Anthony Kelly, CssR


The following article appeared in Studia Moralia XXXIX (2001) 245-289.



The love that is at the heart of the Christian life can hardly be considered apart from the gift of the Spirit, just as its meaning and form cannot be separated from God's self-expression in the Word incarnate, crucified and risen.  Nor can the value and meaning of Christian morality be appreciated apart from the goal to which it leads, namely, eternal life in the vision of God face to face.  If Christians are baptised in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, that way of naming the mystery in which we live and move and have our moral being cannot be an irrelevant consideration.  Nor is it. [1]   The problem, of course, is the intricate division of labour that characterises theological activity today.  The variety of contexts in which theologians conduct their research does not permit everything to be said at once.  Such is especially so in the present case of attempting to bring together two extremes of maximum theoretical complexity.  Any attempt to encompass the unique trinitarian datum of Christian faith and the complex realities of Christian praxis –  which necessarily overlap with the more ethical aspirations and problems of our culture –  is bound to result in a certain awkwardness, with the risk of doing justice to neither consideration.  The Trinity can appear as an intrusive element of Christian doctrine in the dialogical secularity of contemporary ethics, even if few theologians would agree with Kant's conviction that absolutely nothing for practical life can acquired from the doctrine of the Trinity'. [2]   Nonetheless, the pressing concerns of moral theology in the crucial areas of the value of the human person, the cultural and transcultural values of the human community, the ethical bases of justice and peace, health care, ecology and so forth, with all the practical judgments and casuistry involved, leave little room for what seems many times removed from urgency of the matters in hand.  To insist on positioning the Trinity in the methodologies of moral theology risks supernaturalising' the moral life to an excessive degree, and leaving it unrelated to wider, demanding and intricate field of ethical discernment in a secular culture.  Nonetheless, theology may ask, are there not certain values and virtues, such as hope, humility, selfless charity, praise and thanksgiving, forgiveness, solidarity, compassion and the appreciation of creation in its ecological integrity, that are affected by the trinitarian awareness? 

A theology, howsoever intent on articulating the meaning and value of the moral life, may well suffer an essential diminishment is the Trinity is kept at a strict methodological distance.  In what sense, then, is the central mystery of the Trinity a moral' mystery?  Admittedly, such a way of posing the question is somewhat crude.  But it is sufficiently troubling for anyone who intends a systematic exploration of moral life to feel that we should not give up on what is a daunting challenge.  If Plato's Socrates was right in declaring that the unexamined life is not worth living, then we might hope that a trinitarian examination' of the moral life might make it more worth living.  Strangely, Christian mysticism has felt no diffidence in expressing itself in trinitarian terms. [3]   That may mean that moral theology has moved far from its mystical tradition, a situation that would demand its own special investigation.   But within the limitations of this essay, I hope to contribute to a more trinitarian understanding of the Christian moral life. [4]   If creation and grace have a trinitarian source and form and finality, then there must be a special intelligibility to be had in seeking a correlation of the Trinity to the moral life in the service of authentic moral theology.


So much for the vision of what might be.  I now propose to consider three case-studies in which the large issues so far presented are confronted in particular practical and theoretical contexts.

a.  Trinitarian Grace and Virtues Ethics:

The first of these is found in the magisterial article of  the Thomist scholar, Thomas F. O'Meara, O.P., as he relates Aquinas' treatment of the virtues to his theology of grace, with its necessarily trinitarian dimensions. [5]   O'Meara points to the recent the enthusiastic current adoption of a virtues ethics' especially in English-speaking circles, but laments, in so far as authors such Stanley Hauerwas, Alasdair MacIntyre, Paul J. Wadell, Jean Porter and Daniel Mark Nelson appeal to Aquinas to illustrate their respective accounts of Christian character-formation, that the Thomist treatment of the virtues tends to divorced from its organic context.  When the transforming gift of grace is left in the background, the virtues tend to be treated in a seemingly Pelagian manner.  A religious perspective – of whatever provenance – is  added to an Aristotelian account of virtue, while virtues themselves begin to look like merely secular motive forces, even if it is admitted that they are influenced and directed by charity.  The grace-connection is, as it were, limited to charity alone – which, of course, is far from a genuinely Thomist theology.  For the virtues of the Christian life derive, not from another virtue, not even from charity (ST 2-2, 24, 3; 1-2, 50, 2 ad 2; 1-2, 56, 1 ad 3), but from a radically transforming gift of grace.  For sanctifying grace is a permanent quality' or existential habituation engrafted into the soul, a continuing form' whereby we are conformed to the divine persons and participate in the divine life.

For Thomas, as for his teacher, Albert, grace is prior to virtues just as the soul is prior to its faculties.  Hence, the morality of virtues is understood within a theology of grace.  From this essentially supernatural form (ST 1-2, 110, 3) flow charity and the other virtues as from their principle and root' (1-2, 109, 3 ad 3).  Charity, even if it this most excellent of virtues (2-2, 23, 6) is to be identified neither with the Holy Spirit, nor with grace (2-2, 23, 2].  Charity itself derives from the gift of grace (2-2, 24, 2), to inform' all virtuous activity in the mode of an efficient cause as it bestows a particular form (2-2, 23, 8) of friendship with God.

Thus, the moral life is, in its origins, form and finality, is radically theological.  Christian existence is essentially God-oriented'.   It is God-ly' in the perduring and transforming giftedness which human existence enjoys as ordered to its supernatural destiny.  Its law is nothing other than the interior grace of the Holy Spirit (ST 1-2,105, 1).  As the intellect participates in the divine knowledge through faith, and the will participates in divine love through charity, the nature of the soul participates, through a certain likeness, in the divine nature, through a kind of regeneration and recreation' (1-2, 110, 4).  A higher level of spiritual activity becomes possible, not only in terms of the theological object, but also in terms of the mode of operation exceeding the limits of reason, as with the gifts of the Holy Spirit (Cf. 1-2, 68-70).  Being conformed to God by grace, we are moved to act connaturally' in regard to the divine source, form and end of the moral life (1-2, 68, 2): operatio sequitur esse.

For our purposes, the point to note that the gift of grace is intrinsically connected to the missions of the divine persons: the missions of the Son and the Spirit have grace as their common root, but they are distinct as to the effects grace, that is the enlightenment of the mind and the enkindling of the affections' (ST 1, 43, 6 ad 3).  In the context of the divine missions, moral activity is surrounded with a luminous crown of relationships'.  The eternal communication of the divine persons of the Trinity reaches into time to draw human beings into its life.  Though the Father is not sent', he is, nonetheless, given', as his Word and Spirit begin to have a new mode of being in what is other (1, 43, 1; 2 ad 2; 3; 5) B i.e., in the human person who attains to new quasi-immediate experiential knowledge and love of God.

The burden of O'Meara's far-ranging study is to place the current interest in virtues ethics' in its properly theological setting.  Far from being a Gospel-motivated Aristotelianism, the moral life, rooted in trinitarian grace, is the key and gate of entry into the house of moral theology'. [6]   The fact that the moral part of the Summa, the Pars Secunda, follows on the Prima Pars with its treatment of the unity of God' and the trinity of God', and the divine and trinitarian origin of creation, with this followed by the treatment of Christ and the sacraments in the Tertia, makes the study of ethics a moral theology.  For moral agents are dynamically engaged in realising in themselves the image of God in which they are being made.  Any account of moral action necessarily implies theological considerations of its origin, its form and end, and the God-given means for the attainment of that end.  For Thomas, morality cannot be divorced from theology, just as theology lacks its dynamism and direction without morality. [7]   Apart from transforming grace, or separated from the trinitarian missions,  moral theology would be lacking its most fundamental referent.  In other words, virtues ethics', while laudably reconceiving itself in terms of moral character and its attendant virtues, must be for the Christian thinker a moral theology ;or better, a theology of moral action methodologically connected to the mysteries of grace, and, by implication, to the Trinity itself.   The following quotation from Thomas points ahead to a further level of reflection in this regard, and suggests a closer rapprochement of trinitarian theology to the incomplete and theologically tenuous nature of the virtues ethics' O'Meara has considered:

By grace the soul is conformed to God.  That a divine person be sent to someone through grace, therefore, requires a likening to the person sent through some particular gift of grace.  Since the Holy Spirit is Love, the likening of the soul to the Holy Spirit occurs through the gift of charity...  The Son, however, is the Word – not just any kind of word, but the Word breathing love... Hence, the Son is sent, not in relation to any perfection of understanding, but in regard to such a perfecting and enlightenment of understanding that bursts forth in loving action...  So Augustine significantly states, The Son is sent whenever someone comes to know and perceive him'.  Perception indicates a kind of experiential knowing – which is appropriately named as wisdom, a knowing that tastes its object... (ST 1, 43, 5 ad 2 [my translation]).

In the thought of Aquinas, the Trinity is connected to grace in two ways that seldom receive full attention.  First, there is, in Christian moral awareness, an experiential sense God beyond the range of rational though; and secondly, more importantly for our investigation, the divine persons are sent as it were in action, not as the objects of conformity statically conceived, but as dynamically conforming the graced person to themselves as the sources of its loving and knowing.  Our knowledge of the ultimate good and our pursuit of it derive flow from the indwelling of the divine persons in the human mind and heart.

