The Church seems really to be struggling for relevance in many parts of the west and church numbers are in decline. She senses afresh the need to act in a living expression of God’s love for a broken world, to reach out and not suck in. But some of her language is stuck in the 16th century, creating distance between her and the peoples she is trying to embrace…
Episode 78 of the Trinities podcast has given me a new glimpse about what may have happened to the trinity in modern charismatic churches, and also expressed in the worship these churches compose and practice.
Chad McIntosh, the new Trinities collaborator, has this rather out-there idea, which I am beginning to think is actually making some very real sense to me, about God as a person (his main work that he will publish, and I will definitely get, is called "God of the Groups"). His point is that really a lot of church faith, in practice, works itself out more as God is a person (more than "he" is three persons). And McIntosh's point is that this is entirely possible because there are intrinsic persons, and functional persons.
Intrinsic persons, as we would usually imagine them, including people who have absolutely no brain activity on life-support, etc.
Functional persons, e.g. a group spoken of as a person, such as a general ("Grant") who sent his platoon out against the enemy, but McIntosh says "it would make sense to say that "Grant had a bad day"" referring to the squad that got annihilated.
Where I felt McIntosh needed to be a little tighter I felt was on the Personhood criteria, morally responsible, free will, self-conscious (how is a foetus self-conscious?). But, basically, he argues that some non-intrinsic persons, like groups, robots too, could satisfy some of the key personhood criteria, in a way that (both Tuggy and McIntosh clarify this) is non-cumulative with intrinsic persons.
So, as some know, I have been finding the worship and focus of charismatic church to be highly Jesus-focussed at the expense of the Father (or rather Christians' access to the Father) in particular, even though he is the one that is most clearly and explicitly identified in the New Testament as God, and even by Jesus, in John's own memory (e.g. "I am ascending to my father and your father, to my God and your God"). I definitely do not think that this is something unique to my church! For a time I had been thinking that what was essentially being practiced was a kind of functional unitarianism; the trinity collapsed into Jesus, the second person. Yes we profess when pushed the Trinitarian position, with some occasional Fatherhood of God teaching and worship, but basically, Jésus, sois le centre. (I am part of a French charismatic church in Marseille; this morning we sang about "Jesus' house" a.k.a my Father's house has many rooms, Jesus' paternity, etc, etc, etc.)
BUT, what I am now wondering, is with McIntosh's view of a group being identifiable as a person, if actually what might have happened is that we have named the group of co-eternal co-equal consubstantial persons, "Jesus", in charismatic circles I mean. This would be me trying to recognise a truer and firmer triune focus to who we are and what we believe as a charismatic evangelical church, and our attempt to live that out in a way that human beings are kind of pre-programmed to have relationships, that persons around me are persons and that the one God - for us to have a relationship with him - must be a person.