The Social God and the Relational Self, by Stanley J. Grenz

Stanley J. Grenz, a prolific Baptist theologian and ethicist, has launched what may be the most ambitious project in the current revival of trinitarian theology: his six-volume Matrix of Christian Theology. Grenz's initial volume might be expected to tread the familiar ground of theology "properly so-called," either dealing with the doctrine of God or theological method. Instead, owing to Grenz's postmodern sensibilities, the opening foray is an exposition of theological anthropology. To follow are volumes dedicated to each of the three triune persons, ecclesiology and eschatology.

To conduct a "trialogue" among canonical scripture, the history of Christian theology and contemporary cultural currents is Grenz's stated goal. One undoubted trend, traced in his 1996 Primer on Postmodernism, is "the demise of the centered self." The Enlightenment promotion of a definable and certain human essence has crumbled. What Grenz calls "a social personalism" has taken its place and is the best, and probably only, hope for the future of Christian theology.

Traditionally, the proper subject of theological inquiry is first the divine and then, if at all, the human. But since postmodernity has changed the rules for theological engagement, it is no longer possible to speak of the divine without at the same time speaking of the human, although the reverse isn't necessarily true. In postmodern terms theological anthropology is simultaneously conducted "from below" and "from above."