The next two case-studies, emerging from quite different theological contexts, deal more explicitly with the connection of the Trinity to the moral life.  Both have the advantage of referring to wide ranges of related literature, and both appeal at some point to Aquinas, though not in ways calculated to satisfy O'Meara's reservations.  

b. The Trinitarian Context of Ethics:

L. Gregory Jones, in his Transformed Judgment.  Toward a Trinitarian Account of the Moral Life, [8] implicitly endorses many of O'Meara's questions regarding the theological isolation of virtues ethics'.  Jones' theological approach, however, proceeds with an entirely different methodology, the central concern of which is re-instate the Trinitarian dimension in the description of the moral life.  Like O'Meara, he begins by pointing to the theological deficiencies of recent ethical theorists, even as they place strong emphasis on the virtues and the formation of moral character.  His philosophical examples here are Edmund Pincoffs, Quandaries and Virtues and Martha Nussbaum, The Fragility of Goodness.  The former is offers merely a functionalist account without any teleological or theological orientation in a way that is unaware of its own 20th century liberal democratic context with its inherent assumption of the irrelevance of theological views.  Nussbaum, however, while admitting Christian tradition as a localised narrative, does not fully appreciate that her intended universalist account of the ethical life is as local and as limited as any other theory.  Both authors fail to realise that ethical reflection operates within particular theological horizons, in which virtues such as humility and forgiveness, human experiences such as death and the body, the value of the human person and the reality of God have quite different meanings.  The esteemed Stanley Hauerwas provides a third, more theological, example.  But, on strictly theological criteria, he too falls short in his account of character and virtues for it is not adequately connected to the God of Jesus Christ.  Though there is a kind of bilingual exchange taking place in between theology and ethics in his work, virtues are elaborated in primarily philosophical terms, with the link between the theology and ethics being basically the continuities and dimensions of the self, rather than the revealed God.  A trinitarian framework is needed if Hauerwas's treatment of the Christian character is to be complete.

Jones then proceeds to give his own account of a trinitarian moral life.  In preparation for this, his first chapter deals is entitled Learning to describe actions, persons and the world: social context and moral judgment' (pp. 20-72).  He firmly rejects all reductivist, behavioural treatments that fail to account for the moral subject.  By appealing to such authors as Charles Taylor, A. McIntyre and Eric D'Arcy, he highlights what he terms an agential understanding of human action and human life'.  Action and purpose are inseparable for moral intelligibility.  However, for the full intelligibility of the action of a moral agent, a open-ended narrative necessary.  This includes both individual narratives, the different dimensions of human existence, and the wider world of other narratives and the story of God's involvement with the world.  There is, in short, no moral object without a moral subject, and no understanding of a moral subject apart from its narrative context. 

Such a narrative necessarily involved agents in a linguistic society ( Wittgenstein, Kerr, Voloshinov, and Kovesi).  Language and action are inextricably interwoven: The essence' of human language is the round of collaborative activity that generates the human way of life' (p.  43.  Thus, moral action is learned through communicative practices that are socially embedded within a tradition, in order that moral excellence can be collaboratively learned and maintained and developed.  The tradition concerned is not necessarily conservative, for it can challenge established positions since permits and provokes enquiry into the authentic practices of such a tradition and learning through a moral formation mediated through friendship with those who most embody it.

After sketching the narrative and social context of moral formation, Jones approaches  his topic more directly in his second chapter, Learning to see and act rightly: becoming persons by participating in the mystery of God' (pp.  73-119).    In a fully social and relational sense, becoming a person means the learning relationships – specifically the practice of trinitarian relationships already embodied in the tradition.  In this sense, Christian character is formed by the friendship, broadly understood, which precedes, follows and is constituted by virtuous practices.  This is exemplified in the prior relationships of parents to children, and in friendship generally.  In this context, a larger responsible self comes into being (p. 83), able to criticize a given way of life.  In a larger domain of selfhood with its attendant narrative, the individual self is not an all-sufficient narrator, but a co-author, since the stories of many selves are critically involved.  Within such an expanded horizon of becoming a person, the story of God's trinitarian involvement in human history is special importance. 

In the struggle of personal becoming, the doctrine of the Trinity figures in the social context as both a grammar of right speech allowing for a proper negativity in theological discourse, and as a description of the self-giving and self-revealing God of Christian tradition.  While darkness and non-possession is inherent in our knowing, it is sustained by love, and hence maintains a critical objectivity.  The trinitarian character of our learning has its own critical resources as the experience of God, the divine Word and the Holy Spirit respectively correct any tendency to absolutise one dimension, e.g., reason, feeling or darkness,  at the expense of another.  The community of Christian moral formation is marked by a perichoretic dance of discipleship' (p. 94), in which a relational personhood is developed within Christian communities living from the fullness of its narrative in the presence of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Friendship with God implies the divine initiative which is truly transformative for those who enter into it (Luke 7:34; John 15:15).  On this topic, Jones refers to Aquinas on the themes of Christ's atoning work and mediation (E.g., ST 3, 26, 1; 46, 2-3; 48, 2), of the mutuality involved in the eucharist, the sacrament of friendship' (3,75, 1) and, above all, of charity as friendship with God (2-2, 23,1; 1-2, 65, 5), whereby God shares his happiness with us (2-2, 23, 1).  Yet this friendship is always the gift of grace (2-2, 24, 2).  Charity, as the virtue of friendship, informs all the virtues, and is paradigmatically exemplified in Christ.  Through it, the Christian person, in Thomas's account, is conformed to the love of the Spirit and in the wisdom of the Word (p. 108).  In short, friendship with God is transformative.

Despite typically Protestant reservations about the Catholic emphasis on virtuous action, priority is always given to grace.  On the other hand, there is no room for pneumatological docetism'.  Conversion, transformation, and a reconstruction of the self are necessary.  In this regard, Christian personhood presupposes its own kind of pedagogy, even while respecting the different patterns of the gift of grace in the community.

In the third chapter, Learning to live in the mystery of the triune God: communal practices and pedagogies of discipleship (pp.  120-159), we find the following summary:

The moral life, when understood in terms of Christian life, receives its shape and pattern from God's Trinity.  The vocation of the moral life is to learn to see and act rightly, by participating in the mystery of the Triune God.  APersons, on this understanding, are not what human initially, privately and inwardly are, but what humans may hope and struggle to become through balancing in tension the complex factors and forces that constitute human life in the world (p. 120).

The manner in which the Christian life receives its shape and pattern' from trinitarian faith is paradigmatically related to Jesus Christ.  The explication of such a relationship entails the learning of certain kinds of language, instanced in such words as incarnation, cross and resurrection, redemption, and so forth.  Yet it is an ongoing process,  in the Spirit'.  The life of the Church is dipolar, so to speak, poised between a Christological, objective and organic, given pole and the pneumatological pole which is subjective, interpersonal and transformative.  Within this polarity, there is a turning back and a looking forward, at once a trinitarian unity and diversity within the Church marked by a polyphonic unity' and perichoretic dance'.  This is far from reducing Christian life to just a matter of rules, imperatives and lists of virtues, for it bears a deeply trinitarian character.  Though not excusing relativism, such an account permits the varied and flexible operation of Christian practice in regard to baptism, the eucharist, forgiveness and reconciliation, and the interpretation and use of scripture.

Jones modestly concludes Ending with a beginning: God, moral judgment, and modern societies' (160B164), in the hope that his model of investigation is broadly applicable to Christian moral theology, even though he realises it is incompatible with some views, such as those dependent on process thought. He reiterates his basic thesis: a theological and trinitarian dimension is necessary if ethics are to be understood.

There is no doubting the usefulness and sound theological sense of Jones' essay in outlining a theological wider context field of reference for reflection on morality, the its activities of the moral person, and the virtues implied.  Yet there are limitations to his project as he freely acknowledges.  In confining himself to a largely descriptive account of his subject, the explanatory dimension is deficient.  Without explaining more fully the connection between Christian, or, if you will, a trinitarian morality, the large areas dealing with the interface of secular ethics and the Christian moral life are neglected.  To address these would take him into considerations of grace and nature, evangelical morality and its connection with natural law, the personhood of God and that of the human subject, and, most of all, the manner in which Trinity is in fact related to the life of grace and the moral life of both Christians and to moral agents generally.  That it is related he assumes; how and why it should be so related is not quite clear.  If he means that Christian moral theology is incomplete without an essentially theological horizon, that is true, and his work is a timely reminder in that direction.  If he means that the data of revelation, above all in its trinitarian form, adds a special dimension ethical reflection by disclosing more radical meanings and deeper dimensions of values such as divine friendship, grace, community, hope and compassion, that too is a welcome contribution.  Religious and Christian conversion gives a new basis and a decisive finality to all moral and even intellectual effort, sublating the distinct but not unrelated of moral conversion to values over satisfactions, and of intellectual conversion from ideologies to truth.  If, however, he means that authors such as Martha Nussbaum, Alasdair MacIntyre and Charles Taylor, working as philosophers in secular sphere of communication, must be beholden to the doctrine of the Trinity, and that they must show evidence of a religious conversion, the matter is more complicated.  He stresses that ethical theorists, whether they admit it or not, are historically and culturally affected by the founding narratives of a particular tradition with its attendant practices: in short, there are theological or anti-theological presuppositions at work.  Is he merely commending the resources of Christian tradition in the articulation of a global morality, or is he in fact somewhat arbitrarily imposing the commitments of theology on ethical theory almost in a fundamentalist manner?  The answer to this question is not clear, even though it must be admitted that much as been achieved within the limits of one comparatively small book.

What it does achieve is a description of how trinitarian faith is genuinely constitutive of the Christian moral person, that such faith is powerfully communicative in inspiring the relationships that make for a Christian community, and that it inspires certain patterns of moral action in transforming the world.  But because the cognitive dimension of the Trinity is not sufficiently explored, the largely descriptive methodology he employs lacks an explanatory horizon in which all creation and all human becoming can be rendered more intelligible in the light of God's trinitarian self-communication to the world.  While he appeals to Aquinas on the theme of divine friendship, a fuller range of reference might have usefully taken into account the psychological analogy as an explanatory principle, arising directly out of our search for the true and the good, whereby the Word of Truth and the Spirit of Love enter intoB are sent' and communicated toB precisely the human self-becoming' of which Jones speaks.  In brief, this work is most valuable as pointing in the direction of desired development rather being a complete achievement. 

c.  A Trinitarian Ethics of Giving

We pass now to Stephen H. Webb, The Gifting God.  A Trinitarian Ethics of Excess. [9]   Like the work just commented on, this book has a strong trinitarian emphasis.  However, it is more explanatory in its methodology and more analogical in its procedure, though ultimately, despite its many excellences, more deficient in its theology B owing to the trinitarian process model it employs.  

