Yes! I would say God is a person. I ask the question because it came up in a discussion with a church member after I had mentioned that we are persons molded in the image of God, and that God is the ultimate person.
They promptly answered back, “No, God is not a person! God is God!”
There is so much wrong with that statement I hardly know where to begin. Best to begin with generosity. I kinda perceive what is being said and have to remind myself most church folk are very ignorant of ‘technical’ theological jargon. But on the other hand, we’re talking folk who have literally grown up in church, who think they know more about God than the average seminarian coming to their church, all green in the ears… Nevertheless, it saddens me greatly to see that people who pride themselves in the orthodoxy of their traditional Reformation beliefs can be so heretical!
Ever since the formulations of the Creeds in the early church, Christianity has understood God to be a person, in fact: three persons, one substance. Of course, the terms “person” and “substance” were endlessly debated, but pretty much every Christian accepted them over against the hyper-spiritual heresy of the Gnostics. It’s amazing to me how many neo-Gnostics I keep encountering in the modern church!
Shouldn’t I excuse such ignorance? After all, aren’t they laypersons? Patience is a good thing! But I cannot excuse the ignorance of a person who has spent over thirty years in the church.
For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic elements of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food; (Hebrews 5:12)
This is a problem I keep encountering over and over again in churches I have attended or ministered to. The reason for this, I believe, is a lack of discipleship in church, coupled with a greater emphasis on mass entertainment which promotes a superficial hyper-spirituality. Some reasons for the problem:
- Pastors are failing at their primary duty which is to feed the sheep. I sometimes enjoy reading old sermons by Spurgeon, Wesley, Luther, or Calvin, among others, and come away invariably impressed by the depth of content and faithful exposition of the scripture passage (even when I disagree with them!). Hebrews, quoted earlier, is actually a homily!
- Church folk are unwilling to learn. Attendance, or lack thereof, at small group Bible study is a key indicator of the spiritual health of the congregation. The majority of Pastors I know are willing, even desperately desiring to teach and mentor people, but grow gradually disillusioned with the lack of people willing to learn in their local ministries.
- An anti-intellectual climate pervades the modern church. The “don’t think … just believe” mentality contributes to the problem. It has gotten to the point that nowadays a thinking Christian is generally thought to be a very non-spiritual person. But I have found in my experience that truly spiritual people are ones who consistently think God’s thoughts. And on the other end, we have the bench-warmers…