Rawlings School of Divinity
Doctor of Philosophy in Theology and Apologetics (PhD)
David J. Baggett
Morality, Apologetics, Personal, Trinity, Theology, Abductive
Christianity | Ethics in Religion | Philosophy | Religion
Jordan, Stephen Scott, "Morality and the Personhood of God: A Moral Argument for the Existence of a Personal God" (2021). Doctoral Dissertations and Projects. 2870.
The concept that God is personal is an important part of religious belief. If God were not personal, it would be odd to think of him as moral or loving; it would also seem counterintuitive to speak of him as One with whom humans can have a personal relationship, One who can be trusted, cares for the people he created, listens to their prayers, acts on their behalf, has their best interests at heart, and so on. In short, to talk of such matters in a sensible manner and to experience them in everyday life seemingly requires that God is personal.
Is there evidence that a personal God actually exists? Enter the moral argument. The moral argument, like other classical arguments for God’s existence, is able to provide evidence for believing in God’s existence, but—unlike other arguments, or perhaps better than the other arguments—is able to shed an incredible amount of light on God’s character (i.e., what God is like). For example, in order to account for morality, God must be good, loving, and holy. Additionally, by surveying the moral landscape—specifically, categories such as moral knowledge, moral values, moral obligations, and moral transformation—it becomes apparent that the deeply personal nature of morality points in the direction of a personal source, and most appropriately, a source personal to the highest degree possible.
If the moral argument suggests that a personal source is needed in order to account for the personal nature of morality, naturalism is in a difficult position because of its impersonal or non-personal nature. Similarly, Platonism is a non-personal metaphysical system and therefore faces a challenge in accounting for the personal nature of morality. Although there are several belief systems that set forth the notion of a personal God, with some conceptions coming nearer to adequately accounting for what is required of a personal God than others, Christianity uniquely demonstrates that not only is God personal, but that he has always been personal. If the only sense in which God is personal is in his personal interactions with human persons, then one could say that God’s personality was frustrated before he created human persons or that God became personal only after he created human persons. To say these sorts of things presents all sorts of theological and philosophical problems, namely, that God is dependent on something other than himself and therefore not self-sufficient.
A Trinitarian conception of God, which is a distinctly Christian concept, solves the sorts of problems alluded to above, suggesting that God has always been personal in and through the inner personal relations of the three Persons of the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is the fundamental reason why the Judeo-Christian God, the God of the Bible, is the best explanation for the deeply personal nature of morality: he is intrinsically personal himself.
While there is certainly more involved, there are two key tasks to this version of the moral argument: (1) demonstrate that morality points in the direction of a personal source; and (2) explain how a Trinitarian conception of God provides the best explanation for the deeply personal nature of morality.