Who Is God?
Monotheists refer to their gods using names prescribed by their respective religions, with some of these names referring to certain cultural ideas about their god’s identity and attributes. In the ancient Egyptian era of Atenism, possibly the earliest recorded monotheistic religion, this deity was called Aten, premised on being the one “true” Supreme Being and creator of the universe. In the Hebrew Bible and Judaism, Elohim, Adonai, YHWH (Hebrew: יהוה) and other names are used as the names of God. Yahweh and Jehovah, possible vocalizations of YHWH, are used in Christianity. In the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, God, coexisting in three “persons”, is called the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. In Islam, the name Allah is used, while Muslims also have a multitude of titular names for God. In Hinduism, Brahman is often considered a monistic concept of God. In Chinese religion, Shangdi is conceived as the progenitor (first ancestor) of the universe, intrinsic to it and constantly bringing order to it. Other religions have names for the concept, for instance, Baha in the Bahá’í Faith, Waheguru in Sikhism, Sang Hyang Widhi Wasa in Balinese Hinduism, and Ahura Mazda in Zoroastrianism.
The many different conceptions of God, and competing claims as to God’s characteristics, aims, and actions, have led to the development of ideas of omnitheism, pandeism, or a perennial philosophy, which postulates that there is one underlying theological truth, of which all religions express a partial understanding, and as to which “the devout in the various great world religions are in fact worshipping that one God, but through different, overlapping concepts”.
Etymology and usage
The earliest written form of the Germanic word God comes from the 6th-century Christian Codex Argenteus. The English word itself is derived from the Proto-Germanic * ǥuđan. The reconstructed Proto-Indo-European form * ǵhu-tó-m was likely based on the root * ǵhau(ə)-, which meant either “to call” or “to invoke”. The Germanic words for God were originally neuter—applying to both genders—but during the process of the Christianization of the Germanic peoples from their indigenous Germanic paganism, the words became a masculine syntactic form.
Allāh (Arabic: الله) is the Arabic term with no plural used by Muslims and Arabic speaking Christians and Jews meaning “The God” (with the first letter capitalized), while “ʾilāh” (Arabic: إله) is the term used for a deity or a god in general. God may also be given a proper name in monotheistic currents of Hinduism which emphasize the personal nature of God, with early references to his name as Krishna-Vasudeva in Bhagavata or later Vishnu and Hari.
Ahura Mazda is the name for God used in Zoroastrianism. “Mazda”, or rather the Avestan stem-form Mazdā-, nominative Mazdå, reflects Proto-Iranian *Mazdāh (female). It is generally taken to be the proper name of the spirit, and like its Sanskrit cognate medhā, means “intelligence” or “wisdom”. Both the Avestan and Sanskrit words reflect Proto-Indo-Iranian *mazdhā-, from Proto-Indo-European mn̩sdʰeh1, literally meaning “placing (dʰeh1) one’s mind (*mn̩-s)”, hence “wise”.
Waheguru (Punjabi: vāhigurū) is a term most often used in Sikhism to refer to God. It means “Wonderful Teacher” in the Punjabi language. Vāhi (a Middle Persian borrowing) means “wonderful” and guru(Sanskrit: guru) is a term denoting “teacher”. Waheguru is also described by some as an experience of ecstasy which is beyond all descriptions. The most common usage of the word “Waheguru” is in the greeting Sikhs use with each other:
Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh
Wonderful Lord’s Khalsa, Victory is to the Wonderful Lord.
Baha, the “greatest” name for God in the Baha’i faith, is Arabic for “All-Glorious”.
There is no clear consensus on the nature or the existence of God. The Abrahamic conceptions of God include the monotheistic definition of God in Judaism, the trinitarian view of Christians, and the Islamic concept of God. The dharmic religions differ in their view of the divine: views of God in Hinduism vary by region, sect, and caste, ranging from monotheistic to polytheistic. Many polytheistic religions share the idea of a creator deity, although having a name other than “God” and without all of the other roles attributed to a singular God by monotheistic religions. Jainism is polytheistic and non-creationist. Depending on one’s interpretation and tradition, Buddhism can be conceived as being either atheistic, non-theistic, pantheistic, panentheistic, or polytheistic.
In Christianity, the doctrine of the Trinity describes God as one God in three divine Persons (each of the three Persons is God himself). The Most Holy Trinity comprises God the Father, God the Son (which is Jesus Christ God), and God the Holy Spirit. In the past centuries, this fundamental Mystery of the Christian faith was also summarized by the Latin formula Sancta Trinitas, Unus Deus (Holy Trinity, Unique God), reported in the Litanias Lauretanas.
Islam’s most fundamental concept is tawhid (meaning “oneness” or “uniqueness”). God is described in the Quran as: “Say: He is Allah, the One and Only; Allah, the Eternal, Absolute; He begetteth not, nor is He begotten; And there is none like unto Him.” Muslims repudiate the Christian doctrine of the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus, comparing it to polytheism. In Islam, God is transcendent and does not resemble any of his creations in any way. Thus, Muslims are not iconodules, and are not expected to visualize God.
Henotheism is the belief and worship of a single god while accepting the existence or possible existence of other deities.
