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Who Is God? A Deep Look Into The Nature And Identity Of The Divine

The question of who or what God is has fascinated humanity since the dawn of civilization. Ancient cultures across the world developed myths and complex belief systems in an attempt to explain God’s nature and role in the universe.

In the modern age of science and technology, the identity and existence of God is still pondered and debated intensely.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: God is generally conceived of as the supreme supernatural being or deity in monotheistic religions such as Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. God is believed to have created the universe and to have power over all things.

The exact attributes and nature of God are debated, but God is generally seen as eternal, all-knowing, all-powerful, and possessing qualities such as love and justice to the highest degree.

In this comprehensive article, we will dive deep into the concept of God across religions and philosophical viewpoints. We will explore the evidence for and against God’s existence, analyze God’s proposed attributes and nature, and investigate who or what God might be according to various belief systems and scientific perspectives.

The Concept of God in Different Religions

God in Christianity

In Christianity, God is conceived of as the eternal, omnipotent, and omniscient creator and sustainer of all that exists. Christians believe God is actively involved in history, especially through the incarnation of Jesus Christ as documented in the New Testament of the Bible.

Some key attributes of the Christian concept of God include:

  • God is three persons in one – the Father, the Son (Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit.
  • God is the creator of the universe and sustainer of all life.
  • God is both transcendent (wholly independent of creation) and immanent (involved in creation).
  • God is just, loving, merciful, and desires a personal relationship with human beings.

Important sources that shape the Christian understanding of God include the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, church creeds and councils, theologians like Augustine and Aquinas, and individual spiritual experiences.

God in Islam

In Islam, God is absolutely one, all-powerful, and all-knowing. The Arabic word for God is Allah. Some key attributes of Allah according to Islamic belief include:

  • Allah has no associates or partners and is the sole creator and sustainer of the universe.
  • No human can fully grasp Allah’s essence, but evidence of Allah is everywhere in creation.
  • Submission and obedience to the will of Allah (as revealed in the Quran) is central to being a Muslim.
  • Allah is just, sends guidance and revelation through messengers and prophets, and no intermediary is required to have a relationship with Allah.

Source references mostly in Islamic theology of God include the Qur’an as the verbatim word of Allah as revealed to Muhammad, hadith (reports of Muhammad’s teachings and way of life), Islamic scholars like Ibn Sina, and individual spiritual reflections (jihad bin nafs).

God in Judaism

In Judaism, God is the absolute one, incomparable, all-powerful and ever-present creator of the universe and master of history. Important aspects of the Jewish concept of God include:

  • God is one and unique as affirmed in the Shema prayer – “Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One.”
  • God is creator of the world and transcendent above creation, and the origin of moral law.
  • God made a special covenant with Abraham and his descendants (the Hebrews and Israelites) as documented in Hebrew scriptures.
  • God has both judgment for the wicked and righteousness for those who obey His commandments.

Key sources in Jewish theology about God include the Torah (Hebrew Bible), especially the books of Genesis and Exodus, teachings of rabbis like Maimonides, and Kabbalistic mystical writings.

Gods in Polytheistic Religions

Polytheistic religions like Hinduism believe in more than one diety or god. Some aspects of polytheistic conceptions of divinity include:

  • Hinduism has a supreme being called Brahman manifested in many forms as devas – powerful deities with control over natural phenomena like storms, love, wisdom or fire.
  • Greek mythology conceived of gods such as Zeus, Poseidon and Hera that were supernatural immortal beings with human failings and special powers.
  • Followers of traditional African religions (Yoruba religion, Ethiopian religion) believe in a supreme creator god along with a pantheon of deities representing natural/human aspects.
  • Gods in polytheism have dominion over specific aspects, regions, tribes or elements rather than being universally supreme.

Unlike monotheistic traditions that posit an all-powerful, all-knowing, singular deity, polytheistic views see gods with limitation in power and knowledge as well as competing and contradictory wills.

Philosophical Arguments Regarding God’s Existence

The Cosmological Argument

The cosmological argument states that everything that begins to exist has a cause, the universe began to exist, therefore the universe has a cause – God. This argument is based on the concept that there cannot be an infinite regress of causes, there must have been an uncaused first cause – God – to set everything in motion.

The Ontological Argument

The ontological argument attempts to prove God’s existence through conceptual analysis. It argues that God is the greatest conceivable being, it is greater to exist than to not exist, therefore God’s nonexistence would mean He is not the greatest conceivable being. Thus by definition, God exists.

