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The Relationship between the Ontological Trinity and the Economic Trinity

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This article focuses on one of the main issues in the contemporary trinitarian renaissance, viz. the relationship between the immanent (or ontological) and the economic Trinity. It takes its starting-point in what is labeled 'the classic model' as shared by both the Eastern and the Western church. The basic idea here is that the economic Trinity is the epistemological ground of the immanent Trinity whereas the immanent Trinity is the ontological ground of the economic Trinity. It is shown that this model is endorsed by two influential Reformed theologians, viz. John Calvin and Herman Bavinck. Next, the 'model of the new theology of the cross' is introduced, as represented by Eberhard Jüngel and Jürgen Moltmann. Especially Moltmann's innovative proposals are critically discussed. Characteristic of this second model is that the distinction between the ontological and economic Trinity is blurred. Third, it is argued that Dutch Reformed theologian Hendrikus Berkhof offered an even more radical model, which leaves us with only the economic Trinity. Although both of these contemporary models have their attractions, it is concluded that we have every reason to stick to the classic model.

Affiliations: 1: Professor of Systematic Theology, Hapdong Theological Seminary, South-Korea;, Email:


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