(From Dennis F. Kinlaw's"Let's Start With Jesus: A New Way of Doing Theology", chapter three, "Personhood and the Concept of God.")
The term personhood was developed by the early Church to define the uniqueness of the three persons of the Godhead and their relationship to each other. It is the words of Christ, the second person of the Godhead, that was the most significant factor in defining the term, especially His words from the Gospel of John. Here are the last four characteristics of divine personhoood which determined how the Church defined personhood:
5. Created With a Moral Consciousness That Reflects the Holiness of God- Holiness, love and personhood cannot be seperated. "The essential nature of the God of Scripture is holy-love. All the persons of the Godhead are described as holy. Jesus, in the middle of his High Priestly Prayer in John 17, is praying for his disciples and cries out, 'Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name-the name you gave me-so that they may be one as we are one.' (John 17:11)" (Kinkaw, p. 88) Jesus is called the holy one of God. (Mk 1:24, Jn. 6: 68-69)
The Old Testament picture of God is holy. If anything is discovered to be holy, God is there because He is holy and it is He alone who sanctifies. The Sabbath, the day that belongs to Him, is holy. His presence in the burning bush made the surrounding ground holy. Israel was holy because God dwelt among them and the land they occupied was called the Holy Land. The Temple where God dwelt was called the Holy Place and the city where it was located was called the Holy City. The room in the Temple where God's presence resided was called The Holy of Holies. When God commanded that His people were to be different, He gave three reasons: "I am Yahweh," "I am holy" and "I am Yahweh who makes you holy." (Lev. 11: 44-45, 19:3, 12, 14, 20:8) "From Yahweh's point of view, the three statements are synonomous." (Kinlaw, p. 89)
In the New Testament, the Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary so that the one born to her was holy. (Lk. 1: 35) Therefore, Jesus, the second person of the Trinity and the prototype of all human persons, is holy. This then leads us to ask, Is holiness an essential element of all personhood? The answer is no. Human personhood implies a moral consciousness; we are able to recognize moral choices and respond to God's call. Adam and Eve were moral beings and after their sin, they hid from God in shame and blamed each other. We have the potential for holiness, a derived holiness. We have the possibility for becoming holy because of our relationship to a holy God. To be human is to have a sense of right and wrong, good and evil, justice and injustice. However, there is no power in us to realize the standards we apply to others. God's is and ought is the the same. The fifth character of human personhood is then the possession of an ethical/moral consciousness and the possibility to act in accordence with it. We know when we have been violated when others impose their will on us for their own self-interest. This is evidence that we were created to make our own moral choices.
God is holy. Holiness is a ethical/moral quality possible only where there is freedom. God is free. His holiness is expressed in His freedom. The inner perichoretic relation (see part IV, b, #3) of the three persons of the Trinity is holy love. All three persons freely choose to serve the other two. We cannot love unless we are free. Freedom makes holiness and evil possible.
6. Created to Live in Openness- Openness has two aspects. The first is self-transcendence. Self-transcendence is an other orientedness within the self that enables one to see one's self as others see him/her, to stand outside one's self so to evaluate one's self and one's world morally and cognitively. From this ability our consciences develop. We are moral beings who hold ourselves up to a standard. "Every person has his or her accuser within. That is the key factor in human accountability. To crush that inner voice is to dehumanize oneself. We cannot impose our own way upon the world without doing damage to ourselves and other people." (Kinlaw, p. 95)
The other aspect of openness is permeability, which grows out of self-transcendence. Each person has an inner necessity to relate to the world beyond one's self. Something within the self is unwilling to let the self be the final arbiter. The cry of the conscience is an appeal to an objective moral reality outside the self but having its echoes at the deepest inner level of the self. Jesus was aware of the world. He had certain knowledge of the Father, the Spirit, Satan, angels, worldly rulers, the poor, the sick, the demonized, the multitude, His own family and friends. There was an order in these relationships. The center of these relationships was the Father who sent Him and for whom He had chosen to do His will. The Son was open to the other persons of the Godhead, the Father and the Holy Spirit in whom He found reason for all things. "The key to understanding Jesus did not lie in Jesus. It lay beyond him. He lived joyously for Another, through Another, and for Another. Jesus was the divine Son of God and a perfect human being, yet he did not find himself complete within himself. He was not the center of his own chosen existence." (Kinlaw, p. 96) Jesus draws life from the Father and lives to please the Father. The Father defines Fatherhood in terms of His Son. His completion as Father lies in the Son and in the Holy Spirit through whom He does His work. The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the Father and the Son, speaks that which He hears from the Father and the Son. He is not the truth, but He leads us to the truth, the Son. He doesn't speak for Himself but glorifies the Son and takes what is the Son's and makes it known to those who follow the Son. Though divine, neither being is complete in themselves. Created human beings find their completeness in their creator. To be completely alone is to have entered hell.
7. Created to Relate to Others in Trusting Love- Completeness of a person is only through relating to others in trusting love. Jesus does nothing of Himself, His life is not His own, He draws life from the Father through the Spirit, He lives to do His Father's will. Jesus' relationship of trusting love is assumed when He speaks of losing one's life to find it. Self-protection is a refusal to give away one's self. This leads to loss and death. (Mt. 16:25, Mk 8:35, Lk 9:24) In John's Gospel, when Jesus speaks of a kernal of wheat that falls to the ground so many more seeds will be produced, He is applying this to Himself. If Jesus had protected Himself and not trusted the Father, He would have ceased to be who He is because God by definition is self-giving love. Baptism marks death to the old life with its sin and its source, the self. Baptism marks the beginning of a new life lived through another source. Paul and Timothy chose to live this new life. (ICor. 10:33-11:1 and Phil. 2: 19-21) So should we all. (ICor. 10: 24)
8. Human Personhood Enables Identification Between God and His Creatures- Adam and Eve were made in God's image, so God and Man could commune with each other and know each other as persons. This was the climax of the creation story and was Man's greatest priviledge. This communion is God's purpose for us and can be described as life and salvation. In Jn. 10, Jesus declared that the purpose of His Incarnation was so we could have life and have it abundantly. In Jn. 17:3, Jesus defines eternal life as knowing the Father. Jesus wants us to be where He is. (Jn. 17:24) Implicit in this statement is Jesus' desire for us to be in communion with Him. He speaks of this communion in terms of abiding in Him as branches abide in the vine. (Jn. 15: 1-8) The life of the branches has its source in the vine. Our fruitfulness comes from our abiding in Him so His life can exist in us. This is similiar to Jesus abiding in the Father. (Jn. 14:8, 10-11) The life of the Father flows through the Son to the world. We are to have the same kind of relationship with Jesus. In Jn. 17: 20-23, Jesus said that all future believers are to experience this relationship. To understand what Jesus is talking about, one needs more than a knowledge of horticulture. One needs to understand perichoresis, how the Father and the Son live in each other.
I am going to try to finish this series by the end of next week. I never thought it would take me this long to deal with Dr. Kinlaw's short book. There are three more chapters to cover.