The Teleological Argument

Also known as the argument from design. The teleological argument highlights evidence of design in the natural world, inferring this indicates the universe had an intelligent designer – God. Examples include the fine-tuned laws of physics and complex biological mechanisms.

Arguments Against God’s Existence

While philosophical arguments for God’s existence abound, there are also counter arguments from scholars:

  • The existence of suffering and evil seems incompatible with an all-powerful, all-loving God.
  • Science provides natural explanations for the origins of the universe and life, questioning the need for a supernatural Creator.
  • God’s existence cannot be proven by reason and logical arguments alone, requiring a leap of faith unsubstantiated by evidence.
  • The Proposed Nature and Attributes of God

    Omniscience and Omnipotence

    Most monotheistic religions posit that God is all-knowing (omniscient) and all-powerful (omnipotent). As an omniscient being, God has complete and total knowledge of everything that has happened, is happening, and will happen. He knows our innermost thoughts and desires.

    As an omnipotent being, God has unlimited power and can accomplish anything He desires. Yet God exercises these attributes in accordance with His perfect nature and will. Scripture reveals that although God could coerce obedience if He wanted, He has instead given humans free will to accept or reject Him.

    Benevolence and Love

    The Bible and other sacred texts describe God as perfectly good, compassionate, forgiving, and loving. 1 John 4:8 declares simply that “God is love.” God’s benevolence led Him to create the world and humanity out of a desire to share His love.

    This is seen supremely through the giving of His Son to provide redemption and reconciliation with Himself (John 3:16). God’s nature is neither detached nor indifferent, but rather He is intimately involved with His creation and cares deeply for the wellbeing of His people.

    Justice and Judgement

    While the Bible emphasizes God’s love, it also presents Him as perfectly just and holy, which means He cannot tolerate sin and evil. God’s justice demands wrongdoing be punished. Yet God tempers justice with mercy, giving humans opportunity to repent (Ezekiel 18:23).

    Ultimately, Scripture warns that God will judge all people for their deeds and hearts. For believers in Christ, judgment means reward but not condemnation, since Jesus already bore their punishment. But for those who reject God’s offer of salvation through Christ, judgment means everlasting separation from God.

    Immanence and Transcendence

    Theologians use the term “immanence” to describe God’s nearness to His creation, while “transcendence” refers to His otherness from creation. Scripture presents a God who is immanent, actively involved in the world, yet also completely transcendent, existing outside of time and space.

    For example, the Old Testament describes God walking in the Garden of Eden speaking face-to-face with Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:8). Yet passages like 1 Kings 8:27 declare that even the highest heavens cannot contain God.

    Ultimately God is so unlike any created being that full knowledge of Him remains beyond human reach. Yet through Christ, God graciously condescends to commune with humans.

    God Concepts in Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism

    Brahman in Hinduism

    In Hinduism, the concept of the divine is expressed in the idea of Brahman. Brahman is understood as the supreme, eternal reality that is formless, infinite, and omnipresent. Brahman is the source of all existence and the ultimate foundation of the universe.

    Though Brahman has no form or attributes, it can manifest in personal forms as different deities. The most prominent deities in Hinduism are the Trimurti of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, who represent the cosmic functions of creation, preservation, and destruction.

    Yet these personal gods are still seen as aspects of the greater impersonal Brahman. The ultimate aim of Hindu spiritual practice is to transcend the illusion of Maya and realize one’s true identity as Brahman – the unchanging, infinite divine reality behind all appearances.

    Some key concepts about Brahman in Hinduism include:

    • Brahman is nirguna – without attributes or qualities.
    • It is sat-cit-ananda – being, consciousness, and bliss absolute.
    • Brahman is the sole unchanging reality behind all changing phenomena.
    • The Atman or individual soul is identical to Brahman – this is expressed in the phrase Tat Tvam Asi, meaning “You are that.”
    • To know Brahman is to know the true Self beyond ego, duality, and illusion.

    Realization of Brahman as one’s unchanging innermost essence leads to moksha or liberation from the cycle of karma and rebirth. Brahman is thus the ultimate reality and aim in Hinduism.

    Nirvana in Buddhism

    In Buddhism, the concept of the ultimate reality is expressed in the idea of Nirvana. Sometimes described as “emptiness” or “the unconstructed,” Nirvana refers to the enlightened state beyond suffering and attachment. It represents liberation from the endless cycle of rebirth governed by karma.

    Nirvana is achieved when one eradicates all ignorance and desire through wisdom and meditation. In Theravada Buddhism, Nirvana is understood as the cessation of existence and the extinction of the fires of greed, hatred, and delusion.

