Who is God?
Oftentimes our conception of God can be missing important facets of the definition of the word “God” itself. As we listen to church sermons or hear people talk about God, we begin to conjure up images of God we may assume are true when, in fact, they may not be as true as we think they are. If, when we imagine God, our hearts are not brought to some level of peace and our minds to some level of rest, it is likely that our image of God is not entirely true.
Today, there are many competing images of God. It would be far too difficult to argue for or against each one of these disparate views of God, so instead I am going to provide a necessary starting point for thinking about God: analyzing the definition and implications of the word itself according to the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. In this way, we will be able to compare our preconceived images of God with the definitional foundations of the word God itself. I hope this short meditation on the nature of God begins to slay a few angry, distant, and indifferent false gods that may be floating around in the back of our hearts and minds. I wish for it to open us up to a more intellectual, honest, and heartfelt understanding of the true God as depicted in the Old and New Testaments.
When we think about God, we often project images and concepts onto God that are based on our experiences with other human beings. Oftentimes, the God of our minds is made in the image of other humans we know—usually a combination of the authoritative figures in our lives. But we must remember that God is not made in the image of humans; rather, humans are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). Therefore, it is important to remember that God has human-like characteristics. God’s personhood is divine and not an imitation of ours; rather our personhood is an imitation of His. This means that the conceptions we have of even the very best of human traits and characteristics don’t fully match what God is like, and actually may not even come close.
In Genesis, the first book of the Old Testament, it is written, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1 ESV). In the Gospel of John, the fourth Gospel of the New Testament, it is written, “All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:3 ESV). So from these two lines we can conclude two basic things: first, God is the Creator of all things and second, God, in being the Creator of all things, is prior to and in a sense, beyond all things. If these two premises are true, then God, in being the Creator of all things, cannot be adequately imagined because in imagining what God looks like, we mistakenly give God the attribute of being a created thing, when in reality, God is by definition uncreated and beyond all things. That throws quite a wrench in our ability to conceptualize God, but I think it is important to acknowledge and know when our minds fall short in being able to fully comprehend something or someone.
Take a moment and try imagining God as the Creator of all things without giving God the attribute of being created.
Our minds will likely come up with some image of an abyss—a nothingness from which creation is born. However, at the same time we know that even this image is a thought that depicts God as created and falls short of the requirement of giving God the attribute of being uncreated. Let me explain. If God is beyond all things and the Creator of all things, including existence itself, then nothingness, which is empty space containing no physical objects, is in fact something that God created. Another way to think about this is that in order for there to be nothingness, there must be somethingness (for nothingness is by definition the negation of somethingness). However, God existed before there was something (because God is the creator of all things), and if God existed before there was something, then there was a time when there was no such thing as nothingness because there was no something to negate. Only when God began creating was there the possibility of there being nothingness or empty space. Therefore imagining God as an abyss of nothingness from which creation is born does not do God justice.
Thoughts cannot depict an uncreated thing, because thoughts are the creation of something in the mind and therefore, they immediately give the attribute of “being created” to anything that is imagined. In other words, thoughts cannot imagine something uncreated because thoughts by nature only think in terms of created things. So we are left to the impossible task of imagining the uncreated God with an imagination that can only think in terms of created things.
It may seem as though we have reached a dead end and this whole thought process is useless. However, we have reached a valuable insight: God is simply beyond our ability to comprehend and imagine.
On our own, none of our thoughts of God, no matter how hard we try, come close to being fully true. In fact, they are not only far away from being true, they are inherently wrong because they attribute to God the one thing that God by definition is not: created. On our own, we can’t even take a step towards God and each step we take on our own will bring us farther away from God and a true thought about God.
“How could I ever find the answers?” says Job. “I will cover my mouth with my hand. I have said too much already. I have nothing more to say” (Job 40:4-5 NLT). We reach something similar to the valuable and humbling insight of Job in the Old Testament: on our own we are not capable of truly and accurately comprehending who and what God is.
But if God exists and if God in some way, shape, or form cares about the things God created, then why would this God create us to be incapable of fully comprehending His existence? If we are utterly dependent on an outside source to come down and show us the truth, then where can we find this outside source? We established above the difficulty of reaching truth about God on our own, and we saw how the only way for a person to reach the truth about God is if something from the outside of our trapped system of thinking intervenes and shows us.
Christians believe that Jesus Christ is the true revelation of God, and that when we look at Jesus, his character, his actions, and who he is and come to know him personally, then we have also seen and known who God is, for Jesus Christ and God are one. Jesus says,“If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him (John 14:7 ESV), and “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30 ESV).
The Old Testament is a combination of books that predict, point to, and await the arrival of God in the flesh, and the New Testament is the documentation of God’s appearance and life on earth. The appearance of Jesus Christ is God’s way of revealing who He is to humanity, and the Bible is a way that this revelation is passed down in writing from one generation to the next. Thus, Jesus Christ, through the Bible, becomes a significant way in which God reaches and communicates who He is to the hearts and minds of human beings in a way that we would otherwise be incapable of doing on our own. Without the intervention of God, we would be lost in the wilderness of thoughts, unable to see clearly and find the way.
Not only is it good news that God has provided a way for us to know Him, but it is also good news that Jesus Christ is God in bodily form. Jesus Christ is the image of the invisible God and is the full revelation of God. Everything we see in Jesus Christ is what God is, and everything God is is what we see in Jesus Christ, for Jesus is not only similar to God but is the same as God and is “the exact imprint of his nature” (Hebrews 1:3 ESV). He did not go about life lazily or nonchalantly and he did not go about hating people; rather, God, through Jesus Christ, devoted his entire life to his mission to redeem the world, and in the end, he died on a cross for all of humanity, taking on all the evil and sin in the world and of humanity onto himself (2 Corinthians 5:21, Galatians 3:13). In his last moments, when he experienced the ultimate anguish of human existence, sin, and separation from God, he cried out to his Father, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46 ESV).
Jesus Christ was crucified by his commitment to and love for all people and all creation. Jesus Christ means God is with us. Jesus Christ means that God not only cares about us but that he is also eternally committed to us. Jesus Christ means we are so precious to our Creator that he was willing to die on a cross for us. Jesus Christ means we are loved more deeply than we can imagine. Jesus Christ means that God is neither distant nor indifferent, but rather that God exists, that God is present, and that he is in love with all that he created. Jesus died, bearing the turmoil of human existence on himself. He was buried, and on the third day rose from the dead. He gives eternal life to those who believe in him, and it is his good pleasure to give you his kingdom (John 10:28, Luke 12:32). Seek him and you will find him (Jeremiah 29:13-14, Matthew 7:7), for He alone is the one who deserves our trust and life.Tags: love, peace, theology