What is God Like? Part 1

02 November 2020

Before we look at some of the evidence or arguments for God's existence, it is a good idea to have at least a basic understanding of who God is or what He is like. So, today, let us explore two of God's attributes.

The first thing we should note about God is that He is personal. In other words, God is not some impersonal force, like gravity, but He is a personal being. This means that God has the essential properties of personhood, such as intellect, self-consciousness, and will. A person has (or can have) knowledge, beliefs, affections, and intentions. God has all these qualities and He has some to the maximal degree.

The fact that God is personal is made clear throughout the Bible. God, we read, has immense love for us, has incredible knowledge and wisdom, desires that all should be saved, and so on. An unconscious, non-personal being cannot have these attributes.

Now, it is good news that God is personal, because this means that you can have a relationship with Him. Unlike impersonal objects, which you cannot have a relationship with, such as a rock, God is a personal being who wants to be in a relationship with you.

A second attribute of God is that He is spirit. In John 4:24, Jesus says: 'God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth' (ESV). So God is not a material being or a physical object (like the sun), but He is a spiritual being.

This has three interesting implications. Firstly, no picture or physical object can accurately represent God. In fact, the very first commandment prohibits us from making any images in an attempt to represent God. Exodus 20:4 says,

You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth (Exodus 20:4 ESV).

I take this verse to imply that, because God is not a physical object, if you try to represent Him through physical objects, then you would simply misrepresent who He is.

Secondly, when Scripture describes God in physical terms (e.g., Psalms 18:6-10), these descriptions are to be taken metaphorically and not literally. For example, Scripture often speaks about the 'eyes of the Lord'. But this phrase does not teach that God literally has physical eyes like you and I have but, rather, it refers to God's awareness of everything that is happening.

Finally, that God is spirit implies that God has no gender: He is neither biologically male nor female. But if God has no gender, then why refer to God as 'He' and 'Father'? Why not refer to God as 'Mother'? Well, there are at least two reasons why Christians should call God 'Father' and not 'Mother'.

First, God has revealed Himself in masculine terms, such as referring to Himself as 'He' and 'Father'. Indeed, in Matthew 6:9, Jesus teaches us to refer to God as 'Father'. But if God did not want us to refer to Him in masculine terms, He would not have taught us to do this. Thus, it seems that it goes against God's will to call Him 'Mother'.

Second, the word 'Father' highlights qualities of God that the word 'Mother' does not. For example, a fundamental difference between a mother and a father is that, when it comes to procreation, a father is the initial source of conception. The father impregnates the mother, and the mother receives the father's seed.

Now, in a similar fashion, God is the ultimate creator or source of the universe. Hence, calling God 'Mother' suggests that someone else, and not God, is the initial source of creation, so we call God 'Father' to emphasize that God is the primary source and initiator of the creation of the world. These masculine terms also emphasise more strongly God's strength, wrath, and judgement. For these reasons, it is a serious theological mistake to refer to God as 'She' or 'Mother', or to depict God as a woman.

In conclusion, God is a personal and spiritual being. Next time we will look at some more of God's divine attributes.