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Product details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne; New edition edition (2 Jan. 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060649135
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060649135
  • Product Dimensions: 15.6 x 2.6 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 185,260 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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The doctrine of the Trinity is ultimately a practical doctrine with radical consequences for Christian life. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Rich on 15 Jan. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Very good book. Good to learn about God being a Trinity. Excellent. Very happy with the book.. . .. .
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Amazon.com: 15 reviews
49 of 52 people found the following review helpful
Challenging, but rewarding 25 Nov. 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This book is quite challenging, intellectually, but worth the effort. Be aware of her bias: her position is that the devlopment of Trinitarian theology lost its way after the 4th century Cappadocians! As a result, she asserts, the doctrine lost its relevance. It has become only a source for academic speculation, detached from "real life." LaCugna wants to "rescue" the Trinity from that irrelevance. In the book, she effectively reformulates the doctrine as a source of theological nourishment for the church today. The doctrine only has value, according to LaCugna, if it describes our experience of how God comes to us, offering salvation. In that context, LaCugna does an excellent job of summarizing the historical background to the doctrine of the Trinity, and of connecting the doctrine to the Christian life.
43 of 50 people found the following review helpful
Best book on Trinity 5 Aug. 2000
By Zossima - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The Trinity is one of the most challenging and most neglected doctrines in the Church. Lacugna makes learning about the doctrine A VERY REWARDING EXPERIENCE.
She summarizes the development of the doctrine from the first century to today. Her intent, however, is to argue that the doctrine of the Trinity is not an explanation of a God who is somewhere "out there" in eternity, but rather an explanation of the community of a God who is present and inviting us into community. She supports her position well, drawing from the ancients and contemporary Orthodox and Catholic theologians.
The subject matter of the book is very challenging. It will take most people awhile to get through the material. But each page is a pearl and the reward for reading it is great.
I encourage anybody with an interest in the doctrine of the Trinity to prioritize reading this book.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Excellent historical overview; iffy conclusions 3 Feb. 2014
By Jacob - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Argues that developing theological reflection slowly separated economy from theology, which made the Trinity appear more and more irrelevant. I am not sure about her thesis in the specifics, but I think she is on to something: positing an ontological God apart from God’s decision to redeem the world in Christ does create a metaphysical gap in God. Like others before her, she seeks to correlate the pattern of God’s salvation in history with the being of God (Lacugna 4).

Introduction and Chapter 1

Contrary to what might appear, she is not arguing a “fall” in the early church from Nicene onwards. Rather, the early church necessarily (and rightly) used the philosophical and theological categories available to confront heresies. The downside is that these categories made correct speech about God increasingly difficult.

Lacunga correctly downplays the so-called differences between East and West on the Trinity. That there are differences is evident, but neither side has the clear advantage. Both ended up separating the being of God from his Acts in history.

“Economy” is the pattern of God’s saving actions in history. It is “the order that expresses the mystery of God’s eternal being” (25; cf. Ephesians 1:3-14).

Conclusion and Critique

My critique will also include a lot of the later material in her book. While I think her initial thesis is sound (a hard divorce between economy and theology posits an irrelevant Trinity), I think she is rather haphazard in applying it. She correctly notes that on the Cappadocians’ model, God exists as Father, Son, and Spirit, yet she downplays problems for the Cappadocians (they came very close to concretizing the essence; their mysticism made much of their Trinitarianism irrelevant, and so they are prey to Lacugna’s critique). Further, while her take on Zizioulas is appreciated, and though she offers a brilliant and brutal critique of Palamas, she doesn’t really take into account Palamas’s virtual dogmatic status in the Orthodox world. This makes it rather problematic for her to say we should look to the East on the Trinity.

Further, regarding the word “Person.” In her discussion on Barth she does note that that the definition of “person” shifted from the ancient world to the modern.. She accuses Barth of modalism because Barth defined “person” as tropos huparxos and that God is one divine subject who exists in three modes of simultanaeity. There is a certain irony in Lacugna’s rejection of Barth: Barth used the exact same definition, literally word-for-word, as Gregory of Nyssa, to whom Lacugna says we ought to return! The problem, as Bruce McCormack has noted, is that the word person in the post-Enlightenment world simply doesn’t mean the same thing as it did in the ancient world. He notes

Person in modern-speak means a situated self-consciousness, implying, among other things, a mind. This is most certainly not what the Patristics meant, to the degree they had a coherent definition of person, anyway. “Self-consciousness” and “mind” for the Fathers was located in the nature, not the person (otherwise we would have three or four minds in the Trinity). Lacugna simply hasn’t reflected enough on what person can mean. To say we should go back to “personalism” is not helpful at all. You can’t say you want to go back to the robust personalism of the Cappadocians if you mean person = self-consciousness, for that’s precisely what the Cappadocians rejected! I have my own reservations about Barth’s project, but he knew exactly what both he and the Cappadocians were saying and avoided all the problems that Lacugna’s project succumbs.

A Trinitarian Ethic

This is where he project comes close to self-destruction. Despite being a Roman Catholic and teaching at Notre Dame, Lacugna is a feminist. To be fair, though, she blunts a lot of her feminist critique and actually raises good points. My problem in this section is her use of vague language that will likely provide fodder for later mischief.


Despite being published by Harper San Francisco, this is a surprisingly good read. The historical analyses on the Cappadocians and Augustine are superb. She corrected a lot of my own misreadings of Augustine. I don’t think she has fully reflected either on how the modern world forced Trinitarian dialogue to mutate nor does she really understand what the Cappadocians were saying.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
A historical/contemporary analysis of Trinitarian thinking through the ages 4 Oct. 2010
By Laird Russell Yearwood - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Enjoyed rereading this volume very much. I had read it while in seminary and then it was subsequently destroyed when my study at the church was broken into. I have been reading Barth again recently and so wanted have LaCugna's views on the Trinitarian background info Barth used. I'm very glad to have a copy in my library again.
17 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Refreshing integrity. 16 Feb. 2000
By Lynn Nicholson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The maze of philosophical thought through which the anti-Nicene Fathers traveled, and through which the leaders of the Church traveled following Nicea and Chalcedon, are very difficult to trace. However, Catherine Lacugna has been of great assistance to me in the effort to understand them.
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