Is God a Person?

“Is God a person?” the boy asked his grandfather.  

“Well,” the old man replied, “a person is like us.  What makes you a person?”

“I’m a boy.”

“I’m not a boy, but I’m a person, too.  What do we have in common that every person has?”

“We’re different sizes, and people are really different in other ways.  But everyone has a body.”

“Then, if God is a person, God must have a body, too.”

“I suppose.  But God isn’t just like us.”

“How is God different?”

“I was born, and God wasn’t born.  And I’m growing bigger, but God doesn’t grow bigger.”

“So, if by ‘person’ we mean a human being, then God is not a person.”

“Unless Jesus is God.  Is Jesus God?”

“Some people say that, so let’s try to understand what they might mean.”

“OK.”

“The Bible says Jesus taught his disciples to pray, using the words, ‘Our Father.’  What did he mean by that?”

“He meant God.”

“Did Jesus mean that God was the father of each disciple, like your dad is your father?”

“No.  The fathers of the disciples were men, not God.”

“So, by calling God ‘father’ Jesus is saying something that isn’t literally true.”

“That’s right.”

“Why might Jesus do that?

“I don’t know.”

“When you were younger and used to ride on my shoulders, you’d say, ‘Giddyup, horsey.’  Right?”

“Yeah.  When I was little.”

“Then you were saying something that isn’t literally true, but you weren’t lying.  You were comparing me to a horse because I was carrying you, sort of like a horse carries a person.”

“OK, I see that.”

“Maybe in calling God ‘father’ Jesus is saying something that isn’t literally true as a way of comparing God to a father.”

“But you could be like a horse, when you carried me on your shoulders.  How can God be like a father?”

“When you think of your father or your mother, do you think only of a person with a body?”

“Well, my dad and mom care for me.  So, I think about that, too.”

“And sometimes, do you want their help?”

“Sure.”

“Maybe Jesus wanted his disciples to think of God as loving them, like a loving parent.”

“That makes sense.”

“Perhaps thinking of God, like we think of a loving father, means God is like a loving person.”

“So, is Jesus God?”

“Some people say he is.  But can Jesus literally be God and also pray to God?”

“I don’t see how.”

“The Bible says Jesus is the son of God, because people know God’s love through faith in Jesus.”

“So, it’s like calling God ‘father.’  Saying Jesus is ‘the son of God’ isn’t really the same as saying I’m the son of my dad, but it refers to God’s love for Jesus.” 

“That’s right.  And the church says the Holy Spirit shares this relationship with God and Jesus.”

“But a spirit isn’t a person, is it?”

“Not literally.  It’s like the feeling of love you have for your dad, when he’s away.  It’s personal.”

“Sometimes I feel like my dad’s inside me, helping me figure out what to do.  You, too, Grandpa.” 

“That’s like the experience many people have of God—as a loving father, as Jesus, or as a spiritual presence.  The church’s teaching about ‘God in three persons’ isn’t literally true, but it has great personal meaning for many people.” 

 Bob@rtraer.com © Robert Traer 2016