Monday, April 25, 2005

The Doctrine of God, Westminster and Zizioulas 

Reading Justin Dombrowski's recent post on the WCF doctrine of God reminded me to recommend that everyone read James Jordan's brief critique of the WSC's definition of God, found at the bottom of this page. It also reminded me that I was thinking of raising an issue for discussion. In The Eucharist Makes the Church, which I finished recently and cannot recommend highly enough, Paul McPartlan articulates Zizioulas' understanding of the 'oneness' of God. Whereas many seek to discover the unity of God's being in some divine 'substance', Zizioulas argues that the unity of God is to be found in the hypostasis of the Father. McPartlan writes:—
The 'one' in God is the Father, thus the 'one' in corporate personality is not the total, overall unity, but the specific person at the heart of the 'many'. Moreover, the 'many' include the 'one'; the 'one' is one of the 'many' and does not stand outside them. Thus the 'many' in the Trinity are three (not two), just as, in ecclesiology, Christ is one of the Church.
This particular claim, underlying, as it does, Zizioulas' approach to understanding corporate personality in general, is crucially important in the structure of Zizioulas' thought. If the so-called 'second leavening' of Greek ontology (involving the claim that God the Father in his particular hypostasis is the cause of the Trinity) is resisted, almost the entirety of Zizioulas' theological project is compromised. As Zizioulas presents a very different understanding of the Trinity than that which seems to be held by many Protestants, I thought that it would be worthwhile bringing the issue up to hear people's thoughts here. For my part, I am pretty much persuaded by Zizioulas on this (it took a little time to win me over). Among other things, it seems, to my mind at least, to tally more readily with the way that the Scriptures talk about the unity of God. Its implications for our understanding of corporate personality are also profound.

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