>I recently had a discussion with an old friend I look up to about God and the issue of the personhood of God. After giving it some more thought I have concluded a few more things about the topic:
In all our technology and enlightenment today we are not much further than the humanity of the first century. And the history of time has demonstrated a progression of our embracing the truth. First there is the embracing of God as God. And we need not look any further than the original fall (either Adam or the ones we were shaped in) to see this. ‘You will be like God’ is the lie whispered in every cookie stolen from the cookie jar to every money laundering scandal. Entertaining that lie leads to the conclusion that God can not really be God if I can ascend to His level. Throughout the ages He has reminded us that we cannot do what He does, our hands are just not big enough to push back red seas.
Next is the embracing God as incarnate. We like an transcendent God who handles things up there. But when you come in my house and in my neighborhood healing folks, keeping good wine at weddings, and stealing my clout for the next Pharisee election on the second Tuesday in Cheshvan, I have a problem. Immanence or divine presence is a dilemma. Because if He is present that means that I cannot live like I used to live. If He is present then creation has a value and I can not ignore any more. I cannot explain it away as science, or ‘that is just the way the world is.’ And when He performs miracles like permitting you to see
His your holes in His hands and feet, I either have to conclude that I will not embrace it or say My Lord and My God.
These two are tough for us. But the next is perhaps the one that draws the most tension. Here we find a great dilemma in struggling with the truth that God is a person. We can deal with the far off God who keeps me happy when the heat finally breaks and we get more reasonable weather. We can even learn to accept the incarnate God messing up our systems with His presence and changing how I look at stuff around me; making me love folks I used to look down (or up) on. But when He is in us and we find ourselves unsettled, we learn that we have a problem with His personhood.
If I do not appreciate gravity, I can jump and give myself a false sense of accomplishment; defeating my foe at least for just a few moments. But gravity has only one ability. It can only pull one way. The Holy Spirit is not a force. And we realize that the moment He starts to tug differently today than He did yesterday. Oh if God were only an ‘it’ then I could ignore the pull to do things I choose not to do (or use its force for financial benefit or getting out of sickness, etc.) But I find that the Spirit keeps doing things that do not line up with the equation I had created for my life. He keeps setting ones apart for specific particular work, is grieved by my attempting to disrupt unity in the body, distributes gifts to demonstrate He presence, and specifically convicts the world through specific truth.
Transcendence is acceptable because it feels like He is far away. Immanence can be dealt with because if I can avoid where He is at work by being busy doing other things (or just act like I do not see or understand what He is doing.) But when God is a person and He is in me is where we learn a little bit more about just how great our great our God is.
He could have left some gravitational force to keep us grounded to His law. He could have given us some innate instinct to migrate to wherever His warmth is like tanagers in the winter. He could have even given us a sun which progressively made us grow and somehow set apart from others like the Midwestern sunflower follows the course of the sun throughout the course of the day. But he did not. One of the greatest blessings we receive from God is not that he left ‘power’ to do things. Rather, when God the Son departed God the Holy Spirit came himself to dwell in us. The seat of His presence with all of His will, reason, power, voice, responses, and actions. We can ignore forces or pass them off as ‘just the way the world is.’ But you can’t ignore when He speaks any more than when Paul was told ‘you will be my apostle to the nations.’
The personhood of God rocks the core of our being. If God is a person then we have to take another look at how we define ourselves. We typically define our personhood in the way I look in the mirror and what I am going to do/wear today. A rock has a look in a mirror and even if it sits in the same spot it is doing something (not much…but it is something.) When the Godhead is a person it is a challenge to mankind because now we have to take a long look at what we have been holding on to define personhood by. It also means that if the Spirit of God speaks I have to decide whether I have been ignoring ‘what’ or ‘who?’