WHAT IS GOD LIKE?

Is it important to know? If there is a God, perhaps there is no question more important than that. God by definition would be the eternal, omniscient being to whom we owe our creation and existence. And so defining what God is like would be of paramount importance to unraveling the reason for our existence. And so throughout history, man has tried to define what God is like and arrive at reasonable expectations of what life therefore, needs to be like.

The process of finding the nature of God needs to be elaborated. When a finite man tries to define what the infinite God is like, he cannot use deductive logic, where he goes from knowing a general truth to making specific applications of it. For instance, if you were to say that ‘plants have leaves’ (general truth), to saying that the plant in your backyard has leaves (specific application), you are using ‘deductive logic’. On the other hand when you are trying to define a truth about which you cannot know fully about, like God, you have to use ‘inductive logic’, where you try to form a picture of the greater reality by using what little can be known by observation. And while you do use inductive logic you have to ensure that the picture you draw does not contrast with the reality of general human experience.

And so in many cultures-past and present, God has taken on the image of pleasure symbolized by Aphrodite, Eros and the like. In today’s world, the bevy of Hollywood stars have taken the place of Aphrodite, with devotees being substituted by the faithful twitter and instagram followers, whose life is defined by what their idols do. How does man end up defining God in terms of pleasure? Because seeking pleasure is easy, instinctive and also gratifying for the senses. So when pleasure seeking is made the default reason for existence, the God takes on the form of a pleasurable figure. But the problem is that though pleasure gratifies, it does not satisfy. Man comes away from the highs of the pleasure experience to be worse off, needing more of it, empty on the inside and being lonely. The same is true of following gods who are defined by brute power, talent, knowledge and so on. They appeal to one aspect of our lives, but leave us empty when we consider life as a whole.

Another problem with defining God is the need for man to find a reason for his existence and an explanation for his death and what lays beyond, within the description of God. The many pictures of God defined by mainline religions have tried to answer these questions and perhaps that is why they have become mainline religions. Hinduism and the New Age movement, which derive from pantheism, directs man toward the concept of merging with the ultimate impersonal reality that permeates all of nature as the goal of life and the destiny beyond death. Islam and Judaism point toward a God whose personality is defined by a taskmaster who delivers justice and determines eternity, based on rules that have been made for man to follow. While it is harder to truly evaluate the tenets of what lies beyond death as described by various religions, it is certainly possible to evaluate how their descriptions of the reason for man’s existence (which correlates with destiny) fit in to man’s actual experience of reality.

Defining God as an impersonal force contradicts with the truth of the personality of man, God’s creation. Ascribing personality to God, but reducing him to a taskmaster alone has severe limitations on understanding the frailties of man (no man can claim to be a perfect rule keeper) and also the various aspects of life that man by experience comes to cherish as noble- like forgiveness, kindness, compassion, etc., which men across cultures appear to understand and appreciate. The concept of defining God as love- an eternal Being, who has a personality and that personality being defined by love is a unique description found in the Bible. This nature of God also resonates with what man generally considers the most noble attributes in human experience. Additionally, the Biblical concept of God also provides a mechanism within the triune nature of God for love to be consistent and a pathway for participation in the eternal nature of God, making this concept the most consummate, philosophically and experientially.

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