Jump to content

God As Person


Mike
 Share

Recommended Posts

I've just been thinking. When I first came to reject the notion of a 'personal deity', I rejected it because it was to my mind (1) too speculative and (2) too fantastically anthropomorphic. But lately I've been seeing that my reasons were probably more reactionary than well thought-out, which is to say I was rejecting a more simplistic understanding of 'God as person' than what is actually out there for consideration.

 

It really comes down to the question of what we mean by 'personal' as opposed to 'impersonal'. And delimiting the two is not so easy. Science can find no objective answer to the difference, leading many materialists to believe that 'person' itself refers to nothing. But what does 'impersonal' mean? Maybe the idea of 'impersonal' is questionable? Maybe the dichotomy is vacuous? I don't know.

 

For instance, if 'personal' refers to qualities such as mind, consciousness, subjectivity, creativity, meaning, presence, perspective, etc., then I believe reality (or God) is intensely personal. Or if there is no such dichotomy to begin with, then reality (or God) is neither personal nor impersonal.

 

What say you about the personal God?

 

Peace to you,

Mike

Edited by Mike
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Mike, I love this question because its something I have long pondered and changed my mind about repeatedly.

 

I rejected the idea of God as "person" some time and still do, in theory. In practice, however, I still like to use some visualization and imagine God as my best friend sitting next to me. Again, in theological terms, I cannot think of God as a "person", but personal is another matter. Personal, to me, some how implies intimacy, and I believe God is incredibly intimate with me. I don't necessary think God thinks or reacts or responds the way a human - or any other being - would. But rather its God's nature to be intimately connected with me and everything that exists. In other words, because God is God, God has to be personal or intimate. God permeats all of creation.

 

I don't even know if that makes sense to anyone but me! :D

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Mike,

As Yvonne, I don't think one can get any more personal as in intimate than God. In that sense of the meaning of the word God is to me personal. As far as God being a person goes, that definition as found within most of our dictionaries is to me too limiting to consider God a person.

 

Joseph

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Mike, I admittedly struggle with the whole concept of God because of hangups with the 'personal' anthropomorphic model I grew up with, which I abandoned/rejected some 20 years ago.

 

However, having revisited all this only in the last couple of years (for various reasons I had begun to question if maybe I had thrown out the baby with the bathwater), currently the concept of God that I can at least think a possibility, is one of a God who is more of a 'life-force' or 'feeling' rather than a personal enitity that might somehow 'know' us. I think this might be similiar to what you are referring to using the term 'reality'?

 

I think it is Paul Tillich's phrase about God being the 'ground of all being'. I like Spong's explanation that God is that 'life force' that causes all living things to want to live (plants that grow in ridiculously unliveable places, the antelope doomed to the lion still goes down with the best fight it can provide, humans who so often push on in the most dire of circumstances rather than resigning themselves to death, etc).

 

However, I don't see such a 'God' being personal. To me, a 'personal' God would somehow recognise Paul Smedley as an individual and recognise other individuals for who they are too. What's personal about a life-force or feeling that's like a pool we all share? I guess people would say it is personal because it involves 'you', but I think my understanding of the word personal leaves this definition lacking.

 

So then of course I come all full-circle and question this notion of God as simply a way of our ego trying to justify its existence when in fact life, the world, the universe is just a bunch of dust and water (as intricate as it is) and there simply is no God, personal or otherwise, anthropomorphic or 'misty'-like life-force.

 

But then I ask the question why so many people seek meaning to their life, why so many seek to find 'God', and I wonder if there is something to 'life' that we don't fully understand or that we still, after all these thousands of years, are still trying to come to terms with.

 

The only thing I am certain of is that I've probably made a hash of your question and I don't have much to offer on whether God is personal or not, or even if God is there/here or not.

 

Cheers

Paul

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Paul,

 

 

having revisited all this only in the last couple of years (for various reasons I had begun to question if maybe I had thrown out the baby with the bathwater), currently the concept of God that I can at least think a possibility, is one of a God who is more of a 'life-force' or 'feeling' rather than a personal enitity that might somehow 'know' us. I think this might be similiar to what you are referring to using the term 'reality'?
However, I don't see such a 'God' being personal. To me, a 'personal' God would somehow recognise Paul Smedley as an individual and recognise other individuals for who they are too. What's personal about a life-force or feeling that's like a pool we all share? I guess people would say it is personal because it involves 'you', but I think my understanding of the word personal leaves this definition lacking.

