New Article and Reviews of my Book: The Lord is the Spirit

Review EssaysI have a new article out in the Canadian Journal of Pentecostal-Charismatic Christianity (vol. 5.1, 2014) entitled:

The Spirit and the Doctrine of God: On Gendered Language, Violence, and the Trinity and Philosophy” (pages 81-87).

My article is a response to three essays (in the same volume of CJPCC) that review my book The Lord is the Spirit: The Holy Spirit and the Divine Attributes. These review essays are based off of a panel discussion held at St. Andrews College at the University of SaskatcheGabriel.TheLordIsTheSpirit.98890wan. The reviewers were each from different disciplines. One review essay is by Jeromey Martini, Professor of New Testament and President of Horizon College and Seminary. The other two reviews are written by faculty members of St. Andrews College, a United Church seminary in Saskatoon: HyeRan Kim-Cragg, Professor of Pastoral Studies and Don Schweitzer, Professor of Theology.

7 Comments

  1. Hi Andrew,

    I can hardly wait to read your book: The Lord is Spirit.

    Schweitzer offers high praise (which whets my appetite): The Lord is the Spirit shows how pneumatology clashes with classical theism’s understanding of God as unaffected by the world so well, that reading it made me wonder why no one had thought of doing this before. It is a significant contribution to pneumatology and the doctrine of God.

    I especially enjoyed reading HYERAN KIM-CRAGG’s review. She has an engaging style. It intrigues me how you have been able to cross faith lines to hear perspectives from other traditions. As one who is rather unfamiliar with your world, it left me wanting more.

    I wondered what Jeromey would say, considering that he is a specialist in New Testament and Christian Origins. It was good to read.

    As a Pastor and preacher in the trenches, I find myself constantly looking for the application. I’ll let you know my thoughts after I read your book (but I wouldn’t presume to review). What I’ve read from your reviewers and from your response to the reviews, The Lord is Spirit sounds inspiring and applicable.

    Thanks for what you do,

    Alan

    >

    1. Alan, Thanks for your kind words.

      When the panel discussion originally took place, it was a great evening! Whenever you do finally read the book, I want to encourage you that it gets better the further you go. After the intro, it gets a little…boring…necessary, but boring (so I won’t be offended if you skim some of the early stuff!). But the the further you go, the better and better it gets. Of course, that’s just my opinion.

  2. Godself? Spiritself? Seriously? Is this the language of Scripture or the result of caving to feminist-driven political correctness? You are right that if you used this language in church, the church would soon empty.

    The Spirit is not some disembodied entity but specifically the Spirit of the Father and the Spirit of the Son. Nothing more, nothing less. Christ was male; he, at least, was not “neither male nor female”. Moreover, his incarnation is eternal. Would it make sense to refer to the Spirit of Christ as “she”, or feminine? Is it even coherent? The other member of the Trinity is the Father. The Father fathered Jesus, literally. Jesus called him Father. Moreover, he enjoined us to do the same. Shall we properly refer to the Spirit of the Father as feminine, or “her”? It is absurd.

    Instead of suggesting that use of masculine pronouns is part of a misguided, oppressive Western tradition, why not just say it is the language of Scripture, and be done with it? The remedy for potentially improper or misguided use of Scripture is not the emasculation of Scripture, it is to use Scripture in its proper sense. Enough with Godself and Spiritself already.

    1. I believe that there are two problematic assumptions at the beginning of your response to my article/post.
      1/ We must only use the (gendered) language of Scripture when referring to God.
      2/ Using gender neutral language to refer to God is driving by feminist-driven political correctness.

      1/ If assumption 1 were true, then we should logically only refer to the Spirit as either “she” or “it” since this is how the Bible refers to the “Holy Spirit” in the original languages (Spirit= ruach in the OT Hebrew, which is feminine, and Spirit= pneuma in NT Greek, which is neuter). I suspect that the main reason that you are uncomfortable with referring to the Spirit as “she” is because you are not used to it, which is probably in large part because most English Bibles refer to the Spirit as “he.” However, if you (and most English translations of the Bible) are justified (theologically, culturally, or otherwise) to refer to the Spirit in ways other than “it” or “she,” then you should be able to concede that one might find justifiable reasons to refer to God with more pronouns than just “he.”

