Personal God

Personal God

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A personal god is a deity
Deity
A deity is a recognized preternatural or supernatural immortal being, who may be thought of as holy, divine, or sacred, held in high regard, and respected by believers....

 who can be related to as a person
Person
A person is a human being, or an entity that has certain capacities or attributes strongly associated with being human , for example in a particular moral or legal context...

instead of as an "impersonal force", such as the Absolute
Absolute (philosophy)
The Absolute is the concept of an unconditional reality which transcends limited, conditional, everyday existence. It is sometimes used as an alternate term for "God" or "the Divine", especially, but by no means exclusively, by those who feel that the term "God" lends itself too easily to...

, "the All", or the "Ground of Being".

In the sacred scriptures of Judaism
Judaism
Judaism ) is the "religion, philosophy, and way of life" of the Jewish people...

, Islam
Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

 and Christianity
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

, God is conceived and described as being a personal creator, speaking in the first person and showing emotion such as anger and pride, and sometimes appearing
Theophany
Theophany, from the Ancient Greek , meaning "appearance of God"), refers to the appearance of a deity to a human or other being, or to a divine disclosure....

 in anthropomorphic shape. In the Pentateuch, for example, God talks and instructs his prophets and is conceived as possessing volition
Volition (psychology)
Volition or will is the cognitive process by which an individual decides on and commits to a particular course of action. It is defined as purposive striving, and is one of the primary human psychological functions...

, emotions (such as anger, grief and jealousy), intention, and other attributes characteristic of a human person.

Personal relationships with God may be described in the same ways as human relationships, such as a Father
God the Father
God the Father is a gendered title given to God in many monotheistic religions, particularly patriarchal, Abrahamic ones. In Judaism, God is called Father because he is the creator, life-giver, law-giver, and protector...

, as in Christianity
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

, or a Friend as in Sufism
Sufism
Sufism or ' is defined by its adherents as the inner, mystical dimension of Islam. A practitioner of this tradition is generally known as a '...

.
In Vaishnavism
Vaishnavism
Vaishnavism is a tradition of Hinduism, distinguished from other schools by its worship of Vishnu, or his associated Avatars such as Rama and Krishna, as the original and supreme God....

 the reality of God is never in an idealization, but the actual impact of God in the lives of human beings.

Anthropotheism


Anthropotheism
Anthropotheism
Anthropotheism is ascribing human form and nature to gods, or the belief that gods are only deified human beings. Associated with classical Greek and Roman beliefs, a type of anthropotheism finds a modern expression in the Mormon world-view of eternal progression. Vestiges of Hebrew...

, or the ascribing of human (anthropomorphic
Anthropomorphism
Anthropomorphism is any attribution of human characteristics to animals, non-living things, phenomena, material states, objects or abstract concepts, such as organizations, governments, spirits or deities. The term was coined in the mid 1700s...

) characteristics to a deity, is a related concept. Since an anthropic being is inherently one that can be related to personally, anthropotheism can be seen as the simplest form of "personal god". However, most religions that feature a personal god maintain that this god is not anthropomorphic, and strictly limit the anthropic characteristics ascribed to the deity. In such religions, since God is typically the creator of humans, the characteristics of personality, reason and emotion are considered divine traits that were given to humans, rather than the reverse; other characteristics, such as physical form, are usually not ascribed to God.

Ancient polytheistic religions


Many ancient polytheistic
Polytheism
Polytheism is the belief of multiple deities also usually assembled into a pantheon of gods and goddesses, along with their own mythologies and rituals....

 religions, such as that of Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece is a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Included in Ancient Greece is the...

, featured strongly anthropic gods, who experienced human emotions, took on human-like forms, and interacted with humans and with one another in human ways. However, the anthropic nature of the various deities that were worshiped differed among other peoples like the Egyptians
Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt was an ancient civilization of Northeastern Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in what is now the modern country of Egypt. Egyptian civilization coalesced around 3150 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the first pharaoh...

 and Babylonians, who sometimes thought that their gods could take an array of forms, some non-human.

Christianity


Christian theologian Alister McGrath
Alister McGrath
Alister Edgar McGrath is an Anglican priest, theologian, and Christian apologist, currently Professor of Theology, Ministry, and Education at Kings College London and Head of the Centre for Theology, Religion and Culture...

 writes that there are good reasons to suggest that a "personal god" is integral to the Christian outlook, but that one has to understand it is an analogy. "To say that God is like a person is to affirm the divine ability and willingness to relate to others. This does not imply that God is human, or located at a specific point in the universe."

