Trinitarian Socialization

Written by Mark Van Steenwyk : December 10, 2004

One of my theology professors (F. LeRon Shults) has been holding discussion sessions to engage in dialog and reflection on his current book project Transforming Spirituality
with Steven Sandage (professor of Marriage and Family Therapy). The book is aimed at reforming pneumatology, and human spirituality.

So far, I’ve been able to go the first two of LeRon’s sessions.  After I get home, I’ve been able to process my thoughts with Gregg (Amy and I share a house with another couple–Gregg and Tena).  Gregg is doing his PhD at the University of Minnesota at their school of Family Social Sciences.   Our conversations have been very interdisciplinary–drawing off of our thoughts about therapy, theology, and ecclesiology.  Here is a brief summary of we discussed last night, let me know what you think (I realize it may be very dull for many of you)…

Pneumatology has tremendous implications for ecclesiology-how we live out our
relationship with Christ through the Spirit with one another and with the world
around us.  How does this develop?  This dialectical outworking of participating
in the divine nature while entering into authentic relationships with one

According to James Mark Baldwin
(founder of developmental psychology in the US), children
develop schemas (a pattern of interpersonal relating) in terms of different
types of relationships-authority related and companionate.  He believed that
children learn schemas from their parents.  For instance, since they learn how
to obey their parents, this contributes to the way in which their ethical self
develops (one type of schema).  Meanwhile, relations with other children are the
primary context for practicing schemas they?ve already learned.  So it is
through this dialectic-learning schemas from parents and practicing schemas with
other children-that socialization occurs.

This draws to mind Jesus? statement:
“I only do what I see my Father in heaven doing.”  Jesus is patterning the
schema he “learned” (if learned is the right word to use) from his Parent.  The
way of Jesus-his pattern of knowing, acting, and being, is an expression of the
schema he received by his “socialization” within the community of the Trinity. 
It is this “Trinitarian socialization” which informs his way of relating with
the world. 

As disciples, we are invited to
participate with Jesus in the divine nature.  We have been invited into this
“Trinitarian socialization” (the ongoing process by which we acquire new
schemas) so that we might pattern the Trinitarian life to the world around us. 
Community is indispensable for our spiritual development, since we need to
“practice” our learned Trinitarian schemas with the other “children” if we are
to grow.

This dialectic (”Trinitarian
socialization” and community practice) raises important questions for
ecclesiology and pneumatology.  What we learn from the Trinity must be tempered
by our community practice, and our community practice must be based in our
shared participation with the Trinity.  How do we conceptualize the implications
of this for the doing of
theology, as well as the practice
of ecclesiology? 

for further reading . . .

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