What is a person? Just a complex expression of the natural laws of physics, chemistry and biology? No, personhood and the human spirit resists such mechanistic reduction. I regard personhood as a mystery. I believe that, like all mysteries, it stems from the Greatest Mystery – God Himself. [This is not to say that we shouldn’t try to plumb the depths of personhood or any other mystery (e.g. gravity, love) but only that we should maintain our awareness of our limitations and our subjectivity, during such investigations.]
In the Gospel message God is a person. God is thought of and spoken of in the familiar human terms of personhood. He is described as “Father” and “Son”, as being “angry”, “aggrieved”, “joyful”, and as wanting to talk with us, reason with us and woo us. This is not to limit God to anthropomorphic dimensions, but only to say that God is not less than personal, and that the dimensions of personhood are among our most complex understandings of God. Conceiving God as a mere force or as raw energy or matter doesn’t do justice to either the Living God or to the reality of human personhood.
“Personal” in human experience includes the unconscious mind – our repository for all our experiences, cognitions and values. Our emotions seem to be a direct link to the sum total of that repository, and a much more accurate and direct link to all a person is than the conscious cognitions of the moment (especially as the latter can be so biased and deceiving through its ego concerns). As babies we start off similar to all other babies and through the experiences of life we become progressively more unique as time goes by.
In the Gospel message, Jesus’ personhood survives three transitions – incarnation, death, and resurrection. Jesus taught that (not withstanding human limitations) that He came from God and is God, that He and the Father were “one”, that to see Jesus was to see the Father (the Divine), and that we can be one with Them also. [All of these are mysteries, but they make sense of our lives… it’s a bit like the famous detective quote along the lines of “When you have eliminated all the other options, then whatever is left, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.”]
Finally, the Gospel is respectful of human personality, neither diminishing our intellect, emotions or will, but allowing all three to find balance and glorious expression. Human perfection, to Jesus, was not some impossible Greek-style concept of one idealized form, but simply a human being who could love completely and everyone – including those who did not love them back.