    In Mahayana Buddhism, Nirvana represents a state of transcendental bliss and mystical awareness.

    Some key concepts about Nirvana in Buddhism include:

    • It brings an end to suffering by eliminating attachment and craving.
    • Nirvana is beyond conceptualization – it has no abiding essence.
    • It is attained through the Noble Eightfold Path and other skillful means.
    • Nirvana represents the perfection of wisdom, compassion, ethics, and concentration.
    • In Mahayana thought, Nirvana and Samsara are ultimately not different. An enlightened being realizes emptiness but remains in the world to help others.

    Instead of a supreme being, Buddhists seek enlightement, often through meditation. Nirvana offers release from delusion and suffering. It is an enduring psychological state beyond ego and negative emotions. For Buddhists, Nirvana is the highest spiritual attainment.

    The Tao in Taoism

    In Taoism, the concept of the divine is expressed in the idea of the Tao. The Tao is understood as the ultimate, ineffable source and sustaining energy of existence. Though subtle and difficult to grasp, it flows through and sustains all things.

    The Tao represents the natural, spontaneous way of existence prior to conceptualization and language. It aligns with virtues like naturalness, compassion, moderation, and humility. By living in accordance with the Tao, one achieves alignment with the dynamism of the universe.

    Some key concepts about the Tao include:

    • The Tao is nameless and formless, yet it nourishes and provides for all things.
    • It is the source of harmony and balance, going along with rather than against the grain of nature.
    • The Tao is attained through intuitive wisdom and spontaneity rather than reason or effort.
    • Living in accord with the Tao leads to integrity, joy, and longevity.
    • The Tao flows through Yin and Yang – the feminine and masculine principles underlying nature.

    Unlike Western monotheism, Taoism sees the divine as an impersonal force rather than a personified being. By living in harmony with nature and aligning with the Tao, one achieves health, happiness, and flow. The Tao represents the matrix of existence and the proper way of living.

    Scientific Perspectives on the Possibility of God

    God and the Big Bang

    The Big Bang theory describes the beginning of the universe as a sudden expansion from an extremely dense and hot early state. Some scientists have argued that this requires an external cause, possibly a divine being.

    For example, in his book A Brief History of Time, the famous physicist Stephen Hawking said that if one traces time backwards to the Big Bang, then one ends up at a point where all scientific concepts break down and “one would have to appeal to God or some supernatural force to set the universe in motion”.

    However, other experts counter that while we don’t yet have a complete explanation, the fact that something is currently unexplained does not constitute proof of divine involvement. As cosmologist Lawrence Krauss puts it: “The universe could have originated from an uncaused quantum fluctuation or an eternal multiverse, for example.”

    The Anthropic Principle

    The anthropic principle observes that the universe seems remarkably well-suited for life to exist. For example, if the force of gravity were slightly stronger or weaker, stars like our sun would not exist, making life impossible.

    This precise cosmic tuning has led some to argue that a divine being intentionally calibrated the universe this way.

    Nonetheless, opponents maintain that we don’t know whether life could have emerged under different physics. Physicist Victor Stenger argues: “Although the universe looks like it was fine-tuned for us, we exist in a tiny fraction of reality.

    Most places are likely uninhabitable, so we only find ourselves where life is possible.”

    Artificial Intelligence and Simulated Universes

    Advances in technology may one day allow civilizations to create complex simulated universes. Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom suggests that if this capability becomes common, then the odds are decent that we ourselves are living in an ancestor simulation.

    However, critics argue we have no direct evidence that our universe is a simulation.

    Interestingly, AI may provide another perspective on the possibility of God. As AI researcher Hugo de Garis speculates: “If mere mortals can invent godlike intelligent machines, whether genetically engineered or built from silicon chips, then the possibility exists of the previous existence of a former civilization that succeeded in this endeavor, making gods in their own image.”


    The question of God’s identity and existence has occupied humanity for millennia. While there are many competing conceptions of who or what God might be, most religions and philosophies concur that God represents the ultimate mystery that is foundational to existence itself.

    The many arguments for and against God’s existence present reasonable cases but ultimately cannot provide definitive proof one way or the other. The proposed attributes of God such as omnipotence and benevolence also spiral into paradox when examined at length.

    That God transcends human understanding is central to most perspectives.

    While science currently provides no evidence for supernatural forces at work in the cosmos, the deep mysteries of existence leave open the possibility of God in some form that we have yet to discover or comprehend. The question of who God is therefore remains profound, relevant and unresolved.

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