In Giving and thinking' (pp. 3-12), Webb deftly introduces his theme.  He aims to rehabilitate the language of grace and community in the light of the Trinity.  In the first chapter, The return of the gift' (pp.  13-46), a persistent quandary is identified.  Giving is either the opposite to exchange, and therefore a kind of arbitrary squandering; or, giving is a form of exchange, and performs an economic function operating with a deceitful rhetoric.  Against any false dichotomy, he introduces his theo-economic' approach: in God's giving, excess and exchange are aspects of one single process of generosity and mutuality.

To substantiate his thesis, Webb first reflects on the predicaments affecting much of the modern experience.  Though the development of the welfare state has led to the recognition of individual rights, it can also lead to a diminishment of social compassion and solidarity.  The practice of giving can be so tied to the privilege of private property that the gift becomes a calculating imposition of one's identity on the world still fundamentally structured as a marketplace.  Though the language of giving has been massively colonised by economics, it also still speaks in the often alienating religious rhetoric of self-negation and sacrifice.  Given the increasingly narrow range of vocational duties in modern society, it is difficult to combine the excessive nature of generosity with genuine reciprocity in a way that does not simply reinforce the dynamics of simple exchange.  Addressing this problem, Webb writes, to escape this binary logic, we need to find a pivot for excess and reciprocity by placing giving in a larger (and religious) context, demonstrating that giving is a response to prior giving, empowered by an initial excess that nonetheless leads to reciprocity and mutuality by directing our giving toward a harmonious horizon.  We need not only a broader language about giving but also an institutional setting in which the gift can function as both provocation and demand, initiating gratitude and encouraging reciprocity.  Without the appropriate institutional setting, the rhetoric of giving, no matter how broad, will continue to be excessive in the pejorative sense (wasteful, irrelevant)... – a rhetoric with ecclesiastic implications – that brings together the best elements of giving as sacrifice-squandering-excess and giving as generosity-liberality-reciprocity (p.  31).

But first he sketches a rich anthropological context in which to pursue his theological purposes.  Here he refers to a classic in the field, The Gift by Marcel Mauss. [10]   This book calls for a return of the morality of the archaic institution of gift-giving at a time when humanity was not alienated from its products, when distribution is more important than the accumulation of wealth, and the group is more important than the individual. [11] Though Mauss hoped to inspire a more hospitable, festive and generous society in arguing for the priority of giving over exchange, Webb considers that the relationship between excess and reciprocity remains unclear because the language of exchange still dominates.  Similarly, Marshall Sahlins, in his Stone Age Economics, [12] underscores the experience of abundance that characterised primitive societies, curtailing resort to war and rivalry.  But this is of dubious relevance considering the history of economic development separating the present from ages long past.

The negativity of P. Bourdieu's critique of giving in his Outline of a Theory of Practice [13] is in stark contrast to the works of Mauss and Stahlins.  For Bourdieu, gift economies are deceptive in that they conceal patterns of exchange and domination.  Gifts are the symbolic ritualisation of  the hidden dynamics of power and possession.  Economic exchange remains the overriding consideration.  On the other hand, R. Titmus argues for the social utility of giving in his The Gift Relationship. [14]   He wants to infuse modern welfare system with sensibility of giving.  Indeed, the welfare system teaches us how to give and receive.  As a system of impersonal altruism it must rely on trust as it connects us to strangers and undermines ideologies of conflict.  Though Titmus wishes to encourage gift-giving in the modern setting, the question of whether it is an aspect of the broader economy, or a means of creating an alternative society is not resolved.  With a more particular perspective, L. Hyde in his The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property [15] addresses the contemporary artist frustrated by constraints of economic exchange.  He suggests that the feature of the work of art is that it given, but never possessed, for it must be always to be passed on.  It creates a wider sense of self in an expanding circle of reciprocity.  The blood of the gift circulates through the social body, moving in the power of its own eros'.  But, here too, Webb has reservations.  The eros' in question seems still at the mercy of an internal logos' of exchange.  At this point, Webb adumbrates a theology of the Church uniting both eros' and logos' as the gift of God creates its own form of reciprocity in the community.

His next chapter deals with Squandering (pp.  47-82) and addresses the positive and negative aspects of the gift-giving without any link to reciprocity. In the very excess of the gift, is there any room for the reaction of the recipient?  Reference to Ralph Waldo Emerson, the inventor of American religion' (Harold Bloom),  helps sharpen the question.  Excessive giving arises out of life ceaselessly surging forth of energy, a self-creation in the abundance characteristic of the whole of nature.  In contrast, receiving is a sign of deprivation, and the lack which expresses itself under the burden of gratitude and its attendant sense of dependency.  Giving, on the other hand, moves outside the domain of exchange and dependency, for it flows from strength, independence and power. Yet, Webb observes, beyond the seemingly uncalculating excess of giving is a magnanimity that feeds off others.  This approach is intensified in Nietzsche who acknowledged a debt to Emerson.  In  Thus Spoke Zaruthustra, squandering B the kind of giving that is marked by uncalculating excess B is a powerful statement of self against the mean and calculating exchanges of society.  Religion, legitimating weakness and envy, shackles the profligate economy of the noble soul.  The great man is the paradigmatic giver and receiver: A What returns, what finally comes home to me, is my own self@ (p. 65).

Jacques Derrida, in subjecting the notion of the gift to intense analysis, finds its enmeshed in the deepest problems of philosophy.  When all meaning and reality is internally mediated through language, there is no zone of pure unmediated reality.  In this regard, is the gift as given and received not already and always subsumed into an economy alien to what we imagine it to be?  It appears to be the impossible reality.  For a gift to be genuine, it can never be recognised or possessed in gratitude.  It must remain secret, unnamed, unsigned.  As with time itself, the present cannot be known.  Though the experience of the gift is marked with traces' of expectation and decision, its originating excess can never be comprehended and objectified.  Under the pressure of such deconstructive techniques, the notion of the gift, and of grace itself, are piercingly problematical (pp.  83-84).

In a chapter entitled The theo-economics of God' (pp.  83-122), Webb enters into a theological consideration of the ethics of gift-giving.  He concedes that God's gifts are free and undeserved, even as they bind the recipient into a covenant of reciprocity in the economy' of salvation.  But what kind of economy is entailed in such a covenant?  He finds no satisfactory answer in the doxological theology of Geoffrey Wainwright, nor in the emanationist' theology of Pseudo-Dionysius and Bonaventure.  There seems to be no room either for reciprocity, nor for an adequate analogy to throw light on God's giving (p.  86).

Webb seeks to remedy this double lack by maintaining that God gives in order to become.  God does not seek a token display of gratitude on our part, but our further giving, as he stakes his identity on the future of his gifts.  Webb believes that is approach is less Greek and more in accord with the place of the Cross in our experience of salvation. At this point, Webb gives a sharp critique of a range of theological views which include Calvin, Karl Barth, Charles Hartshorne, Sallie McFague, Mark C. Taylor, Peter C. Hodgson .  He aims to protect God's giving from the extreme interpretations of an excessively transcendent type which allow for no reciprocity; or from those of an excessively immanent variety which permit no originating excess.   Rather, the divine giving must be reciprocal and immanent because it is excessive and transcendent.

In his most constructive chapter, How giving works (pp.  123-158), Webb attempts to correlate God's generosity with our own.   Though agreeing with Barth on the sheer priority of grace, he is careful to insist, God's grace is not unrelated to the interconnected features of human experience.  Because the world is full of grace, reflection on basic human practices, in the context of theological insight, can help illumine spiritual truths.  Indeed, an investigation of the very common and universal custom of gift giving can situate the otherwise ethereal topic of the mystery of God's love.  Moreover, I find analogies between the problems in the philosophy of generosity and the theology of grace, so that dialogue between the two is fruitful and even necessary (p. 123).

Thus, departing from Barth, he also rejects extreme forms of process philosophy which would confine God and the world in a universal systemic process.  His proposal to correlate divine and human dimensions of giving, while attentive to scripture, doxology and the Christian way of life,  relies on an analogy drawn from social practice.  Theology is tempted to idealise God's love in a manner that disconnects God's vertical agapeic giving from the horizontal eros of human loveB as in the approach of Reinhold Niebuhr.  He asks, therefore, he asks, what kind of giving does God want? 

The analogy of human gift-giving is here related to the trinitarian economy in which the dynamism of giving is most evident. Here he eschews any speculative consideration of the immanent Trinity, for giving is who God is' (p. 128), with the result that personhood is as much an effect of giving as giving is a product of personhood (p. 129).

Webb amplifies his thesis through a consideration of Marion's God Without Being, [16] and Meeks' God the Economist.  The Doctrine of God and Political Economy. [17]   Marion so emphasises the utter transcendence of God's gift over any human effort to know God in terms of being', so underscores the utter primacy of God's self-giving love that he leads, rather lamely to Webb's mind, to a strictly structured mediation in the hands of ecclesiastical authorities (p. 133).   Meeks explores another path.  He tries to relate the divine economy' to the economy of the market-place, thereby raising a crucial question: Is there a perception of God that would make justice internal to the pursuit of liberty?  In elaborating his answer, he adverts to the doctrine of the Trinity.  In God social and individual values are one, for the Trinity is a community of persons united in giving themselves to each other and to the world, so that God owns by giving' (p. 135).  Thus, the basic pattern of reality is a generosity subversive of the totalitarian pretensions of the market which works to privatise and sentimentalise Christian giving. 

Yet Webb is not entirely satisfied.  Problems remain in correlating the divine and human modes of giving, without absolutising the dynamics of exchange or marginalising the excess of God's giving.  Hence, Webb presses on to a trinitarian consideration of God the giver (Father), God the given (Son), and God the giving (Spirit), for, in the words of Marvin Olasky, Cultures build systems of charity in the image of the God they worship...' (p. 139).  It is not a question of the loving excess of the divine gift undermining the prudent calculations of reciprocity, but of bringing the two together in a Chalcedonian union of one with the other in the threefold process of God's gifting'.