In the case of the Christian
Christian
A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament...

 belief in the Trinity
Trinity
The Christian doctrine of the Trinity defines God as three divine persons : the Father, the Son , and the Holy Spirit. The three persons are distinct yet coexist in unity, and are co-equal, co-eternal and consubstantial . Put another way, the three persons of the Trinity are of one being...

, whether the Holy Spirit
Holy Spirit
Holy Spirit is a term introduced in English translations of the Hebrew Bible, but understood differently in the main Abrahamic religions.While the general concept of a "Spirit" that permeates the cosmos has been used in various religions Holy Spirit is a term introduced in English translations of...

 is an impersonal god — that is, a "force...often likened to electricity
Electricity
Electricity is a general term encompassing a variety of phenomena resulting from the presence and flow of electric charge. These include many easily recognizable phenomena, such as lightning, static electricity, and the flow of electrical current in an electrical wire...

" by some — or a personal one, is the subject of dispute, with experts in pneumatology
Pneumatology
Pneumatology is the study of spiritual beings and phenomena, especially the interactions between humans and God.Pneuma is Greek for "breath", which metaphorically describes a non-material being or influence....

 debating the matter.
Jesus
Jesus
Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...

 (or God the Son
God the Son
God the Son is the second person of the Trinity in Christian theology. The doctrine of the Trinity identifies Jesus of Nazareth as God the Son, united in essence but distinct in person with regard to God the Father and God the Holy Spirit...

) and God the Father
God the Father
God the Father is a gendered title given to God in many monotheistic religions, particularly patriarchal, Abrahamic ones. In Judaism, God is called Father because he is the creator, life-giver, law-giver, and protector...

 are two persona or aspects of the same God:
Jesus is of the same ousia
Ousia
Ousia is the Ancient Greek noun formed on the feminine present participle of ; it is analogous to the English participle being, and the modern philosophy adjectival ontic...

or substance as God the Father, manifested in three hypostases or persons (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit).

Moreover, the belief in Holy Communion and Last Supper
Last Supper
The Last Supper is the final meal that, according to Christian belief, Jesus shared with his Twelve Apostles in Jerusalem before his crucifixion. The Last Supper provides the scriptural basis for the Eucharist, also known as "communion" or "the Lord's Supper".The First Epistle to the Corinthians is...

 implies an intensely communal understanding of religion which very often goes beyond the boundaries of individuality, in what theologians have called the "mystical body
Body of Christ
In Christian theology, the term Body of Christ has two separate connotations: it may refer to Jesus's statement about the Eucharist at the Last Supper that "This is my body" in , or the explicit usage of the term by the Apostle Paul in to refer to the Christian Church.Although in general usage the...

".

Nontrinitarian Christians dispute that Jesus is a "hypostasis" or persona of God the Father.

Deism


A narrower interpretation of a personal god is a deity who takes a personal interest in the world in general and worshipers in particular. This view is intended to challenge a deistic
Deism
Deism in religious philosophy is the belief that reason and observation of the natural world, without the need for organized religion, can determine that the universe is the product of an all-powerful creator. According to deists, the creator does not intervene in human affairs or suspend the...

 outlook.

A still narrower definition would be a god whose personal interest in worshipers is so great that the deity communicates directly with them and actively intervenes in their lives through miracle
Miracle
A miracle often denotes an event attributed to divine intervention. Alternatively, it may be an event attributed to a miracle worker, saint, or religious leader. A miracle is sometimes thought of as a perceptible interruption of the laws of nature. Others suggest that a god may work with the laws...

s.

Hinduism


Vaishnava and Saiva  traditions of Hinduism subscribe to an ultimate personal nature of God. The Vishnu Sahasranama
Vishnu sahasranama
The Vishnu sahasranama is a list of 1,000 names of Vishnu, one of the main forms of God in Hinduism and the personal supreme God for Vaishnavas . It is also one of the most sacred and commonly chanted stotras in Hinduism...

 declares the person of Vishnu as both the Paramatma (supreme soul) and Parameshwara
Parameshwara (God)
Parameshwara or Parameshwar, also transliterated from Sanskrit in other ways, is a Hindu concept literally meaning the Supreme God. The word "param" meaning the highest is added to Ishwara to intensify the title of God.-Conceptualization:...

 (supreme God). In Krishna
Krishna
Krishna is a central figure of Hinduism and is traditionally attributed the authorship of the Bhagavad Gita. He is the supreme Being and considered in some monotheistic traditions as an Avatar of Vishnu...

