Is God personal?

Hi Udo,

One of the questions I have tried to understand is: who or what is God?

God gave Moses a “hint” by giving him a dubious answer, according to me. One Bible states “I am who I am”, another Bible states “I am what I am”. The “who” refers to a person, the “what” can be anything, even a force or energy field.

I was taught to believe that god was a person, but that does not make sense any longer. Now I would rather believe that God is like the “primeval, omnipresent, creating force”. All other forces, known and unknown, would thus originate from this “primeval force”, consequently also the force initiating the Big Bang.

The basic question remains: what must we understand under the word “God” used in the Bible? Has this word a different meaning for different people? If so, what should be the correct meaning?

Maybe this topic belongs purely in the domain of the philosophy?




Hello Smithy

First let me remark that in the story of the burning bush where God revealed himself as “I am who I am” to Moses, God wasn’t giving Moses a definition of what is meant by the word “God” — He was merely identifying Himself as any person would when asked about who they were. The specific phrase God uses to name himself is in itself highly personal (I am). Furthermore it would be very strange to think that Moses would have thought (or anyone else for that matter) that the voice communicating with him from the burning bush belonged to anything but a person.

I don’t think anyone reading the Bible can come away from it with a sense that God is described as some kind of impersonal force. The God depicted in the Bible is unmistakably personal — he is a being that speaks and acts and who is involved with and concerned about people.

Now, one might think that this description of God in the Bible is mistaken (maybe the stories were simply made up), but then one would do so from prior philosophical notions and not because the stories in the Bible themselves compel one to think so.

Of course, people have always understood the idea of God differently. But this does not mean that all conceptions of God are equally coherent. It seems that this might be, in fact, precisely your concern — that the idea of a personal God is incoherent.

At this point, before we attempt discussing robust philosophical conceptions of God, it might be helpful to understand why you think this to be the case. In other words, why, in your thinking, does the idea of God as a being who has properties belonging to a person, not make sense?

Here are a few articles by William Lane Craig that I think you might find stimulating concerning the personhood of God. These articles might assume a bit of prior knowledge about some of the philosophical arguments for God’s existence, but it might be interesting nevertheless:

Then there is a series on the Doctrine of God where a few of the attributes of God are discussed. This discussion takes into account the Biblical data, but also certain philosophical insights. Video, audio and transcripts of each discussion can be found here: Doctrine of God. You might find the first installment in this series particularly revealing: Transcript: Doctrine of God (Part 1)

Kind regards

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