First, God is the giver  as Father. There is an initially hyperbolic, initiating excess in the giving which reaches beyond itself into our human giving, so that all such giving lives from the excessive initiative of God (Cf.  1 Cor 4:7; 1 John 4:8).  In this sense,  God creates our giving: the vertical gift of God is realises on horizontal level of exchange.  In this regard, there is no interruption of ethics, but the inauguration of an ethics based on an unmerited and incomprehensible excess, inexhaustible in its resources and open-ended in its applications.  The Father, then, is the first giver.

Secondly, God is the given in his own Son' (Cf.  Rom 8:32-34).  What is given is not simply restoration, but a new creation.  The givenness of the gift is embodied in Jesus self-giving on the Cross.  He is, in the words of Derrida,  the Good as the goodness that infinitely forgets itself' (p.  144).  In the narrative of his life, Jesus, the given gift', challenges those who receive him to forge an alternative economics (Cf. Mk 4:8; 6:44; 7:19; 8:8, 19; 10:30) - often in situations of material scarcity, eg., in regard to food.  The gift embodied in the Son's life and death is costly, a rebirth and resurrection only through self-giving implied in death itself.  In this regard, grace is not always graceful' because of the self-denying sacrifice involved.  However, this does not mean an arbitrary squandering of self or a form of self hatred:

The hope of giving is that a renewed self is what remains of the otherwise wasteful acts of antieconomical generosity.  Giving is not always impotent, frustrated, incomplete.  Sometimes giving gives birth to a rejuvenated subjectivity that finds itself in the transformative space of a healing loss (p. 144).

This rejuvenated subjectivity' is evident in the parable of the Prodigal Son (Lk 15:11-32), as the father's generosity breaks the boundaries of selfishness in which his son was confined, so that the dynamism of the gift confounds and exceeds the logic of property.  Sin appears as a refusal to enter, or remain in, the universe of giving and community.  In Webb's terms, the sinful state is the opposite of a gifted' existence.

Thirdly, God is the giving which Webb names as the Holy Spirit [153].  God's grace results neither in impotent dependence nor symmetrical exchange, as  the divine giver begets further giving.  The gift is not to be buried in the ground (Matt 25:14-20), but through our generous participation in it, it returns to God in many thanksgivings' (2 Cor 9:11-12):  Passing the gift along transforms the static and ambiguous obligation of gratitude into a joyous participation in the life of the gift' (p. 147).  The repeated giving that results makes community possible.  Indeed, through this divinely initiated process of giving, God will continues to grow and change along with the gift and share in its various expressions and manifold destinations' (p. 147).  The gift makes possible a responsive community of givers, while, at the same time, community makes giving possible; without its continuation, the gift perishes' (p. 148).  In this one process of giving, both God and all givers are united in  solidarity and discovery, as both the divine and human self are realised in and through the other (Cf. Mk 8:36-37).  The whole process of giving has an eschatological dimension.  The Church, the community of the gifted, is caught up in the excessive  mode of divine giving which already envisions, despite present limitations, the creation of an inclusive circle, an encompassing sphere of mutuality and reciprocity' (p. 150).  In this the gifting community, then, serves as a sign of the return of the Gift, the eschatological embodiment of God's excesses within a completely reciprocal community, where giving begets itself in mutuality, integrity and harmony' (p. 150) B a sign of the eternal presence (or present) of God' in the eschatological feast (Cf Luke 14:16-24).

 Through this communion and partnership (Cf. 2 Cor 9:5; cf 8:9), the Hellenistic idea of reciprocity between patron and client abolished.  For, in the Christian experience, all receive from God, so that only equality and uncalculating generosity remain in the selflessness of the Spirit.  In the language of giving, justice and grace are one and the same' (p. 152).

When Webb names this historical flow of giving the Holy Spirit', he intends to depart from the traditional notion of the Spirit as associated with the mutual love of Father and the Son.  For that reduces the Spirit to the static and closed idea of an already completed love, an economy of reserve, not extravagance' (p. 153).  Though he finds some inspiration in Aquinas' treatment of the Spirit as gift (Cf. 1, 37-38; also 2-2, 119), it is finally unsatisfactory.  For Aquinas is prepared to name the Spirit as the gift of God only because, as divinely subsistent love, the Spirit implies an aptitude for being given', B a potential exercise of a power, not actual and risky involvement in a perpetual process' (p. 154).  In stark contrast, Webb writes,

We do not worship the Holy Spirit because it is the power of giving that God provides  by sustaining and organising our giving along the lines of a harmonious community.  This power, in a significant way, is in our hands, so that it can be said that the Spirit is co-created by our sharing; the Holy Spirit is the potential for sharing as that is actualised in the gifting community. Our giving adds to God's movement by enlarging God's active involvement in the destiny of God's gift.  God's giving would not be complete without our return of the gift, and our return enables God to give even more (p. 156).

Further, the ethics of gift-giving is intimately tied to a trinitarian praxis, in some respects neo-Hegelian, yet with a more open and indetermined notion of history:

Following Hegel, I am arguing that God' trinitarian agency is thoroughly implicated in the developments of history.  God's giving puts God's being at risk in the destiny of the gift.  If the Son loves the Father through the Spirit, then the gifting community is the way in which God comes to God.  We, in turn, enter the love of God not through an emotional state or cognitive decision but when we give to others what has been given to us.  After all, the gifts of the Holy Spirit...  are for the common good (1 Cor 12:7).  They are given to us so that we can give to others. The Spirit gives not for intoxication or for individual reward, but for the broadest vision of the good, building up the body of Christ.  The Holy Spirit is the life... of the gift, the way in which it moves and proliferates beyond anyone's ability to control it.  The Spirit animates and vivifies exchange with a life that resurrects our gestures of generosity from the inert calculation of bartering, luring our giving from futility to fecundity, even in the midst of frustration and despair (p. 156).

He concludes his project of uniting excess and reciprocity within the trinitarian context of the Gifting God' in the following words:

Gifting is a process that combines elements of risky and disruptive excess with anticipated and gradual mutuality in a circle... that never ends where it begins but keeps spiralling outward in increasingly inclusive loops of expansion and consolidation, movement and rest. Our consolidation is found in the recognition that our giving is beyond our control –  indeed that gifting itself is out of all control, even as it is guided by the excesses of God: God the Giver who gives us life, God the Given who gives the self in total abandonment, and God the Giving who receives our gifts, which is also God's giving again (p. 158).

Despite the obvious objections that theologians committed to an orthodox trinitarian tradition would raise against Webb's indebtedness to a Process account of the Trinity, there are a number of points at which his trinitarian ethics of giving may contribute to a deeper appreciation of ethics as a trinitarian moral theology.  If a theologian in the Thomist tradition reads his account more as a theology of the divine missions communicating in the root of grace' (ST 1, 43, 4 ad 3), then God the giver' brings about conformity to the Son as divinely given and the Spirit as divinely giving.  Admittedly, Webb collapses the procession-mission-grace-virtue scheme of Thomas into the undifferentiated experience of gifts and giving.  Nonetheless, he does capture something of the vitality of the divine missions inherent in the Thomist approach. 

Secondly, Webb is at pains to recover a theology of grace as affecting our gift-giving co-existence.  Aquinas locates grace primarily in the essence of the soul, so that it is a supernatural participation in the very life of God.  Webb puts the experience of grace more in the experience of the community's existential response to the excess of the divine gift.  Here he might fittingly challenge the classical approach to a more social and phenomenological interpretation of the life of grace. 

Thirdly, the full Thomist account of the experience of grace allows for the special gifts of the Holy Spirit, [18] whereby the graced, i.e., gifted', person is enabled to operate in a supra-rational mode, governed by a divine instinct rather than by the calculative mode of reason: God's excess' results in an excess in the domain of graced activity.  In other words, the gift escapes and transcends the control of reasonable exchange'.  This element of the Thomist tradition may well strike a sympathetic chord with Webb's emphasis on the excessive character of the economy of grace. 

Fourthly, the Thomist connection of the Trinity to the image of God in the human subject, and to the grace, virtues and gifts associated with its historical realisation meets, at least in some general way, with Webb's persistent effort to link the Trinity to the deepest meaning of the ethics of giving.  By reflecting on the experience of giving, he finds an analogy for the way the gift of God enters into, supports and transforms the self-transcending capacities of human persons and communities in history.

Fifthly, as Webb consistently stresses, gratitude is not the whole of the moral life, but one religious and moral virtue within the whole organic unfolding of grace. [19]   This need not mean that it is a lower level moral virtue.  For, informed by charity and in the context of the intersubjective  trinitarian life of grace of knowing and loving God as God knows and loves himself, we enter into the perichoresis of delight and joy in the other that characterises the life of the Trinity itself.  In that regard, gratitude is a dimension of thankfulness inherent in all moral action, a continuous indicator of the experience of grace and its Godly form and source.  For all such moral action is from the gift of God.  The problem, then, of reducing all the moral life to gratitude, or of interpreting the ethics of the gift in a way that makes gratitude either the most characteristic feature of moral action or as its special problem, is obvious.  For conformity to the divine persons in grace is the object of divine giving.  To understand this as fully as possible, theology has developed the two special categories of divine missions and transforming grace, and employed the more general categories of virtues and moral action.

Sixthly, Webb highlights the manner in which our gift-giving love participates in the original giving of God.  He offers an inspiring interpretation of the life of the community as one of gift-giving in the excess of God's gift.  While he accents this mediating function, confusion tends to arise.  We simply do not give as God gives.  The divine self-communication, or the divine giving and missions that make up the gift of grace, is not something we do.  Moral action is directed toward God, enabled by God, conformed to divine wisdom and love, mediating the Word in scripture and sacrament, cooperating with grace in many forms.  Nonetheless, the human giver does not give God to anyone, except in a God-inspired mediating mode.  While he highlights one dimension of the Christian moral life, he neglects another.  For the life of faith is directed not only to giving, but to a life of continual receiving, culminating in the beatific vision, the final self-giving of God who in this life could be received only in the darkness of inherent in the pilgrimage of faith.  In the trinitarian life of grace, the dialectic of giving and receiving must be maintained.


