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Must We Say Anything of an "Immanent" Trinity?: Schleiermacher and Rowan Williams on an "Abstruse" and "Fruitless" Doctrine

Jason M. Smith


This essay engages two figures often left on the periphery of conversations about Trinitarian doctrine: Friedrich Schleiermacher and Rowan Williams. I engage Schleiermacher’s rationale behind embracing the Sabellian heresy as a way of arriving at a set of criteria for judging the adequacy of Trinitarian doctrine. In short, Schleiermacher forces one to ask whether we must say anything at all about the “immanent” rather than the “economic” Trinity, and, if so, we must prove that it gives a significant gift to the life of the church. I then piece together strands of argumentation from Rowan Williams’s thought to give an answer to these objections and show that the “immanent” Trinity is not the “abstruse” and “fruitless” doctrine that Schleiermacher and others have claimed it is. Rather, the immanent Trinity is necessary language for describing the shape of Christian salvation and is deeply rooted in a disciplined apophaticism.

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