Theism, deism, and pantheism
Theism generally holds that God exists realistically, objectively, and independently of human thought; that God created and sustains everything; that God is omnipotent and eternal; and that God is personal and interacting with the universe through, for example, religious experience and the prayers of humans. Theism holds that God is both transcendent and immanent; thus, God is simultaneously infinite and, in some way, present in the affairs of the world. Not all theists subscribe to all of these propositions, but each usually subscribes to some of them (see, by way of comparison, family resemblance). Catholic theology holds that God is infinitely simple and is not involuntarily subject to time. Most theists hold that God is omnipotent, omniscient, and benevolent, although this belief raises questions about God’s responsibility for evil and suffering in the world. Some theists ascribe to God a self-conscious or purposeful limiting of omnipotence, omniscience, or benevolence. Open Theism, by contrast, contends that, due to the nature of time, God’s omniscience does not mean the deity can predict the future. Theism is sometimes used to refer in general to any belief in a god or gods, i.e., monotheism or polytheism.
Deism holds that God is wholly transcendent: God exists, but does not intervene in the world beyond what was necessary to create it. In this view, God is not anthropomorphic, and neither answers prayers nor produces miracles. Common in Deism is a belief that God has no interest in humanity and may not even be aware of humanity. Pandeism combines Deism with Pantheistic beliefs. Pandeism is proposed to explain as to Deism why God would create a universe and then abandon it, and as to Pantheism, the origin and purpose of the universe.
Pantheism holds that God is the universe and the universe is God, whereas Panentheism holds that God contains, but is not identical to, the Universe. It is also the view of the Liberal Catholic Church; Theosophy; some views of Hinduism except Vaishnavism, which believes in panentheism; Sikhism; some divisions of Neopaganism and Taoism, along with many varying denominations and individuals within denominations. Kabbalah, Jewish mysticism, paints a pantheistic/panentheistic view of God—which has wide acceptance in Hasidic Judaism, particularly from their founder The Baal Shem Tov—but only as an addition to the Jewish view of a personal god, not in the original pantheistic sense that denies or limits persona to God.
Dystheism, which is related to theodicy, is a form of theism which holds that God is either not wholly good or is fully malevolent as a consequence of the problem of evil. One such example comes from Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, in which Ivan Karamazov rejects God on the grounds that he allows children to suffer.
In modern times, some more abstract concepts have been developed, such as process theology and open theism. The contemporaneous French philosopher Michel Henry has however proposed a phenomenological approach and definition of God as phenomenological essence of Life.
God has also been conceived as being incorporeal (immaterial), a personal being, the source of all moral obligation, and the “greatest conceivable existent”. These attributes were all supported to varying degrees by the early Jewish, Christian and Muslim theologian philosophers, including Maimonides, Augustine of Hippo, and Al-Ghazali, respectively.
Non-theist views about God also vary. Some non-theists avoid the concept of God, whilst accepting that it is significant to many; other non-theists understand God as a symbol of human values and aspirations. The nineteenth-century English atheistCharles Bradlaugh declared that he refused to say “There is no God”, because “the word ‘God’ is to me a sound conveying no clear or distinct affirmation”; he said more specifically that he disbelieved in the Christian god. Stephen Jay Gouldproposed an approach dividing the world of philosophy into what he called “non-overlapping magisteria” (NOMA). In this view, questions of the supernatural, such as those relating to the existence and nature of God, are non-empirical and are the proper domain of theology. The methods of science should then be used to answer any empirical question about the natural world, and theology should be used to answer questions about ultimate meaning and moral value. In this view, the perceived lack of any empirical footprint from the magisterium of the supernatural onto natural events makes science the sole player in the natural world.
Another view, advanced by Richard Dawkins, is that the existence of God is an empirical question, on the grounds that “a universe with a god would be a completely different kind of universe from one without, and it would be a scientific difference.” Carl Sagan argued that the doctrine of a Creator of the Universe was difficult to prove or disprove and that the only conceivable scientific discovery that could disprove the existence of a Creator (not necessarily a God) would be the discovery that the universe is infinitely old.
Stephen Hawking and co-author Leonard Mlodinow state in their book, The Grand Design, that it is reasonable to ask who or what created the universe, but if the answer is God, then the question has merely been deflected to that of who created God. Both authors claim however, that it is possible to answer these questions purely within the realm of science, and without invoking any divine beings.
Agnosticism and atheism
Agnosticism is the view that the truth values of certain claims – especially metaphysical and religious claims such as whether God, the divine or the supernatural exist – are unknown and perhaps unknowable.
Atheism is, in a broad sense, the rejection of belief in the existence of deities. In a narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities.
Pascal Boyer argues that while there is a wide array of supernatural concepts found around the world, in general, supernatural beings tend to behave much like people. The construction of gods and spirits like persons is one of the best known traits of religion. He cites examples from Greek mythology, which is, in his opinion, more like a modern soap opera than other religious systems. Bertrand du Castel and Timothy Jurgensen demonstrate through formalization that Boyer’s explanatory model matches physics’ epistemology in positing not directly observable entities as intermediaries. Anthropologist Stewart Guthrie contends that people project human features onto non-human aspects of the world because it makes those aspects more familiar. Sigmund Freud also suggested that god concepts are projections of one’s father.
Likewise, Émile Durkheim was one of the earliest to suggest that gods represent an extension of human social life to include supernatural beings. In line with this reasoning, psychologist Matt Rossano contends that when humans began living in larger groups, they may have created gods as a means of enforcing morality. In small groups, morality can be enforced by social forces such as gossip or reputation. However, it is much harder to enforce morality using social forces in much larger groups. Rossano indicates that by including ever-watchful gods and spirits, humans discovered an effective strategy for restraining selfishness and building more cooperative groups.
Countless arguments have been proposed to prove the existence of God. Some of the most notable arguments are the Five Ways of Aquinas, the Argument from desire proposed by C.S. Lewis, and the Ontological Argument formulated both by St. Anselm and René Descartes.
