Between the belief that God is a person and the belief that God is personal which one is essential to Christian faith? My stand is that the belief that God is a person is a hindrance to Christian faith. Interestingly, some recent religious philosophy writers have however made the assumption that believing in God is believing in a person. Richard Swinburne is one such influential advocate of this concept. It is clear from his works that Richard Swinburne understands that God is like "a bodiless person, a spirit who can do anything, is all knowing, free, without fault, eternal and the creator of the universe.
That God is a person or personal is one of the fundamental claims believers have continuously made about God. God is represented like a person in Vishnu, Hinduism, Brahma and Shiva. In the bible, the Old Testament, You can read about God walking in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:8). You can also read about God experiencing emotions, for example in Isaiah 61:8, or God holding conversations with humans (e.g. Job 38 -- 41). The New Testament sees God communicating with humans, mostly through visions or angels (e.g. Matthew 1:20 -- 21). God still has the ability to audibly speak with humans. He does this on Damascus road with Paul (Acts 9:4-6). The Qur'an ( e.g. Qur'an 38:75) portrays Allah to have two arms and a face which enables him to be seated on the throne and to see ( e.g. Qur'an 57:4). A majority of believers can say that God does love those who put their belief in Him (e.g. 1 Peter 5:7; Ephesians 5:29; Qur'an 1:3) and answers the prayers they make (e.g. Mark 11: 24; Matthew 7;7-8; Qur'an 11:61).
The scholars who do not hold the view that God is 'a person' tend to say that He is 'personal'. That is to say that though he may not be a person, he possesses some characteristics that define a person -- only that the degree of those characteristics exceeds those of human beings.
God and Christianity
God, as believed by Orthodox Christianity, is involved personally in the believers' lives. Christians believe that God exists.
This is not to imply that He exhibits the same existence exhibited by everyday objects like the stars or that our awareness of His existence is the same as our awareness of the existence of these objects. Rather, it implies that other beings in this universe exercise the same autonomy that we exercise; and that through this the wholesomeness of the universe is realized. This means that in the absence of these beings, the meaning we now have of life would be absent.
The belief of existence is that of faith. That we are capable of living now confident that these beings do the same things we do. If this was not the case, there would not be any meaning to the lives we live in this universe.
That God is love is one of the most significant assertions in theology among Christians. (1Jn:8).
It is not correct to claim that God responded to a higher number of prayers in the ancient biblical times of the Old or New Testament than God responds to prayers today. The fact is that no evidence is available to point to any changes to this in relation to the biblical times. God continues to answer prayers just as we pray to Him and at times does not. Throughout the scripture, from Genesis all the way to Revelation, there is evidence of silent times. These times can sometimes be long. However, it is important to note that several believers have attested to God answering their prayers.
The Triune God
There is only one true living God. On this we should be clear. This is the God we want to know. He is not similar to any creation. He is the Jehovah, the father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The father, the Son and the Holy Spirit express this trinity. They are one God, not three. Neither are they three beings. They may be three distinct persons but they are the one and only God. Each possesses a will, is capable of loving and speaking. These demonstrate personhood. The three are in perfect harmony, made of a single substance. They are co-powerful, coequal and coeternal. This union is called Hypostatic union. With the absence of one, God would be absent. Jesus is one with the two natures. He is divine and also human. The Holy Spirit, the third in the trinity, is self-aware and is divine. Only one God exists. To establish that is the first step.
" I am the LORD, and there is no other; besides me there is no God." (Isaiah 45:5).
"Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: 'I am the first and I am the last, and there is no God besides Me." (Isaiah 45:6)
The Trinity doctrine is therefore arrived at by considering the scripture in its whole, not by considering only one verse. Only one God exists, says the doctrine. That one God is in existence in three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Just as time is one but there is the past, the present and the future so is there only one God.
Fundamental in the core meaning of belief in God is the confusing phrase 'person without a body'. The most basic assertion of theism is that ' God is a person, yet one without a body'. 'Person' is used in the modern sense and not classical English sense that refers to persona. Some protestant theologians have recently affirmed that God is indeed personal yet deny that God is a person based on the fact that they picture God to be like humans. Their reasoning is rejected. This is due to the fact that differences between God and humans can only be clearly spelt out by assigning God certain attributes like omniscience and omnipotence.
Other scholars have argued that because God does not have such characteristics as the typical person He is not 'a person'. Brian Davis, for example, argues that God is not a person because He is not embodied while someone must be embodied for him to be called a person ( The reality of God and the Problem of Evil (London Continuum, 2006), p.61). The definition Richard Swinburne gives God is ' a person without a body' (The Coherence of Theism, 2nd ed (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993), p. 101).
Even if it was not a must that a person be embodied, God still lacks some other characteristics common among persons. For example, God, it is argued, cannot think abstractly for divine knowledge is 'complete and intuitive' (Keith Ward, 'Is God a Person?, in Gijsbrt van den Brink, Luco, J. van den Bron, and Marcel Sarot, eds., Christian Faith and Philosophical Theology: Essays in honor of Vincent Brummer (Kampen: Kok Pharos, 1992),p.261.), and that God is not capable of experiencing emotions for to have such an experience is to be altered by something which is clearly not oneself, and God, since he created everything, cannot be altered by anything but Himself. (Davies, p.209).
Furthermore, God does have some characteristics not present among humans. He is perfect. He created everything. (Ward, p.262). Davies makes the assumption that a person has to be created. Ward, on the other hand, notes that how human beings and God relate eliminates any possibility of finding any similarities that would justify calling humans and God as 'persons." For this reason, there is a possibility that God is indeed a person, though one not created, who can be within us, us and Him as one.
Davis does however note that despite the fact that the bible talks of God in terms that may make him look like a human being there are several passages that point to the differences between Him and his own creation. (e.g. Isaiah 40:18, 25 -26, Davies p.53). 'The God of Israel is the God of the burning bush, the God who exists within the overcast mountains, whose physical appearance cannot be witnessed or seen. This is not the God who stands-in as my best friend, or who matches a snappy one- line classification. The God who has been the center of the Church's life for over two millenniums is a God who happens to be disconcertingly enigmatic, as well as, completely resilient towards cheap certainty' ('Atheists' delusions about God', Church Times, 20 October 2006, p.110.
Properties or characteristics attributable to God are conjoined together in a way or another. This concept can be viewed as a package or cluster of properties. Such attributes must fit in a logical and consistent manner. A concept that has incompatible characteristics or attributes would point to a being that is not logically…