Divine Multiplicity: Trinities, Diversities, and the Nature of Relation

Divine Multiplicity: Trinities, Diversities, and the Nature of Relation

Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 364
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    Divine Multiplicity: Trinities, Diversities, and the Nature of Relation
    Book Description:

    The essays in this volume ask if and how trinitarian and pluralist discourses can enter into fruitful conversation with one another. Can trinitarian conceptions of divine multiplicity open the Christian tradition to more creative and affirming visions of creaturely identities, difference, and relationality including the specific difference of religious plurality? Where might the triadic patterning evident in the Christian theological tradition have always exceeded the boundaries of Christian thought and experience? Can this help us to inhabit other religious traditions' conceptions of divine and/or creaturely reality? The volume also interrogates the possibilities of various discourses on pluralism by putting them in a concrete pluralist context and asking to what extent pluralist discourse can collect within itself a convergent diversity of orthodox, heterodox, postcolonial, process, poststructuralist, liberationist, and feminist sensibilities while avoiding irruptions of conflict, competition, or the logic of mutual exclusion.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-5399-9
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction: The Whence and the Whither of “Divine Multiplicity”
    (pp. 1-16)

    This collection of essays is the result of work undertaken on the occasion of Drew Theological School’s tenth annual Transdisciplinary Theological Colloquium. Each fall, since the turn of the millennium, a relatively small cohort of scholars working in and around the fields of religion and theology have been invited to engage a specific theological theme of current interest. The object of the series is to bring together thinkers from a variety of disciplines who share a cluster of interests: a commitment to interrogating the ethical impulses and material effects of theological and religious discourse; an appreciation for the always surprising...

    • The God Who Is (Not) One: Of Elephants, Blind Men, and Disappearing Tigers
      (pp. 19-37)

      The elusive dance of the One and the Many fascinated me throughout the years of doctoral and postdoctoral study in Germany. But this fascination was, for me, never an intellectual artifact or abstract mind-game. Even before teenage years hit, and long before any formal exposure to either mysticism or organized religion, it was already a dance I knew well. Admittedly without sophistication or much in the way of argument, but certainly with tenacity, I would tell friends that “if God is in everything then somehow, in some way, everything must be one.”

      My teenage conversion to Christianity, and the subsequent...

    • God’s Vitality: Creative Tension and the Abyss of Différance within the Divine Life
      (pp. 38-57)

      At times, there seems to be a choice set before Christian theology regarding how to understand those outside of Christianity: Either they are somehow in relationship with the God proclaimed by Christians, or they are not. This division is, of course, complicated by different understandings of who is inside of Christianity and who is outside, as well as the exact nature of the God proclaimed by Christians. Nevertheless, there can still be a sense of a choice between ultimate separation or ultimate congruity between religious traditions. A promising attempt to break up this either/or scenario is a move toward recognizing...

    • Polyphilic Pluralism: Becoming Religious Multiplicities
      (pp. 58-82)

      Where religious pluralism becomes more common, one witnesses also—including, but exceeding, the will to interreligious understanding and therefore political peace—an appetite for the differences. We are accustomed—with reason—to worrying about the Western voracity of such appetite, about the risk of colonization and appropriation of the Other. This essay makes a strong distinction between interreligious piracy and the love of multiplicity; a polyphilia that may better resist competition and colonization than mere ethical ecumenism. Drawing, for this experiment, on our shared involvement in a Whiteheadian discourse, we propose a convivial polydoxy of “living together” mindfully and nourishingly....

    • Abhinavagupta’s Theogrammatical Topography of the One and the Many
      (pp. 85-105)

      For much of the world’s history, what happens to most of us (that is, the many, the people) has actually been dictated by the one—a singular person as ruler. Countries were ruled by kings and only one could rule; brutal wars were waged over which claimant to the throne could seize the right to rule the many. Moreover, the idea of one to rule the many, monarchy, found its justification in the divine order of things. Just as the model of only one God ruling over the world ensured the stable order of the cosmos, so a single king...

    • One and the Many: The Struggle to Understand Plurality within the Indian Tradition and Its Implications for the Debate on Religious Plurality Today
      (pp. 106-118)

      Every summer, in the month of July, the Ecumenical Institute of the World Council of Churches in Geneva (Ecumenical Institute, Bossey) brings together a group of about twenty Christians, Jews, and Muslims for about three weeks to live and learn together. They are also given the opportunity to participate in one another’s worship practices to the extent they are able to do so. To facilitate their interaction, a Jewish rabbi, a Muslim imam, and a Christian minister/theologian are each invited to speak on two mornings to the multifaith group about their respective religious traditions. During the last two years I...

    • Differential Pluralism and Trinitarian Theologies of Religion
      (pp. 119-136)
      S. MARK HEIM

      The intensity of my interest in this topic stems from the reality I see before me on a regular basis. As one student with a particularly varied family and personal background said to me, “I am the many I am trying to make one.” The tradition of thought about these issues may be philosophical, but the situation on which it bears is increasingly personal and immediate. Pluralism is less and less a voluntary adventure. If it does not come with the conditions of our birth, it is hard to avoid on our life paths, whether one pursues rigorous education, success...

