Thursday, October 21, 2004

Is the Trinity placeless?

I blog this earthed in a cafe, with a headache, under pressure from a particular set of embodied circumstances and relationships. I blog this in Canterbury, with a particular landscape and seascape. The view from my table shapes my thinking, blabbing, blogging. Place shapes theological reflection.

The work of Miroslav Volf positions the Trinity within the context of 9/11 and ethnic cleansing. It argues that in the face of religious tribalism God embraces us, then releases us to the possibility of being fully human. This becomes a model for human relating; we must embrace the other, we must release the other to face being fully human. This sounds great. It is practically sharpened by the fact that Volf grew up in Yugoslavia and so writes of embrace and freedom and consequence against the bitter backdrop of ethnic cleansing. What do I do with the violator and oppressor; asks Volf? I must embrace because God embraced me. I must release, trusting the love of God and people.

However, this presents the possibility of the Trinity as an abstract meta-narrative, a model for human relationships. And I wonder how such a potentially abstract model is shaped by place. How do the contours of land, of land displacement, shape a Trinitarian theology.

The typical answer is that in Jesus the Trinity becomes “placed”? As Jesus walks, so the Triune God walks. This makes all place important, as a localised, Jewish place, is universalized. However, there is a nagging sense that once again the Trinity has become an abstract meta-narrative, a model for human relationships; as God in one place becomes God in all places.

Or, from my place cafe table, I ask you at your place, is there more to Trinitarian placement?

Posted by steve at 11:23 AM


  1. Jeepers mate, good question, now I have a headache in my place – 2nd floor of a six story building, looking out over city roofs, blue sky, increasing cloud though, Kaimai ranges on the horizon…time for a panadol 🙂

    Comment by Paul Fromont — October 21, 2004 @ 11:45 am

  2. Some random thoughts. Coherence is not guaranteed.

    1. If you are participating in the Trinity – the divine life – then a certain level of abstraction is removed. The Trinity ceases to be a model and is instead a partner.

    2. How do other narratives/texts (Eden, Mamre, Christ’s Baptism, Pentecost, new earth & heaven) shape to concept of place – do they universalize it or add perculiarity?

    3. Paul’s need of a Panadol is obviously NPC semi-final induced.

    Comment by StephenG — October 21, 2004 @ 10:35 pm

  3. Thanks Stephen, that’s what it really was [winking]. Enjoy your panadol…you’ll be needing one shortly won’t he Steve?

    Comment by Paul Fromont — October 22, 2004 @ 6:34 am

  4. Hmmmm…

    Perhaps “place” is not as intrisic and powerful as our perceptions of it. It is very tempting to require God to work within our framework but we need to realize that while the God of Volf’s embrace has chosen to enter our world (specifically for the embrace) we dare not limit him to such action. I don’t think that recognition of the mystery is necessarily relegation of the trinity to abstraction.

    I read Exclusion and Embrace and what I took from that more than anything is a recognition that as Christians, we must live in the will to embrace. This is a message of reconciliation as opposed to revenge, and reconciliation for the sake of redemption. Even if it is one sided. I don’t know if you’ve read Exclusion and Embrace but it is a powerful book. I have a paper about it somewhere that I’ll post to my blog when I can find it.

    Of course there’s always the possiblity that I’ve misunderstood you since you appear to be quite a bit smarter than I am.

    Comment by Kevin Rector — October 23, 2004 @ 10:28 am

  5. Volf, Trinity, and Place

    Comment by — October 23, 2004 @ 11:16 am

  6. the Trinity,i have always believed, have always confounded and defied abstractions. For though the concept is an attempt to “abstractize” what is a wholly personal and particular, it cannot be reduced to fully to some generalized meta-narrative. But then again, an all-embracing concept of the trinity cannot just be placed at a particular time and space, and story. A dynamic tension that should keep us on our toes and to never opt for complacency?

    Comment by bong dela fuente — October 24, 2004 @ 5:09 am

  7. hey steve – its a thrill to keep hearing you bringing up this : place – thing again and again….

    I have become obsessed – or perhaps have become possessed – by place and land and people – here for the last 2 years – to understand how the creating (creation) that happens here in this very peculiar place and the ever breaking open trinity – me – particular events – people etc… dance and fight here —- in a hwta is already become a: 24/7 global theatre…

    I am more and more convinced – that whatever jesus struggled with – he did it soaked to the gunnels in his landworld .. in a previous global theatre – under the shadow of an empire….

    a land not only of particular creative origin and gift but of particular present ‘creating’ — and ‘resisting’ among his generation… at the high noon/brink of some kind of transformation..

    and he was aware of it – aware of it’s particular colours and nuances – I wonder… because he could hear it from the Spirit AND feel it in his blood!

    and communicate the response via his body!! (another v. particular place)

    scotland peoples are electronic and carbon – gael and urban – a mongrel people – surrounded by oceans – more mountains than cities – more exile than nation
    by bypassing/ignoring these qualities and histories of land/creating – whatever church is or is emerging into – becomes useless to the voiceless here – the poorest – the animals the rocks and God!
    So i pray we-church get baptised intae this place – to its fiery depths – now thats what i call full immersion!! ((;-))

    Comment by paul T — October 26, 2004 @ 4:51 am

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