St. Anselm’s approach was to define God as, “that than which nothing greater can be conceived”. Famed pantheist philosopher Baruch Spinoza would later carry this idea to its extreme: “By God I understand a being absolutely infinite, i.e., a substance consisting of infinite attributes, of which each one expresses an eternal and infinite essence.” For Spinoza, the whole of the natural universe is made of one substance, God, or its equivalent, Nature. His proof for the existence of God was a variation of the Ontological argument.
Scientist Isaac Newton saw the nontrinitarian God as the masterful creator whose existence could not be denied in the face of the grandeur of all creation. Nevertheless, he rejected polymath Leibniz’ thesis that God would necessarily make a perfect world which requires no intervention from the creator. In Query 31 of the Opticks, Newton simultaneously made an argument from design and for the necessity of intervention:
For while comets move in very eccentric orbs in all manner of positions, blind fate could never make all the planets move one and the same way in orbs concentric, some inconsiderable irregularities excepted which may have arisen from the mutual actions of comets and planets on one another, and which will be apt to increase, till this system wants a reformation.
St. Thomas believed that the existence of God is self-evident in itself, but not to us. “Therefore I say that this proposition, “God exists”, of itself is self-evident, for the predicate is the same as the subject…. Now because we do not know the essence of God, the proposition is not self-evident to us; but needs to be demonstrated by things that are more known to us, though less known in their nature—namely, by effects.” St. Thomas believed that the existence of God can be demonstrated. Briefly in the Summa theologiae and more extensively in the Summa contra Gentiles, he considered in great detail five arguments for the existence of God, widely known as the quinque viae (Five Ways).
- Motion: Some things undoubtedly move, though cannot cause their own motion. Since there can be no infinite chain of causes of motion, there must be a First Mover not moved by anything else, and this is what everyone understands by God.
- Causation: As in the case of motion, nothing can cause itself, and an infinite chain of causation is impossible, so there must be a First Cause, called God.
- Existence of necessary and the unnecessary: Our experience includes things certainly existing but apparently unnecessary. Not everything can be unnecessary, for then once there was nothing and there would still be nothing. Therefore, we are compelled to suppose something that exists necessarily, having this necessity only from itself; in fact itself the cause for other things to exist.
- Gradation: If we can notice a gradation in things in the sense that some things are more hot, good, etc., there must be a superlative that is the truest and noblest thing, and so most fully existing. This then, we call God (Note: Thomas does not ascribe actual qualities to God Himself).
- Ordered tendencies of nature: A direction of actions to an end is noticed in all bodies following natural laws. Anything without awareness tends to a goal under the guidance of one who is aware. This we call God (Note that even when we guide objects, in Thomas’s view, the source of all our knowledge comes from God as well).
Some theologians, such as the scientist and theologian A.E. McGrath, argue that the existence of God is not a question that can be answered using the scientific method. Agnostic Stephen Jay Gould argues that science and religion are not in conflict and do not overlap.
Some findings in the fields of cosmology, evolutionary biology and neuroscience are interpreted by some atheists (including Lawrence M. Krauss and Sam Harris) as evidence that God is an imaginary entity only, with no basis in reality. These atheists claim that a single, omniscient God who is imagined to have created the universe and is particularly attentive to the lives of humans has been imagined, embellished and promulgated in a trans-generational manner. Richard Dawkins interprets such findings not only as a lack of evidence for the material existence of such a God, but as extensive evidence to the contrary. However, his views are opposed by some theologians and scientists including Alister McGrath, who argues that existence of God is compatible with science.
Different religious traditions assign differing (though often similar) attributes and characteristics to God, including expansive powers and abilities, psychological characteristics, gender characteristics, and preferred nomenclature. The assignment of these attributes often differs according to the conceptions of God in the culture from which they arise. For example, attributes of God in Christianity, attributes of God in Islam, and the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy in Judaism share certain similarities arising from their common roots.
Throughout the Hebrew and Christian Bibles there are many names for God. One of them is Elohim. Another one is El Shaddai, translated “God Almighty”. A third notable name is El Elyon, which means “The High God”.
God is described and referred in the Quran and hadith by certain names or attributes, the most common being Al-Rahman, meaning “Most Compassionate” and Al-Rahim, meaning “Most Merciful” (See Names of God in Islam).
Many traditions see God as incorporeal and eternal, and regard him as a point of living light like human souls, but without a physical body, as he does not enter the cycle of birth, death and rebirth. God is seen as the perfect and constant embodiment of all virtues, powers and values and that he is the unconditionally loving Father of all souls, irrespective of their religion, gender, or culture.
Vaishnavism, a tradition in Hinduism, has a list of titles and names of Krishna.
The gender of God may be viewed as either a literal or an allegorical aspect of a deity who, in classical western philosophy, transcends bodily form. Polytheistic religions commonly attribute to each of the gods a gender, allowing each to interact with any of the others, and perhaps with humans, sexually. In most monotheistic religions, God has no counterpart with which to relate sexually. Thus, in classical western philosophy the gender of this one-and-only deity is most likely to be an analogical statement of how humans and God address, and relate to, each other. Namely, God is seen as begetter of the world and revelation which corresponds to the active (as opposed to the receptive) role in sexual intercourse.
