Just Arrived: Sarah Coakley on the Trinity

ImageI am a few days away from getting on a plane to go and spend some time watching elephants. The crucial question, as always, is what books to take along for the ride. One theology book is allowed. The following introductory words to Sarah Coakley’s long awaited God, Sexuality, and the Self: An Essay ‘On the Trinity’ (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013) place it high up on the list of possible options. I quote them here as an appetizer, to encourage you to purchase the first installment in what looks likely to be a major series of works in systematic theology (projected volumes include the titles Knowing Darkly, Punish and Heal, Flesh and Blood). Those titles suggest that Coakley’s approach to the task of systematic theology will be distinctive. I certainly know of no other work in that field that starts like this:

For this is a book about God, and more specifically about the Christian God. It is written for those who puzzle about how one might set about coming into relation with such a God in the first place; and who wonder how – without sacrificing either intellectual integrity or critical acumen – one might discover this baffling, alluring, and sometimes painful encounter to require thematizing in trinitarian terms: ‘Father’, ‘Son’, and ‘Holy Spirit’. Further (and this may seem odd to the contemporary reader), this book is written in the fundamental conviction that no cogent answer to the contemporary Christian question of the trinitarian God can be given without charting the necessary and intrinsic entanglement of human sexuality and spirituality in such a quest: the questions of right contemplation of God, right speech about God, and right ordering of desire all hang together. They emerge in primary interaction with Scripture, become intensified and contested in early Christian tradition, and are purified in the crucible of prayer. Thus the problem of the Trinity cannot be solved without addressing the very questions that seem least to do with it, questions which press on the contemporary Christian churches with such devastating and often destructive force: questions of sexual justice, questions of the meaning and stability of gender roles, questions of the final theological significance of sexual desire. (pp.1–2)