Tuesday, August 08, 2006

more on spencer burke's new book

scot mcknight completes his series:

- part 1

- part 2

- part 3

- part 4

I had earlier posted excerpts form parts 1 and 2.

Here are excerpts from part 4:


1. He doesn’t believe God is a “person” (195): “I’m not sure I believe in God exclusively as a person anymore either…. The truth is that seeing God as spirit more than person doesn’t destroy my faith” (195).

Instead, he is a panentheist — which means that “God is ‘in all,’ alongside my creedal view of God as Father, Son, and Spirit” (195). He emphasizes immanence, “radical connectedness” and “relational theology.” [Again, this is flat-out wrong: “panentheism” is not the view that God is in all but that all is in God, and there’s a big diference.]

[I will confess to you when I read that God is not a person, my blood boiled. To deny personhood to God, the hypostasis or “person”hood, denies the essence of Christian orthodoxy and the sole foundation for our personhood and the essence both of what the gospel is — restoring cracked (person-ed) Eikons to God, who is person — and what redemption is. This genuinely is what theologians have always called “heresy.” When he says he accepts the creedal view of Father, Son, and Spirit and then says he doesn’t believe God is “person” but “spirit” — frankly, this last statement completely undermines the former. What are the FAther, Son, and Spirit but the persons of the Godhead?]"

mcknight concludes:

"But, I have a responsibility before God to be faithful to the gospel, so I have to say the following — and I don’t do so with anything but sadness.

... I want to express my dismay today over what I think is crossing the boundaries. I will have to be frank; but I have to be fair. Here’s how I see this book’s theology as a Christian theologian. The more I ponder what Spencer does in this book, the more direct I have become — be glad I don’t have any more posts about this book.

Is Spencer a “heretic”? He says he is, and I see no reason to think he believes in the Trinity from reading this book. That’s what heresy means to me. Denial of God’s personhood flies in the face of everything orthodox. To say that you believe in the creedal view of God as Father, Son, and Spirit and deny “person” is to deny the Trinitarian concept of God.

Is Spencer a “Christian”? He says he is. What is a Christian? Is it not one who finds redemption through faith in Christ, the one who died and who was raised? If so, I see nothing in this book that makes me think that God’s grace comes to us through the death and resurrection of Christ. Grace seems to be what each person is “born into” in Spencer’s theses in this book. That means that I see no reason in this book to think Spencer believes in the gospel as the NT defines gospel (grace as the gift of God through Christ by faith).

I must say this: Spencer told me on the phone that he thinks all are included in God’s grace from the start solely because of Jesus’ death and resurrection; why not write that in this book?

Spencer, you’re a good guy. But I have to say this to you: Go back to church. Go back to the gospel of Jesus — crucified and raised. Let the whole Bible shape all of your theology. Listen to your critics. Integrate a robust Christology, a robust death-and-resurrection gospel, and a full Trinitarian theology back into your guide to eternity."


spencer said...


I hope you get a chance to read the book and post your thoughts. I have had a great time interacting with Scot both on his blog and in person/on the phone.

The comments section on these posts are very insightful from all perspectives.

Let me know if you need a copy and if you want to discuse the book further.

Hope all is well.

Stephen said...


thanks for reaching out and i appreciate it. scot had mentioned to me that there had been some interaction in comments on his site so i'm looking forward to reviewing that. i'd be happy to take a look at your book and thanks for the offer.


iggy said...

This has been a hard post not to read as I was emailed and asked to read and do a write up on this book also.

I haven't received my copy yet.... ahem (throat clearing sound that is sort of a hint)... so don't ruin the ending OK! LOL!

I loved the title though...

Looking forward to it...