Niebuhr Part 3
Does Niebuhr believe that God is personal? His method is to use the resources of the western religious tradition to affect a kind of self image about us and our world. And his God language gets used for that end.
To speak of God as transcendent is not to make a claim about an entity that exists outside of space and time as it is to juxtaposition it with the actual, the finite, the creaturely. To assert that we are judged by God is not that there is an old man with a score card but rather recognizing that all our works are as rags before the infinite.
God is a sort of an ideal perspective, that since we never have or maybe can only get a glimpse of, acts as a relativizer of us and our beliefs, commitments, and projects. In that God performs the function as an ideal but does that make God a personal being?
Yes, according to Niebuhr for God is personal and is required for his project. People will only respond religiously to a God who is personal. Because it is only between persons that personal commitments and loyalties can be made. But that only answers what may be necessary for us to respond to God. It doesn't describe what God is.
Niebuhr presents an anthropology, in making sense of the resources that exist in the tradition to solve human problems. In this, Niebuhr, shares a method that most liberal protestants use. But then, John Calvin uses this in his catechism, Instruction in Faith.
Calvin starts that work with the human in the world, our sense of it, and the way that our mis estimation of ourselves and the world presents us with a problem. This is a shift that starts with the world. This is what separates Niebuhr from many theologians, and why I am apt to go with him.