God & AdamMany people believe that God exists (or believe God might exist) but object to the idea of a "personal" God. This would be more akin to deism rather than traditional theism, and would rule out the God described by most of the world religions a priori.

However, here are six reasons why I think that it's reasonable to conclude that God is, in some sense, personal. The first three are philosophical reasons, one is a sort of thought experiment, one is historically based, and the final reason is personal.

The video embedded below the six arguments is a YouTube clip from the debate between William Lane Craig and Lewis Wolpert; the full debate between Craig and Wolpert is also available on YouTube. (See also Craig's discussion of God's personhood in the article Personal God on his website.)

1) The cause of the universe must be creative, which implies personhood

Craig notes in his Personal God article that all of the traditional arguments that he uses for God's existence "imply the existence of a personal being" although he does not really describe why. The cosmological argument, for example, shows that the universe has a cause. This cause created the universe, including material, space, and time itself. To create requires creativity, and creativity requires several other qualities including intelligence, a purposeful intention to create, knowledge of how to create, and the ability (power) to actually bring this knowledge and intention into fruition. To call an entity which possesses all these properties anything less than personal would seem rather odd. Positing some sort of magical computer (a position atheist scientist Lewis Wolpert is forced into, see video below) is bizarre and unnecessary.

2) The universe's cause is beyond space and time

The first of two arguments given by Craig in the video below, this one is also noted in his Christianity Today article "God is Not Dead Yet" and quoted from the article here:

[A]n external cause of the universe must be beyond space and time and therefore cannot be physical or material. Now there are only two kinds of things that fit that description: either abstract objects, like numbers, or else an intelligent mind. But abstract objects are causally impotent. The number 7, for example, can't cause anything. Therefore it follows that the explanation of the universe is an external, transcendent, personal mind which created the universe, which is what most people have traditionally meant by "God."

3) The only way to get a temporal effect from a timeless cause

This argument seems a bit tricky to me, so I'm just going to transcribe Craig's statements from the video below rather than try to paraphrase it myself:

How else could a timeless cause give rise to a temporal effect like the universe? If the cause were an impersonal set of necessary and sufficient conditions, then the cause could never exist without its effect. If the cause were permanently present, then the effect would be permanently present as well. The only way for the cause to be timeless, and the effect to begin in time, is for the cause to be a personal agent, who freely chooses to create an event in time without any antecedent determining conditions.

(My note: The cause exists ontologically prior to the event rather than temporally, since time came into being in the creation event.)

4) The scale of personhood

This thought experiment is adapted from a book by Brian McLaren, whom I don't generally endorse, but I think this particular point is interesting.

Consider a slug. A mollusk has very little, if any, of what we might term "personality." Now think of a frog. You may not have known many frogs, but you can probably imagine that a frog might have a little more personality than a slug. Now thinking of a parrot, we would find a still more personal being, and moving up the "scale" of personality we would find a dog, a chimpanzee, and finally to a human being. As we move higher up the scale, we encounter more and more personal beings; we add more depth and fullness while subtracting previous limitations.

Now consider what we would need to say if God were impersonal: We'd need to conclude that God is on the same level of personality as a slug, or worse, perhaps a rock, or some other non-personal object. But this seems to be an inane conclusion: First, that the creator of these personal beings would be impersonal, and second that the God which created the universe would (if impersonal) be lower on this scale than that which was created. Therefore, because we cannot accept such a conclusion, we must accept that God is in some sense personal, and in a way that is even far beyond the way that human beings are personal. Of course, the difference between God's level of personality would not be comparable between a frog and us, it would be a billion times or more higher. Yet it seems as though we're led to the conclusion that God must be personal.

5) The God of the Bible and the historical Jesus

This argument is simple to state but rather lengthy to justify. In summary, it's impossible to read the Bible without noticing its claim that God is personal. In particular, in the incarnation of the Son of God, fully God, into the person of Jesus Christ, fully God and fully man, God entered into the world He created in the most personal way. Therefore, if we have good reasons to trust what the Bible says (I think we do, see my free ebook The Historical Reliability of the New Testament) then we also have good reason to believe that God is personal. If God is personal, we would expect God to reveal this characteristic, and the Bible provides a record of some of those revelations.

