Essay / The Third Person of the Trinity

“Who’s On Third?”

Oliver Crisp and I have edited a brand new book in Zondervan Academic’s Los Angeles Theology Conference series. This volume is on the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, and its title is The Third Person of the Trinity.

The book is such a solid showcase of contemporary pneumatology that I want to share a few of the chapters. Today I asked the co-authors of chapter 6, “Who’s On Third? (Re)Locating the Spirit in the Triune Taxis,” to explain a little bit about their chapter.

Jerome Van Kuiken and Joshua McNall both teach at Oklahoma Wesleyan University, where Jerome is Dean of the School of Ministry and Christian Thought and Professor of Christian Thought, and Joshua is Associate Professor of Pastoral Theology.

1. What’s your chapter in The Third Person of the Trinity about? 

Jerome: Where does the Holy Spirit fit within the structure of the Trinity? Traditionally the Spirit’s been in last place (Father first, Son second, Spirit third), but recently theologians have proposed putting the Spirit in second or even first place. Where you put the Spirit has implications for how much God’s activity tells us about God’s inner life. Our chapter evaluates these recent proposals from a cautiously favorable standpoint.

2. How does this chapter fit into your teaching or your writing? 

Jerome: I teach the Trinity to undergrads, so I’m always on the lookout for ways to grasp and communicate the doctrine better. Also, Josh and I each have done some previous writing on trinitarian theology. 

Josh: My PhD was on the trinitarian theology of Colin Gunton, so I’ve done some work on recent constructive accounts of the Trinity. I’ve also been interested, of late, in the aspects of Charismatic tradition; so this chapter was able to draw together both of those conversations.

3. Where did the idea for this particular essay come from?  

Jerome: I read the conference title, The Third Person of the Trinity, and it made me think of Abbott and Costello’s classic comedy routine, “Who’s on First?” (my mind jumps around like that). Everything else fell into place based on that original association of ideas. 

Josh: A few years back I published an SJT article on Sarah Coakley’s pneumatology. Since Coakley’s work comes up in this chapter, it worked well to revisit another aspect of her project in what we call her “Spirit-leading trinitarianism.”

4. What’s the next thing you’re working on, or looking forward to working on? 

Jerome: I’m preparing a manuscript for a popular-level introduction to the author and theology of the Epistle of Jude. I’m also working on a chapter that puts Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films in conversation with Karl Barth for a collected volume on Tolkien and theology. 

Josh: I have a book coming out this year with IVP Academic on the place of speculation and imagination in theology, specifically in helping Christians avoid the extremes of crippling doubt and angry dogmatism. I’m also working on a popular-level book on the atonement, aimed at lay readers.

5. A bonus question not related to this book chapter: What’s the most stimulating thing you’ve read lately in theology? 

Jerome: The introductory pages to Kate Sonderegger’s Systematic Theology, Volume 2: The Doctrine of the Holy Trinity. I’m eager for Josh to get done with his copy so I can read the rest of it! 

Josh: I’m reading Sonderegger’s new volume now and it may be the most provocative work I’ve seen in several years. I’m looking forward to having Jerome explain the parts I didn’t quite grasp. 

For more sneak-peeks of The Third Person of the Trinity, check out our other interviews. You can pick up a copy of the book here.

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