Biblical sources usually refer to God using male words, except Genesis 1:26–27, Psalm 123:2–3, and Luke 15:8–10 (female); Hosea 11:3–4, Deuteronomy 32:18, Isaiah 66:13, Isaiah 49:15, Isaiah 42:14, Psalm 131:2 (a mother); Deuteronomy 32:11–12 (a mother eagle); and Matthew 23:37 and Luke 13:34 (a mother hen).
Relationship with creation
Adherents of different religions generally disagree as to how to best worship God and what is God’s plan for mankind, if there is one. There are different approaches to reconciling the contradictory claims of monotheistic religions. One view is taken by exclusivists, who believe they are the chosen people or have exclusive access to absolute truth, generally through revelation or encounter with the Divine, which adherents of other religions do not. Another view is religious pluralism. A pluralist typically believes that his religion is the right one, but does not deny the partial truth of other religions. An example of a pluralist view in Christianity is supersessionism, i.e., the belief that one’s religion is the fulfillment of previous religions. A third approach is relativistic inclusivism, where everybody is seen as equally right; an example being universalism: the doctrine that salvation is eventually available for everyone. A fourth approach is syncretism, mixing different elements from different religions. An example of syncretism is the New Age movement.
Jews and Christians believe that humans are created in the likeness of God, and are the center, crown and key to God’s creation, stewards for God, supreme over everything else God had made (Gen 1:26); for this reason, humans are in Christianity called the “Children of God”.
At least some Jews do not use any image for God, since God is the unimaginable Being who cannot be represented in material forms. In some samples of Jewish Art, however, sometimes God, or at least his intervention, is indicated by a Hand Of God symbol, which represents the bath Kol (literally “daughter of a voice”) or Voice of God.
The burning bush that was not consumed by the flames is described in Book of Exodus as a symbolic representation of God when he appeared to Moses.
Early Christians believed that the words of the Gospel of John 1:18: “No man has seen God at any time” and numerous other statements were meant to apply not only to God, but to all attempts at the depiction of God.
The beginning of the 8th century witnessed the suppression and destruction of religious icons as the period of Byzantine iconoclasm (literally image-breaking) started. The Second Council of Nicaea in 787 effectively ended the first period of Byzantine iconoclasm and restored the honouring of icons and holy images in general. However, this did not immediately translate into large scale depictions of God the Father. Even supporters of the use of icons in the 8th century, such as Saint John of Damascus, drew a distinction between images of God the Father and those of Christ.
Prior to the 10th century no attempt was made to use a human to symbolize God the Father in Western art. Yet, Western art eventually required some way to illustrate the presence of the Father, so through successive representations a set of artistic styles for symbolizing the Father using a man gradually emerged around the 10th century AD. A rationale for the use of a human is the belief that God created the soul of Man in the image of his own (thus allowing Human to transcend the other animals).
It appears that when early artists designed to represent God the Father, fear and awe restrained them from a usage of the whole human figure. Typically only a small part would be used as the image, usually the hand, or sometimes the face, but rarely a whole human. In many images, the figure of the Son supplants the Father, so a smaller portion of the person of the Father is depicted.
By the 12th century depictions of God the Father had started to appear in French illuminated manuscripts, which as a less public form could often be more adventurous in their iconography, and in stained glass church windows in England. Initially the head or bust was usually shown in some form of frame of clouds in the top of the picture space, where the Hand of God had formerly appeared; the Baptism of Christ on the famous baptismal font in Liège of Rainer of Huy is an example from 1118 (a Hand of God is used in another scene). Gradually the amount of the human symbol shown can increase to a half-length figure, then a full-length, usually enthroned, as in Giotto’s fresco of c. 1305 in Padua. In the 14th century the Naples Bible carried a depiction of God the Father in the Burning bush. By the early 15th century, the Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry has a considerable number of symbols, including an elderly but tall and elegant full-length figure walking in the Garden of Eden, which show a considerable diversity of apparent ages and dress. The “Gates of Paradise” of the Florence Baptistry by Lorenzo Ghiberti, begun in 1425 use a similar tall full-length symbol for the Father. The Rohan Book of Hours of about 1430 also included depictions of God the Father in half-length human form, which were now becoming standard, and the Hand of God becoming rarer. At the same period other works, like the large Genesis altarpiece by the Hamburg painter Meister Bertram, continued to use the old depiction of Christ as Logos in Genesis scenes. In the 15th century there was a brief fashion for depicting all three persons of the Trinity as similar or identical figures with the usual appearance of Christ.
In an early Venetian school Coronation of the Virgin by Giovanni d’Alemagna and Antonio Vivarini (c. 1443), The Father is depicted using the symbol consistently used by other artists later, namely a patriarch, with benign, yet powerful countenance and with long white hair and a beard, a depiction largely derived from, and justified by, the near-physical, but still figurative, description of the Ancient of Days.
. …the Ancient of Days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire. (Daniel 7:9)
Representations of God the Father and the Trinity were attacked both by Protestants and within Catholicism, by the Jansenist and Baianist movements as well as more orthodox theologians. As with other attacks on Catholic imagery, this had the effect both of reducing Church support for the less central depictions, and strengthening it for the core ones. In the Western Church, the pressure to restrain religious imagery resulted in the highly influential decrees of the final session of the Council of Trentin 1563. The Council of Trent decrees confirmed the traditional Catholic doctrine that images only represented the person depicted, and that veneration to them was paid to the person, not the image.
Artistic depictions of God the Father were uncontroversial in Catholic art thereafter, but less common depictions of the Trinity were condemned. In 1745 Pope Benedict XIV explicitly supported the Throne of Mercy depiction, referring to the “Ancient of Days”, but in 1786 it was still necessary for Pope Pius VI to issue a papal bullcondemning the decision of an Italian church council to remove all images of the Trinity from churches.
