God has revealed Himself to us in three main ways:
- By His creation (general revelation)
- By His Word, the Bible (special revelation)
- By His Son, Jesus Christ, our Saviour.
As all people are descended from Adam, and later from Noah, and therefore all people have these ancestors who knew God, it is not surprising that many retain a memory of God, the Creator of everything, although different languages and cultures use different terms to refer to Him.
"God" is an Old English language term for the supreme being, deity. It is not a name, although it is frequently used as if it is. In Hebrew, God's name is יהוה, translated into English as YHWH, Yahweh, or Jehovah.
It has been customary to capitalise pronouns referring to God, as is done in this encyclopædia.
Other cultures have their own terms for God, including the following:
- Theos was the ancient Greek name for the Supreme God, used by Xenophanes, Plato, and Aristotle. (Zeus, although the "king of the gods", was the offspring of two other gods, so could not be considered to be the Supreme God.)
- Viracocha was the Lord, the omnipotent Creator of all things, of the Incas.
- Thakur Jiu was the Genuine God of the Santal, a tribal group north of Calcutta. The Santal otherwise worshipped spirits, but retained a memory of the Genuine God.
- Magano is the omnipotent creator of all that is to several tribes in south-central Ethiopia.
- Koro is the Creator (who sent His Son into the world) to several Bantu tribes in Africa.
- Shang Ti is Lord of Heaven to the Chinese. He predates Confucius.
- Hananim is The Great One to Koreans.
- El is The Strong One in Hebrew, with the plural, elohim being the term that is translated as God in English Bibles.[note 1]
- Allah is the Arabic word for God, and has been used by Arabic Christians since before the advent of Islam. It may be related to the Hebrew El.
For more information, see Attributes of God.
God has many attributes:
- God is omniscient. He knows everything there is to know, including past, present, and future.
- God is omnipresent. He is everywhere at once.
- God is omnipotent. There is nothing He cannot do that is not opposed to His nature.
- God is eternal. He exists outside of time, because time is part of His creation.
- God is sovereign. He is in charge of everything, and ruler of all.
- God is holy. He is perfectly good (omnibenevolence), and separate from anything that is bad. Ethics has its source and its objectivity in His commandments and His nature.
- God is a necessary being. Unlike other beings, who might have not existed (are contingent), God must exist, and we cannot say that He might have not been. Furthermore, His nature, His essence, His attributes, are necessarily as they are, and could not have been otherwise.
- God is perfectly free. In other words, He has free will.
- God is incorporeal - He does not have a body.
- God is Creator of the Universe, and Preserves, Sustains and Redeems it, continuing to actively intervene in its affairs after his initial act of Creation.
- God is perfectly loving - indeed, God is Love (1 John 4:8,16).
- God is beauty - the ultimate, perfect and complete beauty of which all earthly beauties are but a pale reflection.
- God is infinite, boundless, without any limitations
- God is perfectly simple, lacking any parts or components
The above list is based on the classical theism, which is the mainstream view in Christian philosophy and theology (and Judaism and Islam also). Alternative views, such as open theism and deism, deny some of the above attributes but not others.
As God is eternal, He had no beginning. Therefore the common sceptical question, "Where did God come from?" cannot be answered as it assumes a false premise.
According to the Nicene Creed, Jesus (God the Son) was 'eternally begotten' from God the Father, while the Holy Spirit 'proceeds from the Father' (in the version used by the Eastern Orthodox) or 'proceeds from the Father and the Son' (in the version used by the Roman Catholic Church and most Protestant denominations). The phrase 'and the Son' is known as the Filioque clause, and the dispute over whether it should be included in the Creed was a major contributor to the Great Schism.
Evidence for God's existence
For more information, see Evidence for God's existence.
The evidence for God's existence takes many forms, some very general, and other quite specific.
At the most basic level is the argument that some form of divine, supernatural being (the God of the Abrahamic religions being one example) must exist for us to exist. That is, something supernatural is the most reasonable explanation for our own existence.
- Our universe is either eternal, or it had a beginning.
- The universe is running down, and it could not have been running down forever, so it could not be eternal.
- We also observe that everything that has a beginning has a cause, so it's reasonable to conclude that the universe must have had a cause.
- The cause of the universe must be something outside the universe and must itself not have had a beginning.
- Only a supernatural being, such as God, fits this description.
- ↑ The plural Elohim is used with a singular verb when referring to God, so is not implying multiple gods.
- ↑ Online Etymology dictionary
- ↑ Richardson, Don, Eternity in their Hearts, Regal Books, 1984 (revised edition), ISBN 0-8307-0925-8, p. 19-20.
- ↑ Richardson, p. 37.
- ↑ Richardson, p. 44
- ↑ Richardson, p. 54.
- ↑ Richardson, p. 57.
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 Richardson, p. 62-63
- ↑ Anon., Why do many Arab Christians refer to God as “Allah”?, 2001.
- ↑ Although the Son voluntarily assumes a body, the Son did not always have one; and the Father and the Holy Spirit never have one.