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Pro Ecclesia Vol 19-N4: A Journal of Catholic and Evangelical Theology

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Pro Ecclesia is a quarterly journal of theology published by the Center for Catholic and Evangelical Theology. It seeks to give contemporary expression to the one apostolic faith and its classic traditions, working for and manifesting the church's unity by research, theological construction, and free exchange of opinion. Members of its advisory council represent communities committed to the authority of Holy Scripture, ecumenical dogmatic teaching and the structural continuity of the church, and are themselves dedicated to maintaining and invigorating these commitments. The journal publishes biblical, liturgical, historical and doctrinal articles that promote or illumine its purposes.

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Challenging the Modalism of the West: Jenson on the Trinity

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Challenging the Modalism of the West: Jenson on the Trinity

Timo Tavast

The central theme of Robert W. Jenson’s work is his doctrine of the Trinity and the theological investigation of its implications. In this article, I will explore that expansive theme from only one limited point of view.1 Based on my doctoral dissertation and Jenson’s published writings, I will demonstrate how Jenson interprets the relationship between the economic and immanent Trinity.2 This explication is an informative synthesis of his Trinitarian ideas, providing us access to the sphere of Jenson’s most creative thoughts.

Theological Background

In outlining the theological background of the subject, allow me to define two key terms. The first is “economic Trinity,” the second “immanent Trinity.” Here the term “economic” refers to the Greek word oikonomia, which means “household.” So when we are speaking about the Trinity from the economic perspective, we mean the Triune God in the context of God’s works of creation and salvation. In other words, we examine the Trinity in the context of God’s “household” taking place in history, especially in Jesus. Traditionally, Western theologians have interpreted the economic Trinity as something that has been realized solely for the creation and is outside the inner life of the Trinity. In contrast to the economic Trinity, expressions like “immanent Trinity” or “inner Trinity” have been used when referring to the Triune God, regardless of God’s relationship to the created world and salvation history. Thus, it is considered that the immanent doctrine of the Trinity delineates the Triune God’s inner life that takes place outside the world, that is, God’s divine nature and the eternal relations between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It can be readily noted that in the context of Trinitarian theology the term “immanent” does not refer to God’s immanence in the world but to the ontological reality of the Trinity as it is eternally in itself.

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Response to Timo Tavast

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Response to Timo Tavast

Robert W. Jenson

I am conscious of the honor which Dr. Tavast has shown me, in choosing my thinking as the occasion of his dissertation. It is, moreover, an added pleasure that he has presented some of his analysis here at Gettysburg Seminary, where I taught for so long and where, indeed, many of the thoughts he elucidates were hatched.

How then do I respond? Mostly by saying, “That is indeed what I have written on his chosen matter, and it is what I meant.”

But going down the list and saying over and over, “Yes, he got that right . . .” would not make the most fascinating of speeches. So I will instead take the liberty of taking up a general question, a quibble with Tavast, and an attempted response at Tavast’s closing query.

The general question is one some of you may have in mind, which is why I turn to it: “Why should we care whether Tavast gets Jenson right or Jenson gets the Trinity right?” I will advance two answers.

First, faith is directed to God. It therefore belongs to the very truth of Jewish or Christian faith that we be faithful to the way Scripture portrays its God. The doctrine of the Trinity is not so much a specific body of propositions, as it is the church’s continuing effort to conceptualize such faithfulness. So whether or not that effort has been well done so far matters quite a lot. Through the church’s history some theologians have hoped to further the effort, and recently a few of us have tried it again. And so also whether we have done well or been misguided in that matters quite a lot. If the church is misled about the Trinity, the very possibility of faith is wounded.

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Creedal Formation as Hermeneutical Development: A Reexamination of Nicaea

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Creedal Formation as Hermeneutical Development: A Reexamination of Nicaea

Craig A. Blaising

For over a century, one explanation of the Nicene Creed’s formation has remained dominant: an original primitive Christian faith, subsisting in the form of a baptismal creed, was taken up by the bishops at Nicaea to become the carrier of alien Greek philosophical ideas. Studies of the creed have generally focused on one or the other of the two aspects of this thesis: attempts to clarify the conceptual field of philosophical language thought to be embedded in the creed and efforts to identify more precisely the baptismal creed which served Nicaea as an underlying prototype. In spite of the dominance of this thesis, there are good reasons for discarding it altogether. A new approach can be suggested based on a reevaluation of the source material. Such is the purpose of this article, which argues that the Nicene Creed is best understood as a hermeneutical development of a key biblical confessional framework.

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Beauty, Justice, and Damnation in Thomas Aquinas

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Beauty, Justice, and Damnation in Thomas Aquinas

Francis J. Caponi, O.S.A.

