Friday, September 20, 2013

Theology From The Plain Part Four - Does It Make Sense To Think Of God As A Person?

In an earlier TFOP post I wrote that I use the word “God” both in reference to the totality all that is and also to a smaller portion of all that is that reflects its possible overall intention and ultimate direction.    Granted, the second definition requires much more of a leap of faith than the first!

However in either of these cases, but particularly focusing on the less controversial first meaning of “God”,  does it make sense to think of God as a person?  

If God is all, then it would make sense to think of God as more than a mere person.  And it would seem an act of extreme hubris to think that God is exactly like us, one small part of the all.  Yet it is also true that there are persons within the all - us for instance!.  So even if the totality of God is much more, or much different, than a version of exactly what we are (persons), personhood is certainly not something alien to God.

Therefore, is it acceptable to think of God as a person, or to attempt to interact with God in personal ways?  Through internal dialogue, speaking, intuitive feelings, or any kind of experience?

I think it does make sense to seek God personally, not so much because God is necessarily a person, but rather because I am a person.  The personhood of God could be a framework, a symbol, a language, a heuristic even, existing in my own mind that enables me to possibly interact meaningfully with the all.

So once again,  if I attempt to interact personally with God, it is not so much because God is a person, but because I am a person.   Personhood is a framework that this particular part of the cosmos (me) might use as an operating system to think about the cosmos as a whole.

One criticism I can think of is this - does this mean that I can anthropomorphize anything?   

First of all, anthropomorphizing things is not necessarily bad, but obviously when we stop trying to consider another entity on its own terms it can be dangerous.  The golden rule does not work so well if we are dealing with another life form with different needs than a human!  But when I am talking about God here, I am not talking about a tree or a lizard.  I am talking about all that is.  The cosmos as a whole.  Everything.  Any kind of possible communication would have to take a form that is specific to me - a kind of user interface adapted to the abilities of the user.

And secondly, I already have ways of interacting with a tree.  I can touch it, see it, etc. - which are also user interfaces for me.  To say a tree is "rough to the touch" says as much about my systems of perception as it does about the tree.  This subject is obviously a huge potential rabbit hole.....   But the main point is that I do not need to consider a tree a person in some way to interact with it.  However, I do not have a way of interacting with the cosmos as a whole.  I cannot zoom out to take much more of it in (much like a skin cell cannot zoom out to see the entire body), and I certainly cannot get outside of “all that is” both because of my limited abilities and because that is a meaningless concept anyway.  

Of course many would argue that whatever I think, I still do not have a way of interacting with the cosmos!  Point taken!  But if I want to take a leap of faith and assume that meaningful communication is even a remote possibility, then it makes sense that I would need a user interface of some kind.  And it makes sense that personhood might be that user interface for me, since I am a person.

So in conclusion, I am not suggesting that there is definitely a personal God out there.  That is beyond my ability to comment definitively on.  But I am saying that a personal God exists in me, because I am a person.  And if it is a meaningful endeavor to seek interaction with “all that is”, it certainly seems reasonable that personhood could be a user interface for me.

But is it a meaningful endeavor?  Is it possible that the personal God within me corresponds to something greater?  My thought is that, because our understanding of things must necessarily relate to our total experience of things as a part to the whole,  there may be room for a little leap of faith here.

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