A personal God?

While many threads here discuss the is/isn’t God issues, let’s for a moment assume that there is a God. That the universe is indeed the result of ‘intelligent design’.

Apart from “the bible or quran told me so”, what is the path that leads one from ‘god is’ to a personal relationship with same?

It seem’s to me that even having decided that there is a creator, it is one big giant leap to suggest a personal relationship with God. What are the steps that leads from basic acknowledgement to ‘talking with god’?

JT

not to sound like a jerk tying to shoot down your thread, i do enjoy the idea that i believe in god. but whenever it seems like something happened that is like a communication, i say “wait god, what if that was just my subconscious blurting something out and not actually you delivering me a needlessly cryptic message?”

he never responds to this question.

i dont see why he wouldnt, unless of course he wanted to make sure that all selfless deeds are as selfless as possible and he understands that deeds done with god’s watching eyes and potential rewards in mind are substantially less selfless.

Entertain the belief that your subconscious mind is your God. It will reveal to you any and all you need to know. It is through it, that you are living. You will grow closer to this God, as you grow closer to yourself. As is in yourself is endless possibilities, and a formula for perfection, the search for it is the search for God.
I hope that made some kind of sense.

yeah i think so. i just wonder where my subconscious mind got its information, because often it tells me things that sound like they came from popular culture or something that i would normally disagree with.

and i cant help but think of those times where the little voices told people things i wouldnt want to do. like murder or less drugs.

I think for most people, this is a backwards approach. A philosophical backing for the idea of just any old God isn’t going to get you to a personal relationship-type religion, at least, not that I can see. Alston explains this rather well. A person who lives as though they are in a personal relationship with God can use philosophy (or ‘natural theology’) to shore up their beliefs when they need rational confirmation. I don’t think philosophy is enough to get to a belief in God, if taken completely out of the context of a religious background.

Uccisore,

I really wasn’t asking for a philisophical underpinning of god is, and I’m not really sure that such a belief would necessarily have to be attached to any particular religion. I’m just curious how one arrives at a conclusion that god=personal relationship.

I would probably agree that philosophy by itself couldn’t generate a personal god, but are you suggesting that the personal aspect relies on the traditional religions? It would seem to say that God, as a personal entity, only exists because of the tenets of any particular religion.

JT

I think the belief in a personal God is culturally derived and reinforced by the machinations of the brain. Talking to God and imagining he hears us can be a method of coping with the existential feelings of loneliness we experience as individual human beings. Imagining our subconscious thoughts are manifestations of God or that he’s speaking to us on some personal level is a way of validating our impulses and helps us to create a feeling that we’re connected to “something larger.” That’s my guess.

Well, that’s what I was trying to take issue with- I don’t think one can easily discover the philosophical God, and move from there to an understanding of God as personal. Now, some of the theistic arguments have God being a person with a mind, and if that’s all you mean, fine. But if by personal you also mean to imply a God that cares about humans, I don’t see how philosophy could get there. It’s much more common for a person to start out with those beliefs, and to use philosophy to explore and ultimately reject or justify them, then it is for someone to start out not knowing, and use philosophy to become a religious person.

Well, I would say that our understanding of God as a personal entity may rely on religion or spirituality more than philosophy, yes. I think the major problem of trying to arrive at God through philosophy is that all our really good reasons for supposing a God in the first place are tied up in religion, not in formal argument.

Man cannot know God. And thus philosophy attempting to discover God is futile.

God reveals himself to Man. And there is nothing in philosophy that denies revelation, even divine relevation, as means of knowing the truth.

(I think no one have philosophically established the necessity of revelation for knowing the God that philosophers deduced. Without revelation all we can discern are shadows, not unlike those in Plato’s cave I think.)

And a personal God is a God that relates to the person, just as people relates to each other, for ‘personal’ and ‘relate’ are all anthropomorphic notions, ie it can only be understood and meaningful in the context of people and persons.

Most of us here do not see each other. We do not hear or feel or touch or smell each other here in cyberspace, but yet I think in some sense we can say we are relating to one another, do we not? We can sensed if the ‘person’ behind a nick is perturbed, agitated, angry, amused, delighted, light-hearted, etc etc.

