- Various Beliefs about God
The emphatic opening declaration of the Bible implies that there is but one God, that God is the Creator and Father of the universe, that God is apart from the world, that the entire creation depends upon God (Read Genesis 11:1). This is an affirmation of theism and monotheism and a refutation of atheism, deism, polytheism, henotheism, pantheism and panentheism.
Genesis 1:1 is both a declaration of theism and a refutation of atheism and deism. Psalm 14:1, “The fool says in his heart ‘There is no God’, “can thus be interpreted in two ways. To say “there is no God” could mean emphatic denial of the existence of God. This is atheism. As a “denial of the being of God … atheism necessarily stands for the denial of the existence of a personal Creator and moral Governor.” It is also a form of deism “arguing practically with every action of life that God does not care and will not act.” While deism is etymologically synonymous with theism, it “designates a system admitting the existence of a personal Creator, but denying his controlling presence in the world, his immediate moral government, and all supernatural intervention and revelation.”
The assertion that there is but one God also affirms monotheism and refutes polytheism and henotheism. An important idea of God in Judaeo-Christian tradition is monotheism, “the study that there is but one Supreme Being who is personal and moral and who seeks a total and unqualified response from human creatures.” The Bible emphasises repeatedly that the God who is revealed as the Creator is not an additional one to be believed and worshipped along with other gods and divinities (Read Exodus 20:1-3; Deut. 6:4-5; Matthew 22:37-38). This God is the only true God, the God of gods, the Almighty God who is sovereign over the entire universe.
Genesis 1:1 does not accommodate polytheism which “distributes the perfections and functions of the infinite God among many limited gods.” While polytheism is common among ancient peoples, it has been observed by John Hick (1994, 5-6) that it reaches “its classic expression in the West in Ancient Greece and Rome, that there are a multitude of personal gods, each ruling a different department of life.” Very close to polytheism is henotheism which believes that there are many gods but holding one to be superior and which generally is “the god of one’s own tribe or people.” The next beliefs about God are philosophical in nature.
As a doctrine of God pantheism “is absolute monism, maintaining that the entire phenomenal universe is the ever changing existence-form of the one single universal substance which is God. Thus God is all, and all is God.” This excessive identification of God with the universe “denies several essential aspects of God’s character. If the whole universe is God, then God has no distinct personality. God is no longer unchanging because as the universe changes, God also changes.” Grudem explains further that in pantheistic systems God has no distinct identity and human personalities also have no individual distinctiveness. Thus, pantheism negates the personal identity of God and also that of human beings as well.”
Panentheism is closely related to pantheism. It “is the view that all things exist ultimately ‘in God.” The evaluation of pantheism offered by Grudem (1994, 267) applies to panentheism as well: “The Bible teaches that God is distinct from his creation. He is not part of it, for he has made it and rules over it. The term often used to say that God is much greater than creation is the word transcendent. Very simply, this means that God is far “above” the creation in the sense that he is greater than the creation and he is independent of it.” The Biblical description of God and creation thus shows that the two are distinct. In addition to this the created world also depends upon God.
- The Proofs of God’s Existence
Whatever is known about God is known on the basis of His self-revelation. The Bible merely points to the unquestionable reality of God and does not attempt to offer a rational proof of God’s existence. The major traditional philosophical and the theological proofs of the existence of God are ontological, cosmological, teleological and moral. These proofs will now be highlighted.
The ontological argument was first given by Anselm (1033-1109). In philosophy ontology is the study of being. Note that in traditional theology God is described as the Supreme Being, the source of all other beings like human beings. God is therefore defined as a being “greater than which nothing can be imagined”. God is thus the most perfect being existing in reality and in the mind.
The classical form of the cosmological argument is associated with Thomas Aquinas (c. 1225-1274). The argument is derived from cosmos, the whole world or universe.
The reasoning is that every event in the world has a cause, which will also have a cause that should be traced to a first cause. Consequently, the universe as an event must also have a cause. God is the cause. This means that, theologically, the existence of the world is accounted for by a supreme being.
