In a 2007 New Blackfriars piece on perichoresis and social Trinitarianism, Karen Kilby suggests that social theories of the Trinity necessarily project current ideals onto God. She cites the work of Patricia Wilson-Kastner to support the “suspicion of projection.”

She observes that Wilson-Kastner’s views on “the mutuality of the Trinity” would contradiction “the strand in feminist thought which holds that what women need is not to be urged toward mutuality and interrelatedness, but to learn to reclaim their own autonomy, to become more aware of themselves as something other than wife, mother, sister - one might have thoughtin otherwords, that it would be problematic to hold up for women an imageof God as persons who are so utterly bound up in and defined byrelationships that they lose even their numerical distinctness” (439).

Wilson-Kastner recognizes the problem, and adjusts her Trinitarian theology to address it:

Human persons have are both self-transcendent, other-directed and “self-focused” and “self-conscious.” The Trinity points to both sides: “the Trinity, she writes, ‘is a unity of three centers ofawareness and centeredenss [this is the one side-the persons ofthe Trinity are each centered in themselves] who are also perfectlyopen and interdependent on each other [this is the other side]. The ‘persons’ of the Trinity are three centers of divine identity, selfaware[the one side] and self-giving in love [the other side], selfpossessed[the one side] yet freely transcending the self in eternaltrinitarian interconnectedness [the other side]’” (440).

In making this distinction, Wilson-Kastner edges away from someone like Moltmann, who emphasizes that the “persons are constituted by their relationships,” and the reason, Kilby thinks, is that the ideal of human personhood is driving the theology: “it is better to think of ourselves as self-possessed and going out into relationship, or as entirely constituted by our relationships. Once that question has been settled, the Christian theologian can then say, that is how God is too” (440-1).

This is well-put. I leave Kilby’s claim that social theories are necessarily projectionist for another post.

Kilby, “Perichoresis and Projection: Problems with Social Doctrines of the Trinity,” New Blackfriars 81 (2007) 432-45.

Articles by Peter J. Leithart