We often talk of God as personal” and rightly so. God is a person rather than a thing,” a Thou” rather than an It.” This is clear from even the most cursory reading of the Bible, for we very quickly find in Scripture the God who creates, speaks, acts, loves, hates, wills, intends, chooses, remembers, grows angry. An impersonal thing does none of these, for they are not in its nature. In this respect, the God praised by Jews and Christians has revealed himself as a personal being to be encountered rather than as an object we can place on a microscope slide to study at our convenience and according to our timetable. Each moment we are studying this God, he is studying us too, in a deeper, more penetrating fashion than we can imagine. When we gaze upon this object,” we are very likely to find a pair of knowing eyes looking back at us.

It is important, however, for us to go further than the basic intuition that God is personal. God is not merely personal rather than impersonal. God is also supremely, intensely, incomparably personal, personal in a manner or to a degree that exactly corresponds to the incomprehensible transcendence of Creator over creature. There is no more personal being in the entire universe than the living God. 

We can explore this intensely personal character in a variety of ways. For instance, we might consider how God supremely and perfectly instantiates everything that he is. Just as Christians have often said that God is not merely good but also Goodness itself,” not just pure but also Purity itself,” so also he is not merely personal but also Personalness itself.” Personalness is not just a quality that God has; it is what God is, and for this very reason he is the source and fount and ground of all that we otherwise call personal. 

God’s intense personalness is essential to his nature: his personal being is eternal and necessary and self-existent. God does not first exist and then develop attributes of personality, as a human person does. There is no time when God is growing into” his personhood. God is personal from the beginning — or even from before the beginning — when there exists nothing (that is, no thing) whatsoever, but only the eternal, personal I AM.” All of creation — and most significantly, all personality in creation — flows from this abundant spring. In the beginning, God created” (Gen. 1:1), and thus the personal God through a personal act of creating gets all of reality as we know it started. 

We can go further, for personalness” in God involves not just being personal, not even being the most personal of all persons. The living God, according to Christians, is a communion of persons — God in three Persons, blessed Trinity. If we go back to the beginning of all things from this vantage point, we discover a rather more subtle foundation: not simply In the beginning, God created,” but In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God” (John 1:1). Even before the world existed, God was a plurality as well as a singularity, a threeness (“trinity”) as well as a oneness (“unity”).

There was never a time when God was merely an I,” alone, inert, unrelated. No, God was always—is always — a We.” This is why Scripture can affirm so boldly that, in his own deepest nature, God is love” (1 John 4:8). Note well: God is not just loving, not just kind and compassionate to everyone he comes into contact with. God is love. In his own self-contained being, he is the full, rich reality of lover and beloved, of giving and receiving, of union in distinction. God is not simply a self but also an ecstatic mutuality of delighted interpersonal communion. The Triune God is indeed a wonder. 

This series has been adapted from Steven D. Boyer and Chris Hall’s The Mystery of God: Theology for Knowing the Unknowable. Hungry for more? Please visit Baker Academic for more information.

· Last Featured on Renovare.org September 2021