BACKGROUND TO BUDDY #22

Note to the reader: the series of articles entitled Background to Buddy were extracted from a Christian nonfiction work that formed the basis for the novel Buddy, which is available from either Amazon or Signalman Publishing. Directions are noted on the page entitled Buddy on this blog site. The purpose of this work was to explain the reasons why I consider the Holy Spirit to be functionally female. Adventure episodes and humor were added for the entertainment of both the reader and the author.

Chapter 11: Resistance to a Female Attribute in Deity (continued)

A squeamish fear of offending the Holy Spirit (continued)

Dr. McGrath ends with this commentary:

“We can now see why Christians talk about God being a ‘three-in-one’. One difficulty remains, however, which must be considered. How can God be three persons and one person at the same time? This brings us to an important point which is often not fully understood. The following is a simplified account of the idea of ‘person’ which may be helpful, although the reader must appreciate that simplifications are potentially dangerous. The word ‘person’ has changed its meaning since the third century when it began to bed used in connection with the ‘threefoldness of God’. When we talk about God as a person, we naturally think of God as being one person. But theologians such as Tertullian6, writing in the third century, used the word ‘person’ with a different meaning. The word ‘person’ originally derives from the Latin word persona, meaning an actor’s face-mask – and, by extension, the role which he takes in a play.

“By stating that there were three persons but only one God, Tertullian was asserting that all three major roles in the great drama of human redemption are played by the one and the same God. The three great roles in this drama are all played by the same actor: God. Each of these roles may reveal God in a somewhat different way, but it is the same God in every case. So when we talk about God as one person, we mean one person in the modern sense of the word, and when we talk about God as three persons, we mean three persons in the ancient sense of the word. It is God, and God alone, who masterminded and executes the great plan of salvation, culminating in Jesus Christ. It is he who is present and active at every stage of its long history. Confusing these two senses of the word ‘person’ inevitably leads to the idea the God is actually a committee, which, as we saw earlier, is a thoroughly unhelpful and confusing way of thinking about God.”

One certainly could not accuse Dr. McGrath as being a tritheist. On the other hand, despite his denial on the back cover of the book that he entertains the heretical notion of modalism, he’s on shaky ground there, being right on the edge or over it according to his own words.

Dr. McGrath is somewhat unique among other well-established theologians in that his scientific training has furnished him with an ability to be objective in his presentation and make use of useful intellectual tools such as models to make his points. Further, he at least addresses some notions that others avoid like the plague, as if they themselves might be infected by ideas they may have been taught were close to blasphemous. He has in common with the others, however, several notions regarding the Holy Spirit that are generally accepted within faithful Christendom: while all Members of the Trinity possess the same substance and are fully and equally God, they differ with respect to functional role; the role for the Holy Spirit conforms most closely to that associated with executive companion and motherhood; the Holy Spirit is a background Entity, more self-effacing than Father and Son; the Trinity (as confessed by the Church) is a mystery beyond man’s comprehension. The ‘others’ who share these particular view with Drs. McGrath and Ware include Dr. Peter Masters (The Faith)7 and James R. White (The Forgotten Trinity)8.

I agree quite thoroughly with all of these points except the last, with which
I disagree quite thoroughly. To me, the incomprehensibility in understanding the Trinity is another typical case of man’s brain outsmarting his heart. What should be an extremely simple and intuitive understanding, man has turned into a riddle, in the process wrapping himself around the intellectual axle.

A case could be made that in the many attempts made by scholars of Scripture to describe the Holy Spirit, they end up implying an association of the Holy Spirit with Wisdom. Wisdom, of course, is given a lengthy treatment in Proverbs, with a female gender association.

Dr. McGrath’s extensive use of models in his description of the nature of God is an asset to his work. I believe that the models are so effective, as a matter of fact, that I’d like to offer one of my own, derived from Benjamin Warfield’s description (see Chapter 10 above) of the Holy Spirit as performing an executive function: that of a warship. In this model the commanding officer, or CO, would be the functional counterpart of the Father. Under rigid shipboard discipline there is only one leader of the entire vessel, and that is the CO. He must make the tough decisions and live with the consequences; correspondingly, it is his will, and his alone, that must be instantly obeyed by the rest of the crew. The counterpart of Jesus in this model is the action that results from the CO’s orders. The next in the chain of command is the executive officer, or XO. The XO has the responsibility of executing, or carrying out, the CO’s commands; like the XO’s counterpart the Holy Spirit, it is the XO who makes the will of the CO actually happen. While the XO is subordinate to the CO, he is in an understudy mode, being in constant readiness to assume command should some misfortune befall the CO. Therefore, the XO is capable of being CO, but willingly assumes a subordinate position for the sake of the ship’s welfare. One can readily perceive that the CO and XO are an interdependent pair, each having different but complementary functions. It is in these complementary functions that the CO serves in a male role and the XO in a female role. One might well argue that on a warship, both CO and XO are eminently masculine. Both, to be sure, are cut from the same masculine cloth, just as the Holy Spirit is male with respect to substance, proceeding from the Father. On the functional side of things, however, one must be careful to note that the XO doesn’t initiate the basic commands, but rather responds to them in a subordinate manner by carrying them out in fulfillment of the CO’s will. This responsive characteristic, I would assert, is eminently feminine. Note in this context the synergy in the complementary interaction, which indeed is suggestive of a male-female relationship. The only thing that could bring it closer and more effective would be the level of communication intrinsic to a love-based relationship, i.e. the marital union, which for that reason, in my mind, remains a more representative model of the relationship between Father and Holy Spirit than the shipboard chain of command.

