Hello there my dear friends. In this post we will look at the profound question: what or who is God?
Now it goes without saying that this is a question MANY of us ask. It is a question which has baffled the greatest minds and has always been asked by every culture.
Religion is part of being human
As far back as we can go, we see that human beings have been, to some extent, religious. This is possibly even true of Neanderthals who apparently came before us (if you agree with the current science on this).
Scholars tend to agree that this is evidence that, to some extent, humans (homo sapiens) have always been religious.
From early times, regardless of culture, humans have sacrificed to ‘the gods’. Animal sacrifice has been common throughout the world since early times.
Again, this shows that humans are religious. It is part of who and what we are: humans are religious and rational ‘animals’.
The following often evades us in the western world, but the VAST majority of the world is religious. Look at the numbers:
- Christians – 2.6 billion
- Muslims – 2 billion
- Hindus – 1.1 billion
- Buddhists – 500 million
And that’s just the 4 largest religions, never mind all the others. From just these simple numbers, you can see that over 75 percent of the world is religious.
In fact, if you add up all the other religions, that number will probably be considerably higher.
And of the religions that revere Jesus Christ, we have the Christians, the Muslims and the Hindus. That’s 5.7 billion people. That’s about 70 percent of the world population.
Anyway. I mention all of this to say that the question ‘who or what is God’ is a very old one and a very, very widespread question. And depending on the country or culture, you will get different answers.
Different views about God
For instance, Christians will say that God is a Trinity of persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and that Jesus Christ is God the Word made flesh.
Muslims will say that God is simply ONE, and that there is no Trinity. Jesus Christ is not, therefore, God’s son for Muslims, although they believe him to be the Messiah.
Agreement about who or what God is
There are, however, some strong similarities amongst the big world religions on who or what God is.
First of all, all the major religions and some/many traditional Philosophical schools (such as Platonism and Aristotelianism) believe that God is ultimately ONE. Even though Christians believe in a Holy Trinity, yet they also believe passionately that this Holy Trinity of divine persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – is absolutely ONE in Being.
This means that ALL of the major world religions are ultimately monotheistic, including much of Hinduism.
This is often forgotten today. In fact, this is perhaps the one truth about who or what God is that seriously needs to be ‘resurrected’.
When people debate the existence of God, they say things like, ‘Yeh, but if god made all things, then who made god?’ Constantly, in debates between atheists and theists, the atheist seems to think that ‘god’ is some kind of higher creature, some kind of really big and powerful mighty one. A bit like the strongest superhero or a cosmic Santa Claus.
But this is nonsense from the perspective of most of the world’s theists and traditional philosophers. Hardly anyone traditionally has thought of ‘god’ as some giant creature, just a much bigger and invisible version of ourselves.
The God that the world religions believe in is not bigger than us, he/it is TOTALLY unlike us.
In fact, this is why we tend to use negative theology when discussing God. We call this apophatic theology. That is, we tend to say more what God is NOT, than what God is. When it comes to what God is, no-one really knows. It is impossible for the human mind to conceive what God is.
However, we can understand something of God by pointing out what God is not.
For instance, God is not a gender. God is not a He, or a She, or even an It. When we speak of God as being a He, we are always speaking metaphorically. We are using human language, as limited as it is, to refer to the infinite and all-Transcendent Divine Being.
It is really a convenience for us to speak of God as a He or even a She.
Additionally, God is not divided up into parts, but is ONE SIMPLE what-God-is. We call this the doctrine of divine simplicity. This means that all creatures and everything in the universe is made up of parts. You can’t find anything in nature that is not made up of parts.
But God is not a creature and God is beyond the universe. And therefore, God is not made up of parts, but is ONE SIMPLE BEING.
Again, God is not finite. Everything in the universe is finite. Even the sun and stars will someday die. But God is so different to this that God will never die. And God never had a beginning, unlike everything in existence.
Why Religions Exist
The reason all of these religions exist is because they are attempts to try to step in to an experience of this absolutely profound, all-mysterious and Transcendent Divine. This is a human craving. We NEED God. We NEED to experience the Divine Being. We NEED to experience that which is beyond the mere material plane of things.
So I hope this post serves as something of an introduction to this amazing topic. Obviously there is only so much that can be said. With GOD, it is better to say less than more.
Thankfully, God has granted us divine revelation of himself. Without God revealing himself to us, we could never know God.
Muslims believe that the Holy Quran is God’s divine revelation, through the prophet Muhammad.
Jews believe that the Torah is God’s divine revelation, through Moses and the prophets.
Hindus believe that the divine has revealed itself in many ways.
Christians believe that God has stepped into our world in the person of Jesus Christ. God – so different to us and so far beyond us – has actually become one of us through Mary Immaculate.
It is this last viewpoint that I personally believe in and think is true. ‘But why?’, you ask. That’s a question for another time.