In both the Last Judgment and the Coronation of the Virgin paintings by Rubens he depicted God the Father using the image that by then had become widely accepted, a bearded patriarchal figure above the fray. In the 17th century, the two Spanish artists Diego Velázquez (whose father-in-law Francisco Pacheco was in charge of the approval of new images for the Inquisition) and Bartolomé Esteban Murillo both depicted God the Father using a patriarchal figure with a white beard in a purple robe.
In 1667 the 43rd chapter of the Great Moscow Council specifically included a ban on a number of symbolic depictions of God the Father and the Holy Spirit, which then also resulted in a whole range of other icons being placed on the forbidden list, mostly affecting Western-style depictions which had been gaining ground in Orthodox icons. The Council also declared that the person of the Trinity who was the “Ancient of Days” was Christ, as Logos, not God the Father. However some icons continued to be produced in Russia, as well as Greece, Romania, and other Orthodox countries.
Muslims believe that God (Allah) is beyond all comprehension and equal, and does not resemble any of his creations in any way. Thus, Muslims are not iconodules, are not expected to visualize God, and instead of having pictures of Allah in their mosques, have religious scripts written on the wall.
Bahá’u’lláh taught that God is directly unknowable to common mortals, but that his attributes and qualities can be indirectly known by learning from and imitating his divine Manifestations, which in Bahá’í theology are somewhat comparable to Hindu avatars or Abrahamic prophets. These Manifestations are the great prophets and teachers of many of the major religious traditions. These include Krishna, Buddha, Jesus, Zoroaster, Muhammad, Bahá’ú’lláh, and others. Although the faith is strictly monotheistic, it also preaches the unity of all religions and focuses on these multiple epiphanies as necessary for meeting the needs of humanity at different points in history and for different cultures, and as part of a scheme of progressive revelation and education of humanity.
Classical theists (such as Ancient Greco-Medieval philosophers, Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox Christians, much of Jews and Muslims, and some Protestants) speak of God as a divinely simple “nothing” that is completely transcendent (totally independent of all else), and having attributes such as immutability, impassibility, and timelessness. Theologians of theistic personalism (the view held by Rene Descartes, Isaac Newton, Alvin Plantinga, Richard Swinburne, William Lane Craig, and most modern evangelicals) argue that God is most generally the ground of all being, immanent in and transcendent over the whole world of reality, with immanence and transcendence being the contrapletes of personality. Carl Jung equated religious ideas of God with transcendental metaphors of higher consciousness, in which God can be just as easily be imagined “as an eternally flowing current of vital energy that endlessly changes shape … as an eternally unmoved, unchangeable essence.”
The attributes of the God of classical theism were all claimed to varying degrees by the early Jewish, Christian and Muslim scholars, including Maimonides, St Augustine, and Al-Ghazali.
Many philosophers developed arguments for the existence of God, while attempting to comprehend the precise implications of God’s attributes. Reconciling some of those attributes-particularly the attributes of the God of theistic personalism- generated important philosophical problems and debates. For example, God’s omniscience may seem to imply that God knows how free agents will choose to act. If God does know this, their ostensible free will might be illusory, or foreknowledge does not imply predestination, and if God does not know it, God may not be omniscient.
The last centuries of philosophy have seen vigorous questions regarding the arguments for God’s existence raised by such philosophers as Immanuel Kant, David Hume and Antony Flew, although Kant held that the argument from morality was valid. The theist response has been either to contend, as does Alvin Plantinga, that faith is “properly basic”, or to take, as does Richard Swinburne, the evidentialist position. Some theists agree that only some of the arguments for God’s existence are compelling, but argue that faith is not a product of reason, but requires risk. There would be no risk, they say, if the arguments for God’s existence were as solid as the laws of logic, a position summed up by Pascal as “the heart has reasons of which reason does not know.”
Many religious believers allow for the existence of other, less powerful spiritual beings such as angels, saints, jinn, demons, and devas.
- Arthur Koestler, The Sleepwalkers: A History of Man’s Changing Vision of the Universe (1959)
- Proclus, The Six Books of Proclus, the Platonic Successor, on the Theology of Plato Tr. Thomas Taylor (1816) Vol. 2, Ch. 2, “Of Plato”
- Swinburne, R.G. “God” in Honderich, Ted. (ed)The Oxford Companion to Philosophy, Oxford University Press, 1995.
- David Bordwell (2002). Catechism of the Catholic Church, Continuum International Publishing ISBN978-0-86012-324-8 p. 84
- “Catechism of the Catholic Church – IntraText”. Archived from the original on 3 March 2013. Retrieved 30 December 2016.
- Jung, Carl (1976) . “Answer to Job“. In Joseph Campbell. The Portable Jung. Penguin Books. pp. 522–23. ISBN978-0-14-015070-4.
- “G-d has no body, no genitalia, therefore the very idea that G-d is male or female is patently absurd. Although in the Talmudic part of the Torah and especially in Kabalah G-d is referred to under the name ‘Sh’chinah‘ – which is feminine, this is only to accentuate the fact that all the creation and nature are actually in the receiving end in reference to the creator and as no part of the creation can perceive the creator outside of nature, it is adequate to refer to the divine presence in feminine form. We refer to G-d using masculine terms simply for convenience’s sake, because Hebrew has no neutral gender; G-d is no more male than a table is.” Judaism 101. “The fact that we always refer to God as ‘He’ is also not meant to imply that the concept of sex or gender applies to God.” Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, The Aryeh Kaplan Reader, Mesorah Publications (1983), p. 144
- Platinga, Alvin. “God, Arguments for the Existence of”, Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Routledge, 2000.
