From: George Murphy (email@example.com)
Date: Sun Jun 29 2003 - 23:04:20 EDT
Howard J. Van Till wrote:
> From: "Don Winterstein" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> > Howard Van Till wrote in part:
> > "...As I use the term here, "the Sacred" does indeed have a personal
> > dimension. But "the Sacred" is much more than a person. One problem that I
> > have observed in common usage of "God" is the way in which the name "God"
> > functions as a personification of the Sacred, diminishing the Sacred to a
> > divine Person, often an amplified version of a human person."
> Don responded:
> > Are you saying that God becomes something conceptually less than he really
> > is if we conceive of him as a person? Is Jesus as a human person somehow
> > less than God?
> What I thought I said was that God is MORE THAN a person. I find the word
> "person" too restrictive.
> > I don't see it that way, and neither does the Athanasian
> > creed (for what it's worth).
> Given that the Athanasian Creed is a humanly crafted document, there is no
> reason that I am bound to take every word of it as truth.
> > To me one of the great joys of Christian
> > teaching is that God, despite being all that he is, is a person with whom I
> > can have a personal relationship.
> I see no reason that you could not have a personal relationship with a
> Sacred Reality that is personal, but at the same time more than "a person."
> > What kind of abstraction would love of God become if God were not fully a
> Of course, I did not say that God was not fully a person, but that God was
> more than a person.
> > Our personhood derives from God's personhood, and because he and we are
> > persons, we can have a mutually satisfying relationship. A great mystery
> > of the creation is how God could have generated creatures out of raw matter
> > that can know him and be compatible with him as a person.
> I would not restrict God's being by the same term that limits our own being
> -- a "person."
Discussions of whether or not God is "personal" of course require some
understanding of what we mean by "person." We can give various formal definitions, such
as the classic "individual substance of a rational nature," but our understanding of
what "person" means is inevitably influenced by our understanding of what it means to
speak of human beings as "persons." Which is to say that our application of terms
involving personhood are analogical. & this is as true of claims that God is
"impersonal" or "more than personal" as of the claim that God is "a person."
The term "person" has a rather complicated dual history via Greek and Latin, and
has contributed both confusion and clarity in its use in trinitarian theology. Some
modern trinitarian theologians aren't happy with the baggage connected with the term and
have suggested alternatives, such as "mode of being" (Barth) or "identity" (Jenson).
If we are going to use the category of person, My own inclination is to agree
_linguistically_ with Howard about God being "more than personal" in the sense that the
one God is indeed three persons. But given his views on christology, I'm afraid that's
not what he means.
George L. Murphy
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