God Is Fully Aware
And Personally Responsive
Every Bible-believing system I know of refers to God as Personal.
But then, after saying that, these same systems suggest things that defy the concept, like God doesn’t hear the prayers of sinners.
Begs the question. Several actually.
What do they really mean by Personal? Or better yet, what impact would Personal have on beliefs about God if taken to the logical end? The answer is profound.
Let me explain.
Whatever is done Personally is done in person, by a person, and for a person. It’s relational.
Saying God is Personal means He acts as a person and relates to people individually. He hears individual prayers. He saves individuals. He isn’t relationally challenged.
Tell me. Has God ever sent a message His Spirit didn’t personally infuse?
God’s blessing on any nation, culture, or geographical area is largely based on His relationship with the individuals. In other words, God is God to the whole group one person at a time.
Generally, everyone agrees with that, but extrapolating the idea draws fire.
The Bible teaches God is holy. He can have no fellowship with sin. But it also says He loves humanity, all of whom are sinners.
In fact, there are no humans with whom God can relate that aren’t sinners. Some are saved and some not, but all are sinners. Meaning, of course, that God hates sin but He has no problem relating to sinners.
Are there any sinners to whom He hasn’t related? Can we expect to see His footprints in every person’s life?
What’s The Evidence
So, if God does relate personally to everyone, then there’s another question we need to ask.
What is the extra-biblical proof that God’s focus is on the individual and not the group? How can we be certain He relates to individuals of every kind in every part of the world?
The Bible actually gives us a very clear answer to this question. It’s found in a sermon Paul preached in Athens. The sermon is recorded in Acts 17.
God, Paul said, had determined when and where every person would live and His purpose was to enable every person to seek after, feel after and ultimately find God, even though God isn’t far from any one of us (Acts 17:24-29).
But that isn’t the evidence. The evidence is what provoked Paul’s sermon.
Two things spurred Paul to speak out. One was an inscription he noticed on one of the Athenian monuments, “To The Unknown God.” That monument and especially the inscription were testament to their belief in God while at the same time admitting to curiosity. They were open to more information.
A second thing that provoked Paul’s response was Greek philosophy. Several Greek writers affirmed that God is the One who enables us to live, breathe and exist (v. 28).
What Paul doesn’t mention in his sermon, but we all know is true, is the Greeks were polytheistic. They attributed God-like power to an assortment of beings. They also attributed human-like natures to these beings. The only way in which Greek gods differed was in their power. They were superhuman. One could be more powerful than another.
Paul never mentioned it.
Focus On The Area Of Agreement
There was much about Greek mythology Paul could challenge but instead of finding the fault, he focused on the area of agreement.
Why did Paul do this? Why didn’t he address the obvious errors? The answer is simple.
Certain points of Greek philosophy, though not “Revelation” in the technical sense, did qualify as evidence and Paul used their curiosity as a springboard for the Gospel. And it worked. Some believed.
The point is, God works personally. He made Himself known even to the Greeks.
Admittedly, the question, “what is the evidence that God works personally?” is scary because any answer may appear to compete with the Bible. If anyone says, “God said to me” or “God showed me” or “God led me” or “God did,” and what follows doesn’t sound theologically correct – it never does – heresy is exclaimed! The person along with all their ideas are thrown out – baby/bathwater.
If Paul had attempted to first correct everything wrong about Greek mythology – a popular approach for anyone who takes pride in being right, the Athenians would never have heard the Gospel.
It is true, Revelation of the special kind – theologically speaking – is confined only to what is found in the Bible but that doesn’t mean Experience is anti biblical. A person’s experience of God is something to plug into and extend from. It’s evidence that God was there before us.
Traditional Ideas Are Restrictive
Even though we know God is bigger than we can ever conceive, orthodox descriptions still narrow Him to a very fine point. Our discussions confine Him to the limitations of human terminology, perceptions, and understandings.
The descriptions, and the effort to formulate them, aren’t necessarily wrong but, like the Greeks, the end result implies limitations on God.
The outcome of that process are rigid arguments:
God only hears the prayers of Christians and only when they pray in Jesus name.
Or heartless ones.
God doesn’t even hear the prayers of sinner!
Not, God doesn’t answer them. He doesn’t even hear them. How encouraging is that?
But forget encouragement, that belief suggests that God is isolated and unreachable until you break into the inner circle.
Unbelievers can’t reach Him and He can’t reach unbelievers.
Do we really think that? Could the holiness of God entirely trump personal response?
God heard the prayers of the thief on the cross, a tax collector and an officer in the Roman army, Cornelius, among others. All sinners! The Bible is full of such examples.
The reality is, God is interested in every individual. He is drawn to people. He is fully aware and responsive.
Greek Mythology And Traditional Theology Both Limit God
A good question to ask is, does a fully inspired, error free and completely finished Bible mean God’s ability to relate personally is now limited. Are His lips sealed? Are His hands tied? Can He no longer respond?
The answer is no.
If God is a person and personal, we should expect to see people and events shifting in response to the currents of His personal activity.
Everyone experiences God. The rain falls and the sun shines on each person individually. We each feel the freshness of the rain and the caress of the sun’s rays.
That’s God. It’s personal.
Can a genuinely personal person avoid connection? Should we be surprised when unbelievers acknowledge God?
The Take Away
Theologically, Paul knew the Greek characterizations of God were wrong but instead of taking a scrub brush to Greek mythology, he focused on the one element of truth.
Maybe we should do the same.