 

You raise a lot of pertinent questions in your post. It seems to me that the problem of 'God as person' really does come down to just what 'person' even means. I've recently been rethinking my views on God because I realize I'd all the while been assuming I knew just what a 'person' is, but now I'm not really sure I do. Does it take an ego to make a person? Cognition? For instance, the idea of a 'life-force' or 'feeling' that pervades the cosmos might qualify as 'person' or 'personal' by some definition. Or one might argue that 'mind', 'subjectivity' or 'knowing' is a quality that pervades existence. Perhaps to 'know' is to be 'known', perhaps God is 'knowing'. Does that make a person? :) What is the mind? Does it run deeper into reality than most modern people suppose?

 

Lots of questions. I won't pretend to have any conclusions, but I think question of God-as-person is open ended for me now, as before I rejected it on the grounds of being too anthropomorphic.

 

Peace,

Mike

Edited by Mike
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Mike and Paul,

 

You both raised good points and I have struggled with these answers myself. The worst (or maybe the best?) part of thinking I've found an answer for myself is that it is not anything I can put into words. It isn't so much an answer as a sort of an intuitive thing. Almost any words I tried to use would make me sound horribly naive or equally arrogant - I'm neither, therefore, I won't even try except to say that I believe "God is". Sometimes, for me, that's enough. And sometimes not.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yvonne,

 

I think that's a wise approach. As far as I'm concerned all this belongs to speculation. My worldview doesn't hinge on whether God is a person. Though it is a question I find meaningful at a certain level, it is not something I would worry much about. I'm much more concerned with the theology that impacts spiritual practice, and the things which can be realized and brought to life through contemplation.

 

Peace,

Mike

Edited by Mike
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Although many progressives do not describe God as a person, they often use very personal attributes like 'loves,' 'desires,' 'wants,' 'hates,' etc., and use personal pronouns, generally the masculine 'he,' instead of the impersonal 'it.'

 

George

Link to comment
Share on other sites

George,

 

I think perhaps in general most progressives say God is Love rather than "God loves". While a few in my experience say God "hates" or "wants" or "desires" out of linguistic habit, most admit those are more characteristic of and projections of man on God. I think we had a whole thread on the 'he' / 'it' thing and most that used 'he' said they used it out of habit or convenience and didn't really think God had a gender. If i remember correctly. :blink: Joseph

 

 

PS. In fact you started the thread HERE

Edited by JosephM
Added PS
Link to comment
Share on other sites

George,

 

I think perhaps in general most progressives say God is Love rather than "God loves". While a few in my experience say God "hates" or "wants" or "desires" out of linguistic habit, most admit those are more characteristic of and projections of man on God. I think we had a whole thread on the 'he' / 'it' thing and most that used 'he' said they used it out of habit or convenience and didn't really think God had a gender. If i remember correctly. :blink: Joseph

 

 

PS. In fact you started the thread HERE

Joseph,

 

You are quite right - I did start that thread. I realize there may be some habit involved, but I am not convinced that is the explanation for the personal 'he' reference to God. I suspect there are a number of reasons. Another might be one of avoiding disrespect for those who do personalize God and would be offended by an impersonal 'it.'

 

As for the 'loves' and 'hates' attributes, I wasn't limiting my observation to posters at this site. But, in any event, a search here does result in 'love' and 'hate,' as verbs, being used in reference to God. Having said this, I don't want anyone who may have written this to take it as criticism or to feel defensive about it. I just thought it was an observation appropriate to the topic "God as a Person."

 

George

Link to comment
Share on other sites

PC friends,

 

Criticism of anthropomorphic confusion, including the ‘gender’ issue, can tend to usurp understanding of “God as Person” concepts and preclude reaching much depth. Common usage of some form of non-gender pronouns such as Che (he/she), Ches (Hers/His), and Chemself (herself/himself) might minimize such concerns. Alas, the objections will yet continue to beg attention.

 

Regarding the false dichotomy of ‘Fatherhood/Motherhood’ in reference to God: Father-for-child affection can be seen as voluntary, characterized by free-will choice, in contrast with that of a mother-for-child, which is physically/hormonally/emotionally linked with the child during gestation and entails continuing physical/psychic symbiosis subsequent to birth. I believe that only in the sense of seminal origination/creation and voluntary bestowal of affection can the terms like ‘Fatherhood of God’ or ‘Universal Father’ be justified.

 

“(T)he concept of a person is difficult to define in a way that is universally accepted…”(wiki).

 

"While it would be presumptuous to attempt the definition of personality, it may prove helpful to recount some of the things which are known about personality:" (see UP112 link below)

 

However we might grok concepts of personality, we might at least concede that if to any degree they are supported in reality, then God as the Source and Ground of Reality cannot be less than personal. Che is also conceivably impersonal, prepersonal, and superpersonal in ways incomprehensible to us.

 

From the Foreward of the Urantia Papers - 0:5.5 - The Universal Father is the secret of the reality of personality, the bestowal of personality, and the destiny of personality.