And I think we can also relate to people long dead and gone, from the things that they wrote and did too. Reading biographies and listening to accounts of people who knew the one dead and gone, allows you to somehow ‘know’ that person although he or she is no longer around to interact with you.

But here we are not dead, we are living and alive, and thus there is interaction.

So a personal relationship in its essence is that which exists between two living entities, in which each will come into the knowledge of each other as persons through a process of interaction. And this is possible for God is a living God, or at least the God as revealed by Jesus Christ.

Uccisore,

You say that it is “much more common for a person to start out with those beliefs,” So a personal god is a cultural phenomenon -ie- either raised in, or converted in a particular culture?

How does one avoid the suspicion that perhaps the personal aspect may be man ‘planting on’ desired anthropomorphic attributes? The strongest image I can think of is “heavenly father”, with all the desired parental characteristics - nurturing, guiding, disciplining, unconditional love, …
Does one come to this through the dogma and ‘holy word’? Is it singing ‘Jesus loves me’ 52 times a year as a child grows up in Sunday school or the constant repetition of ‘Allah is great’ at Friday prayers?

Assuming being raised in a religion with a personal god, how do thinking believers confirm this ‘personal’ relationship when confronted with the world outside their particular religion? Is it a strictly individual ‘experience’? If one understands illusion and delusion in the fullest sense, isn’t there a place for ‘reasonable doubt’? How does the person with a personal god know?

JT

Hi JT,
every now and again I have been able to surface from the pile of work I’ve been buried under …

I think that there is a simple answer to this question, but one that doesn’t always satisfy Christians. Those who have a ‘personal relationship’ with God are eager to insist that the relationship is one-way - namely from God to us. God ‘reveals’ himself to believers and the way that this happens is pretty common.

If you develop the habit of reading the Bible regularly - even daily or more, there is a relationship that develops between the reader and the Bible. If you furthermore have the habit of deep meditation or prayer, you get the feeling that the Bible is talking to you. Questions you have seem to be adressed by the passages you are reading and there develops an almost intimate relationship with scripture.

The same can happen with pen-friends. I had many pen-friends as a soldier and I had a way of writing that seemed to ‘hit the nail on the head’ when discussing some personal detail. We didn’t ‘know’ each other and were miles apart, but I very often got letters declaring passionate love. I think that it was my intuitive ability to give those girls the romance they had dreamed of - on a literary level - although the romance was not real.
I noticed that the letters I sometimes wrote for my comrades got the same passionate replies and realised that the fascination that those girls had was not for the person but for the words I had written.

It is a ‘philologos’ that is a sort of infatuation that applies to Religion too. It took some time for me to later understand that this love of words was not focused on God but on language and was instrumental in making me understand that ‘God’ is and stays the Mystery, even when we manage to develop our awareness of him.

Shalom
Bob

Hi Bob,

Sorry to hear about the pile of work… Oh well, job security and all that. :smiley: I do believe you’re right. There are very few Christians, Jews, or Muslims who would ‘appreciate’ your version of personal. Again, you’re right about language and metaphors having the capacity to generate that ‘ring of truth’ or intuitive understanding, and through that a sometimes personal nature.

It is the literalist personal relationship that intrigues me. I have a hard time understanding how one maintains a father>child view of the mystery outside the cloistered walls. I would expect it from those who are merely capable of religion, but from those who can see beyond religion to spirituality? I find that amazing.

I guess that, at the bottom of this, I would like find some way for those of a religious nature to rise above their god (as a personal experience) and find ways of accomodating others. While their personal relationship may provide strength and refuge, in too many situations it is also a blind alley.
They cannot ‘hear’ me because they only listen to God.

JT

Future Man wrote:

Yeah those thoughts are somewhat subliminal. I mean your subconscious registers everything. Any and everything you percieve is stored. It’s the retreival process most people have a hard time with. The information you recieve are simply bits of information you have already seen or heard somewhere else. I dont know about the little voices.