- Jan Assmann, Religion and Cultural Memory: Ten Studies, Stanford University Press 2005, p. 59
- M. Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature, Vol. 2, 1980, p. 96
- Pantheism: A Non-Theistic Concept of Deity – p. 136, Michael P. Levine – 2002
- A Feast for the Soul: Meditations on the Attributes of God : … – p. x, Baháʾuʾlláh, Joyce Watanabe – 2006
- Philosophy and Faith of Sikhism – p. ix, Kartar Singh Duggal – 1988
- McDaniel, June (2013), A Modern Hindu Monotheism: Indonesian Hindus as ‘People of the Book’. The Journal of Hindu Studies, Oxford University Press, doi:10.1093/jhs/hit030
- The Intellectual Devotional: Revive Your Mind, Complete Your Education, and Roam confidently with the cultured class, David S. Kidder, Noah D. Oppenheim, p. 364
- Alan H. Dawe (2011). The God Franchise: A Theory of Everything. p. 48. ISBN978-0-473-20114-2.
Pandeism: This is the belief that God created the universe, is now one with it, and so, is no longer a separate conscious entity. This is a combination of pantheism (God is identical to the universe) and deism (God created the universe and then withdrew Himself).
- Christianity and Other Religions, by John Hick and Brian Hebblethwaite. 1980. p. 178.
- The ulterior etymology is disputed. Apart from the unlikely hypothesis of adoption from a foreign tongue, the OTeut. “ghuba” implies as its preTeut-type either “*ghodho-m” or “*ghodto-m”. The former does not appear to admit of explanation; but the latter would represent the neut. pple. of a root “gheu-“. There are two Aryan roots of the required form (“*g,heu-” with palatal aspirate) one with meaning ‘to invoke’ (Skr. “hu”) the other ‘to pour, to offer sacrifice’ (Skr “hu”, Gr. χεηi;ν, OE “geotàn” Yete v). OED Compact Edition, G, p. 267
- Barnhart, Robert K. (1995). The Barnhart Concise Dictionary of Etymology: the Origins of American English Words, p. 323. HarperCollins. ISBN0-06-270084-7
- “‘God’ in Merriam-Webster (online)”. Merriam-Webster, Inc. Retrieved 2012-07-19.
- Webster’s New World Dictionary; “God n. ME < OE, akin to Ger gott, Goth guth, prob. < IE base * ĝhau-, to call out to, invoke > Sans havaté, (he) calls upon; 1. any of various beings conceived of as supernatural, immortal, and having special powers over the lives and affairs of people and the course of nature; deity, esp. a male deity: typically considered objects of worship; 2. an image that is worshiped; idol 3. a person or thing deified or excessively honored and admired; 4. [G-] in monotheistic religions, the creator and ruler of the universe, regarded as eternal, infinite, all-powerful, and all-knowing; Supreme Being; the Almighty”
- Dictionary.com; “God /gɒd/ noun: 1. the one Supreme Being, the creator and ruler of the universe. 2. the Supreme Being considered with reference to a particular attribute. 3. (lowercase) one of several deities, esp. a male deity, presiding over some portion of worldly affairs. 4. (often lowercase) a supreme being according to some particular conception: the God of mercy. 5. Christian Science. the Supreme Being, understood as Life, Truth, Love, Mind, Soul, Spirit, Principle. 6. (lowercase) an image of a deity; an idol. 7. (lowercase) any deified person or object. 8. (often lowercase) Gods, Theater. 8a. the upper balcony in a theater. 8b. the spectators in this part of the balcony.”
- Barton, G.A. (2006). A Sketch of Semitic Origins: Social and Religious. Kessinger Publishing. ISBN978-1-4286-1575-5.
- “God”. Islam: Empire of Faith. PBS. Retrieved 2010-12-18.
- “Islam and Christianity”, Encyclopedia of Christianity (2001): Arabic-speaking Christians and Jews also refer to God as Allāh.
- L. Gardet. “Allah”. Encyclopaedia of Islam Online.
- Hastings 2003, p. 540
- Boyce 1983, p. 685.
- Froese, Paul; Christopher Bader (Fall–Winter 2004). “Does God Matter? A Social-Science Critique”. Harvard Divinity Bulletin. 4. 32.
- See Swami Bhaskarananda, Essentials of Hinduism (Viveka Press 2002) ISBN1-884852-04-1
- “Sri Guru Granth Sahib”. Sri Granth. Retrieved 2011-06-30.
- “What Is the Trinity?”. Archived from the original on 2014-02-19.
- D. Gimaret. “Allah, Tawhid”. Encyclopædia Britannica Online.
- Robyn Lebron (2012). Searching for Spiritual Unity…Can There Be Common Ground?. p. 117. ISBN978-1-4627-1262-5.
- Müller, Max. (1878) Lectures on the Origin and Growth of Religion: As Illustrated by the Religions of India. London: Longmans, Green and Co.
- Smart, Jack; John Haldane (2003). Atheism and Theism. Blackwell Publishing. p. 8. ISBN978-0-631-23259-9.
- Lemos, Ramon M. (2001). A Neomedieval Essay in Philosophical Theology. Lexington Books. p. 34. ISBN978-0-7391-0250-3.
- “Philosophy of Religion.info – Glossary – Theism, Atheism, and Agonisticism”. Philosophy of Religion.info. Archived from the original on 2008-04-24. Retrieved 2008-07-16.
