An Examination of the Christian God
Christianity is one of the most prevalent and actively practiced monotheistic religions in the world today. At the core of Christian dogma is the faith-based belief that a deity predominantly called by the informal name of "God" exists. This belief and the foundation on which it stands constitute a cornerstone of the religion. The purposes of this paper are threefold:
(1) to discuss the implications of belief in God's existence,
(2) to determine whether this belief is logical or illogical, and
(3) to analyze how that determination affects Christian dogma and the body of Christians who believe and obey it.
To begin, one must realize that belief in the existence of the Christian God, hereafter simply called "God" in accordance with common practice, is entirely dependent on Christianity's definition of God. One cannot begin to believe in that which has not been defined, as there is no basis for belief in a meaningless designation. When claiming to believe in God's existence, one is thereby affirming that God is sufficiently definable to meet the requirements of such belief. If one cannot sufficiently define God, then one is claiming that, although belief may be possible, that possibility cannot be determined. When claiming to be a Christian without an understanding of the concept of God, one is admitting ignorance of the very foundation on which Christian dogma stands, and an expression of understanding where none exists constitutes an invalid claim.
Given that Christians believe in God's existence by definition, it is reasonable to conclude that one who claims to be a Christian either defines God and understands his nature or does not define God and does not understand his nature. To understand God's nature, one must look to the Bible, a book, comprised of 66 separate books, that is believed by most Christians to be the sole sacred source for authoritative information on Christian dogma, written via God's direct inspiration. God is defined in and throughout the Bible, and the biblical definition of God can be regarded as the only available comprehensive definition as accepted by Christianity.
The Bible establishes a number of essential attributes to define God's nature, several of which are listed below.
- In Genesis 1:1, God is defined as creator of the universe.
- In Genesis 17:1, God is said to be omnipotent.
- In Isaiah 66:1, God is said to exist in Heaven, God's spiritual kingdom, and on Earth.
- In Acts 17:27-28, humans are said to literally exist inside of God.
- In Psalm 139:1-6, God is said to be omniscient.
- In Psalm 139:7-13, God is said to be omnipresent.
- In 1 Timothy 1:17, God is said to be eternal, immortal and invisible.
- In 1 John 1:5, God is said to represent absolute truth.
- In 1 John 4:8, God is said to represent the totality of love.
- In Matthew 5:48, God is said to represent perfection.
Theologians have debated for centuries over God's nature and it would be presumptuous at best to assume that this debate has ended. In fact, the Bible fuels this debate with verses like Matthew 11:25, in which Jesus, God's only son who was temporarily sent to Earth to live as a human, declares that God hides his nature from those who assume they are wise enough to understand it, and Proverbs 3:5-7, in which Christians are warned not to attempt to understand God's nature but, rather, to fear God and to live according to his commandments. Nevertheless, to believe that God exists, which, in turn, allows one to believe that Jesus is God's only son and that salvation from eternal spiritual damnation is only attainable through faith in Jesus, the fact remains that one must sufficiently understand the nature of God. This does not imply that an admission of belief constitutes a claim to understand all of God's attributes, for that is impossible without simultaneously being identical to God and one with him. Rather, this implies that one can sufficiently understand God's nature to meet the requirements of salvation via an admission of belief.
Fortunately, according to the Bible, God desires that all humans believe in his existence. Knowing from the above attributes that God represents absolute truth, those who read the Bible and desire to become Christians may rest comfortably in the knowledge that sufficient understanding of God's nature is possible because God endows humans with this capacity. In other words, God never lies to humans by telling them to believe in that which they cannot understand because God eternally acts and speaks only absolute truth.
Thus, it can be stated that God never contradicts himself, which means that God's nature never contradicts itself. Moreover, on a more abstract level, this means that God's nature does not contradict existence. Existence includes external reality, or that which humans experience via their senses, such as visible light, sounds, and gravity, and internal reality, or that which humans experience via their minds, such as imagination and dreams. Since God created existence and speaks only absolute truth, the Bible offers assurance that God is both internally and externally consistent. Existential consistency, then, is an inferred attribute of God.
Other attributes listed above are perfection, omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, and eternal existence. Although perfection is historically interpreted in many different ways, it can be interpreted in this context to include all other attributes. This is possible because of the inferred attribute of existential consistency. Perfection, then, acts as a conceptual umbrella under which other attributes derive their respective meanings.
