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Defining the Being of God

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There is a branch of philosophy called ontology, which looks at the nature of being. Today, I’d like to ask you to consider what you would be comfortable to say constitutes the being of God.

I’m not asking you to talk about the things that God can do, although this is of course a related subject area. Instead, I’d like to hear specifically about what you believe God is. Here are a few questions to get you thinking.

  • Does God have a form?
  • Is God purely spiritual, or does God’s being encompass material things as well?
  • Where is God right now?

You are invited to think deeply about these questions and leave a comment with your thoughts. You’re welcome to quote from the scriptures of a particular religion, the words of your favourite poet or writer, a definition you found in an online dictionary, or anything else that you feel meaningfully answers the above questions.

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!

26 comments

  1. Hi Steven,

    I hope you don’t mind my thoughts on this to go along with the others here, given that I’ll go round about and not answer in the end:

    • Does God have a form?
    • Is God purely spiritual, or does God’s being encompass material things as well?
    • Where is God right now?

    Obviously, I should admit defeat from the start concerning any positive knowledge about God. Negative knowledge, I feel, is appropriate from the human position, if possible at all.

    I once tried to think of how information could exist without a physical medium. I couldn’t do it. It exists beyond all physical material, but it requires that same material to grant it being in the first place. Considering this, I turned the question to God. How can God know anything if He has nowhere to store and process information? One clever way around (most of) this is to claim that the universe as it exists is identical to the mind of God and so, part of His being. This sprouts a pantheism of sorts. But this only accounts for the storage of information, not the processing since I cannot think of any way information is processed except by something outside of the storage system. Another solution would be to place all of God’s information storage and processing into the universe, but that would, at best, leave God subject to a fatalism of causation in the universe. There are, surely, other ways to approach my question but I detract from your own if I continue that direction.

    More directly towards what you asked, I would argue that the idea of a “spiritual” “being” has its own inherent difficulties. “Being” involves something material or materially dependent. Cars, houses, people, etc. are at the lowest level of material beings. A higher level would be friendship, stories, currency, and mathematics (I know this last one will be controversial to some though). The former are material in substance, while the latter are dependent on material objects for their existences, their “being.”

    “Spiritual” seems to be a negation of material objects. Can you think of any way of describing “spiritual” outside of saying it’s not “natural/material”?

    I hate to answer any further because it seems a bit impotent for me to say I know anything about God through human means. I can believe certain things and I can hope for certain things, but I can know so very little.

    Thanks

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  2. For me, whether God has a form or not and what that may be simply doesn’t matter anymore. I used think God had a body of flesh and bone like you and I, and that He was most definitely a he. I am no longer sure about either of those things. Now, I know I believe in God, in whatever form that may be. Purely spiritual, physical or whatever the shape. That is not what is important to me any longer. I believe God manifests him/her/itself through love. Where is God right now? Why, God is all around us. God is in the flowers I admire blooming each spring, in the hand of the good Samaritan who lives down the street, in the eyes of a small child filled with wonder and innocence, and in my heart.

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    1. It is hard to separate God’s essence from His attributes. The Bible, the only perfect revelation of God we have, tells us that God is a spirit, infinite and perfect, the only absolute and independent Being there is and consists of three persons in one Being. Indeed, we can not fully understand Him, and could meditate on Him forever (which I plan on doing) and not exhaust the subject.

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  3. While being very far from the reformed thought, I do like Gerald Bray’s “God is Love, A Biblical and Systematic Theology,” so I will borrow these thoughts from his work.

    The being of God is inexpressible in human terms, which means that it cannot be scientifically detected or investigated. If by some chance we were ever to come in contact with his being, we would be utterly destroyed because we could not handle the encounter (see biblical imagery of fire). to say that God is “being” is not to define what that being is but to emphasize that he is objectively there. According to biblical revelation, the one God is above and beyond any human concept, because he dwells outside the created order altogether. he cannot be compared or assimilated to any creature, spiritual or material. yet the beauty of God is that he relates to us in personal ways, not in abstract ones. What God does in time reflects who and what he is in eternity.

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  4. If there is a God. God can only be everything, including the air between us and the atoms we are made up of.

    I say this because from my Christian-Judaism upbringing, God is said to be omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient.

    To be omnipotent, God must be able to have power of all things energy based, spiritual, physical, and that which remains unknown to us including those particles smaller than atoms in the microverse and beyond our own universe.

    To be omnipresent basically means that God is in all things. If God’s omnipresence is absolute, that means that God must be present in everything and everywhere at all times.

    For God to be omniscient, God must have been in all things at all times in the past and present. God must know about the laws governing all matter to be able to know of all possible future outcomes as well. Basically, being all knowing means God must be present in all things at all times to know of all things. And when they say know, it has to be an absolute “know” where God knows and understands how that particular subject works, has worked in the past and all the paths is can cross in the future.

    The only way any of this makes sense is if all we know and beyond is God. We are a part of God, so are all the animals, bacteria, viruses, insects, the water, thoughts, the air, fire, electricity, the space between planets (which isn’t empty btw), the sun and other stars, other galaxies, the universe, what may be beyond the universe, etc. Its all one. If you believe that, then why do we continue to cause each other unnecessary misery?

    We can’t destroy God cause all particles are eventually reused even when something dies, another life begins. We are a made in God’s image… just like everything else. We may be capable of one day discovering what God and reality actually are if we can recognize each owner.

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  5. Jesus is the form of God. The physical image of the living Godhead
    We must remember that when we say God we mean Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The features of man, both physical and spiritual are the attributes of God as we are made in image of God. According to Scripture God is Spirit and is to be worshipped in spirit. Many arguments come out of that. We have a spirit as He is therefore we open up the Spirit hotline each time we pray. Could that be the reason we are told to pray without ceasing? It is impossible to sin when you are on the hotline.

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  6. Yes, Yeshua is the image of the invisible God, but He answered Moses, who asked, Whom shall I tell them has sent me? I am who I am, was His reply. Exod. 3:14. Yeshua used the same reference in John 13: 19. I am, He is God.

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  7. I think that God is a spirit being who manifested in flesh and sin to save humanity from their sins. I think that the nature of God manifests as a trinity —–The Father The Son and the Holy Ghost. I have shifted my worldview from agnosticism to Theism. Anand Bose from Kerala

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    1. I think the greatest attribute or quality of God is his love. Where he is is an interesting question. He is in heaven, but he also dwells within Christians. Jesus came to earth as a human being. These are all quite thought-provoking questions.

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