Despite these areas of possible connection, seemingly insuperable problems remain.  To connect the Trinity to the ethics of gift giving exacts too high a theological price.  The process theology involved leave no room for a procession theology' of the doctrinal tradition.  Without a consideration of the processions within GodB on the horizontal level of the divine relationshipsB  everything is reduced to the divine missions.  Before there is an exchange, so to speak, between God and the community, there is an intra-divine exchange giving meaning and value to what happens on the finite level.  The Gifting – self-communication – of God is not limited to grace, but is the foundation and form and goal of the grace that inspires our human giving in charity and gratitude – points powerfully made in O'Meara's article referred to above.

The Trinity and our own moral being are not subsumed in one univocal conception of morality.  A properly analogical theology is able to move between three terms, namely, the processions, as the eternal mode of intra-divine giving, the missions as the God's self-communication takes place in time, and the moral life of grace whereby we respond to the giver and live out the gift.

Philosophical, anthropological and theological analyses of the gift centred around the work of Derrida and Marion have proliferated. [20]   Though Marion's work is more theologically attuned, in his effort to maintain that the gift precedes even being, there is little reference to the Trinity. [21]   If the being' in question is more or less the univocal Scotistic concept of esse in commune, [22] that is understandable: in which case, both philosophy, as with Heidegger's retrieval of Being that lets beings be' (John Macquarrie), and theology in the case of revelation of the gift of creation and the further gifts of grace, must look to a giving beyond being to justify the respective languages of philosophical Gelassenheit and religious faith.  In both cases, the gift may be said to precede being.  The problem is that an equally univocal idea of the gift can result in an aporia, ignoring the analogy of being or of faith, in which theology is cramped into an impossible possibility from which it cannot escape.  In this donational docetism' there is need for a meta-reality of the gift, or metaphysics in a new key, that allows theology to deal with its own data.  Theology lives within the domain of grace, of the gift from beyond.  It is not situated outside such domain, endlessly pondering whether a gift is possible in the first place.  In a theological horizon, the Trinity emerges as the self-giving Being from which the gifts of creation and grace flow, the sheer Being that is the eternal self-constitution of the Trinity as Father, Son and Spirit.  Trinitarian self-communication thus determines the giving and form and circulation of the gift to the order of creation.  A univocal notion of gift' is not the all-embracing concept that determines our understanding God's self-gift to creation, but the Trinity, confessed in faith and understood analogically, that affords the deepest intelligibility of the gift and its manifold, analogical forms.  If the gift comes forth from the immanent reality of God into the economy of human giving, it makes a difference.  It is truly and freely given from the self-giving of God.  If, on the other hand, the gift is only an aspect or dimension of an economy of exchange in which God is necessarily related to the world in order to realise the divine self-hood, then the excess of the God's self gift is hardly absolute, since God does not really have such a fully divine self to give.  If, however, God's self-giving is first conceived, not in terms of a God-world relationship as with Process thought, but as intrinsic to God's trinitarian being, then God's self-giving to the world as Father, Son and Spirit can be understood as a participation in the perichoretic relationality of the divine life.  Grace, as an absolute novelty of inter-relationship enters into the personal and exchange-structured world in a radically revolutionary way: may they be one as we are one...' (John 17:22-23).  The mutual yielding' of the divine persons to one anotherB a more accurate translation that dance' [23] B is the eschatological horizon in which the communion of charity and the exchange of justice are brought together in a vision of ultimate peace.  God is not caught in the dynamics of human exchange but heals, perfects and transforms the exchange-dynamics of human co-existence by a self-giving that is truly divine.

In short, the Trinity gives, not in order to become itself, but because it already is itself, and freely determined to communicate such a self to graced creation.  If Thomas, and the tradition generally, spoke of God's relationship to the world as a relatio rationis, this does not mean, as it commonly misinterpreted, that, though the creature is changed, God is not really self-related to the world. [24] It means rather that God's relation to the world, and the mode of his giving, entirely transcends the limited reciprocity of human and creaturely inter-relationships.  For such a relationship is one of pure freedom, pure giftedness, unconditioned by anything or anyone outside God.  At the same time, God, eternally, in his own self-knowing and loving, has determined himself to be God-for-us.  The Trinity's relation to the world can be said to be super-real', a purely personal relationship, originating in the interpersonal relationships of the divine persons among themselves. [25]   The Word eternally expresses all that God is, and can be and will be in the divinely artful [26] creation of this particular universe.  The Spirit is God's infinite delight in being God in all that God is, and can freely be, in the love that is the first gift which will bring forth creation.  The eternal love of God, the love in which the Father and the Son love themselves and all else that they freely choose to call into existence, is not waiting on creation for its self-realisation, but, in the lapidary words of Aquinas, amor dei est infundens et creans bonitatem in rebus': God loves by being the creative source of all the good that exists in finite realities. [27]   The gift of God inspires not only the activity of the creature, but penetrates in the depths of the given finite being, first giving the finite being to itself, and then crowning such a finite gift with the infinite self-giving that will make the creature a participant in God's own life.  God is self-giving because God has such a self to give, and in the giving, enables creation to participate in the divine self-giving life.


a. The Trinity, the Psychological Image and the Moral Life

The problem implicit in much of what has been said so far is the status of the psychological analogy in the elaboration of trinitarian theology. It has been employed to partially illumine and co-ordinate the scriptural and dogmatic data of faith concerning the three divine persons.  The processions of the Word and the Spirit are analogically understood in the light of the basic human experience of being a spiritual consciousness constituted by acts of understanding and love. Here one appeals of course to Gregory of Nyssa, Augustine and Thomas Aquinas.  From the created image which is the human spirit itself, theology moves, by way of analogy, to some understanding of the trinitarian mystery.  In the Thomist perspective, the Word proceeding in God by way of intelligence, and Spirit proceeding by way of love, offers radically theological perspective on the significance of the human search for meaning, and on ultimate value of human response to the truly good.   The human activities of intelligence and judgment in the service of truth, and of self-transcending love in the conduct of our lives in terms of values, are not only the term of reference, the immediate analogue, for the two-way movement of the psychological analogy, but, through the gift of grace, modes of active participation in God's own knowing and loving, and of conformation to the divine persons themselves.  This has implications for the moral life: inasmuch as it based in intelligible aspect of the human good and impels to a self-transcendence in bringing it about, there is an implied trinitarian dimension.  Human moral agents performatively image' the trinitarian life, and participate in what might be called a trinitarian morality'.

In the order of grace, the self-giving of the Father and the missions of the Word and Spirit, the human subject, pace Marion, [28] is not statically projecting on God a mode of its own giving in the manner of an idol, not simply contemplating the Trinity in the manner of an icon inviting imitation.  For the human agent participates actively in light of the Word and in the love of God. [29]   This participation results in a dynamic conformation to the divine persons, an imago Dei Trinitatis in this sense, so that we are enabled to act as God acts, to do what God is doing, to understand in the light of the Word and to determine ourselves according to the transcendent value and impetus of love.  The image of the Trinity is realised the more we are in act' in our understanding of the universe in the light of the Word and moving within it under the influence of God's love. [30]   In this we are living analogues of the Trinity in that we participate in the divine self-consciousness. 

The advantage of the this dynamic version of Imago Dei tradition in terms of the divine processions and their extensions into the world through the missions is that it suggests an a strong correlation between the Trinity and the moral life.  Within this context, the psychological image takes us to the heart of the matter.  It demands an understanding of our self-transcending acts of knowing and willing as progressive conformations to the presence of the divine persons to us in grace.  Further, and because this consideration is most obvious –   therefore, seldom stressed – the affectivity of the moral life is related intrinsically to its intellectuality.  Moral action is not sufficiently explicable as having good feelings or in being lovingly disposed, but as the good feelings and loving dispositions that flow from the intrinsic intelligibility of the universe as a theatre of divine meaning.  Though the First Letter of John culminates in statement, God is love' (1 John 4:8), God is first of all affirmed to be light' (1:5).  The failure to connect the doctrine of the Trinity to the moral life risks, not only making it vulnerable to Pelagianism unaware of the self-giving of God, but also depriving moral activity of its ultimate meaning and intelligibility.  Moreover, a trinitarian theology which would pretend to dismiss the explicative power of the psychological analogy of the Spirit of love proceeding from the Father as God understanding, and God self-expressed and understood in the Word, however much it intends to exalt the authentic dimensions of love and community, risks ideologies of conformity and repressive love' shorn of any critically intellectual resources.  When God is only love and only community, intelligence is displaced from the divine realm, perhaps to become a purely secular ever struggling to express why community is so imperative and why ethics makes any sense at all.  If, on the other hand, theology gives due weight to the divine processions occurring through the modes of intelligence and of love, then moral theology begins to serve a moral wisdom, a judgement living from a loving connaturality with the divine will.  From this conformity to the Trinity in grace flow the practical judgments of prudence within the concreteness of history, of justice in the structuring of society, of fortitude in counter-cultural witness, and of temperance intent on an ecology and economy appropriate to the world as it is know and loved. [31]   Within such a trinitarian horizon, moral reflection has theological resources to contest both a value free' version of culture, and meaning free' objectification of the digitised world of information procession', to say nothing of person free' technological manipulation of human life.

b.  The Neglect of the Psychological Image:

Now the fact that the psychological analogy or image has fallen into considerable disrepute seems to have left theology with a conundrum. [32]   True, it is not usually recognised that Thomas, despite his thorough elaboration of trinitarian doctrine along the lines of this analogy, maintained a healthy sense of tentativeness in its regard: trinitate posita, congruunt huismodi rationes : once the data of revelation on the Trinity is accepted, this kind of analogy makes sense' (ST 1, 32, 1).  It was never a question of proof, but of reverent theological exploration and coordination of the statements of Christian faith and belief, narrative and doctrine.  More negatively, however, it is also true that such an analogy was elaborated in terms of Aristotelian faculty psychology' which in turn derived from the philosopher's metaphysics.  The modern turn to the subject privileges a more phenomenological appreciation of psychology and human consciousness in its individual, social and cultural manifestations.  It is not surprising then, that those unwilling or unable to transpose the classical metaphysical and psychological categories into a more intentionality-based analysis, deem that the psychological analogy is hopelessly enmired in an outmoded philosophy.  Yet, having rejected the classical psychological analogy, a good deal of current trinitarian theology is bent on producing new psychological analogies of, say, a trinitarian community of persons, perichoretically relating in reciprocal self-giving, thus modelling the ideal human community of equals.  This type of analogy – presuming that it is an analogical exercise and not simply univocal with suggestions of a tritheistic rather than a trinitarian God –  must indeed be credited with a special motivational or rhetorical power.  At very least, the community analogy' flows from the trinitate posita of Aquinas, with its implications of communion in the inter-subjective life of God as, say, we find it expressed, in John 17.  The problem for theology is to elucidate, through the employment of analogy, the kind of communal life that is intimated in the biblical rhetoric.  Understandably, some theologies hasten to this task by immediately speaking in terms of the experience of human community and of human love, following on the tradition of Richard of St Victor. [33]

Inspirational communication is, however, not the main task of systematic theology. [34]   For there is the more fundamental task of seeking to understand the data of faith in the most constructive and critical manner.  It seeks the rationes of why and how the data of revelation occurs in such a form.  For Thomas, theological understanding of what has been given in trinitarian form of revelation –  trinitate posita –  is by way of the psychological analogy.  His theology begins with the essential unity of the divine community, and then proceeds to the operations of knowing and loving essential to the divine esse, thence to articulate, in de trinitate dei, the communitas of the three divine persons.  By approaching the task in this way, he is able to throw light on why there are processions within God, why they imply these three divine persons, the manner in which they relate in the unity of the one God and the world ad extra.  Aquinas's patient analogical method puts him in a position to present both the orders of creation and grace in the light of the trinitarian mystery: in grace, the divine persons are given in the visible and invisible missions of the Word and Spirit, not as an arbitrary intrusion of the divine into creation, but because the world and human beings within it, are already, artfully constituted in a trinitarian likeness. [35]

c.  Limitations of the Communitarian Model'?

For those who, in the interests of a more communicative and socially relevant theology, wish to pass immediately from the trinitate posita to the community of divine persons as the model and ground of human society, the classical psychological image seem too intellectual, too individual, too unrelated to the cultural and political challenges of the day.  In this sense, the more recent emphases have insisted that the Trinity be related to Christian praxis, as a model of community, equality, love and justice. [36]   L. Boff's Trinity and Society [37] is representative of this praxis-oriented trinitarianism.  Here, being three avoids solitude, overcomes separations and surpasses exclusion' (p. 3). The Trinity is inclusive because it unites what separated and excluded (the Father-Son duality).  Single and multiple, unity and diversity meet in the Trinity as circumscribed and reunited'.  The starting point is clear: In the beginning is communion' (p. 9).  The doctrine of the Trinity brings together three forms of religious expression – the vertical, the horizontal and the interior – each one of which in isolation would be idolatrous and destructive (pp. 14-15).  Hence, as the book unfolds its deep concern for liberation, Trinitarian communion is a critic of and inspiration for human society' (pp. 148-154).

While such approaches undeniably have great affective and inspirational value, they defer questions of systematic intelligibility.  With such an immediate and intense communitarian concern, a consideration of the originating intelligence from which all love flows does not emerge.  There is a danger in so unwittingly commending a communitarian praxis that the radical meaning of social existence remains obscure.  Why is it good, and how is it truly good?  It might be suggested, therefore, that a creative retrieval of  Aquinas' trinitarianism might well prove of value.  Moral action, on the part of individuals and communities, is the performative realisation of the  image of God in the practice both of understanding and loving, especially as the understanding concerned is related, not to any kind of word, but the Word breathing love'. [38]  

A diminished sense of how the processions of the Word and Spirit relate respectively to the divine intelligence and love necessarily weakens our understanding of the generative role of the Father in creation and history.  The divine self-expression in the Word would be unrelated to the creativity of human understanding, and the proceeding love of the Spirit would be disconnected from the divine being and intelligence.  In exalting an undifferentiated image of the divine community without attending to the dynamics of trinitarian life in terms of truth and love, theology risks making the Trinity more removed from the intellectual search and passionate concerns inherent in the moral life.  

The enthusiastic adoption a community model in trinitarian theology –  in the beginning is communion' understood without the aid of the psychological analogy – may prove, however, to be at some cost to the very social morality it seeks to promote.  Leaving aside the tritheistic expressions as more the result of image-thinking not yet developed into critical analogical predication, a major concern lies in the de-intellectualising of the divine life and its communication to us.  However theologically odd it may appear when one expresses this reservation, there is a certain danger in so absolutising of a notion of love and community that the intelligence of love and intelligently meaningful constitution of the community is downplayed.  How can the Word, in his procession and mission, be as appreciated as the very self-expression of God? [39] One must ask, therefore, whether the primacy of love and community has been sufficiently thought through.  Is the love based on the truth and reality of what God is?  Or is such self-giving love basically unintelligible – on the part of God, and in the human case as well?  Is the community the result of aimless self-sacrifice, or is there a wisdom and meaning governing our relationships?  Is itself morality, therefore, fundamentally unintelligible?  In the massively scientific character of modern culture are morality and love and community left without their proper intelligence, and relegated to the sphere of human conviction or affectivity as groundless imperatives?  If however, the divine Word is appreciated as a divine intellectual emanation, and that Word is incarnate visibly and sent invisibly, the world of human meaning is illuminated, precisely because this Word is spirans amorem.  Love occurs in a universe of  meaning, in which that the universal meaning of the Word breathes' love.  But without the Word understood as the meaning of God's being and love, the theology of the Trinity is in danger of becoming so moralised that it is related to social morality and its politics, economics and cultural expressions merely as a general communitarian inspiration, and not in the critical way that Boff hoped.

I would suggest that the basic problem for trinitarian theology is not so much a replacement of a previous theoretical model with another, but of interpreting the traditional theoretical and metaphysical model in more interior terms, that is, through an analysis of intentional consciousness manifest in our knowing and loving.  From this, a more adequate systematic moral theology can develop as it finds the metaphysical terms in which to affirm the self-transcending subject and the type and object of its operations.  A positive achievement in this regard is Lonergan's affirmation of the Trinity as three distinct conscious subjects within the one divine consciousness. [40] Such a position allows for a desirable communitarian emphasis, but without the implications of an uncritical tritheism.

d. Retrieving the Psychological Analogy: Four Dimensions of Meaning

Admittedly, the classical Augustinian-Thomist approach to the Trinity will appear alien to the urgent contemporary concerns of the post-modern' thought.  Any pretension to a theoretical system must be endlessly deferred in the interests of an endless conversation suspicious of idolatrous, totalising projects. Still, from within the performative praxis intent on the ever-elusive realisation of the human good, it can be argued that human authenticity is constituted by a self-transcending search for the meaningful, the true and the truly valuable. [41]   In such a context, there are functions of meaning', [42] theological and otherwise, that allow for a fuller self-appropriation of oneself –  in action', as it were –  regarding the intelligible, the true and the good.  Besides the objective, theoretical, more cognitively nuanced dimension of meaning, there are the realms in which meaning functions constitutively,  communicatively, and effectively.  One may suggest that the dominance of the purely cognitive dimension of meaning is what is being challenged today.  This has trinitarian implications.  The cognitive clarification of the Trinity as divine unity realised in three distinct, coequal and eternal divine persons has taken place in the great councils; and that achievement has been the main fascination of systematic theology up to comparatively recent times.  Now, it seems, it is the day of other dimensions of meaning, each of which affects trinitarian theology.  For example, meaning is constitutive of human identity and human culture.  It informs our individual and social identity.  In this regard, theology invited to consider how the Trinity is a transcendent meaning indwelling the consciousness of believers and informing them with a new self-understanding.  Baptised in the trinitarian name, we becomes new and singing selves' within the trinitarian life, as sons and daughters in the Son, temples of the Spirit, children of the Father. [43]

Further, such meaning is communicative.  It forms a distinctive field of communication in which there is a shared narrative along with a range of shared experiences, meanings and values.  In this regard, believers participate in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit' (2 Cor 13:13), and are summoned to be one as the Son and the Father are one (John 17:22-23).  Then, too, meaning is effective, and transformative of world and culture.  In this effective dimension, the Trinity implies a witness to the world that the world might believe...' (John 17:21), as the disciples are sent forth by Jesus as he in turn has been sent forth by the Father (John 17:18).

e. Three Techniques of Theological Reflections

In attending to and enriching these effoliations of trinitarian meaning, moral theology can strengthen its properly theological orientation.  The three techniques of theological investigation listed in Vatican 1's Constitution on Divine Revelation', Dei Filius, as analogy, the interconnection of the mysteries, and in their reference to our last end, remain. [44]   Though moral theology specialises in the third of these techniques in its consideration of the acts and virtues that lead to the fulfilment of human destiny in God, I have been suggesting, in effect, that the way of analogy is still a rich resource for moral reflection, especially in relation to the psychological analogy' in the context of the interconnection of the mysteries of Trinity and grace and incarnation. 