 

UP1:5.2 God is much more than a personality as personality is understood by the human mind; he is even far more than any possible concept of a superpersonality. But it is utterly futile to discuss such incomprehensible concepts of divine personality with the minds of material creatures whose maximum concept of the reality of being consists in the idea and ideal of personality. The material creature's highest possible concept of the Universal Creator is embraced within the spiritual ideals of the exalted idea of divine personality. Therefore, although you may know that God must be much more than the human conception of personality, you equally well know that the Universal Father cannot possibly be anything less than an eternal, infinite, true, good, and beautiful personality.

 

With the caveat that relatively intense mental/spiritual effort is involved with in-depth consideration of personality, I invite you to see also:

 

UP1:5,6,7 - Personality of the Universal Father, Personality in the Universe, Spiritual Value of the Personality Concept; UP112 - Personality Survival; topical index – numerous personality links

 

In good spirit of loving-service,

Brent

  • Upvote 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Brent,

 

I appreciate your contribution and perspective on the issue, Words such as Ches and Chemself though previously unfamiliar with me and not found in any of my dictionaries, i find would have been appropriate. After all, in Christ, there is neither male nor female, Jew nor Greek, etc.

 

Joseph

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Male/female is so much a part of how we think and view our existence it can be easy to forget this phenomenon is not a universal quality of the cosmos, but occurs only within what we call 'living creatures' such as ourselves. Beyond the simplist single-celled organism, which reproduces through division of a single cell, the two sexes are merely the two halves of the single reproductive process. Since the male/female variations within plant or animal specie does not extend into the material cosmos beyond these complex living creatures, is it really reasonable to try to extend it to the whole of being, to God?

 

Gender is not the same thing as sex. Any of our sex may be male or female. Secondary sex characteristics of our sex as they contribute to physical differences and behaviors are sex-linked. Gender is not so simple to define. Gender is about behavior patterns that are socially mediated, and gender patterns and role vary from cuture to culture.

 

Since any God concept embraces all, I can see no place for a sex or gender designation for God at all. And since God embraces the living as well as the non-living, neither can I think of God as 'it'.

Edited by JenellYB
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Criticism of anthropomorphic confusion, including the ‘gender’ issue, can tend to usurp understanding of “God as Person” concepts and preclude reaching much depth. Common usage of some form of non-gender pronouns such as Che (he/she), Ches (Hers/His), and Chemself (herself/himself) might minimize such concerns. Alas, the objections will yet continue to beg attention.

Brent,

 

I also am not familiar with these pronouns. Are they simply androgynous or do they also encompass impersonal things such inanimate objects and concepts? If not, then they avoid the sex/gender issue but not the personal/impersonal attribute of God.

 

George

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Since any God concept embraces all, I can see no place for a sex or gender designation for God at all. And since God embraces the living as well as the non-living, neither can I think of God as 'it'.

Jenell,

 

'It' is a perfectly good pronoun, 'it' can refer to living things as well as inanimate. An autumn leaf is 'it.' DNA is 'it' (even mitochondrial). Non-human animals are 'it' (when the sex is not know). There is nothing inherently negative about the pronoun: A beautiful sunset is 'it;' Concepts like love, justice and truth are 'it.'

 

But, if we refer to a human as 'it,' this would be negative and considered an insult. It would be dehumanizing, depersonalizing, the person.

 

George

Link to comment
Share on other sites

George,

 

Those non-gender pronouns (other forms might suffice as well) were coined some years ago by an acquaintance of mine. I regard them as “simply androgynous” but not ascribed to impersonal things. In thus referring to God, they are harmonious with the concept of “God as Person”, which I personally (pun intended) regard as inarguable fact.

 

Grateful for Ches blessings,

Brent

Link to comment
Share on other sites

George,

 

Those non-gender pronouns (other forms might suffice as well) were coined some years ago by an acquaintance of mine. I regard them as “simply androgynous” but not ascribed to impersonal things. In thus referring to God, they are harmonious with the concept of “God as Person”, which I personally (pun intended) regard as inarguable fact.

 

Grateful for Ches blessings,

Brent

Brent,

In that case, (if they are only harmonious with "God as person") i withdraw my agreement with the appropriateness of those terms. :D

Perhaps for me, an agreeable definition of person other than that found in the dictionary must first be reached to consider the essence of the Godhead as a person. Except occasionally, when slipping up out of past habits, i neither use he nor she but rather just the word God, to remain as abstract as possible. :)

 

Joseph

PS. I'm okay with whatever works for anyone else. I guess to me it is not important because God is what God is. no matter what ones position or opinion is on the matter.

