What in the World is God? Part 3 – Eternality and Omnipotence

 

“Humans explaining the nature of God is like an ant trying to explain who dropped the sugar.” Trish O’Connor

Doodle God“YAHWEH our God, YAHWEH is one.” (Deuteronomy 6:4) The I AM revealed Himself to Israel as a unique God in a time of religious pluralism when people around the fledgling nation had changed the idea of God to something more manageable to their minds and acquiescent to their desires.  They had gods for the sea, mountains, and plains; gods for their crops, food, and sex.  Lots of gods, none of whom was very powerful; often many of them in contention with each other.

So when God revealed Himself to Moses and Israel, He wanted to establish that He was not an invention of man, but to take them back to the beginning.  When asked for His name, this nameless one communicated to us with language we could understand, and He called Himself, the “I AM WHO I AM.” (Exodus 3:14)

Each of us had a beginning, a cause that made us.  Our parents at some time had conjugal relations and thus we came into existence.  Going back in history through grandparents, great-grands, etc., to ancestors in ancient time, every person could say “I am because of my parents,” all the way back to Adam and Eve.  In fact, everything in the universe had and has a “cause” which brought it into being.  Even the “gods” around Israel had their beginnings in ideas men had and the statues men had made.

In Part 2 of this series, I referred to God as “the First Cause.”  This is a term used first by Aristotle to describe the initiation of all other phenomena in the observable world (“Don’t be impressed, you can look it up!” Steve Elliott 😉).  The alternative to First Cause is that “causes” extend back into eternity past, negating a “need” for God.  However, within just a few centuries we can see a progression in the events on Earth that suggests a starting point and an ending point.  This lines up with the Bible that tells us directly, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1)  Furthermore the Bible teaches that history on this earth has a terminal point, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.” (Revelation 21:1)

The issue for us is whether to believe the Bible or not, and I have addressed its reliability in several previous blogs (beginning with June 28, 2015) with the conclusion that there is no book in history that has been more reliably preserved and translated than the Bible.  Central to the question of believing the Bible is whether Jesus arose from the dead, also a subject of several blogs (April 19, 2015, August 16, 2015 to name a couple) and that conclusion is that there is more historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus than for George Washington being the first president of the United States.

If we begin with these assumptions, that the Bible is true, and that Jesus arose from the dead, the identity of the First Cause becomes very important to our lives, not as a theological question for intellectual debate, but as a practical consideration of how we are going to live day to day in our short time spent here.

Attributes of God are not parts of who He is.  They are facets of His unity.  He is not at one time, judgmental and just, then changing to be kind and merciful at another.  His justice and love, truth and grace, judgments and mercy, all flow from one fountain of One Who Is.  We will explore a couple of these attributes and others in the next couple weeks.

The First Cause argument for the existence of God carries with it several ideas that become important for the foundation of our lives.  When we look back in time and find that He was already there, we conclude that He was always there, i.e. eternally existent, a necessary condition for a First Cause.  As Eternality is an attribute of God, it is not something that He can lose, thus He will always exist into eternity in the future.

If He is First Cause, He is unique and alone in this status.  There cannot be two First Causes.  And as the First Cause of the universe, He is all powerful, or Omnipotent.  He created all that exists, spangling the sky with stars and galaxies, exploding them outward to catch up with the light He had created (Genesis 1:3-5; 14-19).  He formed the earth from His ideas and sat it in the cosmos at the precise location to support the lives He would go on to create here.

His Eternality and Omnipotence go hand in hand in that one who was not eternal could not be omnipotent.  Conversely, one who was not omnipotent would not be able to guarantee his eternality.  Like facets on a sculpted jewel we see these characteristics of what He is.  And we will see in the next few weeks other facets that all blend together to reveal what we are able to grasp of The I AM.

There may be attributes of God that we cannot know about until we see Him “face-to-face” (1 Corinthians 13:12), and even then, there may be characteristics of the Divine that will continue to elude us through all eternity.  I note again, He is God, and we will never be what He is, nor able to fully comprehend Him.

This begins a frightening prospect for the person who does not know The God Who Is There.  To realize there is Someone who lives in eternity and holds all power in His hands creates in the untrained heart a great fear as we come into His presence.  But in the heart of one who has become acquainted with I AM, this fear is mingled with adoration for One in whom we can have complete confidence that He will always be there, or rather here, for us (Psalm 16:8) and there is nothing too hard for Him. (Jeremiah 32:27)

Next week, , we will look at additional characteristics of God.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jP2nz6PG8KM

 

 

 

 

 

What in the World is God? Part 1

“Humans explaining the nature of God is like an ant trying to explain who dropped the sugar.” Trish O’Connor

Doodle GodWhat 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.

First Church of PhegallicurA 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?

ResurrectedWe 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)!

Earth Asia.jpgThe 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.

Next week, , we will look at what is a “Trinity.”

 

 

Wondering While Wandering Through Time and Space

Off the usual moral themes of this blog, this is simply a logical discussion.  Time is an attribute of God.  You will not find this in any theological text and as far as I know I am the only one to espouse this idea, but it feels right, it appears logical, and common sense verifies it as true.

