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A personal god is a deity that is, and can be related to as, a person. The personhood of God is one of the characteristic features of monotheism. In the sacred scriptures of Judaism, Islam and Christianity, God is conceived and described as being a personal creator, with a purpose for the creation. In the Pentateuch, for example, God talks and instructs his prophets and is conceived as possessing volition, 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, as in Christianity, or a Friend as in Sufism. In Vaishnavism the reality of God is always not in an idealization, but the actual impact of God in the life of man.
Anthropotheism, or the ascribing of human (anthropomorphic) 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.
Religions that conceive of God as being transcendental may firmly reject any kind of anthropotheism, maintaining that any anthropomorphic description of God is a metaphor, even while allowing that a personal relationship is possible. For example, Islam very clearly opposes conceiving God as resembling "the creation"; the Qur'an maintains that whatever image a believer has of God, is not God, and that he is truly transcendental.
===Ancient polytheistic religions===Template:Link GA Ancient polytheistic religions, such as that of Ancient Greece, featured strongly anthropic gods, who experienced human emotions, took on human-like forms, and interacted with humans and with one another in human ways.
Christian theologian Alister McGrath 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 belief in the Trinity, whether the Holy Spirit is an impersonal god — that is, a "force...often likened to electricity" by some — or a personal one, is the subject of dispute, with experts in pneumatology debating the matter. Jesus and Yahweh are considered the same personal god. Jesus is of the same "ousia" or substance as Yahweh, manifested in three "hypostasis" or persons (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit). These views are intended to challenge the concept of deity, which is merely a guiding principle, a blind creative force or a philosophical ideal.
Moreover, the belief in Holy Communion and Last Supper implies an intensely communal understanding of religion which very often goes beyond the boundaries of individuality, in what theologians have called the "mystical body".
Nontrinitarian Christians dispute that Jesus is equal to Yahweh.
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 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 miracles.
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.
He is described as "a personal God, unknowable, inaccessible, the source of all Revelation, eternal, omniscient, omnipresent and almighty". 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.
- Bhakti movement
- Bhakti yoga
- Ishta Deva
- Thomas Jay Oord on God as relational person.
Notes and references
- McGrath, Alister (2006). Christian Theology: An Introduction. Blackwell Publishing. p. 205. ISBN 1405153601.
- Smith, Peter (2008). An Introduction to the Baha'i Faith. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 106. ISBN 0521862515.
- Effendi, Shoghi (1944). God Passes By. Wilmette, Illinois, USA: Bahá'í Publishing Trust. p. 139. ISBN 0877430209. http://reference.bahai.org/en/t/se/GPB/gpb-9.html#gr26.
- Smith, Peter (2008). An Introduction to the Baha'i Faith. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 111. ISBN 0521862515.
- Effendi, Shoghi (1991). The World Order of Bahá’u’lláh. Wilmette, Illinois, USA: Bahá'í Publishing Trust. pp. 113–114. ISBN 0877432317. http://reference.bahai.org/en/t/se/WOB/.