Who is God?
Updated: Mar 31
What image fills your mind in response to this question? An old man with a white beard and hair, sitting far above us in the clouds, judging every mistake? On the other hand, perhaps you think about God as some kind of power which started the world but no longer has anything to do with us today. Or perhaps you don’t have a response – God doesn’t exist, and even if he does, from experiencing pain and suffering personally and seeing it spoiling the world, who would want to have anything to do with such a creator?
Isn’t this question out of date? ‘God is dead’, according to Nietzsche. What need is there for a religious explanation in our enlightened world, a world where science has provided the answers for so many things. The superstition of the past has ended in our day. Ok, it’s fun to believe in Father Christmas when you’re a kid, but truth arrives when you reach your teens. In the same way, the story that God looks after us comes to an end when we reach an age of reason and understanding. God is a pretend comfort, for those who are too weak to accept reality. The reality is that we are all a part of the circle of life. We are born, we live, and then we die. As Orson Welles put it, ‘We’re born alone, we live alone, we die alone. Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we’re not alone.’
But beyond the old philosphical arguments there is an older longing in us which knows that there is more, that there is meaning to life. Mourning howls out in tears that death hurts. Death goes against the grain and disturbs our tidy little lives and scars us. Why? Why do we long for something better? If there is no purpose to life, why the deep longing for more?
I wonder whether it is worth asking the question ‘who is God’ after all? Is there someone behind it all who has created us to do more than just exist. Let’s stop to consider if there is a God, and if so, who is he?
Where do we start? We look at the beauty of nature around us and at the detail of creation. We consider the complexity of the human eye – the ability to use the reflection of light to produce sight. Amazing. We consider the earth’s relationship with the creatures that inhabit it. They each have their habitat, a place for them to live with all that they need. Is this an accident? An accident caused everything to flourish? No, every creation has a creator in our world. So is there not a creator of the universe? As the Bible says...
For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.
So if we accept that God has created us, what does he have to do with us today? Why does he feel so far away?
To discover the truth we need to look at ourselves. As people we have chosen to live apart from God from the beginning, we have chosen to turn our backs on him and his ways, and death and suffering came as a result of this choice. God is good and everything good comes from him. Therefore our choice to be without him means darkness for us.
Is this the end of the story? That we’re separated from God, and that’s it? That God is far away from us, good but far away? I’m thankful that there is quite a bit more to this story.
This perhaps is the biggest test of God’s existence. God wrote himself into our history through Jesus Christ, his Son, the one who came to fulfil what is impossible for us. Throughout his life he remained true to what was right, the only one ever to live a perfect life, and show God his Father to us.
His life shines and shows us that God is real. But Jesus lived to die, to die and take the punishment of the imperfect – our punishment (for the wrong things that we have done which go against God’s goodness). Through doing this he opened a way for us to come back to God the Father through his own goodness, so that we can have eternal life through him. Now, through his sacrifice, we can come to know God and experience that he is real.
Because of God’s love I am able to say that I know him now. I know him as a creator; the one who made all things. I know him as a Saviour; the one who saved me from death. I know him as my heavenly Father; the one who loves me even though I turned my back on him, and who accepts me as his child.
God isn’t a grumpy old man, or an unknowable power. He is real and he has gone to the extremes to know you, as he says in his own words:
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
Do you want to know him?
Elin Bryn (Bangor, North Wales)
First published in Ask Magazine August 201