Dedicated to the devotional, exegetical and philosophical study of theological paradox in Conservative, Thoroughly Biblical, Historically Orthodox, Essentially Reformed theology . . . to the glory of God alone!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Paradox in Christian Theology, Part 2

This is a continuation of my review of James Anderson's book, "Paradox in Christian Theology: An Analysis of Its Presence, Character, and Epistemic Status."

Note: The "parts" of my book review correspond to the "chapters" in the book. Part 1 covered the Introduction, which is chapter 1 of the book. Since the book contains 8 chapters, I expect to post 8 parts.

Chapter 2: The Paradox of the Trinity

Anderson plays the dual role of historian and philosopher as he summarizes the events and issues involved in the early development of the doctrine of the Trinity. He takes special note of the way the Nicene and Post-Nicene theologians articulated their trinitarian arguments, demonstrating that key figures such as Athanasius, the Cappadocian Fathers (Gregory of Nyssa, Gregory Nazianzen, and Basil the Great), and Augustine of Hippo viewed the Trinity as a paradox.

Following the historical survey is a critique of several non-paradoxical views as represented by certain modern theologians. Specifically, Anderson takes aim at the errors of modalism, social trinitarian interpretaions, and relative identity interpretations. He shows that these approaches inevitably cross Biblical boundaries and depart from earlier orthodox conceptions in their attempts to rule out paradox. There is also a brief overview of several modern theologians who continue to present a paradoxical doctrine of the Trinity.

While reading through this fascinating material, I was impressed with how much I don't know about the Trinity. I found it helpful to keep my Theological Dictionary open as I read. And I learned a new word. Disambiguate. I hope to use it in my next game of Scrabble.

Anderson concludes that we are faced with this choice regarding the doctrine of the Trinity: to be orthodox and paradoxical, or to find ourselves moving beyond the bounds of orthodoxy. The chapter concludes with these words:

"As the debate stands today, no writer from the first century to the twenty-first century has offered an explication of the doctrine of the Trinity that is both clearly orthodox and free from apparent contradiction. It sems that the careful theologian inevitably faces a dilemma: that of embracing either paradox or heterodoxy." (page 59)

Well said.

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