hall, The Trinity (2002)
- Granted, this is introductory, but: a total miss. The end point of theorizing here? Zizioulas’s 1983 book.
Mind you, these are all (1) recent books, by (2) theologians specializing in the Trinity, which (3) aim at comprehensiveness, i.e. showing the student where she ought to look further.
None of these are bad books – I’ve found all them useful in various ways. I’m not criticizing these four gentlemen (one deceased) but rather the professional standard they’ve all followed. Folks, this is like biologists ignoring recent and relevant work in chemistry. (Yeah, I know: some theologians think it’s more like astronomers ignoring “developments” in astrology. 😉 )
Instead of just complaining about this, I’ll speculate on why theologians, even ones who focus on the Trinity seem completely uninformed about important work in philosophical theology. (Yes, I’m aware of a few exceptions – usually younger guys – but they are rare exceptions, as far as I can tell – I’d like to be wrong about this.)
- Theology is backward-looking, and this stuff is too recent to be on the radar.
- Theologians aren’t trained in philosophy, and so find the aforementioned authors very difficult to understand; hence, they avoid them.
- These writers are not academic theologians, not professors of theology, but theologians are academically insular, in the own little world.
- They’re spending so much time batting around the unclear work of Rahner and Barth, and other imprecise and long-winded thinkers, they just don’t have time to read philosophical theology.
- Theologians are simply not very worried about inconsistency or irrationality (or conversely, consistency and rationality), at least concerning the Trinity and the Incarnation.
- But insofar as they are concerned with consistency, Mysterian Resistance and Redirection are firmly entrenched in academic theology.
Regarding #2 – I believe that systematic theologians should be trained in Philosophy, at least to the equivalent of a B.A.. Also, as more popular level and reference sources cover this stuff, it’ll be inexcusable to be a least a little familiar with it. All the sources I mention are complex but rigorously clearly written.
Regarding #3 – Are philosophers equally insular? I dare say we (who work in philosophical theology) are not. For my part, I’ve got a shelf full of recent books by theologians on the Trinity, but they rarely address issues in which I’m interested. Or if they do, the treatment is… inadequate in various ways. Philosophers developing Trinity theories, in my experience, are often following up on undeveloped leads from recent theologians – particularly in the social camp. And we have no excuse, for there are abundant decently short and clear secondary sources. (Theologians – this will soon be true of philosophical theology as well!)
Regarding #5: I think this is true. Why it is true is another question, and most of the possible answers are not pretty.
Regarding #6: This is a big reason why I think Mysterian Resistance is worth looking into (next post, btw).
So young theologians: if you’re going to work on the Trinity, surf this site, and follow up by reading some of books and articles discussed here. If you stick with standard theology sources, you’re missing out on a whole world of exciting, challenging, relevant stuff. Frankly, your elders have, collectively, let you down by ignoring obviously relevant material. You must, unless you’re working with one of the aforementioned (rare, and usually young) theology profs who are up on recent philosophical theology, fend for yourself.
Next time: the next “R” – Resistance!