Well, I don't think anyone can doubt that all beliefs, rather religious or political or even scientific, are granted to most people due to their culture, so yes, that's the case. Now, a person who gets their beliefs for cultural reasons can go on to rationally criticize them, and they probably ought to if they are able. 
Do you mean how do we avoid having that suspicion about others, or about ourselves?  If you mean about others, I think that's very difficult.  If you just mean when we reflect on our own beliefs, I would say [i]that's[/i] where rationality and self-reflection come into play. I submit that most people who are believing out of wish-fulfillment or such things really [i]know that [/i] when they think about it, especially if they've had the concept pointed out to them. I don't believe there are a set of 'causes' of religious belief which you or I rationally can sit from the outside and affix to people, as though we know better than the people actually [i]having the beliefs[/i].  
Aha. I think we talked past each other a little bit when I said 'religion'.  The dogma and rituals and such certainly help, but what I'm mostly talking about is [i]religious experience[/i].  This goes back to your question above, as well. If a person [i]experiences God communicating with them[/i], for example,  then that's the ground for the notion of a personal God, not an argument they read in a book, or even a sermon they heard at Church. Now, if they want to analyze that experience, and reassure themselves they aren't victims of some subconcious I-don't-know-what, then that's great too.  I don't mean to wax mystical here, that's really not my 'thing'.  Compare it to something practical, like I did in the agnosticism thread- when you hear a bell ring, you immediate form the belief that somewhere, a bell is ringing. You only turn to rationality to analyze that belief once you've been given a cause to doubt it- rationality is not a part of the initial belief forming process. 

It depends on how rational they want to be. After all, the fact that many people disagree has never been a really good argument for the falsehood of something- argumen ad populum, or some such. However, I do think the issue of religious plurality raises a problem for a believer in another, non-rational way. The fact that many people don’t share your religious views is often the ‘eye-opener’ that makes a person realize that their religious views ought to be rationally examined. They may not percieve it that way, it may just be a strange nagging doubt, or a feeling of guilt about the degree of their own faith or something. I think it’s when a person doesn’t want or doesn’t know how to critically examine their faith, that the ‘there’s so many other beliefs out there’ thing really sinks their ship.

I don’t want to put you in a mystical position, but it seems that the hearing God ‘ringing’ must include a leap of faith decision that it is indeed God ringing an not “some subconcious I-don’t-know-what” aberration.

I’m not sure how one would critically examine such an experience. I do see how one can look at the tenets of any religion and ask the does-this-make-sense? questions, but the ‘discovery’ of a personal god seems beyond examination.

This would explain the inability or outright refusal of the suicide bomber or (forgive me) our own extremist fundamentalists to see any possible viewpoint but their own. Their personal relationship with God trumps any and all contradictory positions, most often referred to as ‘words of the devil’. It would also explain the exclusiveness of those with a personal God. There exists the dichotomy. Those with the ‘true’ personal relationship with God, (those who agree with me) and everyone else.

This isn’t to say that all those with a personal God accept the extreme position, but it certainly tilts the table toward it.

Oh, for clarification. I make a distinction between spiritual awareness and/ or experience, and religion. The spiritual is the ‘shock and awe’ awareness of that which is, and religion is man’s explanation of the former and what we ought to do about it. I’ve had some very profound and positive spiritual experiences, most of the religious experiences were just plain negative.

JT

[contented edited by ILP]

I agree with Tentative - it is a decision about who is talking to me (or ‘ringing’) and judging by the varying psychological conditions of people, it could just as well be my schizophrenic alter-ego.

Communication with God is something that needs a great deal of scrutiny and one of the weaknesses of modern day fundamentalism (especially in the West) is that we are stuck with the fact that we don’t know the people who we listen to in the same way the ancients did. They measured personal commitment and general reliability as a sign of trustworthiness - we can’t always enforce these criteria and rely a lot on what other people say.

If you go into an evangelical today, there are often a number of people who are very vocal but who have no recognition as authorities. I have met people who were known to be very deluded, but were allowed to speak their part and were rewarded with a resounding ‘Halleluja’ - which is incongruent and misleading.