The attribute of omnipotence states that God is all-powerful or, conversely, that nothing is impossible for God to accomplish. This is also historically interpreted in many different ways, yet, not to the extent that one sees with perfection. Omnipotence is occasionally disputed by attempting to prove that God can or cannot do something illogical. For example, one may argue that God can create a stone he cannot lift, thus proving that he cannot lift all stones. Or, one may argue that God cannot create a square circle, thus proving that he cannot create a certain shape. On the surface, these and similar paradoxes seem to disprove God's omnipotence. However, self-contradiction is not within God but within the given constraints of each paradox, so nothing is proven but the inherent limits of each paradox. To explain, in the paradox of the stone, the given constraint is that God can create a stone that he cannot lift. Yet, the attribute one is trying to disprove, omnipotence, states that God can do anything, and anything includes lifting all stones. Therefore, because God is defined as omnipotent in the Bible, it is impossible for God to create a stone that he cannot lift. This paradox is simply logically impossible, which is consistent with the definition of a paradox. The same misunderstanding occurs in the paradox of the square circle. If God had wished to create a square circle, then humans would have been endowed with the ability to experience it. A square circle would be nothing more than the name of a new experience. The fact that humans do not experience a square circle does not disprove God's omnipotence. On the contrary, it opens possibilities for God. It may be the case that God did not choose to make a square circle or that humans have not yet experienced one.
The attribute of omniscience states that God is all-knowing or, conversely, that nothing is unknown to God. This means that God is aware of existence at every level, from the macroscopic realms of deep space to the microscopic realms of quantum physics. This also means that God is, was, and always will be aware of existence. God experiences time both chronologically and concurrently.
The attribute of omnipresence states that God exists at all places concurrently, which is directly inferred from the previous attribute because God cannot concurrently know everything without concurrently being everywhere. Everywhere includes not only every geographical location in the universe, but, more inclusively, every molecule, atom and electron of every human body. Acts 17:27-28 supports this inclusiveness by stating its reverse, namely, that humans are said to exist inside of God.
The attribute of eternal existence states that God exists forever or, conversely, that there is no point in time when he has been or will be nonexistent. This attribute follows from the previous two attributes in that God could not be omniscient or omnipresent if he did not exist forever.
All of the attributes listed above are consistent with each other. This further supports the validity of the inferred attribute of existential consistency. Thus, according to the source from these attributes which have been listed and inferred, God's nature is logically consistent as well as existentially consistent.
With these attributes securely fixed at the forefront of one's mind, there is no reason to disbelieve in the possibility of God's existence. God exists because his nature as a perfect creator is both logically and existentially consistent and, therefore, not impossible from the given attributes. However, these attributes are defined in a single book, the Bible, and, because of this, one must realize that the concept of God could not have existed in the mind apart from the Bible's definition and one's inferred awareness of Christian dogma. This is a crucial point if one wishes to fully understand God's nature. One must look not only to the Bible but beyond it and compare the concept of God with one's experience of the world as it occurs independently, apart from Christian dogma.
The question before one who wishes to fully understand God's nature is, "Is God's nature consistent with my experience of the world?" If the answer to this question is affirmative, then one has no reason to disbelieve in the possibility of God's existence and every reason to believe if the benefits of belief are desirable. If, however, the answer to this question is negative, then one has every reason to disbelieve in the possibility of God's existence. In the latter case, God's nature contradicts experience, which immediately renders the inferred attribute of existential consistency false.
Testing for contradiction is a fairly straightforward process if one is willing to disassociate one's beliefs from those held by the writers of the Bible and Christians after them. To do so, one must simply compare each of the above attributes with one's experience of the world. If only one of those attributes contradicts one's experience of the world, then God's nature is inconsistent. The only attribute that does not need comparison is perfection, and this is because, as stated above, perfection acts as an umbrella for the other attributes, being defined by their definitions.
Beginning, then, with omnipotence, one must ask whether one's experience of the world is consistent with the presence of an all-powerful creator. One can see from the above discussion of this attribute that it is indeed possible that God is omnipotent. One may not prefer that God create the world in which one lives, but it does not follow, from this attribute alone, that God did not have the power to create this world and the universe it inhabits. Therefore, God's attribute of omnipotence is consistent with one's experience of the world.