- “Theism – definition of theism by the Free Online Dictionary, Thesaurus and Encyclopedia”. TheFreeDictionary.com. Retrieved 2008-07-16.
- Sean F. Johnston (2009). The History of Science: A Beginner’s Guide. p. 90. ISBN978-1-85168-681-0.
In its most abstract form, deism may not attempt to describe the characteristics of such a non-interventionist creator, or even that the universe is identical with God (a variant known as pandeism).
- Paul Bradley (2011). This Strange Eventful History: A Philosophy of Meaning. p. 156. ISBN978-0-87586-876-9.
Pandeism combines the concepts of Deism and Pantheism with a god who creates the universe and then becomes it.
- Allan R. Fuller (2010). Thought: The Only Reality. p. 79. ISBN978-1-60844-590-5.
Pandeism is another belief that states that God is identical to the universe, but God no longer exists in a way where He can be contacted; therefore, this theory can only be proven to exist by reason. Pandeism views the entire universe as being from God and now the universe is the entirety of God, but the universe at some point in time will fold back into one single being which is God Himself that created all. Pandeism raises the question as to why would God create a universe and then abandon it? As this relates to pantheism, it raises the question of how did the universe come about what is its aim and purpose?
- Peter C. Rogers (2009). Ultimate Truth, Book 1. p. 121. ISBN978-1-4389-7968-7.
As with Panentheism, Pantheism is derived from the Greek: ‘pan’= all and ‘theos’ = God, it literally means “God is All” and “All is God.” Pantheist purports that everything is part of an all-inclusive, indwelling, intangible God; or that the Universe, or nature, and God are the same. Further review helps to accentuate the idea that natural law, existence, and the Universe which is the sum total of all that is, was, and shall be, is represented in the theological principle of an abstract ‘god’ rather than an individual, creative Divine Being or Beings of any kind. This is the key element which distinguishes them from Panentheists and Pandeists. As such, although many religions may claim to hold Pantheisticelements, they are more commonly Panentheistic or Pandeistic in nature.
- John Culp (2013). “Panentheism,”Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Spring.
- The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky pp. 259–61
- Henry, Michel (2003). I am the Truth. Toward a philosophy of Christianity. Translated by Susan Emanuel. Stanford University Press. ISBN978-0-8047-3780-7.
- Edwards, Paul. “God and the philosophers” in Honderich, Ted. (ed)The Oxford Companion to Philosophy, Oxford University Press, 1995. ISBN978-1-61592-446-2.
- “A Plea for Atheism. By ‘Iconoclast'”, London, Austin & Co., 1876, p. 2.
- Dawkins, Richard (2006). The God Delusion. Great Britain: Bantam Press. ISBN978-0-618-68000-9.
- Dawkins, Richard (2006-10-23). “Why There Almost Certainly Is No God”. The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2007-01-10.
- Sagan, Carl (1996). The Demon Haunted World. New York: Ballantine Books. p. 278. ISBN978-0-345-40946-1.
- Stephen Hawking; Leonard Mlodinow (2010). The Grand Design. Bantam Books. p. 172. ISBN978-0-553-80537-6.
- Hepburn, Ronald W. (2005) . “Agnosticism”. In Donald M. Borchert. The Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 1 (2nd ed.). MacMillan Reference USA (Gale). p. 92. ISBN978-0-02-865780-6.
In the most general use of the term, agnosticism is the view that we do not know whether there is a God or not.(p. 56 in 1967 edition)
- Rowe, William L. (1998). “Agnosticism”. In Edward Craig. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Taylor & Francis. ISBN978-0-415-07310-3.
In the popular sense, an agnostic is someone who neither believes nor disbelieves in God, whereas an atheist disbelieves in God. In the strict sense, however, agnosticism is the view that human reason is incapable of providing sufficient rational grounds to justify either the belief that God exists or the belief that God does not exist. In so far as one holds that our beliefs are rational only if they are sufficiently supported by human reason, the person who accepts the philosophical position of agnosticism will hold that neither the belief that God exists nor the belief that God does not exist is rational.
- “agnostic, agnosticism”. OED Online, 3rd ed. Oxford University Press. 2012.
agnostic. : A. n[oun]. :# A person who believes that nothing is known or can be known of immaterial things, especially of the existence or nature of God. :# In extended use: a person who is not persuaded by or committed to a particular point of view; a sceptic. Also: person of indeterminate ideology or conviction; an equivocator. : B.adj[ective]. :# Of or relating to the belief that the existence of anything beyond and behind material phenomena is unknown and (as far as can be judged) unknowable. Also: holding this belief. :# a. In extended use: not committed to or persuaded by a particular point of view; sceptical. Also: politically or ideologically unaligned; non-partisan, equivocal. agnosticism n. The doctrine or tenets of agnostics with regard to the existence of anything beyond and behind material phenomena or to knowledge of a First Cause or God.
- Nielsen 2013: “Instead of saying that an atheist is someone who believes that it is false or probably false that there is a God, a more adequate characterization of atheism consists in the more complex claim that to be an atheist is to be someone who rejects belief in God for the following reasons … : for an anthropomorphic God, the atheist rejects belief in God because it is false or probably false that there is a God; for a nonanthropomorphic God … because the concept of such a God is either meaningless, unintelligible, contradictory, incomprehensible, or incoherent; for the God portrayed by some modern or contemporary theologians or philosophers … because the concept of God in question is such that it merely masks an atheistic substance—e.g., “God” is just another name for love, or … a symbolic term for moral ideals.”
