Under the broad umbrella of the Christian religion, there exists a great divide between two fundamentally different ways of thinking about key aspects of the Christian faith. Eugene Webb explores the sources of that divide, looking at how the Eastern and Western Christian worlds drifted apart due both to the different ways they interpreted their symbols and to the different roles political power played in their histories. Previous studies have focused on historical events or on the history of theological ideas. In Search of the Triune God delves deeper by exploring how the Christian East and the Christian West have conceived the relation between symbol and experience.
Webb demonstrates that whereas for Western Christianity discussion of the doctrine of the Trinity has tended toward speculation about the internal structure of the Godhead, in the Eastern tradition the symbolism of the Triune God has always been closely connected to religious experience. In their approaches to theology, Western Christianity has tended toward a speculative theology, and Eastern Christianity toward a mystical theology.
This difference of focus has led to a large range of fundamental differences in many areas not only of theology but also of religious life. Webb traces the history of the pertinent symbols (God as Father, Son of God, Spirit of God, Messiah, King, etc.) from the Hebrew Bible and New Testament through patristic thinkers and the councils that eventually defined orthodoxy. In addition, he shows how the symbols, interpreted through the different cultural lenses of the East and the West, gradually took on meanings that became the material of very different worldviews, especially as the respective histories of the Eastern and Western Christian worlds led them into different kinds of entanglement with ambition and power.
Through this incisive exploration, Webb offers a dramatic and provocative new picture of the history of Christianity.