Equipping God's People to Create Missional Culture

The Social Trinity, Ecclesiology and Church Leadership – Part 3

How a Social View of the Trinity Can Positively Inform Our Approach to Ecclesiology and Leadership in Today’s North American Church

The Social Trinity, Ecclesiology, and Church Leadership
In the beginning is communion.”[1] Scripture and subsequent creeds testify that before the foundation of the world, for all eternity, God has existed as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in perfect community.  God is not the solitary One.  He is neither lonely nor alone.  From the beginning, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have been in an unending dance of mutual enjoyment and love for one another.  God abides in rich community.  As Boff says, “Community is the deepest and most foundational reality that exists.”[2]

The theology of the Trinity reveals a God in relationship: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  The social view of the Trinity emphasizes this relational nature of God.  Volf and Boff agree that our understanding of the inner life of God, through the economic Trinity, provides a basis to critique and inspire our ecclesiology and approach to leadership.  What are some understandings of the social Trinity that might inform our approach to ecclesiology, and local church leadership in particular?

There are two vital dimensions that shape the direction of this conversation. In light of the works of Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann, Volf defines institution as “the stable structures of social interaction”[3] that develop when at least two people do the same thing together repeatedly.  With this definition, it becomes clear the church is an institution.  Both Boff and Volf recognize at least two primary factors that shape the life of an institution – the pattern of power distribution, or what Boff calls potestas sacra (sacred power), and internal cohesion and unity.  Volf says, “With regard to the distribution of power, one can distinguish between symmetrical-polycentric and asymmetrical-monocentric models; with regard to cohesion, one can distinguish between coerced and freely affirmed integration.”[4] With these two factors in mind, let’s explore two facets of the relational Trinity to see how they relate to power distribution and unity.


[1] Boff, Leonardo, Holy Trinity, Perfect Community (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2000), p. 3.

[2] Boff, Holy Trinity, Perfect Community, p. 4.

[3] Volf, After Our Likeness, p. 234.

[4] Volf, After Our LikenessIbid., p. 236.


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