- Edwards 2005: “On our definition, an ‘atheist’ is a person who rejects belief in God, regardless of whether or not his reason for the rejection is the claim that ‘God exists’ expresses a false proposition. People frequently adopt an attitude of rejection toward a position for reasons other than that it is a false proposition. It is common among contemporary philosophers, and indeed it was not uncommon in earlier centuries, to reject positions on the ground that they are meaningless. Sometimes, too, a theory is rejected on such grounds as that it is sterile or redundant or capricious, and there are many other considerations which in certain contexts are generally agreed to constitute good grounds for rejecting an assertion.”
- Rowe 1998: “As commonly understood, atheism is the position that affirms the nonexistence of God. So an atheist is someone who disbelieves in God, whereas a theist is someone who believes in God. Another meaning of ‘atheism’ is simply nonbelief in the existence of God, rather than positive belief in the nonexistence of God. … an atheist, in the broader sense of the term, is someone who disbelieves in every form of deity, not just the God of traditional Western theology.”
- Boyer, Pascal (2001). Religion Explained. New York: Basic Books. pp. 142–243. ISBN978-0-465-00696-0.
- du Castel, Bertrand; Jurgensen, Timothy M. (2008). Computer Theology. Austin, Texas: Midori Press. pp. 221–22. ISBN978-0-9801821-1-8.
- Barrett, Justin (1996). “Conceptualizing a Nonnatural Entity: Anthropomorphism in God Concepts”(PDF).
- Rossano, Matt (2007). “Supernaturalizing Social Life: Religion and the Evolution of Human Cooperation”(PDF). Retrieved 2009-06-25.
- Thomas Henry Huxley, an English biologist, was the first to come up with the word agnostic in 1869 Dixon, Thomas (2008). Science and Religion: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 63. ISBN978-0-19-929551-7. However, earlier authors and published works have promoted an agnostic points of view. They include Protagoras, a 5th-century BCE Greek philosopher. “The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy – Protagoras (c. 490 – c. 420 BCE)”. Archived from the original on 2008-10-14. Retrieved 2008-10-06.
While the pious might wish to look to the gods to provide absolute moral guidance in the relativistic universe of the Sophistic Enlightenment, that certainty also was cast into doubt by philosophic and sophistic thinkers, who pointed out the absurdity and immorality of the conventional epic accounts of the gods. Protagoras’ prose treatise about the gods began ‘Concerning the gods, I have no means of knowing whether they exist or not or of what sort they may be. Many things prevent knowledge including the obscurity of the subject and the brevity of human life.’
- Aquinas, Thomas (1990). Kreeft, Peter, ed. Summa of the Summa. Ignatius Press. p. 63.
- Aquinas, Thomas (1990). Kreeft, Peter, ed. Summa of the Summa. Ignatius Press. pp. 65–69.
- Curley, Edwin M. (1985). The Collected Works of Spinoza. Princeton University Press. ISBN978-0-691-07222-7.
- Nadler, Steven (2001-06-29). “Baruch Spinoza”.
- Snobelen, Stephen D. (1999). “Isaac Newton, heretic : the strategies of a Nicodemite”(PDF). British Journal for the History of Science. 32 (4): 381–419. doi:10.1017/S0007087499003751. Archived from the original(PDF) on 2014-09-08. Retrieved 2014-09-07.
- Webb, R.K. ed. Knud Haakonssen. “The emergence of Rational Dissent.” Enlightenment and Religion: Rational Dissent in eighteenth-century Britain. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge: 1996. p19.
- Newton, 1706 Opticks (2nd Edition), quoted in H.G. Alexander 1956 (ed): The Leibniz-Clarke correspondence, University of Manchester Press.
- “SUMMA THEOLOGIAE: The existence of God (Prima Pars, Q. 2)”. Retrieved 30 December 2016.
- Summa of Theology I, q. 2, The Five Ways Philosophers Have Proven God’s Existence
- Alister E. McGrath (2005). Dawkins’ God: genes, memes, and the meaning of life. Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN978-1-4051-2539-0.
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- “Audio Visual Resources”. Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. Archived from the original on 2007-03-29. Retrieved 2007-04-07., includes sound recording of the Dawkins-McGrath debate
- Francis Schüssler Fiorenza and Gordon D. Kaufman, “God”, Ch 6, in Mark C. Taylor, ed, Critical Terms for Religious Studies(University of Chicago, 1998/2008), 136–40.
- Gen. 17:1; 28:3; 35:11; Ex. 6:31; Ps. 91:1, 2
- Gen. 14:19; Ps. 9:2; Dan. 7:18, 22, 25
- Bentley, David (1999). The 99 Beautiful Names for God for All the People of the Book. William Carey Library. ISBN978-0-87808-299-5.
- Ramsay, Tamasin (September 2010). “Custodians of Purity An Ethnography of the Brahma Kumaris”. Monash University: 107–08.
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- Elaine H. Pagels “What Became of God the Mother? Conflicting Images of God in Early Christianity” Signs, Vol. 2, No. 2 (Winter, 1976), pp. 293–303
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humans are modeled on elohim, specifically in their sexual differences.
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- “International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: Sons of God (New Testament)”. BibleStudyTools.com. Retrieved 7 October2014.
- Boyce 1983, p. 686.
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- A matter disputed by some scholars
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- Arena Chapel, at the top of the triumphal arch, God sending out the angel of the Annunciation. See Schiller, I, fig 15
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- Qur’an 15:27
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