I have been asking myself when we should bring up the doctrine of the trinity. I am asking this question for a number of overlapping contexts: christian education, theology courses, textbooks, systematic theologies, etc. When should it come up? When does it make sense to come up? Where does it best fit? Where does it do its best work?
Here are some options that come to mind:
(1) At the end of the Doctrine of God. This is probably the most "traditional" place for the doctrine of the trinity. After introducing the subject of theology and discussing God's existence, nature and attributes, one turns to the persons in God to round out the doctrine of God. The advantage here is that one has the trinity up an running early without having to deal with it too early. The disadvantage is that it might give the impression that all the stuff before the trinity is just about "god-in-general" and not the specifically Christian God.
(2) Piecemeal. Another option is to address the doctrine of the trinity in pieces: first the Father under the doctrine of God at the beginning, then the Son under the doctrine of salvation in the middle, and finally the Spirit in conjunction with ecclesiology and eschatology. The advantage here is one is that the complex and cumulative character of trinity doctrine is respected and utilized. The disadvantage is that God's triunity may be split up into parts in the process. Plus, the terminology and concepts needed for trinitarian reflection are deeply intertwined and so may need to stay together to make sense.
(3) First. One way to deal with the problems in both of the above approaches is to front-load the doctrine of the trinity so that it controls all our theological language. The advantage here is that the specificity of the Christian God is emphasized and the triune shape of all theological language can be thereafter perceived. The disadvantage is that, if one is not careful, the trinity doctrine appears to just fall out of the sky without reference to the full history of salvation. Additionally, trinitarian ideas are some of the most demanding and do not make for good "introductory" material.
(4) Last. Another way to deal with the problems above is to do the opposite: put the doctrine of the trinity at the end as a triumphant conclusion of sorts. The advantage here is that the complex and cumulative character of trinity doctrine is respected and utilized yet without splitting the doctrine into pieces. Plus, one will be more ready for the demands of trinity doctrine at the end of theological inquiry rather than the beginning. The serious disadvantage is that the trinity could become a forgotten appendix and the trinitarian shape of all theological language would be at best implicit.
Are there any other good options I have overlooked?
Which of these options appeal to you? Why?
Should any of these options be ruled out? Why?