In a conversation with my daughter (who is in divinity school) I was trying to explain to her the distinction between the immanent Trinity and the economic Trinity, in the context of my letter about the baptismal formula.
In browsing for recent stuff by George I came across a comment he had made on Per Crucem ad Lucem a couple of weeks ago. Jason Goroncy had done one of his “Who Said It? polls, where he puts up a passage, and we guess (without benefit of Google) who the theologian is that said it. The answer in this case turned out to be Richard Bauckham, with whom I studied in St Andrews, but I guessed W. Pannenberg.
Actually nobody got it right, but somebody guessed it was from George, so he posted a comment that it wasn’t something he would have said, and then went on to give such a clear and helpful brief exposition of the Trinity that I read it to my daughter over the phone today, and then I e-mailed George to ask if he would be willing to let me post it here. He was and so here it is:
“Oh dear! Someone in the original thread guessed that I might have said it. I wouldn’t have, though I might have said something like this:
There is only one Holy Trinity, now and for ever. One and the same Trinity exists in two different forms: the one is eternal and immanent; the other, temporal and economic. The former is essential and necessary; the latter, entirely contingent. God would be the Holy Trinity in and for himself — as a perfect communion of love and freedom, joy and peace — whether the world had been created or not.
God’s trinitarian history for us reveals — but does not make him — what he is in and for himself. The aseity, simplicity and perfection of God’s being means that God is what he is as the Holy Trinity independently of the world, and therefore of God’s temporal, worldly history. This history is indeed who God is, but only in a secondary and dependent form.
The eternal form of the Holy Trinity is logically and ontologically prior to its historical, worldly form. The relation of the two trinitarian forms — historical and eternal — is one of inseparable unity and abiding distinction, with an asymmetry in status between them that makes the relation irreversible. The temporal form of the Trinity depends entirely on the eternal form, but the eternal form of the Trinity in no way depends on the temporal form assumed in its historical revelation.
Therefore, we do not know the eternal form of the Trinity except through the temporal form, but through the temporal form we do know that the eternal form is perfect and independent –self-subsistent — in itself.” (George Hunsinger, Comment, Per Crucem ad Lucem. November 14)