-centered theology (Krishna is seen as a form of Vishnu
Vishnu
Vishnu is the Supreme god in the Vaishnavite tradition of Hinduism. Smarta followers of Adi Shankara, among others, venerate Vishnu as one of the five primary forms of God....

 by some) the title Svayam Bhagavan
Svayam Bhagavan
Svayam Bhagavan , "The Lord" or Lord Himself, is a Sanskrit theological term. The term refers to the concept of absolute representation of the monotheistic God as Bhagavan within Hinduism....

is used exclusively to designate Krishna in his personal feature, it refers to Gaudiya Vaishnava, the Nimbarka Sampradaya
Nimbarka Sampradaya
The Nimbarka Sampradaya , also known as the Hamsa Sampradāya, Kumāra Sampradāya, ' and Sanakādi Sampradāya, is one of the four authorised Sampradāyas as according to the Padma , one of the eighteen main...

 and followers of Vallabha, while the person of Vishnu
Vishnu
Vishnu is the Supreme god in the Vaishnavite tradition of Hinduism. Smarta followers of Adi Shankara, among others, venerate Vishnu as one of the five primary forms of God....

 and Narayana
Narayana
Narayana or Narayan or Naraina is an important Sanskrit name for Vishnu, and in many contemporary vernaculars a common Indian name. Narayana is also identified as the original man, Purusha. The Puranas present divergent views on Narayana...

 is sometimes referred to as the ultimate personal god of other Vaishnava traditions.

Philosophical theism


Philosophical theism
Philosophical theism
Philosophical theism is the belief that God exists independent of the teaching or revelation of any particular religion. It represents belief in a personal God entirely without doctrine...

 is the belief that God exists (or must exist) independent of the teaching or revelation
Revelation
In religion and theology, revelation is the revealing or disclosing, through active or passive communication with a supernatural or a divine entity...

 of any particular religion
Religion
Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to...

. It represents belief in a personal God entirely in a philosophical context, without religious doctrine
Freethought
Freethought is a philosophical viewpoint that holds that opinions should be formed on the basis of science, logic, and reason, and should not be influenced by authority, tradition, or other dogmas...

. Some philosophical theists are persuaded of God's existence by philosophical arguments, while others consider themselves to have a religious faith that need not be, or could not be, supported by rational argument. Philosophical theism has parallels with the 18th century philosophical view called Deism
Deism
Deism in religious philosophy is the belief that reason and observation of the natural world, without the need for organized religion, can determine that the universe is the product of an all-powerful creator. According to deists, the creator does not intervene in human affairs or suspend the...

.

Judaism


Jewish theology clearly states that God is not a person. However, there exist frequent references to anthropomorphic characteristics of God in the Hebrew Bible such as the "Hand of God." Judaism holds that these are to be taken only as figures of speech. Their purpose is to make God more comprehensible to the human reader. As in Judaism God is beyond human understanding, there are different ways of describing him. He is said to be both personal and impersonal, he has a relationship with his creation but is beyond all relationships.

Quranic view


The Qur'an
Qur'an
The Quran , also transliterated Qur'an, Koran, Alcoran, Qur’ān, Coran, Kuran, and al-Qur’ān, is the central religious text of Islam, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God . It is regarded widely as the finest piece of literature in the Arabic language...

 asserts the existence of a single and absolute truth that transcends the world; a unique and indivisible being who is independent of the entire creation. Qur'an clearly opposes conceiving God as resembling "the creation" and it maintains that whatever image a believer has of God, is not God, and that he is truly transcendental. According to the Qur'an:
"Say: He is God, the One and Only; God, the Eternal, Absolute; He begetteth not, nor is He begotten; And there is none like unto Him." (Sura , Yusuf Ali)
Thy Lord is self-sufficient, full of Mercy: if it were God's will, God could destroy you, and in your place appoint whom God will as your successors, even as God raised you up from the posterity of other people." (Sura , Yusuf Ali)

Muslim view


There is a distinct difference between the two major Islamic sects, Shia and Sunni, regarding belief in a Personal God. Sunni Muslims believe in a Personal God. Examples of this belief such as God has feet, http://www.usc.edu/schools/college/crcc/engagement/resources/texts/muslim/hadith/bukhari/093.sbt.html#009.093.541, http://www.usc.edu/schools/college/crcc/engagement/resources/texts/muslim/hadith/bukhari/078.sbt.html#008.078.654, every night God is coming down http://www.usc.edu/schools/college/crcc/engagement/resources/texts/muslim/hadith/bukhari/021.sbt.html#002.021.246, God puts all the heavens on one finger, and the Earths on one finger, and the trees on one finger, and the water and the dust on one finger, and all the other created beings on one fingerhttp://www.usc.edu/schools/college/crcc/engagement/resources/texts/muslim/hadith/bukhari/060.sbt.html#006.060.335, in thereafter, God will come to human beings in a shape other than they know himhttp://www.usc.edu/schools/college/crcc/engagement/resources/texts/muslim/hadith/bukhari/076.sbt.html#008.076.577, then he will uncover his shin http://www.usc.edu/schools/college/crcc/engagement/resources/texts/muslim/hadith/bukhari/093.sbt.html#009.093.532 can be observed in Sahih Bukhari
Sahih Bukhari
Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī , as it is commonly referred to, is one of the six canonical hadith collections of Islam. These prophetic traditions, or hadith, were collected by the Persian Muslim scholar Muhammad ibn Ismail al-Bukhari, after being transmitted orally for generations. Muslims view this as one of...

