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The Trinitarian Calling: Unity In and Through Irreversible Diversity

I find myself revisiting certain books repeatedly, hoping to rediscover the wonder that I encountered upon first cracking them open. This morning, Divinity and Diversity: A Christian Affirmation of Religious Pluralism did not disappoint.

This is potentially my favorite understanding and application of trinitarian theology to date. As she works through her pluralistic theology, she notes that

The aspect of the tradition that I find helpful is the Christian association of the image of God with the trinitarian nature of God. In differentiation from the tradition, I suggest that if the image reflects trinitarianism, then the image must be communal, not individual. A Christian understanding of the Trinity necessarily argues that the very nature of God is a depth of unity that is established in and through irreducible diversity. (65-66)

When she talks about individuality vs. community, she is specifically referring to how trinitarian theology has been traditionally understood. In the past, the emphasis has been on how an individual is called to reflect the image of God. More recently, this has been expanded a bit and we have seen more emphasis on how the church as a united community has that calling. Suchocki expands this even further.

We have tended to see this text [Genesis 1.26-27] as indicating that each human being reflected the divine image. Why can’t we see it as meaning that all humanity in its togetherness is a reflection of the divine image? … I submit that it is not our unity that is God’s image, but our communal being that is God’s image, and this communal way of being is our call; it is yet before us; we have not yet achieved it. (68)

Suchocki argues that God works through all cultures at all times. As they become more complex, that process is the reflection of divine handiwork. In their becoming, they were never meant to become all the same. Empowered to evolve uniquely by divine touch, Chinese culture is not meant to be the same as American culture. Empowered to evolve uniquely by divine touch, the Chinese worldview is not meant to be the same as an American worldview. Likewise, empowered to evolve uniquely by divine touch, Chinese religion isn’t meant to be the same as American religion. Cultural diversity reflects divine diversity. Cultures are diverse because God is diverse.

I have argued elsewhere that the posture of a postmodern culture is oriented toward a healthy respect for diversity. We do not all have to be alike. We do not all have to belong to the same organization. We do not all have to believe the same things. Part of the Christian call is to promote an atmosphere that empowers diversity that respects individuality. I believe that this is what Suchochki means by “community.”

Anyone who has listened to me prattle on theologically for any length of time surely can see why I like Suchocki. Admittedly, my emphasis is more on a Christological approach than a trinitarian one (though they are certainly not exclusive). I argue that on the cross, Christ irrevocably identified with all humanity (as opposed to just Christians). The primary Christian calling is to identify with Christ, and that happens in doing as Christ did, which is in identifying with all humanity. As we identify with being human, we become more fully human, and in doing so become more Christlike. So, Christians are not called to promote a “Christian” community, but a human one, one that makes room for and nurtures the diversity that makes life together what it is.