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  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: July 2011

17 - The Tao in Confucianism and Taoism: the Trinity in East Asian perspective

from Part V - In dialogue with other religions


the “easternization” of the trinity

Since its renaissance initiated by Karl Barth and Karl Rahner, the doctrine of the Trinity has regained its status as the center of Christian theology. The doctrinal restoration of the Trinity has received widespread support from such ecumenically diverse theologians. In this chapter, the fascinating story of the rediscovery of the Trinity in contemporary theology will not be pursued, being presumed to be the task of other authors. However, one observation may be in order. As an East Asian theologian, I am intrigued by the fact that in this impressive retrieval of the trinitarian doctrine there has been a rediscovery of the East and a turn of Christian theology to the East.

In this restoration of the trinitarian center, the pendulum of Christian theology seems to have swung toward the East. At first, Western trinitarian theology appeared to have reached a climax with “Rahner's Rule” and “Pannenberg's Principle.” The former identifies the immanent Trinity with the economic Trinity and vice versa, while the latter underscores the history of divine rule over the world. Then, at its next stage, trinitarian theology turned to the East. Moving to the Near East, it rediscovered the significance of Eastern Orthodox trinitarian theology, embodied in “Zizioulas' Dictum,” according to which the divine being is the communion of the three trinitarian persons.