    • Spirited Transformations: Pneumatology as a Resource for Comparative Theology
      (pp. 137-150)

      In some well-meaning concepts of interreligious interaction, “the many” seem to be valued in their embodied diverse traditions only to be ultimately collapsed into a metaphysical “one.” To use the ubiquitous metaphor of the mountain whose one summit can be reached by many paths, manyness gets displaced by the one peak of the mountain. Avalanche! When the peak cannot support the many, the manyness sliding off the mountain subverts the valuing of difference toward which embodied diversity tellingly points. After all, the logic goes, why should a devotee of one religious path bother with studying the fine points of another...

    • Excess, Reversibility, and Apophasis: Rereading Gender in Feminist Trinities
      (pp. 153-174)

      Admittedly, reflection on the complexities of the “one and the many” in God can take on a kind of abstruseness when compared to the material injustices of everyday life: global poverty, war, and environmental degradation to name a few. Even if it is presumed that the “one” has a relationship to state power and the expansion of empire or to unity at the expense of difference, the question remains how meditating on the “many” really makes a tangible difference to the material lives of women.¹

      Feminist discourse, however, has long asserted that the personal is political. That is, how we...

    • Doxological Diversities and Canticle Multiplicities: The Trinitarian Anthropologies of David H. Kelsey and Ivone Gebara
      (pp. 175-192)

      The grand philosophical tradition examining the problem of the “One and the Many” is not something one learns in elementary school. And yet, I feel inexorably drawn to that very problem—there is something elementary (indeed, elemental) about the infinite relations of the one and the many. It is the quotidianness, the strange ordinariness, of the multiplicity of life that still draws me to reflect on that very problem, whether consciously using the philosophical tradition laid before me or not. One might better say that the “problem” is not a “problem” at all, but a possibility of life and living...

    • The Holy Spirit, the Story of God
      (pp. 193-214)

      My thoughts on the “one and the many,” thinking through divine multiplicity, stem from my intuition that the practice of Christianity too often entails an agreed-upon set of doctrines and efforts to generate wider agreement on those doctrines. Christian churches are ever parting ways, breaking the ties of communion over particular beliefs they deem absolutely critical to authentic Christian life. In my own denomination, the Episcopal Church, tensions in the Anglican Communion are higher than ever following years of disagreement about opening the priesthood and episcopacy to people who are not heterosexual men. Phrases like “exclusion from communion” are commonly...

    • Absolute Difference
      (pp. 217-233)

      The question of the one or the many, per se, has very little existential traction for me, so I don’t expect much on that score from discussion of unity and diversity within the Trinity. As far as I can see, without fleshing out their respective constitutions in greater detail, unity and diversity are mere abstractions devoid of any particular existential import. Worrying over the question of unity or diversity at a high level of generality—for example, fulminating, in the abstract, against the former in order to promote the latter—is therefore a case of misplaced concreteness if ever there...

    • Multiplicity and Christocentric Theology
      (pp. 234-251)

      The Christian religion has been implicated in manifold forms of domination, imperialism, and conquest. Powerful historical agents have repeatedly inflated Christian particularity into a false universal. Discussions and movements critical of the soul-scarring and sometimes death-dealing imposition of Christian particularity are always to be welcomed. However, it is tempting for both those who advance such criticism and those who try to defend Christianity against it to operate with a one-sided sense of Christian particularity. Specifically, it is too often assumed that the embrace of Christian particularity entails elevating Christ to the position of the organizing center around which all other...

    • Divine Relationality and (the Methodological Constraints of) the Gospel as Piece of News: Tracing the Limits of Trinitarian Ethics
      (pp. 252-279)

      While drowning in the all-too-familiar missed-deadline panic, having lost the woods for the trees, I was listening to a story about Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the Muslim cleric spearheading plans for an Islamic community center near “ground zero” in New York City, on NPR’sAll Things Considered. During an interview for the story, the imam made the comment that “the real battlefront is not between Muslims and non-Muslims, between Muslims and Jews, between Muslims and Christians” but “between all moderates of all faith traditions and all of the extremists of all faith traditions.”¹ This statement cut through the fog of...

    • The Universe, Raw: Saying Something about Everything
      (pp. 280-300)

      Every fall semester, in the first couple of weeks of my introductory theology class, something I say in lecture triggers the elephant story. “Oh! You mean like in that story about the elephant and the blind mice!” a student says, as though some kind of light has dawned. And then she looks around at her classmates and explains, in earnest: “One mouse can describe only the elephant’s skin, another only the trunk, another only the ear, and still another only the tail. No one mouse alone has a sense for the whole elephant! So each needs the perspective of the...

  9. NOTES
    (pp. 301-346)
  10. List of Contributors
    (pp. 347-350)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 351-352)