Whether one inclines to fire or ice as the most prominent feature of the infernal landscape, there can be no doubt that the “dark doctrine” is currently hot.1 Although for some time the Christian teaching on hell merited the sobriquet of the “dormant doctrine,” the last quarter-century has seen it roused by defenders and dissenters.2 For those who endorse the possibility of hell (even while hoping for its emptiness), the outright rejection or quiet neglect of the doctrine is not a suitable state of affairs.3 C. S. Lewis observes: “There is no doctrine which I would more willingly remove from Christianity than hell if it lay in my power. But it has the full support of Scripture and, especially, of our Lord’s own words; it has always been held by Christendom; and it has the support of reason.”4 Recent arguments for the theological necessity and logical coherency of eternal punishment have been mounted by Jerry Walls,5 Eleonore Stump,6 Michael Potts,7 Jonathan Kvanvig,8 Charles Seymour,9 John Feinberg,10 Michael Murray,11 and William Lane Craig,12 to name only a few.

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Priesthood Natural, Universal, and Ordained: Dumitru Staniloae’s Communion Ecclesiology

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Priesthood Natural, Universal, and Ordained: Dumitru Staniloae’s Communion Ecclesiology

Radu Bordeianu

Dumitru Staniloae (1903–1993) was one of the most important Orthodox theologians of the twentieth century and the most prominent Romanian theologian of all time. And yet, his vast opus consisting of approximately twelve hundred titles is still largely unexplored and barely translated. In this context, it is particularly important to engage with his understanding of priesthood. Staniloae’s theology of natural priesthood and its fulfillment in universal priesthood, both being in communion with the ordained, represent a significant contribution to contemporary ecclesiology.

In the present article, after some brief considerations about the priesthood of Christ, I examine Staniloae’s three (rather than two) types of priesthood, namely natural, vis-à-vis creation; universal; and ordained, concluding with the communion between universal and ordained priesthood. Throughout the essay, I also emphasize Staniloae’s contribution to an Orthodox understanding of the church from an ecumenical perspective. If some of the questions facing the relationships among these three aspects of priesthood originate in the West, Staniloae’s answers are rooted primarily in the Eastern tradition, along with other Orthodox theologians exploring the same venues.

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The Sapiential Structure of Augustine’s De Trinitate

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The Sapiential Structure of Augustine’s De Trinitate

Nathan Crawford

In the last fifteen years there has been an attempt to recover Augustine’s doctrine of the Trinity.1 This effort of retrieval seeks to overthrow what could be called the “De Régnon Paradigm.”2 Two primary insights have emerged: first, that Augustine should be a source for theological reflection on the Trinity in contemporary theology and, second, that Augustine’s doctrine of the Trinity emphasizes the relations of the three persons while simultaneously emphasizing the inseparability of the three persons through these relations.

However, recent scholarship has also been marked by a lacuna: few scholars are talking about how Augustine understands soteriology in relation to the doctrine of the Trinity.3 Scholars have missed how De Trinitate is structured in such a way as to lead people into deeper contemplation of God.4 In this paper, I would like to show how I see Augustine’s concern with the spiritual life structuring his thinking on the Trinity. Specifically, I show what I will call the sapiential structure of De Trinitate, arguing for a reading of the text that is reliant upon what I call a double-ascent motif. I will begin, though, with a discussion of a few recent considerations on the structure of De Trinitate. After looking at these, we will have a better understanding of how the sapiential structure of De Trinitate uncovers a motif at work in the text.

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New Athiesm: Are We Amused?

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New Athiesm: Are We Amused?

David Bentley Hart

Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2009)

Terry Eagleton

Faith, Reason, and Revolution: Reflections on the God Debate (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2009)

Reviewed by Francesca Aran Murphy, University of Notre Dame, South Bend, IN

There can be few genres more given to the exhibition of subjective taste, disguised as unbiased judgment, than the compare-and-contrast book review. Having had the misfortune to publish a book on the Bible as comedy the same time as one appeared on the Bible as tragedy, I count myself a victim of the genre. Not only a victim, but a guilty perpetrator, for, having been loaded with one book on the old feminism and another on the new, encouraged by the editor to “compare and contrast,” I let fly. Posing as a Solomonic arbiter between two texts tempts a reviewer to set up external criteria and to conceal them behind the invidious contrast. Nothing gives authors more cause to feel their work has been judged by preconceived ideas. These reviews are not very fair to readers either. Given two books of a shared class, whether it’s anti-anti-God polemics or fantasy fiction, ordinary readers who like that sort of thing will lap them both up, where the book reviewer will praise one and anathematise the other. The common Christian reader will not be hampered in their enjoyment of Hart and Eagleton’s books by wanting to choose between them. The least I can do is to put my cards on the table. My criteria for a sound anti-anti-God book are (1) it must be funny; (2) it must seem (to me) capable of engaging a questioner who borders between belief and unbelief; and (3) it must resonate with believers.

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