6) Personal encounters

Experiential arguments are problematic, since they are essentially subjective. Although I can describe my experience to you, the experience itself is private to me and cannot be empirically shared. I can share my own story of when I met God personally, but such a story could be dismissed as mistaken, lying, crazy, or contradictory to the experiences of others. But even though the knowledge attained is not transferable, that does not make it an illegitimate source of knowledge. Many of the truths we claim to know most confidently were attained primarily or entirely through personal experience. Therefore, a personal encounter with God is a means of knowing that God is personal.

What does it look like to deny that God is personal?

As noted above, during philosopher William Lane Craig's debate with biologist Lewis Wolpert, the biologist objects to the personal nature of God, but ends up pretty much affirming God under a different name! See the following video, which begins with Craig's two philosophical arguments for a personal God (#2 & #3 above) then the brief discussion with Wolpert after the debate:

If you are still wondering if God is really personal, and actually does care about you and has been seeking to begin a personal relationship with you, here's what I would suggest: Be open to encountering Him. Pray honestly, and as much as possible, humbly. Consider reading the writings He has given us to know Him. Explore the life of Jesus Christ. Learn what the good news, the "gospel," really is all about.

A few months ago I posted an article on TruthMedia's Power to Change website which discusses the relationship between science & religion. The topic occasionally comes up in the comments on the site, so I thought it would be useful to have an article which addresses it. From the intro:

Many scientists today have religious convictions, such as Alister McGrath (who earned two doctorate degrees from Oxford, one in theology, the other in molecular biophysics). Examples like this of course prove nothing about the validity of Christianity or religion in general, but they at least demonstrate that it is possible to be a knowledgeable person of science as well as a religious believer. So how exactly do science and religion co-exist with each other in the world? There are basically three options …

>> Read Science & Religion: Competitors or Companions? on

Some previous posts about religion & science:
On 'Scientism' and Faith – Why the belief that science is the only way to true knowledge is ridiculous
Scientists with Faith – Discusses an article about Francis Collins which appeared in the Times

Is it possible that God has been at work in your life all along?

When I was a kid, I never paid much attention to the bus stop signs. In fact I was totally oblivious to their existence. Yet eventually there came a time when I decided I would like to start taking the bus. And then I started seeing bus stop signs everywhere! When I actually started looking for them, I saw them on the same streets that I walked every day. It's not like they suddenly appeared; I'd just never taken the time to notice them before.

In the same way, is it possible that God has been working in your life the entire time, and you just haven't recognized His handiwork? Could it be that the cravings that we all have, that sooner or later begin to nag at us, like craving intimacy, and destiny, and meaning, are really pointers to the God who created us and instilled these cravings in us?

» View the Soul Cravings videos

» Crave question: Has God been trying to get your attention?

» More Soul Cravings questions

» Going deeper: What's Jesus got to do with it?

I just started reading through John Bunyan's classic The Pilgrim's Progress (I read part of it for one of my classes, but have never read through it in its entirety) so there may be most posts of this nature in the coming days/weeks. :)

Skeptic: There is no right interpretation. In fact there have been lots of interpretations over the many years since the Bible was written. Who are you to say you know what the Bible means? We can't know what it really means.

Christian: So let me see if I understand you correctly. You're saying that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and that there is no salvation without Him.

Skeptic: What? No, that's exactly what I'm not saying! I'm saying you can't conclude that, there are many valid interpretations of the texts.

Christian: So you're saying that there is only one correct interpretation and we should try to find it.

Skeptic: No, no, why are you twisting what I'm saying? You know I'm not saying that.

Christian: Are you saying I am interpreting your words incorrectly?

Skeptic: Yes, you are!

Christian: So, it seems to me that a person could be interpreted wrongly. If that's the case, then some interpretations about what the biblical authors wrote could similarly be wrong, couldn't they?

There are no doubt passages of the Bible that are difficult to understand. Perhaps, for some, we will never be sure of the correct interpretation. But most are not so difficult, and even some of the difficult ones are only so because we choose to make them so. As with most things in life, the interpretation with the best reasons to back it up "wins"; we make educated inferences to the best explanation. There ARE correct interpretations of the texts. That doesn't mean I claim to be 100% right about all of mine, but since I believe there are right answers, and I care about finding them, I will be willing to change my mind if I am convinced otherwise.

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