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The Trinity in Asian Perspective.

By Jung Young Lee. Nashville: Abingdon, 1996. Pp. 255. $19.95.

This work represents the magnum opus of the Korean-American theologian Jung Young Lee (1935-1996). For many years Lee's publications have investigated the book I Ching, in particular its teaching on change as embodied in the twin concepts of yin and yang, and its implications for Christian theology. The present work is the most systematic and thorough attempt by any Asian theologian to date to interpret the Christian dogma of the Trinity in terms of the yin-yang symbolic thinking.

After a brief introduction on the necessity and method of contextual theology, L. offers a lucid presentation on the origin, meaning, development, and application of the yin-yang concepts in East Asian culture. Then he lays the ground for the use of this dipolar metaphysics and epistemology to elaborate an Asian understanding of the Trinity. He points out that yin-yang thinking is symbolic (hence, eschewing epistemological absolutism), inclusive and holistic (adopting "both- and" rather than "either-or" thinking), relational (holding relationality rather than autonomy as the basic ontological category), and dynamic (regarding change rather permanence as the fundamental reality).

L. next argues the all-important thesis that yin-yang symbolic thinking is fundamentally trinitarian and not dualistic thinking. As illustrated in the diagram of the Great Ultimate (or Tai Chi Tu, which is represented in the Korean flag), there is a dot of yin in the yang and a dot of yang in the yin. The yang is "in" the yin, and the yin is "in" the yang: the "inness" is the connecting principle of yin and yang and cannot exist by itself but only in the "and" between yin and yang. Further, yin cannot exist without yang, just as yang cannot exist without yin. Because of the "inness" and the "and" uniting the yin and yang, yin-yang symbolic thinking is, L. contends, trinitarian thinking.

On the basis of this trinitarian epistemology and ontology, L. goes on to expound the persons of the Son, the Holy Spirit, and the Father in that order. Of God the Son L. highlights his incarnation as the fulfillment of the trinitarian process of creation, his two natures as symbol of his marginality, his character as both male and female, his death and resurrection, his redemptive acts, and his suffering and love. L. relates God the Spirit to ch'i, the animating power and essence of the material body and to the existence of evil spirits, and suggests that the Spirit is the feminine member of the Trinity as well as the integrative and transformative force of trinitarian life. He also relates the Spirit to three phenomena in the Church, namely, mystery, miraculous performances, and ecstatic experiences. With regard to God the Father, L. acknowledges his preeminence in the Trinity and relates him to the li principle and the principle of ch'ien (heaven) with its four characteristics of origination, success, advantage, and correctness. He considers God the Father as the masculine member of the Trinity, as the source of creativity, and as the unifying principle of the Trinity.

Using various hexagrams of the I Ching--I (gain), chien (advance), feng (abundance), t'ai (peace), hsien (influence), and chieh (regulation)--L. studies the six possible variations of the "orders" of the Trinity: Father-Spirit-Son, Father-Son-Spirit, Spirit-Father-Son, Spirit-Son-Father, Son-Father-Spirit, and Son-Spirit-Father. In this way he hopes to complement the traditional order of Father-Son-Spirit understood either in the "side by side" or the "one after another" models with those derived from the Asian yin-yang philosophy.

Finally, L. develops the implications of his theology of the Trinity for church life (especially in reference to the structure of the Church, worship, preaching, and meditation), family life, and society.

This is the most fascinating and creative interpretation of the Christian doctrine of the Trinity on the basis of Taoist epistemology and metaphysics to date. It brings together in a fruitful synthesis the biblical doctrine of the Trinity on the one hand and the Asian teaching on the yin-yang polarity of reality and human thinking, the cosmological-anthropological trinity of heaven, earth, and humanity, and the centrality of the family on the other. L.'s critics will question his pivotal claim that yin-yang epistemology and metaphysics are genuinely trinitarian and not merely relational, nondualistic, and complementary. That is, it is highly debatable whether the "inness" and "and" which connect yin and yang possess, as L. contends, the same ontological "density" as the two connected polarities. Furthermore, feminists will challenge L.'s assumption that the family possesses an intrinsically hierarchical structure, even if currently Asian families, for the most part, are organized along the patriarchal line of the Confucian system. Despite these methodological and substantive difficulties, L.'s work deserves careful reading, since no future interpretation of the Trinity from an Asian perspective can afford to ignore its bold proposals.
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Author:Phan, Peter C.
Publication:Theological Studies
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 1, 1998
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