I’d like to share a quick thought regarding a recent ReKnew video blog of Greg Boyd’s. It deals with a Christological issue that we’d prefer to postpone until we’ve outlined his Trinity and Process. But his addressing the question of whether or not the Son was separated from the Father on the Cross provides us with an opportunity to highlight some important differences. Greg concludes that the eternal Son (the Logos) is separated from the Father on the cross. At 3:50 he begins to conclude with, “The love that unites the triune God is greater than their own enjoyment of that unity” and moments later “The separation of God from God on the Cross represents the perfect unity of God with God.”
This, we think, is a miscalculation with wide ranging implications. When we outline Trinity and Process, we’ll show how Greg’s present position amounts to an abandonment of his views in Trinity and Process in which he argues that the relations between Father, Son, and Spirit are essential and necessary and as such can’t be broken, ruptured or vacated by any experience of the world. For example, he says (Trinity and Process, p. 381, n. 64):
“The metaphysical necessity of God’s self-relationality means, I believe, that it is not possible to conceive of the death of the Son as anything other than an expression of the intense love of God’s inner life. This paradox shall be discussed shortly, but it presently needs to be said that this means that all talk about a ‘breakdown of the relationship that constitutes the very life of the Trinity’ such as we find (for example) in Moltmann is, if taken literally, strictly impossible….”
That’s a mouthful, but what Greg is expressing here is the Orthodox belief in the indissoluble relations of Father, Son and Spirit. The triune relations are eternal and necessary and thus are not world-dependent. What they are essentially can’t be emptied or vacated at will. But it certainly looks from Greg’s recent video blog that he now believes the eternal Son vacates his experience of loving relationship with the Father. The Son is ‘separated from’ the Father. The question becomes, Is what Greg’s saying now an abandonment of his views in Trinity and Process? We think so. Is it an implicit abandonment of God’s essential triune actuality? We think so. Greg will surely insist that God is essentially triune and can never become otherwise, but nevertheless the Son is actually separated from the Father. This leads to his conclusion that the actual separation of the Son from the Father must be in some mysterious way their actual unity. Does this work? We think not.
We want to argue that in order for Greg to maintain this, he has to abandon a ‘relational’ metaphysic (a view of God’s essential divine nature as irreducibly relational) for a ‘substance’ metaphysic, something he explicitly advises us not to do in the same video blog. Greg is now (unknowingly) committed to a ‘substance’ understanding of divine reality because he no longer views God’s triune actuality as the actual, conscious, experience of shared loving identity between Father, Son and Spirit. On the contrary, Greg now holds that the Son ceases to share in and be constituted by this experience, and this is only possible if something other than actual, experienced relations accounts for God’s unity. It is now this “something” and not the actual experience of divine persons-in-relation which bears the necessary attributes of God and constitutes his unity. What might that something be? Whatever it is, it isn’t ‘personal relations’ (i.e., the actual experienced enjoyment of the begetting, receiving and sharing of loving personhood). It can only be some divine “substance” or “stuff” out of which God might be said to be made and which is more fundamental to God and God’s unity than the actual enjoyment of loving relations, something more fundamental than conscious experience itself. Grounding God’s unity in this “something” (other than the actual experienced enjoyment of the Three) is what seems now to have transformed Greg’s view of God from an essentially ‘relational’ to an essentially ‘substance’ view. God is essentially something other than the conscious, experienced enjoyment of triune love.
Not good news.