Christianity- The Nature of God

These cards are based on the religion of Christianity and are based on the topic of The Nature of God.

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  • Created on: 09-05-08 16:12

Christian beliefs about the nature of God

Christians are monotheists. This means that they believe there is only one God. According to Christianity, and many other religions too, God is unlike anything else that exists. This means that it can be very difficult to describe God, because everyday language is always about ordinary things but God is not ordinary. God is often described as 'holy', which means special, separate and different.

Christians believe:

  • God is eternal, beyond time and space.
  • God is not limited by having a physical body, and is everywhere at all times.
  • God is the creator of the world and everything in it, and has a purpose for the world.
  • God is perfectly good and perfectly loving.
  • God is interested in how people behave, and wants them to treat each other properly.
  • God is all-powerful (omnipotent) and all-knowing (omniscient).
  • God will judge each individual
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The doctrine of the Trinity

Sometimes it can be difficult for people to understand how God can be the creator of the universe and at the same time be interested in the lives of individual believers. One of the ways that Christians try to express their understanding of what God is like is called the doctrine of the Trinity. This belief tries to express how God can be understood in three different ways: as God the Father, God the Son and as God the Holy Spirit. This does not mean that there are three different Gods; for example a girl could be Sarah the daughter, Sarah the best friend and Sarah the swimmer, while being the same person all the time. The doctrine of the Trinity shows how God's relationship with humanity works in different ways.

God the Father: Calling God 'Father' is a way of showing belief that God created everything. It is also a way of showing a close and loving relationship, where the father cares about his children and they can rely on him. Some Chrisitans also talk about God as 'Mother' to show that God is not limited to being either male or female.

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God the Son and God the Holy Spirit

God the Son: Christians believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the Son of God. They believe that God chose to come to earth asa man, to teach people the right way to live, to show them what life will be like when God reigns (the kingdom of God, or kingdom of heaven), and to sacrifice himself so that people could be forgiven for doing wrong. They believe that after Jesus was crucified, he rose from the dead (the resurrection) and showed that God has power over death.

God the Holy Spirit: Christians believe that after Jesus rose from the dead and went back into heaven (the ascension), God sent the Holy Spirit to live on in the world in the lives of Christians, giving them courage, comforting them, inspiring them and guiding them in their decisions. In Christian art, the Holy Spirit is often shown in the form of a dove, a symbol of peace and hope.

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Why do Christians believe in God?

Chrisitans give many reasons for believing in God, and often on believer might have several different reasons. They might say:

  • The universe cannot just have come into existence by accident; there must be a Creator who started everything. Nothing happens without a reason, and God is the only possible reason for the existence of the universe.
  • Everything in the world is so beautifully designed for its purpose that there must be a God who planned it all.
  • We all have a sense of right and wrong, and we feel guilty when we do wrong even if we know no-one will find out. There must be a God who gives people consciences.
  • People can have a personal experience of God perhaps, as an answer to a prayer, or a healing, or a strong feeling that God is present with them. They might have had a conversion experience, perhaps as a result of listening to other Christians or from reading the Bible.
  • Some people are brought up in Christian families, and Christianity is a part of their lives they have never been without.
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Why do Christians believe in God?

Many people who have no religious belief would argue that these are not good reasons for belief in God. They might say that the universe could have happened by accident, just as the result of a 'Big Bang', and there does not need to have been any God to start it off. Or they might say that things in the world which seem to have been designed are the result of evolution, not God. Some people say that out consciences are just the result of the way we were brought up, so that we have our sense of right and wrong because of our parents, not because of God. They might say that coming from a Christian family shows that Christianity is part of someone's customs, but does not show it is true; and they might say that a personal religious experience could be mistaken.

No-one can prove that God exists; but no-one can prove that there is no God, either. It is something that has to be a personal decision, based on faith.

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The authority of the Bible for Christians

The Bible is the holy book of Christianity. It is made up of two collections of books: the Old Testament and the New Testament.

The Old Testament has the same content as the Jewish scriptures. It contains 39 books of stories, poems, laws, history, myths, prophecy and songs, all of which show the relationship between God and his people over many hundreds of years.

The New Testament contains 27 books. There are four gospels which tell the story of the life, teaching, death and resurrection of Jesus, and also other books containing history, letter of advice to new Christians, and poetic descriptions of the future end of the world. For many Christians, although the Old Testament is important and sacred, the New Testament is even more special because it contains the story of Jesus and gives a new understanding of God.

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The authority of the Bible for Christians

When Christians say that the Bible has authority for them, they mean that they believe that it comes from God and they try to understand its teachings and put them into practise in their daily lives. They read about people who are praised in the Bible, and they try to behave in the same way themseleves, following the examples set in the stories. They look to the Bible for teaching about moral issues, to help them decide what to do if they are having difficulty making decisions.

Christians have different opinions about how the Bible should be interpreted. Some believe that it comes directly from God, and that every word in it is perfect and should not be challenged. They believe that the stories in the Bible all really happened exactly as described. If scientists or historians suggest that the Bible is wrong, they they should not be believed, because God does not make mistakes.


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The authotity of the Bible for Christians

Other Christians believe that there are many different kinds of truth to be found in the Bible, but some passages are not meant to be taken literally. They say that some of the stories are myths, which give important and true messages, but they do not necessarily describe real events. They also say that although God was responsible for the writing of the Bible, the human authors also had a part to play, writing in their own words and using their own ideas and experiences to help them.

All Christians believe that the Bible is very special and more important than any other book. The Bible is read in church services on Sundays, and at important occasions such as weddings, funerals, and many Christians read the Bible on their own at home or in small groups with other Christians. The Bible is used for help and advice, and to settle disagreements. Because Christians believe that the Bible is so important, it is often used in this country in courts of law, when people promise to tell the truth and use the Bible to show that they really mean it.

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God in the world

Christians believe that God did not just start off the world and then go away. According to Christianity, God has had a relationship with humanity ever since the first people were created, and this relationship continues today.

Many Christians believe that God acts in the world through miracles. They believe that God occasionally changes the rules of nature so that people can have glimpse of God's nature and reach a better understanding. Some people believe that they have been miraculously healed, even from illnesses that are usually incurable. Others believe that they have been saved in times of danger, or that they have been sent a special sign from God. In the Bible, there are many stories of Jesus performing miracles. For example, in Luke's gospel there is the story of a blind beggar, who was given back his sight:

'What do you want me to do for you?'
'Lord, I want to see,' he replied. Jesus said to him, 'Recieve your sight; your faith has healed you.' Immediately he recieved his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it they also praised God. (Luke 18:41-43)

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God in the world

Christians believe that the Holy Spirit continues to work miracles. Lourdes is a place of pilgrimage for Roman Catholics, because it is believed to be the site of a miraculous vision of the Virgin Mary. It is visited by Christians who go there to pray together and who often hope that their faith will bring them miraculous healings.

In Christianity the mose important way that God showed his involvement with the world was when he came to the earth as Jesus Christ. The writer of John's gospel expresses it like this:

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

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God in the world

Christians believe that we do not have to wonder what God is like, because God came into the world and showed us. Many people have found it difficult to understand how a person could be completely human, and also God at the same time, and there have been many different attempts to explain this idea; but most Christians accept that it is a mystery. They say that because God came into the world, it demonstrates that God cares enough about people to want to teach them things, and to share in their happiness and their suffering.

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