Shalom
Bob

There is a personal God…that’s the only God there is!..A personal relationship with the creator is knowing yourself, not being cocky within yourself, but knowing yourself…and the needs for worldly things through your sub conscious is only the impact of what you see in society…only what the impressions of others have on you…but ifyou allow yourself to not be impressed upon by no one, and you treat every situation with impartiality but love, then you’ve come to understand yourself, and through love you’ve come to have a personal relationship with God…which is every single being you come in contact with, including yourself…Truth is only what you say it is…God is only who you say the creator is…and that creator at the end is the same God!..no matter what medium you use to reach that level of understanding you’ll come to the ultimate simplicity, God is the all encompassing nothing that surrounds you…the all knowing through your knowledge, the all seeing through your vision, the all loving, through your love…My creator is a God of peace through your peace and a God of war through your need to fight for right…Nothing evil comes from God, only man corrupts the flow of life which is my creator…Religion is bad!!!

abgrund put it well, I think. If someone was conditioned very deeply that such things were just not possible, then yes, trusting their experiences of a Higher Power might require a bit of faith. Ordinarily, though, the kinds of experiences we’re talking about create belief in God directly, just like our perceptions create beliefs directly. Now, once we have that experience of a Higher Power, a degree of faith may be involved in relating that experience to our particular religious tradition, but that’s about faith in the tradition (and the people who presented it to us), not in God or in our senses.

That’s pretty much my point. If, however, you mean to imply “beyond examination, and therefore unreliable or not to be taken seriously”, then I would point out that our memory and our perception are more or less beyond rational examination, as well. IN short though, you are right- the experience of a personal God is very difficult to evaulate by reason, but we can evalute how we integrate those experiences into our belief systems.

It also accounts for the rabid atheist, who cannot accept anything that can’t be proofed in premise->premise->conclusion format. There’s a dualism at work here- one the one hand, people who define themselves by experiences outside of reason, and therefore feel no need to listen to reason, and on the other, people who feel that reasoning is the only way to which truth is arrived.
They both make a mistake- The fundamentalist doesn’t realize that rationality is a necessary part in transferring the spiritualism they experience into the complex religious dogmas they adhere to, wheras the atheist seems to forget that they didn’t adopt the process of rationality itself on the basis of some rational argument (for that would be circular), rather they just see rationality to be the best way to think, in the same way they just hear the bell, or just experience God.

That’s about how I see it too.

Hi Uccisore,

I believe that you are an intelligent person and that you have stepped beyond what many evangelical Christians assume by thinking about what you believe. But for my part the ‘experience’ of God is a very mystical event, a mixture of Scripture and awareness, not necessarily restricted to Prayer or Meditation, but something that grows out of seeking silence and shutting out the noise of everyday life for a while. It is an experience similar to sinking into God and one that gives us strength to go forth and take on the tasks that lie before us. But I am nonetheless very aware that in this process I am the weak link, the part that can fail the easiest, or the one who can easily assume that his own thoughts are the thoughts of God.

What ‘experience’ are you writing about? You seem to assume that it is understood, but I have found that when I ask people about the experiences they are vocal about, either there is embaressment, or I find that they are tapping into the dangers that I am very aware of. If then these are the experiences that ‘create beliefs directly,’ I would be unwilling to accept them at face value. One example was the statement: “God told me to strike Iraq and I did…” which is particularly agitating.

This is where we become nervous, because if the belief systems incorporate Armageddon as an inevitability, where could our experiences lead us? Does the experience influence our belief system or does our belief system influence our experience? Outsiders seldom experience Believers making an evaluation or reflexion of those beliefs or experiences, but rather they observe an emphasis of assuredness - even certainty.

See, you are an exception. This is what I have (probably not clearly) been writing about all along. It is absolutely necessary to have this buffer of rationality between experience and expression. The Mystic clothes it in language that is clearly metaphorical, whereas most evangelical Christians clothe such experiences in antiquated language but take it literally. That is where the rejection by outsiders occurs - not a rejection of faith outright, but a rejection of the portrayal that we often see. The Mystic is accepted (though not by all) because of his rational acceptance that he cannot ‘know’ the things he has experienced, having no proof. But his mystical experience is often a metaphorical encouragement to maintain his faith.

Shalom
Bob