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The Triune Identity: God According to the Gospel Paperback – 31 May 2002

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Amazon.com: 3 reviews
26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
A true tour de force 5 Mar 2003
By Alvin Kimel - Published on Amazon.com
Jenson's book on the Trinity is one of the most original and creative treatments written in the past thirty years. He takes Rahner's dictum "The economic Trinity is the immanent Trinity" and pushes it as hard as it can go: God defines himself in the history of Jesus of Nazareth. And this is the Gospel!
In the first two chapters, he proposes that the Christian God has a revealed name--Father, Son, and Holy Spirit--which in fact has fulfilled the Tetragramaton revealed to Moses. He then shows how this Name structures Christian prayer, worship, and proclamation in the New Testament. He then helpfully unpacks the Trinitarian debates of the Nicene period and shows why the Church insisted on the trinitarian revoluation when it could easily have simply adopted a more Hellenistic understanding of deity.
I have to confess, though, that the last chapter on the infinity of God has always eluded me.
Jenson has developed, and at points, corrected his thinking in his *Systematic Theology*; but *Triune Identity* remains a classic and is must reading for all who are interested in Trinitarian theology.
Jenson's work is profitably read in conversation with Wolfhart Pannenberg.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
An Indispensable Work 1 Jun 2008
By C. C. Black - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
One of America's, indeed the world's, most important theologians, Jenson has an uncanny ability to analyze the most difficult Christian doctrines with unparalleled clarity and verve. The Triune Identity may be one of the best and most helpful of the many books that have issued from the prolific scholar's pen. Highly recommended.
11 of 31 people found the following review helpful
A brilliant and creative work! 13 May 2007
By Grigorii - Published on Amazon.com
Robert W. Jenson is a very creative and intelligent thinker. This is obvious to anyone who has read this book. No-one can say Jenson is mediocre or uninteresting. Jenson takes the reader on a fascinating ride through the Scriptures, the pre-Nicene theology, post-Nicene theology, to modern theology.


The God of the Gospel has a name. Not identifying him is identifying him with the Hindu reality that can be named anything. Misnaming him as feminism does, is to address another God. In order to name God we, Christians, need to re-learn trinitarian naming and identification of God.

Chapter 1: "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit."

In order for any deity to be known it must be named. The Old Testament 'names God' as JHWH. The New Testament 'names God' Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.' For this thesis Jenson points to Matthew 28, 19 and 2 Cor. 13, 14. The God so named is the Trinity as such. This is the true and most revealing name of God and it is given by (and in) Jesus Christ it is a personal name belonging to the personal God.

Chapter 2: The Trinitarian Logic and Experience

The Scriptural, liturgical and other ways of speaking about, or to God are trinitarian. Even the structure of time reveals God as Trinity. In fact, it is constitutive of God's being Triune. The structure of time as past, present, future corresponds to God being Father, Son, and Spirit. The Father is the 'given will' (past) to the historical man Jesus (present), and the Spirit is futurity - that which will happen to Jesus (future). Past, present, and future happen in and to God. It is a Hellenist error to think of God as 'outside time.'

Chapter 3: "Of One Being with the Father"

A God who exists outside time, necessitates a mediator between Himself and creation. This mediator is neither God nor creature, but somewhere in between. This leads to different kinds of subordinationism and in its most extreme form to Arianism. Nicea, in overcoming Arianism set the course to overcome subordinationism altogether. Instead of a vertical division between Father, Son, and Spirit there is merely a horizontal distinction. This horizontal understanding of God is truly trinitarian in that it lays the foundation for overcoming Hellenist subordinationism which makes God timeless and impassible. God is neither timeless nor impassible. Such categories are rendered unnecessary by following the theological trajectory laid down by the Nicene Faith which declared Father and Son to be of "One Being."

