Fr. Kimel at Eclectic Orthodoxy has been posting a lot of great stuff recently on concepts of God. His most recent post contrasts “theistic personalism,” which views God as, essentially, a person writ large, with “classical theism,” which has a less anthropomorphic understanding of the divine being. He comes down, with some help from Edward Feser and David B. Hart, on the side of classical theism.
My one worry here is that the more you “de-personalize” God, the less clear it becomes how the biblical narratives can be truthful representations of who God is. The Bible clearly portrays God as acting in specific ways to bring about certain purposes, as loving us, as hearing our prayers., etc. I’m not learned enough to adjudicate this issue, but there seems to be a tension in classical theism’s efforts to combine biblical personalism with Greek-influenced metaphysics (this is hardly an original observation).
Maybe my impression here is due to the fact that the major theologians I’ve read most recently are Schleiermacher and Tillich. Both of their systems strongly emphasize the inadequacy of applying the categories of finite being to God. But both also end up with a God whom it’s difficult to imaging acting in specific ways or answering individual prayers. This could be an idiosyncrasy of their thought, or it could be that they are more thoroughly consistent as classical theists. I’m honestly not sure. Clearly theologians have always qualified some of the Bible’s more blatantly anthropomorphic images of God, and in fact Scripture itself seems to do this in various places. But at want point does the personal nature of the biblical God die the death of a thousand qualifications?
I’m less attracted to modern revisionist forms of theism (e.g., process theology) than I once was, but it still seems to me that they point to some genuine problems in the classical understanding of God.
(I wrote about this issue previously here.)