      2/ Regarding assumption 2, the issue is not just political correctness. Rather, it is a Jesus-driven concern to love my female neighbor as myself along with other theological concerns.

      I’m going to go out on a limb and guess (my own assumption this time!) that you haven’t read much by people who have concerns about privileging masculine language in reference to God. I did a quick search to see if I could find a helpful blog post about the issue and one that isn’t too extreme. While I can not say that it represents my own views, I found one that is short and helpful called “Language for God Matters, or God is not a “he”: http://naomiwalters.com/language-for-god-matters-or-god-is-not-a-he/
      I encourage you to read through it with an open mind.

      Best wishes and thanks for stopping by!

      1. Andrew:

        1. “We must only use the (gendered) language of Scripture when referring to God.”.

        I’m not saying this. I’m saying: a) Scriptural language for God is the best, most reliable language we’ve got since it is based in revelation from God and not from human speculation about God or human wishes about God; b) it is not inappropriate to use Scriptural language for God; it is not something we need to avoid, be embarrassed about, or apologize for — which is the way gender-neutral formulations come across, at least to my ear; c) when Scriptural depictions of God are eschewed for de-genderized depictions, the gospel is diminished and its message ever so slightly altered.

        2. “we should logically only refer to the Spirit as either “she” or “it” since… ” Does not follow. She or it pertaining to the Holy Spirit in the Greek or Hebrew are grammatical genders, not feminine or neuter identities. To carry these over to English would be misleading and inappropriate since English is not grammatically “gendered”. My point was that, to determine the pronoun, we need to look at who or what the pronouns refer to. In the case of the Spirit, the Spirit is, specifically, the Spirit of the Father and the Spirit of the Son. How can it be wrong to refer to this Spirit as “he”? Moreover, correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that orthodox trinitarian teaching posits that the Spirit is of the same substance or ontology as the Father and the Son. It would be incoherent to refer to the Holy Spirit by a different pronominal referent than that used for the Father and the Son. (That “he” and “his” are appropriate pronominal referents in English for someone who is, or who self-identifies as Father or Son, should not even have to be discussed.)

        3. “privileging masculine language in reference to God”: Scripture itself “privileges masculine language in reference to God” (an ideologically-laden phrase, BTW!)” . Jesus “privileged masculine language in reference to God” when he revealed God as Father. The Father “privileged masculine language in reference to God” when he revealed Jesus as His Son at the transfiguration. The Spirit “privileges masculine language in reference to God” when he causes us to cry, “Abba, Father” in our innermost being. Will we deny this? Is this cry really trumped or defeated by the knowledge that, “well actually you know God has no gender”? If so, we are denying something that God has decreed should pour from our innermost being.

        Are we really justified in thinking a program of discounting what God has “privileged” is going to advance the kingdom of God or be an improvement on what and how God has revealed Himself to us?

        4. I have been in services where the minister studiously avoided masculine pronouns and references to God. “God Godself gave God’s Son to advance God’s reign…”. It butchers the God-given beauty of the English language and comes across as akin to a speech impediment. And the unspoken message, the implicature, is “there’s something fundamentally defective or unjust about Scripture that I’m going to work around”.

        Similarly, I have been in services where majestic hymns and carols of the church have been purged of male imagery for God, marring the integrity of the hymn/carol as an artistic work, rendering the hymn/carol unsingable to saints (who have committed these great gifts to the church to memory and who now rely on memory to bring these songs forth from within), degrading the work’s majestic poetry and even altering or degrading its theology.

        Then, along comes the Lord’s prayer in the liturgical order of service… “Our Father…”. It is jarring. It is so “off” from what the minister has been labouring to convey; it’s like Jesus is referring to a different deity than the one the minister has been labouring to present in the service. There is a subtle theological shift that is almost gnostic in its implications — “we’re stuck with Scripture and the words of Jesus, but we’re presenting what it really means and/or what it would have been better for Jesus to have said…”

        Many churches are well along this path. They are not thriving. One UCC minister says, in effect, “if, by ‘Jesus is Lord’ we really mean ‘love is supreme’, why not just say that”. De-gendered language is the gift that keeps on giving. In this construct both the Lord and Jesus are deemed sufficiently controversial to strike down both. And I know of professors in what used to be conservative seminaries who are loathe to use the term “Lord” because of the term’s “masculinist” connotations.

        I just hope the PAOC does not “go there”.

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