Friday, March 6, 2009

Does God have a Personality?

It’s not until you begin flicking through a book on Christian Theology that you realise how enormously vast the subject is. I’m a pretty curious soul and couldn’t help foraging recently whilst in a mood to restore my creativity. This question was posed: ‘Does God have a personality?’

In my brief search this is what I learned.

God is a personal deity unlike in a number of Eastern religions, for example, Hinduism. God has a Name, a pretty important clue to his personal nature. His name “I AM” or “I WILL BE” (Yahweh, Jehovah, the Lord) is indicated in Exodus 3:14. A great deal of respect is attached to the name and nature of God--respect like this points to God’s personality.[1]

God’s names also refer primarily to his relationship with people over that of nature i.e. the natural environment. It is said that even in the Psalms, where there is a higher emphasis placed on nature, the personal focus outweighs the nature focus, unlike most other religions whom hold nature up in awe i.e. to be worshipped.[2]

God’s nature is known by his activity. The Bible presents him as “knowing and communing with human persons.” He has the attributes “associated with personality: knowing, feeling, willing, acting.”[3] Also, when we pray to God, we mimic the child-parent relationship.[4]

The Holy Spirit, a third of the Christian Trinitarian God-head, is has a personality represented “first [by] the nature, and second the office or work of the Holy Spirit,”[5] even though none of the persons of God (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) are actual human people. God is anthropomorphic only as far as his attributes and personality are concerned; he does not have human form. God is spirit (John 4:24).

God, it seems, doesn’t so much sympathise with us in our human condition as much as he empathises. In other words, “he knows what we are feeling, but does not necessarily experience the same emotion himself personally.”[6]

God is “not merely one who we hear, but one whom we meet and know.” The idea that God is here to merely give us what we want is more consistent with the “realm of magic or technology” than spirituality. God is an end in himself; we value him for what he is, not for what he has done.[7]

The Purpose of Worship

And why do we worship this personal God? It’s because of “what he is that he is to be loved and served [i.e. worshipped], not only supremely but exclusively.”[8]

Now, if God is personal and we should ‘love and serve’ him not for what he’s done, but simply for what he is, what does that mean for our other relationships i.e. our human relationships?

Does this now mean we should value other people for whom/what they are rather than for what they’ve done? Herein lies a key to all relationships; the secret to removing unloving conditionality from our concept of intrinsic worth.

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
[1] Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology – Second Edition (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1998), p. 295.
[2] Erickson, Ibid, p. 296.
[3] Erickson, Ibid, p. 296.
[4] Alister E. McGrath, Christian Theology – An Introduction – Third Edition (Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishing, 2001), p. 267.
[5] Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997), S. 1:522
[6] Erickson, Ibid, p. 295. Citing Kitamori.
[7] Erickson, Ibid, p. 296.
[8] Erickson, Ibid, p. 297.

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