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Three Versus One? Some Problems of Social Trinitarianism

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This paper examines the question whether we should prefer the so-called 'social' doctrine of the Trinity, which figures so prominently in contemporary trinitarian reflection, to its 'Latin' alternative. After a sketch of some evident attractions of social trinitarianism, it is argued that these attractions conceal as many problems—problems which may be rather devastating in the end. First of all, the practical and ethical usefulness of the social doctrine turns out to be highly questionable. Second, contemporary social trinitarianism deviates in crucial aspects from the Cappadocian (and other) Fathers. And third, the claim that social trinitarianism is in fact the best way to appropriate the biblical witness is found wanting. The paper concludes with the suggestion that social trinitarians today use the doctrine of the Trinity to answer questions which the Fathers answered by means of Christology.

Affiliations: 1: Lecturer in Systematic Theology St Mary's College, St Andrews;, Email:


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