Theological Babble

Below is a discussion board post for my Systemaitic Theology class.  While I don’t really feel like providing the background of this post I figured I woud put it up here in hopes of sparking conversation. 

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After reading through Chapter 9 in McGrath’s Intro and the assigned readings in McGrath’s Reader, there are quite a few ideas swirling around in my head.  I found the discussion about the gender of God most intriguing and took away a few good nuggets that I am sure I will be able to use in future conversations since this topic comes up quite a bit.  Most importantly was the portion where McGrath discusses the “pagan overtones” of attributing sexual functions to God (p. 204).  Only a few paragraphs later however, I had to chuckle when he wrote, “He is neither man nor woman; he is God.”  Language is so limited in it’s ability to communicate accurately.  I wish we had a neutral pronoun that was personal (i.e., not “it”).

The portions of our reading that covered the topic of whether or not God suffers was also very intriguing.  Honestly I hadn’t really thought about this before.  It seemed to me that in reading the scriptures there were many examples of God “feeling” emotion to include suffering.  Genesis 6 is a great example from our reading.  I was challenged in my association of perfection with impassibility.  I have seen this come out in my own life and I believe I have tried to define God in this way.

Lastly, I found the excerpt from Moltmann’s article in the Reader very thought provoking specifically in his discussion of the Holy Spirit in relation to God’s suffering on the cross.  He says

This is why it was possible at a later period to speak, with reference to the cross, of homoousia, the Son and the Father being of one substance.  In the cross, Jesus and his God are in the deepest sense separated by the Son’s abandonment by the Father, yet at the same time they are in the most intimate sense united in this abandonment or “giving up.”  This is because this “giving up” proceeds from the event of the cross that takes place between the Father who abandons and the Son who is abandoned, and this “giving up” is none other than the Holy Spirit. (p. 229)

Then later on he says, “My interpretation of the death of Christ, then, is not as an event between God and man, but primarily as an event within the Trinity between Jesus and his Father, and event from which the Spirit proceeds.”  (p. 229)

This raises many questions for me.  I have not viewed the Trinity in this way before.  I had heard the idea of the Spirit being the result of the relationship between the Father and the Son but I didn’t have the context that I have in this article.  At first I thought about how my present view of the Spirit’s place within the Trinity is more along the lines of a separate “person” who though subject to the Father, still acts on his own.  I thought about how in my mind, the way Moltmann understands the relationship of the Spirit with the Father and Son doesn’t seem to give the Spirit the “personhood” I have in my mind.  This made me think of the discussion in McGrath’s Intro about the definition of the term person so that was helpful.  But that still does not resolve the issue in my mind.  To use Buber’s terminology, doesn’t this view make the Holy Spirit out to be more of an “it” instead of a “Thou”?  And it seems to me that viewing God’s Holy Spirit in this way limits him somehow.  If the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all of the same substance how can it be that the Holy Spirit is the result of the relationship of the other two?

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6 Responses to “Theological Babble”

  1. pinkhammer Says:

    My Prof replied to my post and said:

    “Or can we put it this way: that the Holy SPirit is the “person” who makes possible the relationship of love between teh Father and the Son?”

    to which I said:

    “That is an interesting way to put it. In order for it to be triune in the “traditional” sense (at least as I understand it at this point) one would have to be able to say this same thing for all three “relationships” within the trinity. So would it be accurate to say that the Father is the person who makes possible the relationship of love between the Son and the Spirit? Or is that even a dynamic of the relationship of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit that we see in scripture? There are quite a few instances where the Father’s love for the Son and the Son’s love for the Father are communicated in the text, but I don’t recall any for the Father or Son’s love of the Spirit. And interesting thought…”

  2. EJ Says:

    I have a few thoughts. I’m sorry to post at this late our.

    My first is that really, It ought to be the Father, the Son and their Spirit. For truly it is in the relationship between the Father and the Son that the Holy Spirit. Such as it is. It is in their relationship that the Spirit is Holy. Just as mob spirit exists, just as team spirit exists, the relationship amongst the people — so, too, the spirit exists between the Father and the Son, and we call their spirit — the nature of it and between them, is indeed Holy.

    Secondly. I too have wished for a neutral, for God is neither male nor female. The problem with that is experiential. Theology is only good if people can connect to it. If every day folk can experience it. It is the explanation of things we seek to understand. People don’t experience the world as a non-gender. We experience the world, and God, through what we know, which is an attribute. I’m not so sure god is neuter, so much as God seems to be both/and. God is both male and female. Not in the sexual anatomy sense, but in the carrying out of of how God cares for us. God is both the enforcer of the law and Forgiver. God both the provider and the nurturer. God both fights for us and shields us. God both calls us in and sends us out. God both pushes us out into the world, and doesn’t want us to leave the home. It is all there. Are these things male verses female? Not inherently, but it is how the average person experiences the attributes. Therefore, I would hesitate to use a neutral pronoun, so much as I would like to interchange he/she. It is awkward, but I think that most people have an experiential component to those pronouns. If they are used interchangeably, then slowly, people start to recognize that their experience does indeed reflect the not only male and nor only female “ness” of God.

  3. pinkhammer Says:

    Great thoughts, EJ. I hadn’t really thought about the gender/neutral issue in that way before and I think you make a really great point. If we did have a neutral term for God it would probably really depersonlize…him. : )

    As for your explanation of the Spirit, you have a really interesting way of explaining that relationship. I think some how I was taught a semi-modalistic view of the trinity so I am really wrestling with some of these ideas. I think part of the problem in my brain is if the Spirit is “just” the relationship between the Father and the Son, doesn’t that depersonalize and de-emphasize the Spirit and simultaneously diminish the Spirit’s power and authority?

  4. more cows Than People Says:

    Hmm… often the Spirit is named as the relationship between the first two persons of the Trinity, but this isn’t the total biblical picture of the Spirit, is it? Is it the relationship that gives gifts, dwells in hearts, descends and fills or is it a person/being? I like the way that your professor responded- a great deal. Too often in theology the Spirit has gotten the short end of the stick. All three persons are one and yet are three. It sounds like naming the Spirit as the relationship between the first two is rather like reducing three to two.

    And yes, a neutral personal pronoun would be fabulous.

    If you’re interested in Trinitarian thinking and in the notion of suffering in God, I hope you’ll read more Moltmann. I’d also be happy to share my big final paper from seminary which was on topics closely related to issues you raise here.

  5. pinkhammer Says:

    EJ posted a response to my post here. Enjoy! : )

  6. pinkhammer Says:

    MoreCows – I would definitely be interested in reading your final seminary paper. I’ll shoot you an e-mail. : )

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