Friday, January 25, 2013

Are Christians Monotheists in Their Practical Life?

Its been some time since I posted, ironically before the holidays.  But, i'm back in the saddle to amuse, entertain, and confound mostly myself of this blog.  So no more delay.

I was laying in bed tonight wanting to get some sleep and I kept thinking about a trinitarian theology of justice (I realize that's strange but its perfectly normal for me).  So rather than lay there fretting over it I decided to get up and look at one of the locus communis on this topic The Trinity by Karl Rahner.  One caveat before I go any further.  If you are new to the Christian faith or still learning about the faith I don't recommend Rahner as a source for you.  As I was reading away I came across something interesting he said and it got my attention viola! a blog post was born. 

So here is what Rahner had to say.

“Despite their orthodox confession of the Trinity, Christians are, in their practical life, almost mere ‘monotheists’.  We must be willing to admit that, should the doctrine of the Trinity have to be dropped as false, the major part of religious literature could well remain virtually unchanged”.  

“We may hope that any material could be pressed into service in the attempt to destroy once and for all the false conception that a ‘speculative’ doctrine of the immanent Trinity may perhaps be conceivable today, that it is a completely idle and irrelevant undertaking, possessing neither spiritual nor religious interest to the modern Christian and theologian”

Now I am curious, does anyone believe this might be true?  I will even settle for a feeling.  Does anyone feel that there is a possible hint of truth here?  And the reason I ask is quite legitimate.  From my perspective, as I look around at Churches today especially contemporary evangelical types, I do see Rahner's thesis being demonstrated practically.  Now I am not saying that contemporary evangelicals are self consciously Modern in their theology.  But, I do get the impression they view the trinity as "something we we believe" but not to be central to or inculcated in the life of the church.

Am I being too harsh?  It's not intentional.  I raise this question out of genuine concern.  Moreover, I believe many of the ecclesial problems evangelicals experience today can be answered with a return to a healthy understanding of the ontological trinity.  What says you?


Denny Fusek said...

I don't know if I fully grasp what Rahner and/or you might be saying. I know at my church in Orange County we taught the different branches of theology. I was there 3 years and I taught full fledged deep Masters level Theology Proper and Eschatology to the 4th-10th graders. I also taught a Masters level Bibliology class to the adults, and my pastor taught Masters level Pneumatology and Angelology /Demonology classes to adults while I was there.

In those 3 years there was never a formal Christology or Ecclesiology class, but we hit several pieces of those topics in sermons. Those classes had been taught in the years before I got there, and I'm sure they will be taught again.

Of course, this may not be exactly what you and Rahner mean, so if it's not, please clarify.

Jim said...

I hope all is well with you. Are you working yet? Let me know how things are going.

One of the things I noticed years ago is that many of the discussions I heard of the trinity usually consisted of proof texting. The typical out come would be "the trinity is something believe but we don't understand it." I think this is a problem of significant proportion. In short the trinity is God's true nature. God creates on a representational model "let us make man in our image." Therefore as creatures the trinity should have plenty to communicate to us from at the very least an ontological perspective.

I think Rahner is just following the logical conclusion "the trinity is something we believe but don't understand." Because of this I think he is mistaken.

Denny Fusek said...

I'm teaching high school geometry in West Virginia. Man, oh man, is it different than teaching in California. A whole host of different issues for the teens.

I think that the Trinity is something that Christians believe, and is something that is difficult to understand.

I guess there are several shades of understanding each Christian has on it. I guess my question is "What is Rahner's threshhold of what is understanding the Trinity and what isn't?" I don;t think he is the one to say. The Trinity is like any other doctrine in Scripture. Pick any doctrine at random and I'm sure you will have the entire gamut run of people who understand it a little bit and people who understand it a lot.

I'm not sure what Rahner means by his saying that if the Trinity would be proved as false, then little else would change. For one thing, I think for a lot of people, the doctrines of salvation would be almost impossible to understand. Also, there are a whole host of passages where Jesus claims to be deity that would be rather difficult to understand. I think if the Trinity doctirne were dropped, you would have a lot of confused Christians who would have a hard time explaining key doctrines and Scriptures.