Many of you know that I’ve argued in several ways, in print, against “social” Trinity theories, and particularly the sort which holds that Father, Son, and Spirit are a group/community/quasi-family.
On such theories, it turns out that the one “God” is a group – a group of equally divine selves (aka gods – though they don’t like that term in the plural). This is surprising to be sure - is not the God of the Bible a super-duper self? One who is all-knowing, who loves and hates, carries out plans of action, smites and heals? Moreover, theism is usually explained as belief in one perfect, non-physical self, creator off all else.
Social trinitarians have of late been pushing back. “God isn’t one person, he’s three! We Christians have never said – or at least, never should have said – that God is a person. He’s not a person, though he’s personal. And that makes our view monotheistic.”
(A similar dialectic occurs with “social” theorists who don’t say that Father, Son, and Spirit are a mere group. Instead, they constitute or are within some one thing – but this thing is not a self.)
Now I think this response is wrongheaded in several ways, and am working on at least one paper responding to it.
But for now I note that a number of these “social” theorists are evangelicals, and thus many of them tend to take positions in other areas which push in the opposite direction.
- Christology. Who is Christ? God. And Christ is a self – one with two natures. Thus, God is a self as well – the same one as Christ.
- Theistic piety or spirituality. God is a he, not an it. He’s someone you can talk to, someone who loves you, someone who sympathizes with the downtrodden. He’s far from being an it – a force, “being itself”, or the other high-falutin’, abstract things people have imagined. Which brings us to:
- “Worldview” apologetics. Eastern (Buddhist, Hindu) views of ultimate reality are often criticized for their “impersonal” take on the ultimate. Theism – seemingly belief in a perfect, provident self – is argued to be more reasonable, and perhaps more practical as well.
In this series, we’re going to have fun with video – with interviews with some philosophical theologians, Christian and otherwise. Each time I’ll like an interview clip, and comment on the guy’s answers.
These are from the TV series Closer to the Truth, which I believe airs on some American PBS stations. The interviewer has a pretty impressive resume. He asks each interviewee: “Is God a person?”
The question, I take it, is not whether or not God is a human being – but rather, is God a self – a subject of consciousness, what Descartes calls a thinking thing, something with will and intellect.
Next time: Jewish philosopher-theologian Neil Gillman.