The Dialogical Self Analogy for the Godhead: Recasting the “God is a Person” Debate
KeywordsTrinity, Person, Personalism, Dialogical Self Theory, Dialogical, Analogy, God
May God may be understood and referred to as a “person”? This is a live debate in contemporary theological and philosophical circles. However, despite the attention this debate has received, the vital question of how to account for God’s trinitarian nature has been mostly overlooked. Due to trinitarian concerns about the unqualified use of “person” as an analogy for the Godhead, I intervene in this debate with a two-fold proposal. The first is that proponents of using a person as an analogy for the Godhead will be better served by using a psychologically informed analogy of a “self” instead. In particular, the Dialogical Self model of a person holds much promise. In what follows, I argue that the “Dialogical Self Analogy” for the Godhead is more likely to uphold God’s trinitarian nature, avoid trinitarian confusion and related problems than “person” analogies do. The primary benefit of speaking of God as a Dialogical Self is that it offers a psychologically modelled analogy for God, whilst avoiding the language of person, yet strongly taking into account God’s trinitarian nature. This has the important benefit of preserving the concept and language of “person” for the trinitarian persons (the prosopa/hypostases), and hence avoiding the linguistic, conceptual and ecumenical confusion that arises when referring to the Godhead as a person. The strength of using the model and language of a Dialogical Self as an analogy for the Godhead (instead of person) is demonstrated by showing its compatibility with Erickson’s criteria for describing the Trinity.
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