Original Research - Special Collection: God as One

Political implications of the Trinity: Two approaches

Johannes P. Deetlefs
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 75, No 1 | a5396 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v75i1.5396 | © 2019 Johannes P Deetlefs | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 23 January 2019 | Published: 23 May 2019

About the author(s)

Johannes P. Deetlefs, Department of Historic and Constructive Theology, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa


The political nature of God-images is an indisputable fact. Changes in God-images are often followed by changes in political structures within societies. Radical monotheism, where God is perceived as a solitary single person, has often in the past been employed for the justification of authoritarianism and hierarchy. The 20th-century trinitarian renaissance has emphasised the relationality of the Divine. This new awareness of the doctrine of the Trinity and the move from a substance ontology to a relational ontology have initiated a number of studies, which concentrate on the relevance of the Trinity for human existence, including politics. This move has been questioned by some scholars, who caution that the differences between the divine and human persons are just too significant for humans to be able to imitate the Trinity. These scholars suggest that participation in Christ is a more appropriate avenue to be followed. The position taken in this study is that both imitation and participation are valid options with biblical justification, and that the dichotomy, where one is set against the other, should be avoided.


God-image; Imitation; Participation; Perichoresis; Person; Politics; Relationality; Trinitarian; Trinity


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