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Systematische Theologie: Dogmatik


Grenz, Stanley J.


The Social God and the Relational Self. A Trinitarian Theology of the Imago Dei.


Louisville-London: Westminster John Knox Press 2001. XII, 345 S. gr.8. Lw. £ 30,00. ISBN 0-664-22203-X.


Robert W. Jenson

The present volume is the first to be published of six projected volumes of systematic theology, with the general title The Matrix of Christian Theology. Despite the volume's title and the announced character of the larger work, most of the volume does not so much sustain a systematic proposal as simply report G.s remarkably wide reading in relevant - and sometimes not very relevant - areas. Thus a third of the whole is devoted to a history of the rise and fall of western theological and philosophical anthropology, in the form of brief summaries of everyone from Plato to Foucault. Again, twenty-one pages are devoted to an exhaustive survey of modern exegetical opinion on Genesis 1:26-27, little of which contributes to the progress of any argument. Even the final chapter, announced as the systematic culmination of the whole, devotes half its space to the tradition of social-psychological theory whose central figure is George Herbert Mead.

G. has read carefully and reports succinctly; students will find the book useful as a reference, utilized by way of the index. A surprisingly cursory of the development of recent trinitarian theology, which seems to make it culminate in the theories of Katherine LaCugna, will not be as useful as other sections.

The announced thesis if the work is that contemporary trinitarian theology's "focus on the three trinitarian persons ... opens the way for a truly theological anthropology ... in which the triune life becomes the final touchstone for speaking about human personhood" (57). This reviewer agrees with the thesis (though not with some suggestions made in British-American context by "social" as a slogan for the Trinity); he therefore regrets it the more, that prior to a very hurried last chapter, the author in fact undertakes very little analysis of how the interpersonal life of the three divine persons determines human life.

The dominating theological presentation is of the way in which genesis 1:26-27 opens, through the whole of Scripture, to an image/glory Christology in the New Testament, and then to the understanding of humanity as intended for a new community shaped in the image - not of the Trinity but - of Christ as Image. This trajectory concludes, in a chapter next to the last, with a more or less Barthian construal of sexual differentiation as a component of the image. A last chapter on the self as relational in community initially construes the connection between the triune life and human personhood as an imitatio: as God is triune, his being is agape, and "humans fulfill their purpose as destined to be the imago dei by loving after the manner of the triune God ... (320). The whole is completed by a rather unprepared invocation of the Orthodox teaching of theosis: fulfilled agape is participation in the life together of the persons.