How Do We Know God is a Personal Being?


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Many people are not willing to trust the Bible. They are not sure whether God exists or who, or what, God might be. We can start with that simple question: who or what is God?

I like the way Dr. William Lane Craig addresses the question. He explains that the conclusion is reached in at least three different ways.

First, he says, causal explanations can be of two types. They can be scientific explanations, involving laws and initial conditions; or they can be personal explanations, involving agents and volitional actions.

For example, if I walk into a kitchen with my son, who works at Fermi Lab, standing there and a kettle boiling and I ask, “Why is the kettle boiling?” He might answer, “Because the heat of the flames under the kettle are being conducted by the copper bottom of the kettle to the water, causing the molecules in the water to vibrate more violently until they throw off the energy in the form of steam.” He might have also said, “I put the kettle on to make a cup of tea. Would you like some too?” (Of course, he isn’t a tea drinker.)

One is a scientific explanation. The other is a personal explanation. Both of them are equally legitimate causal explanations. In some contexts, one explanation would be inappropriate, while the other would be appropriate.

When it comes to the first state of the universe, science, the study of physical world, can’t explain the cause of the universe based on initial conditions and natural laws because the universe, itselfis the first physical state. There is nothing prior to it. There is no prior state of natural laws from which the natural laws can be explained. Thus, the only kind of causal explanation is an explanation that involves an Agent with volition.

Second, the cause of the material universe that had a beginning must be timeless, space-less, changeless and immaterial. Only two possible explanations are available for such a cause. Those explanations include an abstract object or a nonphysical mind/consciousness.

Abstract objects, like numbers, are timeless, space-less, changeless and immaterial, but abstract objects don’t cause anything to happen. By definition, abstract objects are abstract, disassociated from material objects. They have no causal effect (though they might be used to explain causal effects). For example, the number seven (7) doesn’t cause anything to happen. Since abstract objects have no causal properties, the cause of the universe must be a nonphysical mind or consciousness.

Finally, the only way to get an effect with a beginning from an eternal cause is from a volitional agent. This is so because, a non-personal cause sufficient to produce an effect must always existent; and the effect must always be existent as well. For instance, assume that the cause of water freezing is the temperature of the water being below zero degrees Celsius. If the temperature of water was zero degrees from eternity past, it would be impossible for the water to have begun to freeze a finite time ago. Any water that was around would be frozen from the eternity.

How does a permanent and eternal cause create an effect like the universe that began about 14 billion years ago? An eternal/permanent cause would produce an eternal/permanent effect with no beginning; but the universe had a beginning. The only satisfactory answer is that the cause was a personal agent exercising volition to create a new effect spontaneously without antecedent determining conditions.

For example, a person sitting from eternity could freely will to stand up. Only in this way (by volitional act) can an effect with a beginning arise from a permanent cause.

For the three reasons given, we can deduce that the universe did not simply arise from an uncaused first cause. That uncaused first cause must have been a volitional agent, a personal being who chose freely to bring the universe into existence. This volitional agent having the ability to cause the universe to exist is what we call God. God, therefore, is a personal being.

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