Revista Studii Teologice


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"„Treimea imanentă” şi „Treimea iconomică”. Probleme şi perspective ale unei distincţii teologice"

„Immanent Trinity” Versus „Economic Trinity”. Issues and Perspectives of a Theological Distinction

Autor(i): pr. Ioan MOGA

The issue of the relationship between the „immanent Trinity“ and the „economic Trinity“ is one of the theological constants underlying the Filioque doctrine. This is demonstrated not only by the research into the theological history of this controversy, but also by the recent official documents provided by the Roman-Catholic Church (1995) and the German Lutheran Evangelical one (1997, 2007). The Lutheran position (little discussed in recent Orthodox literature) is especially worth considering, because it constitutes – after a period of dialogues producing notable results for a common perspective on the Holy Spirit’s procession from the Father – a strong reiteration of the pro-Filioque theology, more intransigent than the position expressed in the Roman-Catholic document. The main argument brought in the German Lutheran Evangelical statements in favor of the Filioque doctrine is precisely the direct correspondence between intra-hypostatic relations and the economic relations. In other words, if the Spirit is, economy-wise, the Spirit of the Son, this means He originates „from the Father and from the Son“. This recent development gives further reason for a systematic analysis of this topic: the relationship between the Holy Spirit’s eternal procession and His historical (temporal) sending, between „theology” and „economy”.
Orthodox authors as important as metropolitan Ioannis Zizioulas see in the different Eastern and Western conceptions of this relationship one of the essential causes of the ongoing dissent over the procession of the Holy Spirit. While Occidental theologians stress a close correspondence, even identity, between the „economic Trinity” and the „immanent Trinity“, Orthodox theologians follow the Cappadocian distinction between „theology“ and „economy“, and emphasize the necessity of distinguishing them, their main arguments being apophatism as well as the distinction between divine essence and divine works. The main tenet of Orthodox theology is that one cannot formulate relational deductions concerning the eternal, intra-hypostatic life of the Holy Trinity, based on the Holy Trinity’s works in the created world, that is on its economic works. Essence must be distinguished from works. In its turn, Occidental theology sees in this Orthodox tenet the risk of separation between the intra-divine relationships and the salvific work, which might lead to the conclusion that the essence of Godhead is not actually relevant for its outward activity.
The present article aims to describe the new systematic grounds of this issue in Occidental theology: firstly, to analyze the different connotations of the terms „immanent Trinity“ and „economic Trinity“ – a terminology put forth by 19th-century Protestant terminoloy. Secondly, to list the most important Protestant and Roman-Catholic voices in the second half of the 20th century, which approached this Triadological issue.
From the standpoint of terminology history, we draw the following conclusions: the notions of „immanent Trinity“ and „economic Trinity“ received very different connotations, even opposite ones, since they started to be employed by Protestant theologians such as Johann August Urlsperger († 1806), Friedrich Schleiermacher († 1834), Carl Immanuel Nitzsch († 1868), August D. C. Twesten († 1876) or Friedrich Lücke († 1855). The „immanent Trinity” concept is especially ambiguous: to some (Nitzsch) it denotes an understanding of God as absolute personality, whose „internal” Trinitarian self-awareness is extended through revelation and is made known as „Father”, „Son” and „Holy Spirit”, others (Lücke) deny man’s possibility to articulate an immanent-divine Trinity of persons. Obviously, the terms „economic Trinity” and „immanent Trinity” appear in a Triadological context, which had deliberately detached itself from the Trinitarian dogmatic tradition of the ecumenical Councils. Whereas the patristic distinction between „theology” and „economy” stressed the apophatic character of the Holy Trinity’s mystery, as well as the crucial distinction between God’s essence (unapproachable to human reason) and His free, salvific work, the distinction between „ontological” (or „immanent”) Trinity and the „revealed” (or „economic”) Trinity, as it was articulated in the 19th century, creates the impression that there are two attributes or identity dimensions of Godhead: a revealed one (namely, the Trinitarian one) and an eternal one (which could be dubbed „pre-Trinitarian”, for instance in the view of Urlsperger).
In the 20th century, this terminology („immanent Trinity“ and „economic Trinity“ ) was appropriated by both Roman-Catholic and Protestant theology. In the year 1967, Karl Rahner put forth the following thesis: „The «economic» Trinity is the «immanent» Trinity, and vice-versa”. The context in which this thesis was formulated is the acute lack of relevance of the Trinitarian dogma for the rest of theology, within the Occidental tradition. Rahner intended to eliminate any separation of the Triadological discourse from the soteriological one. By „immanent Trinity” he understands the teachings on the Holy Trinity (Triadology, Trinitätslehre), and by „economic Trinity” he understands the salvific work (soteriology, Heilslehre). The motivation is soteriological: God communicates Himself as God, and not as a „part” of God, otherwise the salvation brought about by Jesus Christ would not provide full communion with God. Rahner’s thesis becomes questionable in its second part, when he postulates that Triadology cannot issue statements concerning only the „intradivine”, that is the Holy Trinity in itself, with no reference to soteriology. Starting from the infelicitous neoscholastic tradition of separating Triadology from the rest of theology and from Church life, Rahner reaches the other extreme, by „non-differentiating” between the teachings on the Holy Trinity and soteriology.
The study analyzes the reception of Rahner’s thesis by some of the most important Occidental theologians of the second half of the 20th century: Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann (Protestant), Hans Urs von Balthasar, Yves Congar and Walter Kasper (Roman-Catholics). Each one’s position towards the Triadological tenet of the relationship between „economic Trinity” and „immanent Trinity” is characteristic for the Triadological perspective of their works. While Moltmann and Balthasar – even though they amend Rahner’s thesis and at times come close to the Eastern tradition (see, for instance, the concept of „doxological Trinity”, with Moltmann) – develop this statement in the sense of introducing the event of the Cross within immanent Trinity, Congar and Kasper attempt, taking patristic tradition into account, to demonstrate that between the essential-immanent aspect of the Holy Trinity and the economic one, there cannot be direct correspondence or identity, because such a thesis contradicts two basic principles of the Trinitarian dogma: the free, grace-filled, kenotic character of economic Trinity and the apophatic character of immanent Trinity.
These amends brought by Congar and Kasper to Rahner’s thesis, which Orthodox theology can only approve of, may bring an essential contribution to the reconciliation of the two Triadological traditions, respectively to a common acnowledgement of the eternal procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father, his eternal resting upon the Son and his historical/temporal sending by the Father and the Son.

Pagini: 21-56