Though moral theology will have its own methods, though its methodological procedures can be extended to incorporate what analogy, the interconnection of the mysteries and their eschatological reference have to offer, its elaboration in accord with the four dimensions of meaning referred to above can be further refined and developed.  Up to the recent past, the analogical method tended to be identified with the metaphysical tradition epitomised in Thomist theology, while the interconnecting' aspect was more obvious in the great constructive theologies of Barth, Rahner, von Balthasar and Moltmann. The reference to our last end' dimension was expressed in both the teleological thrust of moral theology in general, but also and more particularly in the spectrum of Liberation Theologies – though not necessarily as leading to a fully developed Christian eschatology.  If these generalisations have any merit, they point to a post-modern' period calling for a much more buoyant and interactive phase in moral theology, so that these three techniques of theological intelligence can play off one another in a multi-dimensional field of moral meaning.  In such a situation, a transposed psychological analogy of the Trinity would be productive not only of a cognitive clarification of the meaning and value of the moral life, but also affect the deepest sense of human identity and community, and become an effective inspiration in the moral life and in the Church's mission to the world. 

Of its nature, the Trinity is an all-connecting mystery as Barth and Rahner have abundantly shown.  Yet a significantly  new connection is now being developed by relating the Trinity more closely to the Paschal Mystery. [45] Through such a development, the dramatic narrative of Trinity's involvement in the cross and resurrection of Christ is introduced into the more traditional and systematic modes of reflection so that analogical and narrative theology meet for a dialectical, but mutual, enrichment at the trinitarian centre.


a. The Psychological Image and the Originality of Love

But here I would add two further applications of the trinitarian psychological analogy which will have considerable importance in a fuller articulation of correlation of the Trinity with the moral life.  Bernard Lonergan's transposition of a largely Thomist metaphysical theoretical account of psychology, with its attendant faculty analysis' of the intellect and will, through an intentionality analysis' of the self-transcending human subject, is well known. [46] Human consciousness expands to ever fuller realisation as it experiences, understands, judges, decides and loves.  Affecting this dynamic pattern of self-transcendence, events of religious, moral and intellectual conversion occur, [47] though not necessarily in any particular temporal sequence, which profoundly affect existence in all its relationships.  Intellectual conversion results when we are directed beyond empiricism and idealism, to the truth that can only be arrived at in self-transcending judgment.  Moral conversion results in our habitual preference, not for self-satisfaction, but for the self-transcending demands of values, and the truly good.  Religious conversion takes place when all our quest for meaning and value find their ultimate basis and fulfilment in the being in love' with an all transcending source and goal, however it is revealed and dimly known.

In his later writings, Lonergan began to apply a psychological analogy based on the fully converted subject to the Trinity itself.  The following quotation (with my emphasis added) indicates the direction in which he was moving as he attempts to transpose classic Thomist trinitarianism through intentionality analysis with a Johannine emphasis:

The psychological analogy... has its starting point in that higher synthesis of intellectual, rational, and moral consciousness that is the dynamic state of being in love.  Such love manifests itself in judgments of value.  And the judgments are carried out in decisions that are acts of loving.  Such is the analogy found in the creature.

Now in God, the origin in the Father, in the New Testament named ho Theos, who is identified with agap‘ (1 John 4:8, 16).  Such love expresses itself in its Word, its Logos, its verbum spirans amorem , which is a judgment of value.  The judgment of value is sincere, and so it grounds the Proceeding Love that is identified with the Holy Spirit.

There are then two processions which may be conceived in God; they are not unconscious processes but intellectually, rationally, morally conscious, as judgments of value based on the evidence perceived by a lover, and the acts of loving grounded on judgments of value.  These two processions ground four real relations of which three are really distinct from one another; and these three are not just relations as relations, and so modes of being, but also subsistent, and so not just paternity and filiation but also Father and Son.  Finally, Father and Son and Spirit are eternal; their consciousness is not in time but timeless; their subjectivity is not becoming but ever itself; and each in his own distinct manner is subject of the infinite act that God is, the Father as originating love, the Son as judgment of value expressing that love, and the Spirit as originated loving. [48]

  Clearly, this is an indication of a more affectively and morally attuned theological use of the psychological analogy.  Whilst it presents the divine act of intelligence, it is a moral intelligence expressive of the original being in love' that God is.  Ipsum esse subsistens is presented as ipsum amare subsistens.  In this regard, the Word is the expression of the divine being in love', and the Spirit, proceeding from originating love and the Word as the expression of that love, is originated loving, as it unites Father and Son, and all whom God loves.  Though this transposition has yet to be fully worked out, [49] the overall result is a much closer alignment of the Trinity to the moral life, offering moral theology a more inspiring trinitarian basis.  One could say, granting the suggestiveness of Lonergan's reworked psychological image, that morality is a participation in the moral consciousness of the Trinity itself.  Through the grace of the divine missions, the human subject is conformed to subjectivity of the divine persons.  If the state of grace' is that a state of being in love' that subsumes and informs all other activities, [50] its theological explication entails the self-giving of the Father as originating love', the mission of the Word as the incarnate expression of that love reaching into the visibility of history; and the gift of the Spirit as originated loving' inspiring and redeeming all created forms of love.  The three divine subjects interrelating in the one consciousness of love, and communicated to creation through the gift of grace, are the source, form and goal of our human becoming –  individually, socially and globally.

b. The Trinity and Global Morality

The word, globally', suggests a further development in our efforts to connect the mystery of the Trinity to the moral life.  The present historical phase of rapid globalisation in which the planetary proportions of our human co-existence are emerging. The universal notion of human nature' is earthed in the actuality of a common human history.  The peculiar crisis of our times turns on the question of how particular histories and cultures can meet for mutual enrichment in one planetary history.  Here, I suggest, intentionality analysis can be extended, beyond the instance of an individual subject experiencing the imperatives of self-transcendence, to a consideration of imperatives latent in the global phenomenon of human becoming, which must be attended to if such a level of historical self-transcendence is to be maintained and developed.  Human experience now includes vast electronic libraries of  the internet and the instant communication it makes possible.  Human meaning is enriched by the knowledge explosion' in every domain of research.  Our judgment of the truth of things, however intimately personal it may be, cannot ignore the evidence that can only emerge from collaboration on a global scale, enabling us to situate our individual and collective efforts in the context of our existence on this earth, a planet of an average sized star in a galaxy in which a hundred billion stars are said to shine in the immensity of a physical universe of billions of galaxies, in a cosmic history of 12 billions years.  Personal and social values must be earthed in  the ecological well-being of the planet itself: loving our neighbour cannot afford to neglect a love for a neighbourhood of planetary proportions.  And if this novel historical process of global humanisation is to succeed in the face of the collective biases toward self-destruction, an enormous but shared self-transcending effort to recognise the objectivity of values such as truth, justice, freedom and compassion.  Without these, progress will be impossible, with results that are all too easily named. [51]  

Human history as reached a limit from which there is no retreating, yet beyond which there is only unexplored territory demanding that ...we take/ the longest stride of soul man ever took. / Affairs are now soul-size/ the enterprise is exploration into God'. [52]   In this soul-size' conception of moral life, theology's enterprise' as exploration into God' has an opportunity to appreciate the doctrine of the Trinity in a larger and perhaps more challenging context.  My  rhetorical evocation of the present global turn in human history permits in the limitations of this essay only a brief schematic remark. [53]   It could be put this way: the trinitarian God has entered into the historical process that we have just tried to evoke.  The Father gives himself as the eschatological horizon summoning history forward into his house of many rooms (John 14:2), to the point at which God will be all in all (1 Cor 15:28).  In the worship of the Father local and cultural situations are relativised –  neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem' (John 4:21) –  as he seeks true worshippers in spirit and in truth' (v.  24).  God's seeking' is directed to energising human history to its true moral freedom, in a morality of solidarity that is not restricted to time, place or culture.  The Father, though not sent', gives himself, [54] to be the all-fulfilling destiny of our history.  In this sense, Originating Love is both the beginning of our history, and its absolute Future B anticipated in the creative but always limited achievements of hope, as it contends with all forms of practical despair over the future and the possibility of life's fulfilment and homecoming.

For human history live in such an horizon it must enjoy confidence in the world of meaning, in the ability to understand and come to the truth.  For it is not only the rationality of value that is at stake, but the value of rationality.  The search for truth is threatened by a dispirited suspicion of  our capacities for intelligent self-transcendence.  Intellectual diffidence restricts knowledge to its instrumental function as a technique to bring about a delimited manipulation of data in the information process'.  Morality is merely the ethics of the utility of exchange. The ultimate question of whether there is any meaning to such meaning-making, whether there is any Logos in all the -ologies of human culture to connect us more deeply than the sharing of interest in the technical job in hand, is either ignored or deferred.  Into such a situation, the Father communicates his all-meaningful Word, to become incarnate in the human conversation, to redeem it of bias and absurdity through the fullness of the gift that is the truth (John 1:14).  The Word incarnate in the life, death and resurrection of Christ, is heard as a subversive surprise to the omnicompetent and exclusive pretensions of human wisdom (John 3:1-10; 1 Cor 1:18-25).  The non-violent presence of the truth which is not of this world is a judgment on the totalitarian violence of all human ideologies which, by denying God, end by mutilating humanity itself (John 18:36-38).  The Word, as the self-expression of the originating Love' that God is, exists in the world as the light' in which all moralities are judged.  He comes into the world as the Word breathing love', the truth inspiring the morality of a universal love that has its origins in the heart of the Trinity.

With the Father given as the horizon of the absolute future of world history, and the Word incarnate as breathing forth love through his self-giving love on the cross, the Spirit comes as God's originated loving'. This indwelling love inspires our hearing of that Word that has been uttered: No one can say, Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit' (1 Cor 12:3).  It inspires dreams in the old and visions in the young (Ac 2:17). The Paraclete, the Spirit of truth, glorifies Jesus and declares his meaning to the disciples (John 16:12-15).  By inspiring intimacy with God now invocable as Abba' (Rom 8:15-16), the Spirit brings forth the fruits of self-transcendence in the believer (Gal 5:22) and in the Christian community (1 Cor 12:4-13).  The love of God poured out by the Spirit gives assurance to the courageous practice of hope (Rom 5:5); and within the groaning of all creation and the inward groanings of Christian hope, the Spirit groans, opening human consciousness to the mystery of love at work (Rom 8:19-28).  Human values are renewed and informed by a Spirit-breathed love that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things', endures all things' (1 Cor 13:7), in the love that never ends (v. 8).

