The Nature of God

Definitions

Omnipotence: the idea that God is completely powerful and is the source of all power

Omniscience: the idea that God ia all-knowing

Omnipresence: the idea that God is present everywhere at all times - he created time and is therefore not controlled by it

Omnibenevolence: the idea that God is completely good and is the source of all goodness

Immanence: the idea that God is near at hand - he is active, present and involved in creation

Transcendence: the idea that God is completely distinct from the universe - he is not controlled by the limits of the universe and is unlike anything else that exists

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Definitions

Personal: the idea that God has personal or human qualities, such as that of a parent or friend

Knowable: the idea that humans can understand what God is like

Impersonal: the idea that God is unlike humans and has no personal qualities. He is completely unknowable and humans will never understand what he is like

Polytheism: the belief in multiple gods

Monotheism: the belief in one true God

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Christianity

  • Christianity is monotheistic
  • Christians believe in one God who expresses himself in the form of the Trinity: these are not individual Gods but three forms of one God
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The Trinity

Christianity is monotheistic:

  • DEUTERONOMY 6:4: 'Israel, remember this: the Lord - and the Lord alone - is our God'

Before Jesus is taken up to heaven, he instructs his disciples:

  • MATTHEW 28:19: 'Go, then, to all people everywhere and make them my disciples: baptise them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit'

Christians associate different things with different 'persons' of the Trinity:

  • God as the Father created the universe and receives the prayers of Christians
  • God as the Son became a man (Jesus), lived on earth, performed miracles and died on a cross. Christians pray to God through Jesus.
  • God as the Spirit lives inside believers and guides them. Jesus sent his Spirit to live in the hearts of his disciples after he was taken into Heaven. 
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Hinduism

Hindus also believe in one God - Brahman. Brahman is the source of all life.

  • Brahman is omnipresent and is in everything
  • Brahman is transcendent as has no gender
  • Brahman is unknowable, meaning it is impossible for humans to understand Brahman.

Shiva is known as the destroyer. He is part of the Trimurti and is in charge of ending things. 

  • Shiva is often depicted as carrying a small drum and dancing to represent the rhythm of life. 
  • He also holds a snake, which symbolises evil to show that he is in control of evil and has the power to destroy it.
  • Shiva is often shown dancing on a dwarf, which represents ignorance. Shiva destroys this and brings people knowledge and understanding.
  • 'Night must be brought to end so that day can begin'
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Understanding Brahman

Because Brahman is unknowable, Hindus believe he has revealed himself through thousands of lesser gods. When Hindus worship them, they are really worshipping Brahman. 

  • These gods and goddesses reflect different aspects of Brahman's character
  • Through worshipping images of these gods and learning their story, Hindus learn about Brahman
  • Many Hindus believe these gods don't believe these gods actually exist, but are just visual aids to help them understand Brahman. 
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Islam

  • The Arabic word for God is 'Allah'
  • Allah has no gender
  • He is unknowable, so has revealed something of himself to prophets
  • The last of the prophets was Muhammad, an ordinary person chosen by Allah
  • Muslims do not worship Muhammad, but respect him as the most important of Allah's prophets
  • Muhammad was visited on a number of occassions by the Angel Jibrail, who revealed the words of the Qur'an to him.
  • Muslims believe the Qur'an is the complete and final Word of God to humans. By following its teachings and the example of Muhammad, Muslims can live in a way that is pleasing to God. 
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Immanence in Christianity

Christians believe the Holy Spirit lives inside believers, guiding and inspiring them.

  • The New Testament book of Acts describes how the Holy Spirit enabled the first Christians to perform miracles, speak in different languages, etc.

Christians today believe God is still active in the world to guide and inspire them as he did the first Christians in the Early Church. This is one of the main reasons why Christians pray, as they believe God will answer their prayers. 

  • "He is not far from each of us, for in Him we live and move and have our being"
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Immanence in Judaism

Jewish people also believe in an immanent God because the Tenakh relates how God was involved in the history of the Jewish people. 

  • God called Abraham - the father of the Jews - and made a promise to him of a new land.
  • 600 years later, during the Exodus, God helped the Jews escape slavery in Egypt into the Promised Land.

This shows that God was actively involved in their freedom and that he keeps his promises

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Immanence in Sikhism

"God is concealed in every heart; his light is in every heart"

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Advantages/Disadvantages of Transcendence

ADVANTAGES

  • Emphasises the importance of God
  • Allows believers to respect him more

DISADVANTAGES

  • There is no sense of believing in an understanding God
  • Doesn't allow believers to have a personal relationship with God
  • May disconnect believers from God

SIKHISM: 'He hath no form, colour, or outline'

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Understanding Allah

"There is no other God but Allah. Muhammad is the prophet of God"

  • The Shahadah is the most important belief in the religion of Islam. It emphasises that Allah is One. 
  • Muslims refer to the oneness of God as the tawhid.

Surah 112: "Say he is Allah the One. Allah is eternal and absolute. None is born of Him, nor is He born. And there is none like Him."

The Qur'an also contains the 99 Beautiful Names of God. Each of these names tell Muslims something about God, e.g. The Creator, Source of Peace, Eternal, All-Knowing. 

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