Paul Fiddes on why we speak of God as ‘Trinity’

‘We only speak of God as Trinity, as a complex of relationships, because we find God revealed in the cross which involves a set of relationships. When we ask, “Who is God?” we are confronted by an event which we can only describe in relational terms: we speak of a son relating to a Father in suffering and love. There is a son crying out to a Father whom he has lost (“My God, why have you forsaken me?”) and so there is implied a Father who suffers the loss of a son, with a Spirit of abandonment between them. At the same time as they are most separated they are most one, for they are united in loving purpose: in love the Father gives up the Son and in love the Son gives up himself for us, and the Spirit of love is between them. In these relationships the world and human beings are necessarily included, and any other Trinity is a spinning out of hypotheses. It is for us that the Father gives up the Son to death, and so the “for us” is included in whatever is meant by the eternal begetting of the Son by the Father. There can be no self-sufficient, self-contained society of the Trinity, for God has not chosen to be in that way’. – Paul S. Fiddes, The Creative Suffering of God (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988), 123.


  1. Some would say that Jesus citation from Psalms 22 from the cross was not first of all personal address to God in which Jesus accepts that Abba has abandoned him, but a citation for the benefit of his audience, who knew full well the context in which the Psalmist is surrounded by the mob and would see their own actions in that context…. such a reading of course makes the situation no less trinitarian.


  2. It is critical, of course, to remember the “for-us-ness” of the Cross (Romans 5:8; 8:32; Eph. 5:2; Titus 2:14), but, at the same time, we have to guard against an egocentric construction of the gospel. If “for us” gets translated into “because we are so wonderful” (and variations on that theme), then we are in deep trouble.

    In addition, not so sure about the claim that “there can be no self-sufficient, self-contained society of the Trinity.” This potentially spins out an hypothesis that begins to negate the eternity of the Son. Perhaps Fiddes, in larger context, is not doing this – but, the biblical record clearly shows that “the world and human beings” are added later – the Trinity-society was already established. Part of Jesus’ promise in John 17:21–24 is that we would be drawn into the Trinity-society, not that the Trinity-society is implausible without us.

    Fiddes is to be commended for keeping the sufferings of the Father at the Cross on the table in our thinking and preaching.


    dbhamilll – I too think that the forsaken cry is, to a large extent, citational. Indeed, most if not all of the words from the cross can be mapped back to Ps. 22. We should remember Jesus’ early words to His disciples in Mark 1:38 about His mission of preaching: “That is why I have come.” To suppose that, from the cross, Jesus would not be preaching – to me, that is far shakier and tenuous ground.



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