by Krishna Dharma Dasa
Why do so many people find it hard to think of God as a person?
Whenever the press runs articles about faith, the idea that God might be person seems more or less abhorrent to the authors. Even those who may term themselves theists balk at the idea, offering all kinds of alternatives.
The Guardian (London) regularly prints a column dealing with different beliefs. In one article recently published, a professor of philosophy gave his opinion that it is time to discard the “old God concept of Western faiths… . We should now come to the more intelligent philosophy of Advaita Vedanta.” Another article, coming from a noted psychiatrist, speaks about the idea of God as being “irreconcilable with the reality of cruelty, misery and pain, ... a dangerous word (God) in any sense, giving license to persecution and murder.”
These are but a couple of examples of the confusion regularly exhibited in the column. The only thing common to the writers is that they all make the same mistake. They assume, somewhat conceitedly, that because they do not know anything about God, either nothing can be known, or at least no one else knows. “I can’t understand how God could be a person; therefore He can’t be.” But perhaps they simply have not yet encountered that knowledge. After all, there are so many things we do not know, but we can learn about them by approaching a proper teacher.
Indeed, what are we coming to? Is it so difficult to understand the nature of God? There are so many simple yet profound arguments to help us understand. For instance, just as a watch obviously has a maker, so the universe, infinitely more complex than a watch, must also have a brain behind it Or if God created man in the image of Himself, would that make God formless energy? Can we find even a single example of an act of creation not carried out by a person?
Nothing happens by chance; every thing follows the law of cause and effect Even in probability theory the word chance cannot be properly defined. If I can perfectly repeat the conditions of a dice throw for the next throw, I will get the same number. We may not be aware of the variables, but something determines the result. Fixed variables, such as loaded dice, will fix the result. There must also be an ultimate cause of all causes, and just a little thought demands that it must be a person.
Consider: Can order arise from disorder without the influence of intelligence? Do material objects tend to decay, or do they restore themselves and grow? What is our experience? How can we say that the world, with its infinite, ordered intricacies, simply developed of its own accord from a vast cauldron of boiling “primordial soup”? Or funnier still—from a mass of exploding rock.
The universe is full of laws that cannot be broken. We must submit to time—grow old and die. Everything must disintegrate and form again into new objects. The sun rises and sets with perfect precision; the stars and planets similarly move. Can there be laws without a lawmaker? Again, what is our experience?
Nowadays we even hear the absurd proposal that we are all God. But can I honestly say that everything is controlled by me? Am I omniscient, even though I cannot see beyond the walls of the room I am in? How many hairs are there on my own head? Can I create even a single atom? Clearly there is a flaw in the suggestion that I am the Supreme Being, possessed of all and perfect knowledge.
Others offer the theory that, although we are now unaware of our Godhood, we will realize our supremacy upon attaining nirvana, or some such state. We are now in illusion, but that will end when we are self-realized. But what is the meaning of our supremacy if we are overwhelmed by illusion or forgetfulness? If the force of illusion, whatever it may be, is greater than we are, how can we be supreme?
Obviously I am not supreme, but something must be. Even the most primitive people offer respects to greatness. Sometimes they worship the sky, sometimes mountains, oceans, and even the rainfall upon which all life depends. In any event, there is an acceptance of superiority;there are things greater than I. This cannot be denied. The force of nature is greater, bringing transformation and death inevitably to all.
But what is the ultimate greatness? We see a beautiful painting and wonder—who painted it? But what about the original landscape? Who painted that? Rains fall, and the food by which we are nourished grows—a wonderful system. And yet no one engineered it? Great scientific brains struggle hard and yet fail to emulate even a small aspect of nature, such as the creation of a tiny amoeba.
Although I am not supreme. I still have the attribute of personality. I can think, feel, will, and desire. Could it be that I am capable of something of which God, the Supreme, is not?
These are all elementary arguments, and though they may not be all-encompassing in their logic, and though I have not addressed all the possible objections to them, an honest person will have to admit that they are sensible. Compare the simple logical points of the theistic presentation with the complex and often barely intelligible arguments made to support atheism. Which seem more credible?
It is hopeless to speculate grandly and finally conclude that there are no answers to life’s big questions. The real conclusion is that our brain power is insufficient to independently arrive at the answers. We have to accept the answers of the authority on these questions: scripture.
All the scriptures speak of God as a person. Dismissing this evidence, we enter the realm of personal conjectures and find that these are endless and without agreement. Although the subject of the Absolute Truth is the most profound area of study, everyone will offer his own theory about it. If. instead of going to law college. I decided to make my own laws and set up a legal practice, would anyone come to me? But anyone will speak about God without having studied hardly one word about Him. Are we foolish enough to listen?
As devotees of Krishna, we are sometimes accused of having surrendered our intelligence to a fixed belief system. But hasn’t the lawyer surrendered to a system by accepting the laws of the land, studying them, and then repeating them to his clients? We have accepted the obvious fact that God exists and have made it our business to study Him and His purpose, under the guidance of the Vedic literature and the authorized spiritual master.
It is certainly painful for us, having dedicated ourselves to a careful study of the science of God, to see people misled by the absurd postulations of part-time, speculative philosophers. Perhaps the press would be wise to examine the credentials of authors who offer opinion-forming articles in areas where they have little or no knowledge. They owe it to their readers.