Maybe it’s not the case with God, but in the (human) marriage union, there is some functional ambiguity. I would love to visualize a well-groomed lawn, thus commanding my wife to mow it promptly, watching benignly from my deck chair as she executes my edict forthwith. I don’t do that, however, comprehending somehow that it’s not going to work out as I would wish. The end result would be that I would mow the lawn anyhow and work under the additional burden of having to peer out of black and swollen eye sockets. At any rate, I’d much prefer doing a little grunt work while enjoying a loving relationship with my life partner that points to the way we were made by God.

Reactionary thinking

From the very beginning of God’s relationship with Abraham, Judaism and its monotheism stood apart from the pantheons of hedonistic gods and the goddess-worshiping fertility cults of the surrounding Gentile peoples. The God who has been handed down to us through Judeo-Christian tradition is far more ascetic and sexually neutral than these shameless pseudo-gods, and for the good reason that He had an altogether different message to give His creation than the self-serving and corrupt fare that man had imposed upon himself. Perhaps the traditions that man constructed around this message (but not the message itself, having come from God) went to a reactionary extreme in the attempt to distance the faith from the false gods of the surrounding nations and their blatant sexuality. The traditional Judeo-Christian God, then, was essentially emasculated from very early on. That tradition is still very much alive within the Christian community, causing any re-emergence of gender considerations to be treated with skepticism and hostility.

The reactionary instinct is even more urgent in this time of general moral decline. Many conservative Christians are distressed over what appears to be a wholesale falling-away of traditional Church denominations. And well they should be. Major church organizations have not only rejected clear Scriptural teaching by accepting homosexuality as normal, they have embraced it, going so far as to ordain practicing homosexuals as ministers and church leaders. This mindless and Godless subservience to political correctness has also invaded Church/government relations in America, where chaplains have been severely warned by political and military leaders not to mention the name of Jesus in the process of carrying out their duties. Another set of Churches, having considerable overlap with those who embrace the gay movement as an acceptance as normal something that God does not, has rejected Scripture altogether as representing the Word of God, and now does not know what to believe or whether to believe at all. In a recent edition of a popular Christian news magazine, one article claimed that a sixth of all Dutch Protestant pastors don’t believe in God. Still others pay lip service to Scripture, doling out starvation rations to their members each Sunday while focusing instead on self improvement for a better life now. Yet other Churches attempt to accommodate other religions into Christianity, thus denying that Jesus Christ is the only Way to God.

Given this rapidly-expanding state of spiritual chaos, the committed Christian has little difficulty applying Scriptural admonishments to our present age. We seem to be witnessing the fulfillment of several prophetic warnings, of which 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 seems particularly applicable:

“Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, that ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of the Lord is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means; for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition. Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshiped, so that he, as god, sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is god. Remember ye not that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? And now ye know what restraineth that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work; only he who now hindreth will continue to hinder until he be taken out of the way.
“And then shall that wicked one be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming, even him whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish, because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie, that they all might be judged who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”

Regarding the thought of taking pleasure in unrighteousness, the debacle in the Churches is but one symptom of a general decline in society as a whole: our children are no longer being taught what used to be considered the essentials of education; illicit sex, abortion, wholesale drug use, and the prevalence of self-interest in interpersonal relationships are all indicators of our society’s descent into madness and violence. Jesus Himself warned of a return of the violence prevailing in Noah’s day. A description of that time is given in Genesis 6:5-7:

And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grived him at his heart. And the Lord said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I made them.”

Indeed, people everywhere seem to be acquiring the nature that Paul spoke of in 2 Timothy Chapter 3:1-9:

“This know, also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boaster, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God, having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof; from such turn away.
“For of this sort are they who creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with diverse lusts, ever learning and never coming to the knowledge of the truth.
“Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth, men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith. But they shall proceed not further; for their folly shall be manifest unto all men, as theirs also was.

The remainder of 2 Timothy 3 is devoted to the issuance of marching orders:

“But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, long-suffering, love, patience, persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra, what persecutions I endured; but out of them all the Lord delivered me. Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. But evil men and seducers shall become worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived. But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them, and that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”

Marching orders indeed! If we equip ourselves for the march with an abundance of love, we should remain in the grace of God. But many of us, committed Christians all, will have great difficulty maintaining a balanced perspective as we witness the world collapsing around us. This difficulty represents another side to the problem of the falling-away Churches. The Churches that hold fast in the face of this debacle may tend to become ever yet more conservative, casting away their most important imperative in their haste to react to the moral chaos engulfing society, that of a loving nature reflective of the indwelling Holy Spirit and the light of Christ. In addressing the Church of Ephesus (Revelation 2:1-7), Jesus spoke of this problem:

“Unto the angel of the Church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks; I know thy works, and thy labor, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast labored, and hast not fainted.
“Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.
“But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.”

A symptom of this reactionary spirit is a desire to embrace tradition, to return to the God of our fathers, preferably all the way back to medieval times and the beginning of the Reformation9 when men were men, women were women, and God was God. It is a time when the introduction of new thought, even if it were a step in the progressive revelation of God to man, would be met with hostility and automatic rejection.

This period, the midst of the sixteenth century, was in fact in its own state of flux. The year 1483 saw the birth of Martin Luther10 and the naming of the evil sadist Tomas de Torquemada11 as Grand Inquisitor in Spain. In 1517 Luther nailed his 95 Theses of Contention to the door of the Catholic Church in Wittenberg, effectively starting the Reformation. Indeed, there were elements of that period that were remarkably common to our own. First, the Church had its own tradition regarding the cosmos that was coming under increasing challenge by stargazing intellectuals. Despite the fact that the Ptolemaic cosmology to which the Church adhered had nothing to do with Scripture but was an outgrowth of Greek metaphysical scholarship, it represented the old order that prevailed when the Church establishment was unchallenged.

[to be continued]

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