“Humans explaining the nature of God is like an ant trying to explain who dropped the sugar.” Trish O’Connor
What in the world is God? The question is posed somewhat tongue-in-cheek. The gut level response is that it should read “Who,” not “What.” However, it is not entirely in jest, because God is not a man; He is not a cow or an elephant; He is not a Bhudda or Mohammad or Vishnu or Brahman; He is not a cast metal statue or stone carving; He is not even really a “he” or “she.” In fact, He is not very much like us at all; He is “something” so completely different from us that the “what” question is as reasonable to ask as the “who” one.
While it is impossible for humans to fully grasp who or what God is, Paul claimed that what could be known about Him begins with a clear understanding of the order of the universe: “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.” (Romans 1:19-20)
Some skeptics will claim that ignorant aboriginal people, not understanding phenomena such as lightning, thunder, earthquakes, floods, etc., “invented” God to explain what they could not understand. However, this is contrary to the human mind, even a “primitive” one. We look for understanding of the unknown from what we know; we build our interpretations on foundations of fact to which our minds are accustomed. A “primitive man” (if there ever was such a one) would no more likely invent a god to account for unexplained phenomena than a modern man would invent a phegallicur to explain his smartphone which he does not understand.
A phegallicur is something that simply does not exist, and as far as I know has never been named before this blog. I hardly expect a religion of Phegallicurism to develop because so many people do not understand how their phones work and I “discovered” this word. (If you choose to start such a religion, I expect some honorarium and at least a plaque praising my discovery. 😉) And people in ancient times would not have invented religion for the same reasons.
The revelation of who or what God is must come from Him because He is so different from us. Thus, He appeared to the first man and woman and began to reveal Himself gradually to them, to allow them time to grow in trust and love. Human refusal to cooperate with the trust He desired resulted in the development of many perversions of religion, false teachings that have denied the nature, behavior and attributes of The God Who Is There as He has revealed Himself to be. Essentially every false religion is based on an attempt to excuse some way in which the founder of said religion would not cooperate with the truth that was self-evident in the creation, truth to which God will lead the truly seeking heart (Deuteronomy 4:29; Jeremiah 29:13).
To discover what God really is becomes vitally important even before we begin our quest, because He has revealed Himself as the source of everything good: the source of life, light, joy, peace, etc. (James 1:17). The alternative to knowing God is hell, separation from all that is good, and the evidence is very scarce that we get a second chance as reincarnation teaches. Even if one was to accept the basic idea of reincarnation, why waste time recycling through multiple miserable lives and not go for the very best now?
We have no clear evidence of life beyond this one except for the resurrection of Jesus, called the Christ or Messiah. If one investigates this evidence he or she will find it overwhelming that Jesus did arise from the dead. And that changes everything. It changes how I view God. It changes what I may think He is. It changes how I treat my wife, family, friends. It changes how I behave in relation to what I think may be good for me vs. what He says is good for me. It changes everything! This change is so radical, Paul even calls us new creatures (2 Corinthians 5:17)!
The other part of my question introducing this blog is significant as well: “in the world.” God is not part of this world, yet He is here, in the world. Our understanding of what and who He is will affect how we view what is happening in this world, because He is the Creator of it and has much to say about our affairs here. We will examine over the next few weeks several of God’s attributes, not as simply an academic exercise, but as a personal attempt to get closer to Him, to know Him more fully, and conform more to the “image of Christ” (Romans 8:29).
Note that the use of “image” here is not to convey an idea of setting up a statue or physical likeness of Jesus, but to find out His priorities, His desires, His willingness to reach out to you and me, His longing for fellowship with us. I do not mean by “longing” that He lacks in any way if we do not come into relationship with Him. One of the faults of the 20th century American church that is carrying over into the 21st is that somehow we “complete” God like the heroine in Jerry McGuire. One of the first things we will discover as we begin to know Him, the One True God, and Jesus Christ whom He has sent (John 17:3), is that He is fulfilled by His existence. We need Him; He does not need us.
A final note as I embark on this study of What In the World Is God?: I have studied the Bible for many years, even before I began living it. And as I have been trying now for many years to live it, I feel woefully inadequate to live what I already know. So like Bob Goff in Love Does, I do not wish to do another “Bible study,” but a “Bible doing.” My hope is that as we examine what and who God is I will “do” differently than I currently do. And if you join me in this, that you too, will decide to “do” differently than you currently do. We are not saved by knowledge alone, but by faith that results in obedience to His will (Matthew 21:28-32), to what and who God is.