God is a Person

INTRODUCTION

Joe Hinman wants to debate the existence of God with me, but before we can have an intelligent debate on this issue, we need to come to some sort of mutual understanding about the meaning of the word “God”.

In my view God is a person.  In Hinman’s view God is NOT a person.  He can, I suppose, stipulate a definition of “God” that asserts or implies that God is NOT a person, but then I might not have any interst in debating the existence of such a being (we will see how that goes).

But before we resort to such a stipulated definition, I would like to discuss this very basic issue about the meaning of the word “God”.  My view is that God is a person who has certain unique characteristics, known as divine attributes (e.g. omnipotence, omniscience, perfect goodness, etc.).  In this post I will briefly put forward five arguments for my understanding of the meaning of the word “God”.

Hinman and anyone else interested in this subject are welcome to ask questions about and raise objections against any of those five arguments.

AN INITIAL CLARIFICATION

(s) Superman has x-ray vision.

Someone might object to claim (s) this way:

There is no such thing as “Superman”, and NOBODY has x-ray vision, so claim (s) is false.

But this objection seems beside the point.  No sane adult believes that Superman exists.  So, if we follow the principle of charity, we will NOT interpret (s) as implying that Superman actually exists.  Rather, we will interpret (s) as making this claim:

Anyone who is Superman is someone who has x-ray vision.

The following claim, can also be given a similar interpretation:

(g) God is an all-powerful being.

Someone might object to (g) this way:

There is no such being as “God”, and NOTHING is an all-powerful being, so (g) is false.

Because the existence of God is controversial, we need not take (g) as implying that God actually exists.  Rather, it is reasonable to interpret (g) as making this claim:

Any being that is God, is an all-powerful being.

In other words, claim (s) and claim (g) can be taken as CONCEPTUAL claims rather than as FACTUAL claims.  The concept of “Superman” implies the concept of “has x-ray vision”.  The concept of “God” implies the concept “is an all-poweful being”.

I intend the following claim to be understood in a similar way:

(p) God is a person.

Claim (p) is not intended to assert or imply that God actually exists; rather, it is intended as a CONCEPTUAL claim, and can be understood as asserting this claim:

(p1) Any being that is God is a person.

FIVE ARGUMENTS FOR THE VIEW THAT “GOD IS A PERSON”

I. The Jesus Argument

1. Jesus is God.
2. Jesus is a person.

Therefore:

3. God is a person.

II. The Spirit Argument

4. God is a spirit.
5. A spirit is a person who has no body.

Therefore:

6. God is a person who has no body.

Therefore:

3. God is a person.

 

III. The Prayer Argument

7. God answers prayers.
8. Any being that answers prayers, is a being that can understand and respond to complex abstract verbal requests.
9. Any being that can understand and respond to complex abstract verbal requests is a person.

Therefore:

3. God is a person.

IV. The Omniscience Argument

10. God is omniscient.
11. Any being that is omniscient, is a being that knows that “2 + 2 = 4” and that “Grass is green” and that “McDonald’s sells cheeseburgers” and that “Donald Trump is the president of the United States” and that “A standard deck of playing cards contains 52 cards”.
12. Any being that knows that “2 + 2 = 4” and that “Grass is green” and that “McDonald’s sells cheeseburgers” and that “Donald Trump is the president of the United States” and that “A standard deck of playing cards contains 52 cards” is a person.

Therefore:

3. God is a person.

V. The Love-and-Understanding Argument

13. God knows, loves, and understands each and every human being.
14. If God knows, loves, and understands each and every human being, then God knows, loves, and understands me.
15. If God knows, loves, and understands me, then God is a person.

Therefore:

3. God is a person.

NOTE ON AD HOMINEM ARGUMENTS

Arguments I, III, and V are ad hominem arguments.  By that I do NOT mean that those arguments commit the fallacy of ad hominem.  What I mean is that those arguments are based on Christian beliefs that I do not myself accept.  So, they are arguments that attempt to use a belief that is widely accepted by Christians, and use that belief as the basis for an argument to the conclusion that God is a person.

Arguments II and IV are NOT ad hominem arguments, because they are based on CONCEPTUAL claims, claims having to do with the meaning of the word “God”.  I take it that the word “God” in a Western or Christian context logically implies “an omniscient being” and “a being that is a spirit”, just like I take it that the word “Superman” logically implies “a person who has x-ray vision”.

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