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Dogmen- und Theologiegeschichte


Farrelly, M. John


The Trinity. Rediscovering the Central Chris­tian Mystery.


Lanham-Boulder-New York-Toronto-Oxford: Row­man & Littlefield 2005. XVII, 307 S. gr.8° = A Sheed & Ward Book. Kart. £ 22,99. ISBN 0-7425-3226-7.


David Brown

The author is a retired American professor now in his eightieth year, who is also a Benedictine monk. While his detailed know­ledge and use of Aquinas might in any case have suggested a Ca­tholic background, this cannot be said to go with any narrowness of range of reference. Protestant and Orthodox writers are given no less attention than Roman Catholic. As the book’s sub­title makes clear, F.’s hope is to follow those writers of recent times who have sought to bring the doctrine of the Trinity nearer to the forefront of Christian concern. In order to achieve this, Aquinas is himself subjected to an astute critique. F. detects too much caution in defending the divine unity, so that at times readers are left puzzled as to where diffentiation still lies. So, for instance, Thomas in­sists that even the Lord’s Prayer is addressed to the Trinity as unity and not to the Father as such, and in effect a single ontolog­ical nature replaces dynamic interaction. F.’s own solution is to expand on the ideas of Richard of St Victor, not, however in the direction of social trinitarianism, as in so many modern writers, but in an adaptation of the existing western psychological model. Indeed, he finds the possibility for such modifications within St Thomas himself, by adapting what he says about the role of the active intellect.
Those chapters, though rewarding, are by far the most technical part of his discussion, and may prove difficult to those unversed in Thomas’ theories of mental psychology. Otherwise, the discussion should prove easy to follow, and even those tempted at points to disagree will learn much about the range of positions and ap­proaches that are currently advocated, without feeling that injus­tice is ever consciously done to those with whom F. disagrees. Dissent is very gently expressed. Once or twice a mistake is made, as in his exposition of Plotinus, where he seems to imply that Plotinus believed in three unrelated gods (86). But more often the reader is charmed by the new directions that F.’s thought takes: now, for instance, using the physicist Paul Davies to expand on the work of the Holy Spirit; now distinguishing ›paternal and patriarchal‹ as a way of defusing feminist objections; now, as in a concluding chapter, making overtures towards Judaism and Islam.
Throughout there is an awareness of the need to avoid over-simplistic solutions. If the result is a book too difficult for the average lay reader, it demonstrates a breadth of sympathies (›catholic‹ in that sense) that will inevitably draw the reader who perseveres into what is an engaging, if somewhat complex, argument. In essence, its challenge is whether the best way forward for a lively trinitarian faith is, as F. proposes, somewhere between unitarian modalism and a society of persons in something more like the modern sense, or, given that God is in any case a mystery, recognition that the two traditionally competing models might be better used to complement and correct each other rather than one necessarily always substituting for the other.