Gender and the Trinity

Debra Dean Murphy has posted an interesting essay proposing a “third way” to think about marriage, grounded in trinitarian theology rather than the bible:

The source of a sound theology of marriage cannot be the Bible exclusively or perhaps even primarily, since its witness on the subject is necessarily varied, even contradictory, conditioned by cultures and customs spanning milennia. Which is not to say–as the liberal argument might put it–that modernity now trumps antiquity and thank God for that.

Rather, it is to see the Bible for what it is and for what it isn’t: a richly-varied record of encounter, not a handbook of personal moral instruction. And it is to resist the idolatry that attends so much of our engagement with Scripture–the tendency to worship the book instead of the One (or the Three-in-One, as I’ll get to in a minute) to whom the book points.

Later, she quotes Sarah Coakley, a theologian whose work I encountered and admired during my course on the trinity, but let me add my favorite Coakley quote on this topic, with a little context:

A traditional understanding of gender is grounded in the presumptively natural, essential, and ontologically meaningful binary between male and female. In response to this emphasis on the gender binary, Coakley wonders how our understanding of gender should be illuminated by the fact that there are three, not two, persons in the Trinity, and that

“in the Incarnation the Son crosses (and we might say transgresses) the ultimate ontological binary ‘difference’ — that between God and humanity, Creator and created?”[1]

[1]Sarah Coakley, “The Trinity and gender reconsidered,” in God’s Life in Trinity (ed. Miroslav Volf and Michael Welker, Minneapolis: Fortress, 2006), 139, emphasis in original.

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