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Is God a Person?

February 5, 2018

I am a person. I identify myself as a unique live human being. I am ME. That is what being a person means to me. I recognize that others around me are also persons. Each of us has his or her own individual personality. It’s what makes us different from each other. We have many words describing our different personality traits and characteristics. People in earlier civilizations, trying to understand the world around them, very naturally used those same personality traits to describe the world as they observed it. For example, for Greeks, nature was composed of a pantheon of gods, each with personality traits of humans. The early Hebrews described their God with words such as patient, loving, angry, jealous – words of a person. Even the Christian concept of the Trinity speaks of one God in three persons.

But God is so much more than a person. Words can be pointers to meanings beyond literal meanings of the words. That’s the beauty of metaphor in language. That’s the power of stories. That’s the truth in poetry. And the Bible is full of stories and poetry about God that we should not take literally as history or biography. Its metaphors and stories all point to a God that is beyond personhood and beyond space and time.

Marcus Borg in his book, The Heart of Christianity, writes, “I cannot myself think of God as personal in the sense of being a personable being, even though I am comfortable with using personal language to refer to God. . . [There are three ways that personal language has meaning.] (1) Whatever God is ultimately like, our relationship to God is personable, engaging us as persons at our deepest and most passionate level. (2) God has more the quality of presence than a non-personal “energy” or “force.” This is reflected in the centrality of of the notion of covenant in our intrinsically relational model of reality. (3) God “speaks to us” – not with aural or oral revelation or divine dictation. But sometimes dramatically in visions, less dramatically in dreams, in internal “proddings” or “leadings,” through people, and through devotional practices and scripture of our tradition. We sometimes have a sense of being addressed. . . . The Christian life is about a relationship with God that transforms us into more compassionate human beings.”

This is beautifully and metaphorically expressed in the following prayer by Dag Hammerskjold (1905-1961), Swedish diplomat and author, the second Secretary General of the United Nations.

You who are over us
You who are one of us
You who are
Give us pure hearts that we may see you
Humble hearts that we may hear you
Hearts of love that we may serve you
Hearts of faith that we may live in you


Loren Bullock
February 4, 2018

From → Beliefs, God

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