How do we know God is personal?

I received a question from someone trying to show that God is personal.  He seemed to think that there wasn’t any basis in natural theology from which we could claim God is a “person” rather than some sort of divine impersonal force.

My response is below:

I can tell that you have been thinking through this quite a bit and wrestling with the ideas.  I also very much appreciate that it concerns you, as that shows that you want to believe what is true.  You are not dogmatically attached to a particular position but are willing to confirm your beliefs to what is true.

The overall issue you want to address is the origin of consciousness.  It sounds like you are trying to evaluate the alternative explanations of a personal or impersonal supernatural cause.

You rightly point out that we have reasons on other grounds to believe that God is personal, namely God must be personal to have brought about a non-eternal universe.  You point out that God’s timelessness entails that he cannot go from just existing to creating time.  I’m not sure that this would give us reason to think that a supernatural law can create the universe but rather it would give us reason to think that God went from a timeless state to a temporal state.  That is to say that God was timeless apart from creation and temporal with creation.  The overall issue in mind, however, is that the first cause must be able to “decide” to bring about the universe rather than bringing about the universe whenever the sufficient conditions were met.  If the first cause were impersonal, then as you have said we would have an eternal universe because the timeless state of affairs would not change.  I wouldn’t think about the impersonal force’s ability to create the universe in a timeless state but rather how an impersonal force would create.  Namely an impersonal force would create the universe whenever the sufficient conditions are met whereas a personal force can choose to create or refrain from creating independent of the sufficient condition.  The critical difference, then, is that the impersonal force is dependent on the sufficient conditions for its act of creation whereas a personal force would not be so dependent.

When it comes to consciousness, we can also appeal to our firsthand experience.  There seems to be two ways of considering consciousness if we live in a naturalistic universe.  Either our consciousness just is the chemical activity in our brain or it emerges from the chemical activity in our brain.  In either case the chemical activity in our brain will follow natural physical laws and thus be fully determined.  It follows, then, that if our consciousness is either identical with or is caused by that chemical activity that it too will be fully determined.  In other words, free will is incompatible with the naturalistic view of the world.  Thus our firsthand experience of free will seems to provide a powerful counterargument to the naturalistic view of consciousness.  We might formulate the argument this way:

  1. If our mind is the product of nature then I do not have free will.
  2. I do have free will.
  3. Therefore, our mind is not the product of nature.

I hope this is helpful, please let me know if there are any additional

Matt Bilyeu

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