While the theological argument dates back to the ancient time it is ascribed in its modern form to William Paley (1743-1805). The word teleological is derived from telos which means “end” or “goal” or “purpose”. The argument is that the evidence of design, purpose, harmony and order seen in the universe imply or require a universal designer. Since the existence of the watch is accounted for by an intelligent watchmaker, there must be a purposeful God who created the universe to function orderly and purposefully.
Immanuel Kant (1724 -1804) is linked with the moral argument of the existence of God. The contention is that the existence of objective moral values like senses of right, wrong and justice implies the existence of a transcendent ground of values. God is therefore the source of human moral values.
What is the value of these arguments? They help to overcome some of the intellectual objections of people who do not want to believe in the existence of God. They are construed to establish a very strong probability of the existence of God. Suffice it to state at this juncture that in accordance with the biblical declaration many people believe that God exists, know God and relate with God by faith (Read Hebrews 11:6).
What has been done above is only to introduce you to the subject of the arguments for the existence of God. These arguments have been hotly debated by philosophers through the ages. You are encouraged to read more on this subject in some references and recommended books indicated at the end of the unit.
- The Attributes of God
The last aspects of the theology of God the Father that will be considered in this study unit are the perfections and attributes of God. God has revealed himself as a God who is perfect in glory, lordship, holiness and love.
In many instances in the Bible, the glory of God conveys the visible manifestation of the being, presence and power of God (for instance, read Ezekiel 1:28b; John 1:14). The glory of God also speaks of the transcendence of God. This means that God’s being, existence, power and manifestations transcend that of creation. God is above and greater than the universe
The covenant name of God in the Old Testament is Yahweh (Jehovah) and it is usually translated as THE LORD (Read Ex. 3:13-15). The lordship of God implies his sovereignty over the entire universe. God rules the world with power and authority that cannot be challenged (Read Isaiah 45:6).
God is perfect in holiness. The most basic idea of holiness is to be separate, distinct, different, and peculiar. Therefore God is separate from all other beings (Read Lev. 11:44). As stated in the vision of both Isaiah and John, the holiness of God is very close to the glory of God (Read Isa. 6:3; Rev. 4:8). God is thus, pure and perfect without any immorality, wickedness, evil or sin.
One very popular biblical definition of God is love. “God is love” (I John 4:8). The love of God is in his sacrificial goodness, mercy, kindness and grace towards the unworthy or even the worthless (Read Deut. 7:7). The death of God for the redemption of humankind is the supreme manifestation of the love of God (I John 4:9-10).
The incommunicable attributes of God are the perfections that God does not share with any other being: self-existence, immutability and infinity. The Self-existence of God means that the existence of God depend on God himself and no other source (John 5:26). Another one is Immutability, that is, that God does not change in His being, purposes or promises (Ex. 3:14; Heb. 13:8); God is trustworthy. Infinity of God includes eternity and immensity, God is free from all limitations of space and time (Job 11:7-10; Psalm 145:3; Matt. 5:48; Psalm 90:2; 102:12; Eph. 3:20). The Unity of God refers to his oneness and uniqueness (I Kings 8:60; I Cor. 8:6; I Tim. 2:5).
The communicable attributes of God speaks of the character of God that may be reflected in other beings. These include spirituality, intellectuality and morality. Spirituality means that God is Spirit (John 4:24). Intellectuality includes the ideas of knowledge, wisdom and veracity of God (I Sam. 2:3; Job 12:13; James 1:5-6; Exodus 34:6;John 14:6).
Morality is an umbrella term that combines the attributes of goodness, grace and mercy (Psalm 145:9, 15, 16; Matthew 5:44, 45), holiness (I Sam. 2:2; Isaiah 6:3) and righteousness (Ezra 9:15; John 17:25). The overall emphasis of these attributes is to convey the supremacy of the one almighty God.
We will end this unit on the study of God the Father with the three most common attributes of God, which are: his omnipresence, God is always present with his people (Psalm 139:7-12); his omnipotence, God is all powerful (Gen. 17:1); his omniscience, God is all knowing (Psalm 139:1-12)
Source National Open University of Nigeria