Swallows of San Juan Capistrano

The “brains” of this world, the intellectuals, are fond of making things very complicated.  “Instinct” is an invented word that means “we do not really have any idea.”  The dictionary defines “instinct” as “an inborn pattern of activity or tendency to action common to a given biological species.”  Why do birds fly south in the winter before it turns cold?  Why do the swallows fly from Argentina over the same pattern to San Juan Capistrano every year?  Why does a dog chase its tail?  Actually, we have no idea, so we ascribe these behaviors to “instinct.”

Hawking A Brief History of Time

In the same way, the late Stephen Hawkings, the brilliant and modest physics genius had problems explaining how life could evolve in the universe without God, so he came up with the idea of a “multiverse,” an infinite number of possible universes in which one, ours, could possibly have evolved life without Outside interference.  A pretty idea, but sounding an awful lot like Star Trek, it is basically absurd intellectualism to disguise his lack of evidence shrouded in complex mathematical formulae that he claimed “proved” there was no need for God.  The amazing thing about truth, or Truth if you prefer, is that it is usually self-evident.  “The king is not wearing any clothes” is a statement only a child would make in a kingdom that could not bear royal embarrassment.  No need for complicated conspiracy theories or complex equations.

So let’s get back to Time, a feature of our universe that I believe to be an attribute of God, like Space (yeah, that one, too, but maybe for another blog).  Time stretches back into eternity past and forward to an eternal future.  It, like God, is immutable; that is, it never changes in spite of Einstein’s ideas.  It is beyond the pale of man’s imagination to figure out a “time” when Time did not exist.  There is no reference of the Bible that says Time had a beginning.  The created universe had one, but “when” did that happen?

There are other things about God that our little minds cannot fully understand.  Remember, HE is God, we are not!  Thus, we have to rely on what He has revealed about Himself.  Somehow, He is Three-In-One, a single being with three persons.  We followers of Jesus are not tri-theists.  There is One God, and He is ONE.  Yet Father blesses the Son at His baptism and the Holy Spirit descends like a dove over Him (Luke 3:21-22); all “parts” of God, yet each is fully God and sort of like . . . well, there is no adequate illustration of God, because He IS God and there is only ONE of Him, and no one and nothing else in the universe is like Him.

So let’s get back to Time, again.  The Bible never says, “Time will be no more.”  That’s a line from a nice song about spending eternity with Him, but not a theological reality.  When will we be with Him?  When we leave this world by death or the Lord’s return.  How long will we be with Him?  For all the Time of eternity.  Clearly the Bible does not teach that we will somehow lose personality or identity; mystically absorbed into the infinite (Buddhism).  Hinduism and Jainism teach there is a personal soul but its blissfulness is very close to Buddhism’s loss of personality by the time you reach that state.

Einstein

The Bible shows individuals around the Throne of God worshiping Him, not in some ethereal sphere of timelessness, but in Eternal Time (Revelation 4 and 22).  It is the measuring of Time that changes, not time itself.  Einstein pictured a train passing at some distance from an observer, and it seemed to go slower than it appeared to someone on the train.  We see this when we watch a jet slowly traversing the sky; we can trace its travel with our finger, but if we were in a balloon up next to it, it would be whizzing by!  But the time and speed it is traveling does not change; only our perception of it.  So Time does not bend, but our measurement of it does.  We have all experienced this in the way we perceive time, sometimes happening very quickly, sometimes very slowly.  But Time is constant and does not change.

There was a time when God was alone . . . as the Three-In-One who had communion within Himself.  Then at some time in the Eternity past, He decided to share His existence with others, so He created amazing beings (to humans) of light and majesty, that if we were to encounter one of them, we would be inclined to worship him (Revelation 19:9-10).  Like God, He gave them free will, intelligence and emotions.

Then at another point in Time, Lucifer (Light-Bearer), one of the chief three angels came up with an absurd and twisted idea that he wanted to be God (Isaiah 14:14).  However, the insanity of his thought was that he was a created being, not eternally existent in the past; not omniscient, not omnipresent, not omnipotent, not containing Time and Space in himself.  So God kicked him out of Heaven, i.e. left him out of relationship, and separated him and the third of angels who followed him from the Life, Light, and Love that is God.

At another time, God decided to create another being, after creating the Earth, the planets, the stars and the galaxies of our universe.  He made this one with free will, intelligence and emotion as well.  Only this time He limited how much of Himself He would show to these created beings.  So Adam and Eve walked and talked with God, who apparently took on a form that they could comprehend.  Now we live in the in-between Time, between Eternity Past and Eternity Future, but actually part of the Eternal Time: “In Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).

Emperors New Clothes.jpg

So in my childlike view of The Emperor’s New Clothes, my little brain just figures Time is an attribute of God.  What difference does this make?  Very little for our spiritual lives.  Like arguments between the Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday crucifixion of our Lord, the important issue is that He was crucified and raised from the dead.  The important thing about Time is that it is in His hands and He has numbered the days for each of us before we appear before Him (Psalm 139:16).

As for Space, besides the Acts 17 reference, you can look at Colossians 1:16-17:For IN him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and IN him all things hold together.”  He inhabits the “Colossian Space.”  (see https://www.physicsoftheuniverse.com/topics_relativity_spacetime.html)
Just wondering while wandering through Time and Space.