The next attribute to compare is omniscience. Is it possible that God is aware of existence at every level at all times? Again, one may not prefer this world, but it does not follow, from this and the previous attribute, that God does not know everything about the universe. One's understanding of perfection, as defined by omnipotence and omniscience, may not reflect the totality of God's understanding. Therefore, God's attributes of omniscience and omnipotence are both separately and jointly consistent with one's experience of the world.
The third attribute to compare is omnipresence. Is it possible that God is always present? Certainly, as noted above, this cannot be considered impossible if omniscience is accepted as consistent with one's experience of the world. God cannot concurrently know everything without concurrently being everywhere, and no aspect of one's experience proves this to be impossible. For instance, one may argue that one has never experienced God inside his or her body or that one has never experienced God directly communicating via his or her mind. Therefore, God's attribute of omnipresence is consistent with one's experience of the world.
The fourth attribute to compare is eternal existence. Given that this attribute follows from the previous two attributes and those attributes are consistent with one's experience of the world, one can conclude that eternal existence is no different.
All four of these attributes, then, are consistent with one's experience of the world, and they work together to form the detailed depiction of a perfect creator. At this point, God exhibits a consistent nature and possibly exists. However, there is one important attribute of perfection that has not been discussed, and that is love. In 1 John 4:8, God is said to represent the totality of love. This verse states that one who does not love does not know God, because God is the ultimate definition of love. In other words, God is the sole source by which love in its most complete form gains meaning within the human mind. This attribute is important because it, more than any other, awakens one's desire to believe in God's existence. If God did not exhibit love, then humans would not want to love God since love is universally considered an essential attribute in humans.
Consideration of this attribute leads to another, more specific, question. That is, "Does God exhibit pure love according to my experience of the world?" To answer this question, one must determine whether one's experience of the world reflects a purely loving God. Here, one may immediately think of the intense suffering, whether caused by sickness, murder, natural disasters, suicide, or many other painful human experiences, that occurs continuously. Suffering is experienced from the moment of birth and cannot be dismissed as an optional part of life. Therefore, if God is to be considered purely loving, then suffering must be considered as a positive experience. If one cannot consider suffering as a positive experience, then God cannot represent the ultimate definition of love.
One may argue here that suffering may be considered as a positive experience because it is possible that God allows suffering to occur for a higher purpose, one that reflects a higher form of love than can be imagined. Yet, it has already been established that God endows humans with the capacity to believe in his existence, which includes the capacity to understand his nature. Therefore, God cannot love beyond what the human mind can imagine because that would prevent the human mind from understanding one of his attributes and, by extension, God's nature.
The initial conclusion, then, regarding the attribute of pure love is that God does not exhibit it. Furthermore, because God lacks this attribute, his nature is inconsistent with what the Bible teaches and one cannot consider him to be perfect according to the Bible. This presents a serious problem for one who desires to believe in God's existence, for, if God's nature is self-contradictory and inconsistent with one's experience of the world, then how can he exist? Not only is God not a purely loving deity, but, even more disconcerting, he is also not absolutely truthful. If the Bible states that God directly inspired its writers and that God is absolutely truthful, then, because he is not absolutely truthful, he cannot in fact be the deity of the Bible. And if God is not the deity of the Bible, then he is no deity at all.
The effects of these conclusions on Christian dogma and the body of Christians who believe and obey it are numerous, and it will suffice to mention a few. First, if God can be shown not to exist, then the Bible is completely fictitious. It may represent a triumph of creative writing, but it does not represent a revelation of absolute truth.
Second, because the Bible is completely fictitious, Christianity, the religion based on its teachings, teaches its adherents to believe in and worship a nonexistent deity. This means that all teachings that arise from this one belief are false and misleading. They are misleading because they teach Christians to devote their lives to a set of perceptions and rules that misrepresent reality. Thus, Christians live, not according to reality, but according to the Bible's false depiction of a divinely inspired reality.
Third, because Christians live according to a false and misleading religion, they impact others who do not share their religious beliefs. This is especially problematic given that the Bible depicts God as absolute truth. If Christians believe that they alone adhere to absolute truth, then it must be the case that others do not, and this may lead to confrontation if a Christian perceives that someone does not share this belief.
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