, the most authentic Sunni Muslim book.

Some Sunni scholars hold beliefs which would imply that Allah has a body, but
not like the bodies that we know. A vast amount of Sunnis do not interpret the face, hand, and leg of Allah as physical organs. There are quite a number of
traditions in Sahih Bukhari
Sahih Bukhari
Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī , as it is commonly referred to, is one of the six canonical hadith collections of Islam. These prophetic traditions, or hadith, were collected by the Persian Muslim scholar Muhammad ibn Ismail al-Bukhari, after being transmitted orally for generations. Muslims view this as one of...

 describing that God has a sign in his leg,
and he put his leg over the hell and so on. For instance see Sahih Bukhari, Arabic-Englich version, 9.532s in which Allah is said to have a sign in His Shin (leg) and when He uncovers His Shin (leg) people will recognize Him. Or in the same volume see Tradition 9.604 and 9.510 where it is said that Allah has fingers.

On the other hand, this belief is strongly rejected by Shia Muslims. An example can be seen in Nahj al-Balagha, the greatest Shia book:

Praise be to God who is proof of His existence through His creation, of His being external through the newness of His creation, and through their mutual similarities of the fact that nothing is similar to Him. Senses cannot touch Him and curtains cannot veil Him, because of the difference between the Maker and the made, the Limiter and the limited and the Sustainer and the sustained. He is One but not by the first in counting, is Creator but not through activity or labour, is Hearer but not by means of any physical organ, is Looker but not by a stretching of eyelids, is Witness but not by nearness, is Distinct but not by measurement of distance, is Manifest but not by seeing and is Hidden but not by subtlety (of body). He is Distinct from things because He overpowers them and exercises might over them, while things are distinct from Him because of their subjugation to Him and their turning towards Him. He who describes Him limits Him. He who limits Him numbers Him. He who numbers Him rejects His eternity. He who said "how" sought a description for Him. He who said "where" bounded him. He is the Knower even though there be nothing to be known. He is the Sustainer even though there be nothing to be sustained. He is the Powerful even though there be nothing to be overpowered.

Baha'i


The Baha'i God is described as "a personal God, unknowable, inaccessible, the source of all Revelation, eternal, omniscient
Omniscience
Omniscience omniscient point-of-view in writing) is the capacity to know everything infinitely, or at least everything that can be known about a character including thoughts, feelings, life and the universe, etc. In Latin, omnis means "all" and sciens means "knowing"...

, omnipresent
Omnipresence
Omnipresence or ubiquity is the property of being present everywhere. According to eastern theism, God is present everywhere. Divine omnipresence is thus one of the divine attributes, although in western theism it has attracted less philosophical attention than such attributes as omnipotence,...

 and almighty
Omnipotence
Omnipotence is unlimited power. Monotheistic religions generally attribute omnipotence to only the deity of whichever faith is being addressed...

". Though transcendent and inaccessible directly, his image is reflected in his creation. The purpose of creation is for the created to have the capacity to know and love its creator. God communicates his will and purpose to humanity through intermediaries, known as Manifestations of God, who are the prophets and messengers that have founded religions from prehistoric times up to the present day.

See also

  • Bhakti movement
    Bhakti movement
    The Bhakti movement is a Hindu religious movement in which the main spiritual practice is loving devotion among the Shaivite and Vaishnava saints. The Bhakti movement originated in ancient Tamil Nadu and began to spread to the north during the late medieval ages when north India was under Islamic...

  • Bhakti yoga
    Bhakti yoga
    Bhakti yoga is one of the types of yoga mentioned in Hindu philosophies which denotes the spiritual practice of fostering loving devotion to a personal form of God....

  • Ishta Deva
  • Thomas Jay Oord
    Thomas Jay Oord
    Thomas Jay Oord is a theologian, philosopher, and scholar of multi-disciplinary studies. He is the author or editor of about twenty books and professor at Northwest Nazarene University, Nampa, Idaho...

    on God as relational person.

Christianity