John, I took your recommendation and am reading Sherry Waddell’s Forming Intentional Disciples: The Path to Knowing and Following Jesus.
It raises many questions.
You can’t have a personal relationship with God unless you believe God is personal, and according to a Pew survey that Wadell refers to, 30% of Catholics believe in an impersonal God.
Strictly speaking, God is no “a being” or “a person” or “personal.” These are analogies by which we speak of God – or by which God speaks of himself through revelation. This is apophatic theology – but I doubt that is what most people mean.
C.S. Lewis wrote:
A good many people nowadays say, `I believe in a God, but not in a personal God.’ They feel that the mysterious something which is behind all other things must be more than a person. Now the Christians quite agree. But the Christians are the only people who offer any idea of what a being that is beyond personality could be like. All the other people, though they say that God is beyond personality, really think of Him as something impersonal: that is, as something less than personal. If you are looking for something super-personal, something more than a person, then it is not a question of choosing between the Christian idea and the other ideas. The Christian idea is the only one on the market.
God is not less than personal, but more than personal. A human person is an image and likeness of God, but God is uncreated and man is created.
We know God in Jesus. He is fully and completely human but not a human person. He is a divine, uncreated Person whom we come to know not in the flesh but in the Spirit (more on this later).
It is hard to know what people mean by an impersonal God – something that is less than we are? Something like gravity, or dark energy, or the Force in Star Wars?
I suspect that they have not even thought about it much. But why would the call God impersonal. Again, I suspect it is not apophatic theology, but something else.
A lack of considering the Incarnation? God manifested himself through a human being, so the human is the highest and best image and likeness of the Divine. God nursed, learned how to walk, had friends, was sad, happy, affectionate, tender, suffered, and tasted the bitterness of death. As one thinks about this, it is hard to see why one would call God impersonal. What could these Catholics mean? I wish that Waddell had explored that.