“I’m not sure I believe in God exclusively as a person anymore either…. The truth is that seeing God as spirit more than person doesn’t destroy my faith” (195).
What an honest statement! And in fact, he doesn't say that he doesn't see God as person. Only that he no longer sees God "exclusively" as a person.
So here's where Scot goes from this qualified hedging footstep toward spirit over person offered by Spencer:
[I will confess to you when I read that God is not a person, my blood boiled. To deny personhood to God, the hypostasis or “person”hood, denies the essence of Christian orthodoxy and the sole foundation for our personhood and the essence both of what the gospel is — restoring cracked (person-ed) Eikons to God, who is person — and what redemption is. This genuinely is what theologians have always called “heresy.” When he says he accepts the creedal view of Father, Son, and Spirit and then says he doesn’t believe God is “person” but “spirit” — frankly, this last statement completely undermines the former. What are the Father, Son, and Spirit but the persons of the Godhead?]
I am asking you: Did Spencer in that quote deny personhood to God? I haven't read the book, but now I want to.
Scot then rants forward:
Is Spencer a “heretic”? He says he is, and I see no reason to think he believes in the Trinity from reading this book. That’s what heresy means to me. Denial of God’s personhood flies in the face of everything orthodox. To say that you believe in the creedal view of God as Father, Son, and Spirit and deny “person” is to deny the Trinitarian concept of God.
Is Spencer a “Christian”? He says he is. What is a Christian? Is it not one who finds redemption through faith in Christ, the one who died and who was raised? If so, I see nothing in this book that makes me think that God’s grace comes to us through the death and resurrection of Christ. Grace seems to be what each person is “born into” in Spencer’s theses in this book. That means that I see no reason in this book to think Spencer believes in the gospel as the NT defines gospel (grace as the gift of God through Christ by faith).
So there's one definition that the entire historical church agrees to? Amazing how I missed that in my history of doctrine class.
This is exactly why people like Spencer are sorely needed as bridges in today's quest for interpreting the faith in a global, not-exclusively western reality.
Why are the ancient creeds given more street cred than the deep thinking of sincere Christians today who interact with both the creeds (their history, the debates that generated them, their multiple layers of meaning depending on which denominational take you hold) and today's postmodern, globalized, multidenominational, mocha-java cappucino world which (one might guess) is still an expression of the reality of God? Why wouldn't we take our cosmology into account, our questions, our debates and re-examine the creeds in light of those realities rather than always harking backwards by warning and threatening that those who do risk heresy? Why do we assume that what was formulated in the 4th century addresses what we worry about in the 21st?
There is nothing inherently more godly about the creeds and those men who formed them than being a seeking, open, creative theologian today who engages the creeds, our postmodern world and our contemporary Christian scene.
I'm amazed at how the default (orthodox) position assumes it is in the position of power to critique, as though it holds the better hand of cards. That only works if everyone is playing with the same deck... and clearly we aren't any more. Just as the 16th century gave us Luther and Calvin who responded to their contemporary world and applied the Bible and theology to it, so we have the same responsibility to do likewise today. Which means change. Which means the Gospel is dynamic, not static.
Somehow, God - the spirit-person - does nothing to stop the humble attempts of sincere Christians throughout the ages to reimagine Christianity. Maybe creativity and heart and the willingness to risk reputation are still related to being Christian after all. Isn't that how Jesus did it?