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The Nature of God

"What do you mean by God's 'nature'?"

God's 'nature' means His characteristics, His attributes, His qualities.

"I read somewhere that man can't really know anything about the nature of God."

Among others, Smith, George H. Atheism: The Case Against God. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books 1989 correctly points out that man can never truly understand the essential nature of a god.  However, we can have an approximate understanding of God's nature, a "working definition", and that is all we really need.  God tells us about Himself in the Bible and He came in person and showed us what He is like in the person of Jesus Christ.

"What is the nature of the God Christians believe in?  What are His characteristics, His attributes, His qualities?  What is He like?"

Christianity claims that the God of all things is unique in that He alone has the following divine characteristics (in no particular order):

  1. SUPREMACY  The God of Judaism and Christianity is the Supreme Being.  He is not merely a different type of being or a superior being but the Supreme Being.

  2. UNIQUENESS  God is unique.  The Bible describes Him in Greek as monogenesis, i.e., "one of a kind", "having a unique nature."

  3. ETERNALNESS He always has existed and always will exist.  He had no beginning and will never cease to exist.  (Also see IMMORTAL below.)

  4. OMNISCIENCE He knows all things.

  5. OMNIPOTENCE He is all powerful.

  6. OMNIPRESENCE He is everywhere at the same time.

  7. SELF-EXISTENT God is the only thing that had no beginning, that was not created by something else.

  8. HOLINESS  Holy means pure, undefiled.

  9. TRIUNE NATURE The one God is a single "trinity" consisting of three distinct "persons":

    1. FATHER
    2. JESUS - often referred to as the Son or "the Word of God"

    Don't get hung up on the "how can one be three?" issue! Remember--we are imperfect, natural human beings with physical bodies trying to understand a perfect, supernatural spiritual being that does not have a physical body. (Jesus' physical body was created; He did not always have a physical body.) The best we can possibly hope for is just a "working definition". Trying to understand the "triune" nature of God intellectually is like trying to understand intellectually why some things smell nice and some things don't, without actually smelling anything.

    Also see Another Look at the Trinity at http://www.carm.org/doctrine/trinitylook.htm

  10. THEISTIC  Deistic and theistic are adjectives from the field of comparative religion. They describe the relationship between a god and that which it creates.  A deistic god is one that would distance itself from that which it creates, one the would not get involved in the activities of the things it created.  A deistic god would essentially be an "absentee father" god -- it would create a universe and then sit back and says "I made you, but I don't want to get involved.  You're on your own!"  The God of the Bible is theistic. He does not distance Himself from that which He creates. He gets actively involved in the activities of the things He created.  In fact, the God of the Bible 'micromanages' things.

  11. TRANSCENDENT  God transcends that which He created, i.e., He "goes beyond" that which He created, He is not limited to, He is not bound by that which He created.  For example, in the physical universe it is impossible for a single being to consist of three distinct persons, but God is not limited by physical laws, so He can be one God and yet consist of three distinct persons.

Christianity claims that, in addition, this unique God shares the following characteristics with certain other things:

  1. ALIVE The one God is a living being.

  2. PERSONAL God is a living person with thoughts, reactions, etc., not an impersonal thing.

  3. SPIRIT  A spirit is a living being that is incorporeal, i.e., it does not possess a physical body. Note that Jesus took on a physical human body.  It is not an inherent part of His nature. By comparison, our bodies are part of our human nature but we put on clothes.


  5. SENTIENCE  A sentient being has intelligence, and also is aware of its own existence, and aware that there is a 'big picture'.  For instance, cats, dogs, and horses have intelligence but probably are not sentient.

  6. IMMORTAL  God is a being that will live forever.

    Note the technical difference between eternalness and immortality: God is eternal because had He had no beginning.  He also is immortal because He will live forever. Humans, angels, demons, etc., are immortal because we will never cease to exist, but not eternal because we did not always exist.

    It is important to realize that in practice eternal and immortal are often used interchangeably and the technical difference is not always maintained.

  7. SEPARATE  God is separate from that which He created.  The universe itself is not God. (The opposite is pantheism.  Some "nature" religions believe that the universe itself is god.)


(c) 1998 by Rick Reinckens

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