Chapter 4: The One and the Three

There are two ways of doing post-Nicene theology: the Cappadiocian way (the Cappadocians are Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, and Gregory of Nyssa), and the Augustinian way. Augustine can reproduce the Nicene and cappadocian doctrine accurately, but he dismisses it and does away with it in favor of his own views. The Cappadocians emphasize the reality of distinctions in God whereas Augustine flatly denies them for the sake of his Hellenist theme of God's simplicity. With the Cappadocians we must emphasize the ontological priority of relations over "being" - over thing-hood. God must be understood as one single consciousness which is the Trinity and not the Father (or the Son, or the Spirit). "The three-ness of God derives from God's reality in time (p. 125)" so that the relations in God (between Father, Jesus, and Spirit) are temporal or they don't exist at all. God is a triune event of willing to be God and of doing Godhead. God is the event of Father, Jesus, and Holy in Spirit in past, present future.

Chapter 5 Triune Infinity

Infinity is properly "temporal infinity" and it is here that Jenson says he must move beyond even the great Cappadocians. He is looking to develop an "trinitarian conept of infinite futurity" (p. 169). For this we need the Eschaton - the Spirit who will transform all stability (which is Hellenist error) into a dynamic reality. Jesus is the created other of the divine Father, and in fact is a problem to the Father (p. 176) that is overcome in Jesus' death and resurrection. The historical event of Jesus of Nazareth is inexhaustible and makes manifest the love of God. In it God makes his identity known to us, and whats more he comes to know himself. God is the One who raised Jesus from the dead. God, after all, is not simple, not impassible, nor timeless. In fact God is an "event" and this event is infinite consciousness that will not be exhausted or overcome by time. To be God is to be not-God (who is still God even though he is not-God; God's other) and to be in relation with it - which is the Spirit. So that even though time is constitutive for what it is to be Trinity - God - time cannot exhaust God because time cannot keep up with the triune event that God is.


All of Jenson's creative speculations are intended to bring into clear focus the one true God who is the Trinity and His name is "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit." So that in God's own Spirit we approach him as Father, because we do so with the man Jesus (p. 187)." God according to the Gospel.


Jenson sets two purposes for this book (p. xii) to make trinitarian thought more lucid and to reform it. The density of the book, and the awkward use of words, concepts, and language completely fails to be lucid. The book is unnecessarily cumbersome and it would have been better had the author taken more time (and used more, comprehensible, terminology) to explain his radical ideas. But such frankness might lead an attentive reader to conclude very early on that with this book we are in the presence of an all-out-attack on classical (orthodox) trinitarian theology.

The reform that Jenson succeeds in bringing about is the dismissal of classical trinitarianism as Hellenism based on a particularly Hegelian reading of it. Hegelianism is the force behind Jenson's thought. God evolving to be himself by means of thesis > antithesis > synthesis is precisely parallel with Jenson's understanding of the trinitarian relations as temporal relations according to the time's structure as past, present, future.

The understanding that the one God is NOT the Father but the Trinity runs directly contrary to the testimony of the New Testament: "For us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and unto whom we exist, and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist (1 Cor. 8, 6)." If the Father is indeed God than to be such He must have a Son, and a Spirit. This is the Trinity as understood by the New Testament, the Nicene Creed, the Cappadocians (even Augustine), the liturgies etc. Father, Son, and Spirit are all what it is to be God, but Son and Spirit are so FROM the Father so that there are three distinct hypostases (not identities). Of course this leaves unanswered some of the questions that seems to underlie Jenson's theology but they have been more adequately taken up and answered in the dogmatic trilogy by Fr. Sergius Bulgakov.

In the end Jenson's Trinity is a God behind the Father, the Son, and the Spirit so that we are confronted with a modalist version of process theology. For this reason only one star. If I could have given negative points that is what I would have done. My negative evaluation is based on the heretical leanings of Jenson' thought, not on his creativity. If I had to rate his creativity and intelligence, 5 stars would not be enough to do his brilliant work justice.
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