Several years ago Paul Molnar wrote a book on Divine Freedom and the doctrine of the Immanent Trinity – now he adds to his works on the Trinity by offering us a book on Freedom and the economic Trinity (specifically in Barth, Torrance, and contemporary theology).
Molnar’s aim in this book is to explore divine and human relations within the economy of salvation with a major emphasis being placed upon the work of the Holy Spirit. He seeks to demonstrate how our experience of and knowledge of God changes when it is considered in light of the sphere of faith in God’s Word and Spirit as revealed within the economy.
He focuses in on the Holy Spirit as the thing which enables us to have faith in and know God. However his religious epistemology is not merely grounded in our experience of God in the economy. He argues that any articulation of who God is and what our relationship with God is like must begin by articulating who God is in himself (immanent Trinity) in order to even speak clearly about who God is for us what God does in the economy of salvation. Otherwise we allow history and experience dictate the content of our theology. When this happens the result is that God and revelation tend to become indistinguishable from own own experience within the economy. According to Molnar this is a problem that many recent interpreters of Barth (including Bruce McCormack and Ben Myers) run into.
There are several ways Molnar sees this in recent interpretations of Barth. One is the discussion about Trinity and election. Molnar argues that one cannot reverse the direction between election and Trinity without doing damage to our knowledge of Christ’s true deity and humanity. Those who take election to be first are out of line with what Barth thought. (Molnar thinks that Barth did not change his Christology – still believed God would be God without incarnation or even without creation.) To reverse Trinity and election undermines God’s freedom for us and our freedom which is only enabled by God himself. Also rejecting the Logos Asarkos (which some recent Barth interpreters do) undermines Jesus’ deity and makes God dependent upon history.
Human freedom is the freedom to live by the grace of God. If God’s grace is not free (as historicized theology makes it) then we are not truly free. Thus our freedom is based upon God’s own freedom.
Molnar makes a powerful argument for traditional historic positions on the doctrine of God. Whereas many Barth scholars have moved towards a more revisionist reading of our faith Molnar keeps us grounded in the historic doctrines of the church. Specifically he steers us away from historicized versions of the doctrine of the Trinity and Christology. He ensures that God is in no way dependent upon creation or reconciliation for his own identity. This allows us to speak of a Triune God who is truly free. This will be a must read book for anyone interested in the Election/Trinity debate and recent discussions which seek to get rid of the Logos Asarkos. This book deserves to be read by anyone interested in staying faithful to the historic understanding of who God really is.
Note: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an impartial review.