Opening Notes on Lacugna’s God for Us

Lacugna, Catherine.  God for Us.  Harper San Francisco.

Argues that developing theological reflection slowly separated economy from theology, which made the Trinity appear more and more irrelevant.   I am not sure about her thesis in the specifics, but I think she is on to something:  positing an ontological God apart from God’s decision to redeem the world in Christ does create a metaphysical gap in God.  Like others before her, she seeks to correlate the pattern of God’s salvation in history with the being of God (Lacugna 4).

Introduction and Chapter 1

    Contrary to what might appear, she is not arguing a “fall” in the early church from Nicene onwards.  Rather, the early church necessarily (and rightly) used the philosophical and theological categories available to confront heresies.   The downside is that these categories made correct speech about God’s saving pattern in history increasingly difficult.

    Lacunga correctly downplays the so-called differences between East and West on the Trinity.  That there are differences is evident, but neither side has the clear advantage.   Both ended up separating the being of God from his Acts in history.

    “Economy” is the pattern of God’s saving actions in history.  It is “the order that expresses the mystery of God’s eternal being” (25; cf. Ephesians 1:3-14).   Few early theologians would deny this, but more and more were led, outside of a strong Nicene philosophy, to a subordinationist Christology:  God sends Christ who sends the apostles (and/or the Spirit).  Lacugna sees Irenaeus as evidencing this subordinationism, but I don’t think he is.   She says he is influenced by the Logos Christology of the Apologists, but the text she quotes from Irenaeus evidences nothing of the strict separation of Logos endiathetos/Logos prophorikos.  Of course, it would be equally mistaken to read a sophisticated Nicene understanding of “being” back into Irenaeus.

    After Irenaeus oikonomios took on a new connotation: (For Tertullian) “the economy of the divine being expresses the unity of the Father” (28).

What I did learn from the Anchorites

 

Patristics:  While the idea of the patrum consensus is demonstrably false, studying Patristics is extremely valuable.   The Orthodox guys loved to talk about acquiring the mind of the Fathers.  It sounds noble but it is hard to pin down. Comparing the chiliasm of Irenaeus with the vague idealism of SCOBA Orthodoxy with the manly and rugged Russian apocalypticism of the Jordanville school will show that there is no unified consensus, at least with regard to eschatology. Still, I liked the idea at the time.  At the time (Fall, 2009) CBD.com was running a sale on Schaff’s church fathers series.  With each volume costing around $4, I bought up as many as I could.  I immediately devoured Cyril of Jerusalem and Gregory of Nazianzus.   Cyril isn’t particularly deep, but he is systematic.   Gregory is deep but often at the expense of clarity (and Bulgakov is the only one who understood him on the monarchia!).
I then moved on to Athanasius, Basil, Hilary, and Gregory of Nyssa.  Each has his important points, but no one was entirely adequate.  Basil framed the knowledge of God on agnosticism.  He also said non-Orthodox were not heretics (yeah, deal with that, you rad trads! (NPNF Series 2, 8:223-228.   Basil completely destroys the exclusivism of the convertskii.  And John McGuckin also agrees with me.  He calls your view inhumane. Which it is.   I remember reading a rather rabid convertskii gloat on how my Huguenot ancestors were in hell for busting relics, so-called (never mind King Josiah did the same thing).  Athanasius and Hilary taught the Filioque.  Gregory taught universalism (and David Bentley Hart’s exposition of Gregory on this point is spot-on).   Maximus the Confessor suggested that the Christian faith was a synthesis of paganism (cf Henri Cardinal de Lubac’s defense of Maximus on that point, Catholicism:  Christ and the Common Destiny of Man).  He also suggested that there was no distinction of sex and gender before the Fall. Semper ubique, anyone?
Still, if you want to learn the basics of person, nature, Triadology, and Christology, you have to go to the Fathers for counsel.  Good luck getting a definition of what a person or nature is, though!
Avoiding the Worst of Fundamentalism:   When I was at Reformed Seminary and Louisiana College I became slightly enamored of the Vision Forum catalogue.  When I began reading the EO guys I realized I had no use for these fundamentalists.  Perhaps I rejected them for the wrong reasons, but reject them I did.   I also saw that the hyper-Patriarchal prairie muffin model, whether right or wrong, was simply unworkable in a modern, technological society.  And it really can’t explain the prophetess Deborah.  Therefore, when the recent sex scandal came out, I wasn’t affiliated with the movement at all.
Skeptical of political ideologies:  Take note of many convertskii and see if they become attached to the idea of Mother Russia.  It’s an enchanting narrative. The culture is beautiful.  Further, when you compare Vladimir Putin with Barack Obama, you can’t help but become a partial Russophile. One is a patriot who stands for his people and his country’s values.  The other is an Indonesian Islamist who openly campaigned on the destruction of the middle class, America, the white race, and the marginalization of Christianity.   It’s almost an unfair comparison.
Apropos of the above point, many of the anti-NOW Russophiles pointed out many diabolical nexuses within the American system.  (By the way, every conspiracy theory I’ve held to over the past five years has come true).  One of the end results is a healthy skepticism towards political idolatry during a time of America’s worst politics.  Of course, in line with the Russian narrative, convertskii need to explain the connection between the hyper-canonization of hundreds of Russian saints in the 1500s with the oppression of Ukrainians by these same saints.