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Westminster John Knox Press
400 pages (November 2001)
ISBN: 066422203X
The Social God and the Relational Self:
A Trinitarian Theology of the Imago Dei
By Stanley J. Grenz

In this, the first volume of a series entitled The Matrix of Christian Theology, Stanley Grenz creatively extends the insights of contemporary Trinitarian thought to theological anthropology. The Social God and the Relational Self is an example of theological construction as an ongoing conversation involving biblical texts, the theological heritage of the Christian tradition, and the contemporary historical/social context.

Grenz develops a communal understanding of the imago dei in the face of the demise of the centered self. He delineates the biblical/theological foundation for a new social conception of the divine image and reformulates an understanding of the self in a postmodern context, a context characterized by the loss of the self coupled with the quest for relationality in community. Grenz concludes by identifying the basis of the Trinitarian theological foundation for Christian anthropology and opens the door for the examination of other anthropological questions to be considered in light of the postmodern condition.

Table of Contents

1.From Social Personalism to the Image of God: Theology and the Rebirth of the Soul

Part One--The Context: Trinitarian Theology and the Self
2. From the One Subject to the Three Persons: The Renewal of Trinitarian Theology
3. From Interiority to Psychotherapy: An Archeology of the Self
4. From Autobiography to Preference: The Undermining of the Self

Part Two--The Texts: The Imago Dei in Trinitarian Perspective
5. From Structure to Destiny: The Imago Dei in Christian Theology
6. From Humankind to the True Human: The Imago Dei and Biblical Christo-Anthropology
7. From Eschatological Hope to Ongoing Task: The Imago Dei and the New Humanity

Part Three--The Application: The Social Imago and the Postmodern (Loss of) Self
8. From the Eternal City to Primordial Garden: The Imago Dei and Human Sexuality
9. From the Many to the One: The Reconstruction of the Self in Community


"In his customarily careful and judicious style, Grenz here emphasizes the significance of the imago Dei by recalling its trinitarian and Christological roots. Drawing on biblical, patristic, and Reformation sources, he develops a theological framework for retrieving human selfhood from individualistic distortions (whether rationalistic or romantic), and for reasserting the communal nature of Christianity. Once again, Stan Grenz has demonstrated that our postmodern condition 'far from threatening theological inquiry or rendering it irrelevant' actually underscores the necessity of developing specifically Christian perspectives on the intellectual issues of our day."
--David S. Cunningham, Seabury-Western Theological Seminary

"Through the intersection of the biblical text, the Christian theological tradition, and our contemporary cultural context, Stan Grenz successfully demonstrates how his theological method yields a 'social-personalistic' theological anthropology that is squarely headed in the right direction. Moving us beyond structural and relational conceptions of the imago dei, Grenz develops an eschatologically oriented understanding of the human person made in God's image that is grounded in trinitarian theology, faithful to the biblical narrative, and fully aware of the constitutive role played by the Christian community. This is a theological anthropology that engages the concerns of a postmodern culture."
--Dennis L. Okholm, Wheaton College

"In the clear style and with the cogent reasoning we have come to expect from him, Stan Grenz presents a stimulating, constructive trinitarian theological anthropology as an antidote for the loss of the postmodern self. While doing so, he offers a study in theological methodology that is itself trinitarian: careful interpretation of key biblical texts, appreciative interaction with the Christian theological tradition, and a measured incorporation of contemporary cultural insights. Grenz's vision of the eschatological community of the new humanity -- human beings as embodied, sexual persons fully and ecclesially bonded together in loving relationships, constituting the completely realized imago dei in Christ and representing the divine relationality -- is absolutely captivating. Furthermore, it offers an antidote to another problem: the rancid individualism that is rampant in the church today. Having read this book, I do not view and live the Trinity, the image of God in humanity, human sexuality, and the telos of the church as I did before. My highest recommendation!"
--Gregg R. Allison, Western Seminary

"As a pastoral theologian, I am particularly interested in the Imago Dei as a basic concept for considering our true identity. My discipline, which focuses on theological anthropology, will appreciate Grenz's careful historical, theological and scriptural overview of this concept. His conclusions about the social nature of the trinitarian God and the relational nature of humans will provide a new lens through which to interpret pastoral praxis and, thereby, inform future work by pastoral theologians.Grenz, a systematic theologian, speaks to pastoral theologians when he seeks answers to the question What does it mean to be a human person, and specifically a Christian person? He finds the answer in a 'trinitarian anthropology of the self.' Moving beyond the postmodern critique of the individualistic, self-contained 'self,' Grenz uses social, relational understandings of God's nature to painstakingly develop a communal understanding of imago dei, which he claims is the center of Christian anthropology. Pastoral theologians, who have a particular focus on theological anthropology, will appreciate this careful study of the imago dei. Normally we depend on philosophy and the social sciences for the research that confirms our experience of 'self' in clinical praxis, but now a systematic theologian makes a significant contribution to the dialogue."
--Andrew Lester, Brite Divinity School

"Karl Rahner wrote that much trinitarian theology is such that if omitted, nothing else in theology would have to change. Stanely Grenz has shown that the controls of a renewed theology are, in fact, in trinitarian theology. Everything has to change. Grenz takes us on a remarkable journey of relationality (image of God) from culture through a trinitarian grid to the history of self, the new humanity, sexuality, to the ecclesial self in communion. An important book."
--Kilian McDonnell,osb, Institute for Ecumenical and Cultural Research

"Joining those who would recover trinitarian theology, Grenz offers a balanced study of the imago dei-- a study which includes illuminating forays into the domains of philosophy, psychology, theology, and biblical studies. Besides providing helpful surveys regarding the treatment of the 'self' in these areas, the book offers a narrative approach to the 'ecclesial self' or 'self in communion' for a generation much afflicted by the disintegration of both personality and community. It argues for a perichoretic understanding of humanity, informed by the Augustinian picture of the Trinity (though not the Augustinian turn inward), and extending the particular insights of Pannenberg. The argument thus takes its place as an important corrective within the Western Christian tradition; from within this context, however, it is not deaf to the Eastern Christian voice."
--Edith M. Humphrey, Augustine College

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