Are Christians In Their Practical Life Monotheists?

brorito's picture

I was laying in bed tonight wanting to get some sleep and I kept thinking about a trinitarian theology of justice (I realize that's strange but its perfectly normal for me). So rather than lay there fretting over it I decided to get up and look at one of the locus communis on this topic The Trinity by Karl Rahner. One caveat before I go any further. If you are new to the Christian faith or still learning about the faith I don't recommend Rahner as a source for you. As I was reading away I came across something interesting he said and it got my attention viola! a blog post was born.

So here is what Rahner had to say.

“Despite their orthodox confession of the Trinity, Christians are, in their practical life, almost mere ‘monotheists’. We must be willing to admit that, should the doctrine of the Trinity have to be dropped as false, the major part of religious literature could well remain virtually unchanged”.

“We may hope that any material could be pressed into service in the attempt to destroy once and for all the false conception that a ‘speculative’ doctrine of the immanent Trinity may perhaps be conceivable today, that it is a completely idle and irrelevant undertaking, possessing neither spiritual nor religious interest to the modern Christian and theologian”

Now I am curious, does anyone believe this might be true? I will even settle for a feeling. Does anyone feel that there is a possible hint of truth here? And the reason I ask is quite legitimate. From my perspective, as I look around at Churches today especially contemporary evangelical types, I do see Rahner's thesis being demonstrated practically. Now I am not saying that contemporary evangelicals are self consciously Modern in their theology. But, I do get the impression they view the trinity as "something we we believe" but not to be central to or inculcated in the life of the church.

Am I being too harsh? It's not intentional. I raise this question out of genuine concern. Moreover, I believe many of the ecclesial problems evangelicals experience today can be answered with a return to a healthy understanding of the ontological trinity. What says you?

tomgroeneman's picture

Trinitarian theology

Notwithstanding Rahner's daunting intellect, as someone who has been both an evangelical and is now a Catholic, I would agree with your assessment in a general way that many Christians of whatever stripe rarely contemplate how the Trinity effects ecclesiology or anything else for that matter. I think especially among evangelicals there is a tendency to downplay or ignore any real doctrinal issues for several reasons including an emphasis on "deeds not creeds" and a casual approach to the Scriptures due to the intellectual challenge they present. Trinitarian theology is monotheistic because it teaches the one God in three persons but how that reality relates to the Church or social justice is something I believe Catholics are way ahead on the learning curve about. In my own life from a practical standpoint the Trinity is most evident when I am praying. I find that each person of the Godhead relates to me in a particular and specific way depending on what I am praying about. Please tell me what you think are the "ecclesial problems evangelicals experience today" and I will be more informed about how to answer your question and render an opinion about how the Trinity relates to those problems. I do agree that they exist and chiefly among them is the infiltration of theological liberalism. This causes the tendency I referred to earlier because liberals believe we should not trouble the unsuspecting and immature minds of the sheep with difficult theological questions that require diligent study and the exercise of our God given reason. Liberals believe they are the exclusive elite that possesses the capacity to fathom mysteries like the Trinity and figure these things out for us. So many evangelicals simply are not taught by their pastors the wonderful revelations of these profound and essential doctrines. Usually they just acknowledge their adherence to orthodoxy and move on with promoting their agendas. To address your question more directly, I believe this all must begin at the pulpit and it is an unfortunate lapse of spiritual leadership that the Triune God of Christianity is not mentioned more often. Maybe we are being too careful not to offend the skeptics and other religions.

Tom Groeneman