Edited by JosephM
added PS
Link to comment
Share on other sites

PC friends,

 

As I previously noted, critical objections to anthropomorphic mind-sets tend to dominate discussion and preclude enlightened reasoning on the basic issue of “God as Person”. Even useful non-gender pronouns manage to be distracting :(. I sympathize with those who, like Joseph, would like for “an agreeable definition of person other than that found in the dictionary (to) first be reached (in order to facilitate consideration of) the essence of the Godhead as a person.” Considering the complexity of that task, reaching such an agreement seems to me highly improbable of attainment, though the effort might be educational.

 

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things were made by him, and without him was not anything made that was made." John 1:1

 

Not that I’m a Biblical literalist (in case that’s not obvious), but if personality is real and real persons were made by Chem either directly or indirectly, then “God as Person”, while not entirely comprehensible by finite minds, logically follows even without a precise definition of ‘person’.

 

1:5.8 Notwithstanding that God is an eternal power, a majestic presence, a transcendent ideal, and a glorious spirit, though ©he is all these and infinitely more, nonetheless, ©he is truly and everlastingly a perfect Creator personality, a person who can " know and be known, " who can " love and be loved, " and one who can befriend us; while you can be known, as other humans have been known, as the friend of God. ©he is a real spirit and a spiritual reality.

 

1:5.10 The idea of the personality of the Universal Father is an enlarged and truer concept of God which has come to mankind chiefly through revelation. Reason, wisdom, and religious experience all infer and imply the personality of God, but they do not altogether validate it. Even the indwelling Thought Adjuster (Father fragment, Mystery Monitor, atman, spirit indweller) is prepersonal. The truth and maturity of any religion is directly proportional to its concept of the infinite personality of God and to its grasp of the absolute unity of Deity. The idea of a personal Deity becomes, then, the measure of religious maturity after religion has first formulated the concept of the unity of God.

 

1:5.11 Primitive religion had many personal gods, and they were fashioned in the image of man. Revelation affirms the validity of the personality concept of God which is merely possible in the scientific postulate of a First Cause and is only provisionally suggested in the philosophic idea of Universal Unity. Only by personality approach can any person begin to comprehend the unity of God. To deny the personality of the First Source and Center leaves one only the choice of two philosophic dilemmas: materialism or pantheism.

 

For progress

Brent

 

PS. Yes, God is who God is, no matter what ones’ position or opinion is. That works for me, too.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In thus referring to God, they are harmonious with the concept of “God as Person”, which I personally (pun intended) regard as inarguable fact.

Brent,

 

God is a person is an "inarguable fact?" Hmm, that is interesting.

 

George

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi George and PC friends,

 

I understand your interest in my statement that “I personally” know inarguably that God is a person. I’ve read that the personality attributes of God were also taken “for granted” by Jesus, according to UP 169:4:

 

Jesus never gave his apostles a systematic lesson concerning the personality and attributes of the Father in heaven. He never asked men to believe in his Father; he took it for granted they did. Jesus never belittled himself by offering arguments in proof of the reality of the Father...

 

Jesus well knew that God can be known only by the realities of experience; never can he be understood by the mere teaching of the mind. Jesus taught his apostles that, while they never could fully understand God, they could most certainly know (Chem), even as they had known the Son of Man. You can know God, not by understanding what Jesus said, but by knowing what Jesus was. Jesus was a revelation of God.

 

In good spirit of loving-service,

Brent

Link to comment
Share on other sites

(snip)

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things were made by him, and without him was not anything made that was made." John 1:1

 

Not that I’m a Biblical literalist (in case that’s not obvious), but if personality is real and real persons were made by Chem either directly or indirectly, then “God as Person”, while not entirely comprehensible by finite minds, logically follows even without a precise definition of ‘person’.

Brent,

Now it does say All things, not just persons were made and you wouldn't logically call a tree a person so why would you logically limit the creator to any one classification of All things created such as persons as though we even knew All things that were created? Even horses have personalities but that doesn't define them as a person. As Billmc used to say.. If you were a horse or some other animal , you would probably see God as a horse or creating you in God's image. :rolleyes: Why limit God to the restrictive definition man has assigned to a "person" ? To you it may logically follow but to me it logically does not follow. Personality = person ? It seems to me not.

 

It seems also your statement is based on the premise of writings that Chem made real persons. Although in man's book in Gen 1:27 it does say "So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them" That would seem to say they are real but even that is not certain as the Hebrew word that was translated image ( tselem - literally means a phantom, figuratively an illusion or resemblance especially as an idol image) Either way not real but perhaps, just perhaps "A phantom - An image that appears only in the mind of God". I say this not to say what is true or what is not but merely to show that all this is arguable depending on ones point of view.

 

Just talking nonsense so as to keep it light and the cement from drying on anyone's feet. :D

Joseph

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

terms of service