For those who would address in hope the immense challenges inherent in becoming a global and planetary humanity, there is the ever-renewable resource of the gift of God, God is love – as the giver, the given and the giving.  Though the mystery of the Trinity may not be explicitly named, it comes as an experience of giftedness awaiting its theological naming and explication.  In an appealing passage, Lonergan writes:

There is in the world, as it were, a charged field of love and meaning; here and there it reaches a notable intensity; but it is every unobtrusive, hidden, inviting us to join.  And join we must if we are to perceive it, for our perceiving is through our loving. [55]

Here H. Peukert's words have a special relevance: A theory of intersubjective interaction in history becomes a hermeneutical basis for a theology of the Trinity that, even as a discourse on God himself, remains a theory of experience'. [56]   While I take his use of the word, theory', to include a dimension of attending to experience in line with the Critical Theorists' he consistently refers to, his remark underscores much of what I have been suggesting in this attempt to correlate trinitarian faith with moral theology and the moral life.


In conclude this essay with the words of a great mystic which precisely sum up the points I have laboured to make, namely that the moral life, and the moral theology that serves it, is radically trinitarian:

O eternal Trinity, fire and abyss of charity... by the light of understanding within your light I have tasted and seen your depth... and the beauty of your creation.  Then, when I considered myself in you, I saw that I am your image.  You have gifted me with power from yourself , and my understanding with your wisdom – such wisdom as is proper to your only-begotten Son; and the Holy Spirit who proceeds from you and your Son, has given me a will, and so I am able to love. [57]


[1] See Marciano Vidal, La Trinidad: origen y meta de la moral cristiana', StMor 38 (2000) 67-101.  This article, with its emphasis on Augustine and Bonaventure, complements the present reflection which draws more on the Thomist tradition.

[2] Immanuel Kant, Der Streit der Fakultäten', Werke in sechs Bänden, ed. W. Weischedel (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1964) 50.

[3] For example, Elizabeth de la Trinité, J'ai trouvé Dieu. Oeuvres complètes (Paris: Cerf, 1980).  More generally and with extensive reference to the Trinity, see Bernard McGinn, The Foundations of Mysticism. Origins to the Fifth Century (New York: Crossroad, 1997), The Growth of Mysticism: Gregory the Great through the 12 th Century (New York: Crossroad, 1997), and The Flowering of Mysticism. Men and Women in the New MysticismB 1200-1350 (New York: Crossroad, 1998).

[4] Naturally, I gratefully presuppose the outstanding work of such writers as Bernard Häring, Vincent MacNamara, Enda McDonagh, Josef Fuchs, Klaus Demner, Sergio Bastianel and of the faculty of the Academia Alfonsiana.

[5] Thomas F. O'Meara, O.P., AVirtues in the Theology of Thomas Aquinas@, Theological Studies 58/2, June 1997, 254-285.

[6] Servais Pinckaers, L'Évangile et la morale (Paris: Cerf, 1990) 11.

[7]   See Leonard E. Boyle, The Setting of the ASumma Theologiae@ of Thomas Aquinas (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1982) 16).

[8] L. Gregory Jones, Transformed Judgment.  Toward a Trinitarian Account of the Moral Life (Notre Dame IN: Notre Dame Press, 1990).

[9] Stephen H. Webb, The Gifting God.  A Trinitarian Ethics of Excess (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996).

[10] Marcel Mauss, The Gift, trans. Ian Cunnison (New York: Norton, 1967).

[11] Examples here are the Maori concept of  hau, a communitarian movement of giving and relationship establishing a unique social bond, the Western Pacific social practice of  kula, as studied by Malinowski, indicating a continuous movement of exchange exceeding economic valuation, and the North American practice of  potlach.

[12] Marshall Sahlins, Stone Age Economics (Chicago: Aldine, 1972).

[13]   Pierre Bourdieu, Outline of a Theory of Practice, trans. Richard Nice (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977).

[14] Richard Titmus, The Gift Relationship (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1970).

[15] Lewis Hyde, The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property (New York: Vintage, 1979).

[16] Jean-Luc Marion, God Without Being trans. Thomas A. Carlson (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1991).

[17] M. Douglas Meeks, God the Economist.  The Doctrine of God and Political Economy(Minneapolis: Fortress, 1989).

[18] ST 1-2, 68, 1.

[19] ST 2-2, 106, 1.

[20] See the forthcoming study, Robyn Horner, Rethinking God as Gift: Marion, Derrida and the Limits of Phenomenology (New York: Fordham University Press, 2000).

[21] Jean-Luc Marion, God Without Being, 75, 143.

[22] See Anthony J. Kelly CSsR, The Horrible Wrappers' of Aquinas' God', Pacifica 9/2, June 1996, 185-203.

[23] See Michael G. Lawler, Perichoresis: New Theological Wine in an Old Theological Wineskin', Horizons 22/1, 1995, 49-66.

[24] See Anthony J. Kelly CSsR, God: How Near a Relation?', The Thomist, 34/2 (1970), 191-229.

[25] For a more extensive investigation, David Coffey, Deus TrinitasThe Doctrine of the Triune God (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999) 84-104.

[26] Cf. ST 1,45, 5.

[27] ST 1, 20, 2.

[28] For Marion's influential discussion of the distinction between the idol and the icon, see his God without Being, 7-22, and passim thereafter.

[29] The instructio intellectus and the inflammatio affectus of ST 1, 43, 5 ad 3.

[30] Cf ST 1, 93, 5-9.

[31] In these expressions, I am, of course, indicating the social dimensions of the cardinal virtues as treated in ST 2-2, 47-170.

[32] Protestant theology ususally follows Barth in his stern denunciation of such analogies.  See Colin Gunton, The Promise of Trinitarian Theology (London: T. & T. Clarke, 1991) 42-43.  On the Catholic side, Karl Rahner, The Trinity, trans. J. Donceel (London: Burns and Oates, 1970) 117-118; Walter Kasper, The God of Jesus Christ, trans. M. O'Connell (London: SCM, 1983) 187; and David Coffey, Deus Trinitas, 4, 30, 47, 54-59.  The neglect of the psychological analogy is a serious lack even in Miroslav's Volf's outstanding After Our Likeness.  The Church as the Image of the Trinity (Cambridge: W. B. Eerdmans, 1998).

[33] For a commendable work in this direction, see Denis Edwards, The God of Evolution.  A Trinitarian Theology (New York: Paulist, 1999).

[34] Following Lonergan, I would see communication as a distinct functional speciality' within the a comprehensive theological method.  See Bernard Lonergan, Method in Theology (London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1972) 355-367.

[35] ST 1,44, 3; 6-7; 93, 1-9.

[36] See John Thompson, Modern Trinitarian Perspectives (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994) in chapter on The Trinity, Society and Politics', 106-123.

[37] Leonardo Boff, Trinity and Society, trans. Paul Burns (London: Burns & Oates, 1986).

[38] ST 1, 43, 5 ad 2.

[39] See Bernard Lonergan, Verbum: Word and Idea in Aquinas, eds.  Frederick E. Crowe and Robert M. Doran (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1997), especially 191-221.

[40] Bernard Lonergan, Divinarum Personarum Analogica Conceptio (Rome: Gregorianum Press, 1956) 165.

[41] Frederick G. Lawrence, The Fragility of Consciousness: Lonergan and the Post-Modern Concern for the Other', in Communication and Lonergan. The Common Ground for Forging the New Age, eds. Thomas J. Farrell and Paul A. Soukup (Kansas City: Sheed and Ward, 1993) 173-211; Jerome A. Miller, In the Throe of Wonder.  Intimations of the Sacred in the Post-Modern World (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1993).

[42] See Bernard Lonergan, Method in Theology (London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1972) 76-81.

[43] See David F. Ford, Self and Salvation.  Being Transformed (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999) 107-136.

[44] DS 3016

[45] Anne Hunt, The Trinity and the Paschal Mystery.  A Development in Recent Catholic Theology (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1997) considers specifically F. X. Durrwell, G. Lafont, H. U. von Balthasar, and S. Moore in this regard.  Then, more related to our topic, Anne Hunt, Psychological Analogy and the Paschal Mystery in Trinitarian Theology', Theological Studies 59 (1998) 197-218.

[46] For a succinct account, see Lonergan, Method..., 3-25.

[47] For the foundational role of conversion, Lonergan, Method.., 217, 241-243, 267-271 and passim.

[48]   Bernard Lonergan, Christology Today: Methodological Reflections', in A Third Collection.  Papers by Bernard J. F. Lonergan, S. J., ed. Frederick E. Crowe, S. J. (New York: Paulist Press, 1985) 93-94.

[49] For an attempt in this direction, Anthony J. Kelly CssR, Trinity of Love. A Theology of the Christian God (Wilmington, Del.: Michael Glazier, 1989) 139-169.

[50] Lonergan, Method..., 104-107;120-124.

[51] For a fuller treatment of these aspects, see Tony (Anthony J.) Kelly CSsR, An Expanding Theology.  Faith in a World of Connections (Sydney: E.J.Dwyer, 1-68; 157-167.

[52] Christopher Fry, The Sleep of Prisoners (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1951) 32.

[53] See Kelly, Trinity of Love, 165-172, 203-215.

[54] ST 1, 43, 4 ad 1.

[55] Lonergan, Method..., 290.

[56] H. Peukert, Science, Action and Fundamental Theology.  Toward a Theology of Communicative Action, trans. J. Bohman (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1986) 275.

[57] St Catherine of Siena, The Dialogues, trans.  Suzanne Loffke, OP, The Classics of Western Spirituality (New York: Paulist Press, 1980) 365.


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