Sjolander Road Fellowship




Declaring the God of Unconditional Love

a personal god

4/12/13

 

 

I recently read that Einstein, though he was not an atheist, did not believe in a personal God. That comment caused me to ponder what a personal God meant in Einstein's understanding.

 

Some may insist that what Einstein believed about God is totally irrelevant to the reality that is God. In other words his belief does not define God, so who cares what he believed. In fact, this response actually points to the underlying question of what a personal God means because anyone's definition of God, personal or otherwise, must come about somehow, either internally or externally.

 

As I personally considered the idea of a personal God, I identified, in my own mind, two possible ways to conceive of this God. One way, which is inherent in the doctrine of Christian Orthodoxy, is the concept of a Supreme Being who offers special individual or personal  privilege to a select few who comply with the requirements. This version of the personal God involves appropriating to oneself a personal blessing. God becomes personal when He blesses me personally.

 

It is noteworthy that many who claim this sort of personal relationship with God reach their conclusion based on an outside source- the divine text, the institutional church, or the some other external element. The historical events and necessary steps essential to this definition of a personal God are definitely not self evident, meaning they cannot originate within.

 

The second concept of a personal God is that of a unique, individual understanding of God, one which evolves on the inside. That understanding will be unavoidably influenced by outside forces, but ultimately it incorporates deep personal evaluation, contemplation, and internalization. This type of understanding cannot be simply adopted from outsiders without lengthy study and intense questioning. Additionally, this view of a personal God can never yield the exact same picture for everyone.

 

Some may suggest that we can embrace a personal God in both these ways. He can bestow special blessing on the individual believer, and the believer can still develop an intimate, personal understanding of that same God. This suggestion raises some interesting questions. Which must come first the personal blessing from God or the individually derived understanding of Him? Can one process of personalizing God be instantaneous, and the other take years to develop? What happens when the personally developed understanding comes into conflict with the historic tenets of Orthodoxy which bestows the individual divine blessing in the first place? This last item is inevitable since individual study cannot be channeled into the approved conclusions without destroying the personal aspect of those conclusions. If conclusions are prescribed ones, dictated from the outside, they cannot be concurrently freely and personally determined.  

 

As I noted above, there is no evidence that intense individual study and contemplation of the nature and operation of God yields the same divine understanding for everyone. What more likely explains any perceived consistency of opinion about God within our own culture is the longstanding doctrines of the church. However, even under the influence of Christian Orthodoxy, our religious culture struggles with the challenge of many disagreements about God, His nature, and His mode of operation. Any suggestion that individual, personal study of the subject of God could ever lead to one right, indisputable conclusion about God, is amply refuted by the very history of religious thought and experience.

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