Apologetics, Theology

What is Called God?

moses-and-the-burning-bushThe question of the existence of God is hotly debated in our culture. Does God exist? If God does existence can it be rationally demonstrated? If God’s existence can be rationally demonstrated, can such validation follow the rules of what the scientific method allows to be considered verifiable? Questions such as this, and many others like it, can flow into an expanse that often times misses much more important questions such as – What is called God? or What is the nature of God?

What is the nature of the God we worship, and why do we seek to demonstrate His existence to our current culture so committed to ignoring Him? This question may reveal its importance when compared to a popular atheist quip that tends to put some Christians on the defensive. Atheists have argued, “Out of all of the gods that have “existed” and been worshipped throughout the history of every civilization, you Christians hold on to just one more mythic fable of a god found in the text of the Old and New Testament. So you are an atheist to, concerning all these other gods, but we atheists just go one step further and reject this Abrahamic myth as well.” This summary is known as the “one less god” argument popularized by the New Atheist movement.

This argument, as simple as it may seem, is getting at something very important for the defender of the Christian faith, and that is the nature of God. Is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob nothing more than another conjured myth no different than those of pagan fables looking to Zeus or Apollo for spiritual enlightenment? Is the Trinitarian God revealed at the baptism of Jesus Christ the same entity as those idols worshipped in the Eastern religions? The only way the “one less god” argument works is if this is indeed the case, that the God of the Christian faith is nothing more than another “being” of a material nature waiting to have its narrative gap closed by the latest discoveries of the all seeing eye of the scientific method.

This is the not the case. The atheist is in error when this argument is utilized to allegedly demonstrate that belief in god is necessarily linked to ancient fables designed by lesser minds attempting to explain what science now has demonstrated to be false.

The nature of God is not a being that can be compared to other beings in the created order. A significant event recorded in the pages of sacred Scripture demonstrates that God is not a created entity comparable to Zeus, Apollo, or the flying spaghetti monster.

When Moses encountered God in the burning bush, he asked God a very simple and yet profoundly important question – what shall he say to the Israelites if they ask him for the name of God? God replied to Moses saying, “I AM WHO AM.” God then said, “Thus shalt thou say to the children of Israel: HE WHO IS, has sent me to you.” (Exodus 3:14). The name of God given to Moses reveals to us that God cannot be compared to other material beings in the created order. God is the “I AM”, the one who is being itself, eternal, self-existent, independent, infinite, without beginning, end or change, and most importantly, the source of all other being.[1] God transcends the created, natural order, and upholds its very existence by his imminent sustaining power.

The “one less god” argument cannot be taken serious for even a moment due to the fact that it fundamentally misunderstands the majesty of God as he has revealed Himself as “I AM.”

The Catholic Church has proclaimed and protected the revealed name of God in statements such as this from the First Vatican Council,

“The holy, catholic, apostolic Roman Church believes and confesses there is one God, true and living, Creator and Lord of heaven and earth, almighty, eternal, immense, incomprehensible, infinite in his intellect and will and in all perfection. As he is one, unique, and spiritual substance, entirely simple and unchangeable, we must proclaim him distinct from the world in existence and essence, all blissful in himself and from himself, ineffably exalted above all things that exist or can be conceived besides him.”[2]

It is important to note that by definition, there can only be one God. There can only be one divine being that is appropriately recognized as “HE WHO IS”, or as Saint Anselm says, “That than which nothing greater can be thought.” There is no rival nor is there an equal to the one who is Being itself, Esse Ipsum, Infinite Being, the Creator of all other beings, the Efficient cause, the Final cause of all other beings.[3]

New Atheists (among others) do as Saint Paul describes in this famous passage in the book of Romans,

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven, against all impiety and injustices of those men that detain the truth of God in injustice. Because that which is known of God is manifest in them. For God hath manifested it to them. For the invisible things of him, from the creation of the world, are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made: his eternal power also and divinity: so they are inexcusable. Because that, when they knew God, they did not glorify him as God, nor give thanks: but they became vain in their thoughts, and their foolish heart was darkened: For professing themselves to be wise they became fools. And they changed the glory of the incorruptible God, into the likeness of the image of a corruptible man, and of birds, and of four-footed beasts, and of creeping things.” (Romans 1:18-23)

God has revealed himself in numerous ways, so that no person is without excuse in their denial of his existence. God has generously revealed himself by the natural order of our shared created reality, and he has revealed himself directly to those such as Moses, so that He might gather a people to himself as witnesses to His specially revealed status, the “I AM” to which all existence owes its praise.

And despite the fecundity of God, mankind marked by the sin of Adam continues in the darkness of suppressing the existence of their Creator. Such suppression takes place by reducing God to a created entity, and then egregiously dismisses Him as a product of the “one less god” argument.

Now that we are able to see more clearly that this maneuver is a mistake, and depends on a fundamental mischaracterization of the nature of God, our apologetic arguments ought to work toward demonstrating God as he has revealed himself. Anything short of introducing unbelievers to “HE WHO IS”, potentially justifies the misidentification atheists seek to maintain in their willing suppression of knowledge that leaves them without excuse.

 

– Lucas G. Westman


[1] These descriptions are taken from the notes of Rev. George Leo Haydock in the Douay Rheims version of the Holy Bible.

[2] Taken from Heinrich Denzinger’s Compendium of Creeds, Definitions, and Declarations on Matters of Faith and Morals, Pg. 601.

[3] The Franciscan Intellectual Tradition, Osborne O.F.M., Pg. 25

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One thought on “What is Called God?

  1. Pingback: What is Called God? Classical Theism & Theistic Personalism | The Socratic Catholic

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