A scene from the Leben der heiligen Altväter (1482)

Review of Hunt’s What Are They Saying About the Trinity?

Asbury Theological Journal 57/2 – 58/1 (Fall 2002/Spring 2003), 240-242

Anne Hunt is a Roman Catholic theologian who teaches at Yarra Theological Union in Melboume, Australia. This brief book on the Trinity is part of Paulist Press’ popular What Are They Saying About … ? series, and replaces the I 979 volume by joseph Bracken which had the same title. In keeping with the goals of the series, Hunt’s book is a report designed to bring a general audience up to date on recent theological developments. Hunt writes in a clear, readable style, is careful to avoid jargon, and defines technical terms as she introduces them. The style would be appropriate for undergraduates and for adult study groups with some theological background, but would also not be out of place for more advanced students.

So what are they saying about the Trinity? In this case, “they” are five recent Roman Catholic theologians with distinctive approaches to the doctrine: Leonardo Boff, Elizabeth Johnson, Denis Edwards, Hans Urs von Balthasar, and Anthony Kelly. Hunt devotes one chapter to each figure, in which her main concern is to give a clear summary account of each author’s key ideas and characteristic vocabulary in a brisk fourteen pages. Her own incisive summaries are interspersed with well-chosen quotes from each author, which amount to a tiny digest of the best bits of each author’s style. Wherever possible, Hunt focuses on a single book by each author, usually that writer’s major statement on the Trinity. She appends an admirably short list of other works, including select secondary sources, in a “recommended reading” section at the end of the book.

Hunt stresses what is novel and exciting in recent trinitarian theology, and she selects her five thinkers to showcase their creativity in opening up “new areas of trinitarian imagination.” Her goal is to show trinitarian theology as a journey of adventure or exploration, and the traits she values are revealed by her preferred adjectives: interesting, disclosive, persuasive, exuberant. One of the delights of the book is Hunt’s recognition that excitement and even progress in theology do not require a rejection of tradition, let alone a trendy scramble for relevance at any cost. Her selections make this clear: the fact that Hans Urs von Balthasar and Anthony Kelly are featured alongside Elizabeth Johnson and Leonardo Boff shows that (to use Vatican II terminology) Hunt understands the need for both ressourcement and aggiomamento, a retrieval of the riches of traditional orthodoxy on the one hand, and an updating of old forms of thinking on the other. …