Celestial Lands The Religious Crossroads of Politics, Power, and Theology

The Prejudices around a Personal God

If there is any issue about my personal faith where I have found others have both the most assumptions and the most confusion, it has been around my theological stance of having a personal relationship with God when God does not have a personal relationship with you. I believe I have a deep and abiding personal relationship with a God that is incapable of knowing that I even exist.

I find that the confusion about this theological point rests not only in both those more theologically conservative than I, but also in those more theologically liberal or secular than I. More conservative ministers and theologians are confused by my claim that I can have a personal relationship with a non-personal God. My more liberal and secular colleagues question the same thing, but with the opposite emphasis.

While I have talked about this in other articles (including here), at its core I believe that there is no division in God, that every moment of every day we are intimately involved with God; in a flight of birds, in a breath of wind, in a cab driver who cuts us off, in a moment on the Zen cushions… all one, all God. We are a part of God, and nothing can be more intimate than this. God is a holy spirit that is intimately involved in all things, and we are intimately involved in the part of God we can touch and sense.

However, God does not, in any personal way, know that we exist as individuals. I wonder whether God is even capable of “knowing” in any human sense. More, my faith in God does not require God’s knowing  of me. I am “known” simply in my being, along with all of being, and together we are becoming… and becoming… and becoming. To me, nothing could be more intimate than this.

Yet, I do not believe that God is “consciously” involved in human life, except that we are a part of God, and we are consciously involved in our own lives. Human Free Will is a part of God. What prevents us from sensing this is our own delusion of division and self… our own conflicted natures. Issues of whether God is omniscient or omnipotent depend upon God having a human understanding of knowing or of power, and I do not believe that to be true. God simply is, and we relate to God because of that.

As one minister/professor colleague of mine has said to me, this theological stance is fairly complex, and deeply inspired by both my understanding of Christian Faith and my experience of Zen Buddhism. It is in part this belief that holds me in Unitarian Universalism, in that it gives me deep connection to UU’s first and seventh principles at this theological center. Yet, it places me in a middle ground between what is commonly conceived of in Christian Theology and what is (perhaps erroneously) the most commonly perceived center in UU theology… the issue of having a personal relationship with the divine.

Recently in a communication within the Army Chaplain Corps, I found this statement: “Whereas the Chaplaincy, as spiritual leaders, model faith and belief in the Hand of God to intervene in the course of history and in individual lives;”. Now, I can do some theological circumlocutions and come to a place where I can accept that statement (if not agree with it), those circumlocutions are somewhat profound. I certainly could not accept it in its obvious, literal intent. For me, God does not intentionally intervene in human history or individual lives… God simply is, and human history and individual lives change and mold in reaction to God’s existence. To paraphrase Albert Einstein, God does not play dice with the Universe, because God is the Universe and all within it.

If a belief in an intervening God who has a personal relationship with individual lives is a pre-requisite to be a military chaplain, then perhaps I have some thinking to do about my call to ministry. If, rather, the document that quote was taken from actually is trying to define what the theological center of the Chaplain Corps is, then I accept that I am theologically on the margins but can still find a place. However, I will, in Unitarian Universalist prophetic tradition, continue to speak my truth, the truth that is written on my heart by my life, by scripture, by the flight of birds and the existence of evil, and let “Einstein’s Dice” fall how they may.

Yours in Faith,


2 Thoughts on “The Prejudices around a Personal God

  1. The next time anyone questions your personal relationship with an impersonal God you can remind them that many people have quite intimate personal relationships with inanimate and non-sentient objects, like their car for just one example. 🙂

    More later. . .

  2. Pingback: belief in a personal god

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