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The Trinity in Asian Perspective.

In this book, Lee undertakes the ambitious task of "reimagining" Christian trinitarian theology in light of the Chinese philosophical principles of yin-yang and li-ch'i. In doing so, he proposes an intrinsically "East Asian" understanding of Christianity and its central theologem, the trinity, on the one hand, and introduces the Western reader to the conceptual world of "East Asia" by contrasting an "Eastern" and "Western" reading of a common symbol, on the other.

Appropriating "yin-yang symbolic thinking" as his hermeneutic, Lee skillfully illustrates the shortcomings of the individualistic and dualistic paradigm prevalent in traditional Christian theology. A worldview characterized by the dichotomies of transcendence and immanence, good and evil, and rich and poor simply necessitates a "connecting principle" and, consequently, what Lee terms "trinitarian thinking." In this sense the "third person of the trinity" symbolizes the "and" in "the father and the son," and the "in" in "the son is in the father and the father is in the son." Without such a principle neither the christological dogma of Chalcedon nor the social inequality that manifests itself in political oppression can be resolved. I particularly appreciated his critical appraisal of the social implications inherent in the dynamic worldview characteristic of "yin-yang symbolic thinking."

Despite its profound insights, however, Lee's reimagination of Christian theology suffers from a dichotomization of "East" and "West" and the stereotypical juxtaposition of so-called male and female characteristics. While a rethinking and reformulation of Christian theology from a non-Western standpoint, such as yin-yang thinking, is imperative, the generalizations of "East Asia" and "West" seem to be rather problematic. By the same token, the traditional classifications of masculinity and femininity are questioned by recent critical theory, particularly feminist theory, as well as psychological research. The problem does not lie in the identification and polarization of psychological features such as rationality and irrationality, spirituality and physicality, but in their characterization as essentially male and female. Especially in light of an inclusive and holistic approach, it seems to be rather difficult to identify any particular aspect of the human psyche as intrinsically male or female. A simple dichotomization of the human community into opposites would further obstruct the trialogue beyond the dialogue that Lee advocates in his book.

Finally, by basing his trinitarian theology almost exclusively on the "biblical witness" and the Tao te Ching, Lee suggests that a Korean trinitarian theology must be grounded in a unique hermeneutic of the biblical scriptures, which borrows its conceptual framework from the "East Asian" intellectual tradition. Contrary to Lee's own assessment, however, such a hermeneutic not only questions the traditional conception of Christian theology and methodology but further challenges the primacy of the Christian trinity over the Buddhist dharmakaya, the Taoist trinity, and the Dangun myth. Nevertheless, Lee's "trinitarian/yin-yang symbolic thinking" can serve as the much needed formal structure of a multicultural theology and an interreligious trialogue.
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Author:Kopf, Gereon
Publication:Journal of Ecumenical Studies
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 22, 1997
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