Avoiding The “Either-Or” Trap -- By: Aída Besançon Spencer

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 08:2 (Spring 1994)
Article: Avoiding The “Either-Or” Trap
Author: Aída Besançon Spencer

Avoiding The “Either-Or” Trap

Aída Besançon Spencer

Aída Besançon Spencer is Professor of New Testament at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. An ordained minister of the Presbyterian Church (USA), she received a BA. from Douglass College (Rutgers University), an M.Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. from Southern Baptist Seminary. She is the author of Beyond the Curse: Women Called to Ministry (Hendrickson, 1985).

In November of 1993 women and men from fifteen Christian denominations, and one Buddhist came together at Minneapolis to call attention to a good cause, the Ecumenical decade: Churches in Solidarity with Women, through which the United Nations and the World Council of Churches asked churches throughout 1988-98 “to eliminate teachings and practices that discriminate against women.” The conference theme was “Re-Imagining...God, Community and the Church.”

At this 1993 conference, a variety of speakers addressed different concerns. For instance, Jose Hobday spoke of the importance of interconnection: the body is good, creation is good, gray hair is a sign of wisdom. Anne Primavesi reminded her listeners that the “presence of God has always been in and acknowledged by the whole of creation.” Elizabeth Bettenhausen declared: “Out of pieces women weave a sense of community, making life emerge out of the good-for-nothing.” The church certainly needs to hear these messages.

Unfortunately, however, some at the conference assumed a distorted view of truth, God, the church, and humans. They extended standard history of religion thought to its logical conclusions. In this school of thought, truth is relative, the God of the Hebrews was only one of many ancient deities, the church was established by a community of innovators, and humans are but one stage of the evolutionary process. These beliefs affected some conference leaders’ view of God.

To call God “wisdom” or “sophia” is not necessarily wrong. God is called by many adjectives. The first use of an adjective for God was done by Hagar in the desert when she called God “a God of seeing” because God observed and responded to her destitute state (Gen. 16:13). Christ is called by Paul “God’s power and God’s wisdom” (I Cor 1:24, 30). God also uses the adjectives “almighty,” “I will be,” “jealous,” “faithful,” “holy,” among many others for self-description.1

Therefore to call God or Christ “wisdom,” as Paul does, is fine, but to call “wisdom” God is not. For instance, God is love, but love is not God.

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