Peters, Ted. The Trinity In and Beyond Time."
The central concern of Ted
Peters paper is how an eternal God can act, and be acted upon, in a temporal
universe. Classical theology made the
problem particularly difficult by formulating the distinction between time and
eternity as a polar opposition.
Peters fundamental move is to presuppose a Trinitarian doctrine of God,
thus including relationality and dynamism within the divine. By relating the economic and the immanent
Trinity we take the temporality of the world into the divine life of God. To substantiate this move, Peters turns to
the understanding of temporality in physics and cosmology. His overall aim is to show that the
Trinitarian doctrine of God leads us to expect that the temporality of the
world will be taken up eschatologically into Gods eternity.
According to Peters,
Scripture depicts God in temporal terms.
With the theology of Gregory of Nyssa, Augustine and Boethius, however,
divine agency was understood as timeless, a view which came to pervade
traditional Christian thought down to the present situation. Might contemporary physics shed any light on
this issue? Peters cites Eleonore
Stump, Norman Kretzmann, Ian Barbour and Holmes Rolston, each of whom suggest
ways in which God might relate to the temporality of the cosmos. Still Peters claims that, to the extent that
their proposals conceive of eternity as timeless, they all fail to solve the
underlying problem posed by Gods eternal experience of a temporal
universe. Can we instead conceive of
God as enveloping time, transcending its beginning and its end and taking it
up into the divine eternity? According
to Peters, Hawking would answer no to this question, for Hawkings cosmology
has no beginning and challenges the temporality of the universe as such. Indeed Hawking draws anti-theological
implications from his work: with no
initial singularity there is no need whatsoever for God. Peters is critical of Hawkings
anti-religious agenda and points out that the God whom Hawking attacks is the
God of deism, not the God of Christians, Jews and Muslims. Moreover an alternate interpretation of the
Hawking cosmology has been offered by Isham, who shows how God can be thought
of as present to and active in all events of the universe even if there were no
Peters then returns to the
problem of reconceptualizing the divine eternity. He is appreciative and yet critical of the thought of Wolfhart
Pannenberg, who draws on holistic principles to interpret eschatology. Such principles have important scientific as
well as theological warrant. Proleptic
eschatology adds to the whole/part dialectic of science the claim that the
whole is present as one part among others.
This theme is developed by Robert Jenson, who stresses that Yahwehs
eternity is faithfulness through time, and by Jürgen Moltmann, who turns to
Christology and the dynamics of shared suffering to connect eternity and
temporality. This results in Moltmanns
modification of Rahners Rule: the
identification of the economic and the immanent Trinity will only be achieved
Peters concludes by pointing
to new directions for future research.
The doctrine of God might be required to explain the temporality of the
world, including the arrow of time.
Moreover the movement between economic and immanent Trinity, through
creation, incarnation, spiration and consummation, could be seen as bringing
the history of creation into the life of God.
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