In part one I quoted from Carl Henry as he lamented the lack of teaching on the Trinity. I suppose there are many reasons one could give for why it is that such a significant and central teaching of the faith is rarely taught. However, my opinion is that the misappropriation of the mystery of the Trinity is partly to blame. That is not to say there is not a mysterious aspect to God’s Being, but where Scripture has spoken we are obligated to learn.
One of Henry’s laments was that the “practical values” of the Trinity have been neglected. That might seem like a paradoxical proposition for modern day evangelicals who typically appeal to all things practical. What this actually points to is a dilemma that exchanges Christian theology for something more like a christianized form of pragmatism. Contrary to conventional thought the Trinity is one of the most practical teachings that we could discuss in our day. Having reached this point in the discussion of the Triniy I would like to focus attention to one of the most fundamental of practical values of the Trinity.
Personhood is one of those aspects of human existence typically taken for granted but vitally important for people to understand. Certain aspects of our being like love,feelings, emotions, thoughts, consciousness, compassion etc. can not be explained very well from a conventional approach like a naturalistic standpoint. One example of this – although there are many – I have quoted from prominent atheist philosopher Thomas Nagel who writes,
“It seems to me that the powerful appearance of contingency in the relation between the functioning of the physical organism and the conscious mind — an appearance that depends directly or indirectly on the first-person perspective — must be an illusion. But the denial of this contingency should not take the form of a reductionist account of consciousness of the usual type, whereby the logical gap between the mental and the physical is closed by conceptual analysis — in effect, by analyzing the mental in terms of the physical (however elaborately this is done — and I count functionalism as such a theory, along with the topic-neutral causal role analyses of mental concepts from which it descends).”
When Nagel uses terminology like “logical gap” he is speaking of a disconnect between the physical and mental that can’t be explained or “closed” by conceptual (naturalistic) analysis. In my conversations with naturalistic or materialistic philosophers who make an attempt to “close” the gap by conceptual means often find themselves in a dichotomy between the world they pretend to understand through analysis and the world they actually live in. I can recall a professor at a secular college that I attended who admitted to me that while he thought the love he had for his wife was nothing more than a chemical process in his brain, he would NEVER admit that to her. That is the dichotomy they are forced to live in.
How do we understand personhood from a Christian perspective? We understand that God is personal evidenced by His exhibiting personhood between the persons of the Godhead. Scripture tells us that there was person to person relations like love among the Triune community from all eternity. We also know that when God created He did so using Himself as a representational model. So when we look at God we see persons in relation from all eternity, and being created in His image we too are also persons in relation albeit at a creaturely level explaining why we exhibit aspects of personhood. This does not negate the fact that there is a biological aspect to our being also but it answers the question as to the personhood of man.