The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Is God personal?

Last evening I did my normal ritual before going to bed, including taking our dog Joey outside. I gaze into the heavens while Joey sniffs the earth looking for the perfect spot to do his business. Believe it or not, this can be a spiritual experience. It's amazing to gaze into the universe and see the moon and stars all in the vast distances of space.

Astronomers say the universe is 14 billion to 15 billion years old and still expanding with stars and planets being created in distant nebulae at this very moment. Compared to the vastness of the universe, the earth is a little speck of dust. The further the Hubble space telescope looks into the universe, the smaller we seem to become.

We have a vastly different view of the world than did the authors of Scripture. They viewed the earth as the center, with sun, moon and stars rotating around it. These ancient people perceived themselves as the center of the universe—a very gratifying thought and, as Galileo found, not easily abandoned. And so, with my neck bent back and eyes staring into infinity, I can't help but wonder about the power that created it all and just how personal this power is.

Modern science has created a quandary: Does the God who created the vast universe with its laws of science and evolution have much interest in us or care about the day-to-day activities of our lives? Such is the existential angst of our modern era. How one answers this question is extremely important in finding meaning, hope and purpose in life.

A few years ago, a mountain lion was spotted in a tree in our neighbor's lot. Joey wouldn't have a chance against the power, claws and jaws of a mountain lion—or a coyote or probably a fox either. All of these predators are in the area so I accompany Joey outside, not just to gaze at the universe but also to protect the little guy from any harm. I am his shepherd and he is my sheep.

Does our God, who created the vastness of the universe with its laws of physics and evolution, have the same love and concern for each of us as I do for Joey? Or as you do for your children, grandchildren and other loved ones? The biblical witness resounds with a clear yes. But what about suffering? Like Christ, that is a mystery we each need to face. Yet Scripture is clear: not only is God the creator of the vast universe, God is also personal. To claim otherwise is to put limits on God and negate revelation, particularly the New Testament where we see in Christ and his teachings just how personal God is:

"Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? If then you are not able to do so small a thing as that, why do you worry about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith" (Luke 12:24-28).

Being aware of the vastness of God's creation can lead to a spiritual wasteland where science rules and God, if acknowledged, is perceived as impersonal. But God's fingerprints are seen in both the macro (as creator of the vast universe) and micro (as intimately concerned with each person). It is not either/or. It is both/and.

"Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love" (1 John 4:8). Now that's getting personal. 


Linda Worden

Linda Worden

Posted at 10:59 am (U.S. Eastern) 11/3/2010

I just read Everyday Survival, by Laurence Gonzales, which deals with the nature of life in our vast universe.  That certainly brought these questions to my mind.  The universe was once so much smaller, and, perhaps, cozier.  On the other hand, poets like William Blake saw "the world in a grain of sand," which turns out to be true both metaphorically and scientifically, when you consider that the matter of our planet once came from distant stars.

These things are mind-boggling.  Yes, it is hard to picture a personal God in this context.  I struggle with this.

Posted at 10:50 pm (U.S. Eastern) 11/3/2010

On my good days, I find the vastness of our universe to evoke a sense of the mystery and the magnificence of God. Maybe some of the anxiety our society is facing is unease with this newly revealed wild universe and it’s God. We want stability, predictability and a sense of control. But, there is no putting the genie back in the bottle. We will need to find our home and security in a universe that seems so very impersonal, yet, with the touch of Christ, seems very personal.

I wonder if politically, those making the most noise and demanding to be in control, are suffering from the frustration of having lost a smaller and more controllable universe. Interestingly, many of them are Creationists.

To go forward, we must embrace change. Reformation is going forward into change and trusting God to put it together along the way. Restoration is returning to the perceived security of a bygone era where faith is nothing more then a feeling of security.

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