A Christian God
The Christian understanding of God grew out of the Jewish understanding of God. The Hebrew Bible declares in the Book of Deuteronomy: "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength" (Deuteronomy 6:4-5).
According to this great statement (known as the Shema), we can learn several things about this God. For example, he is not one of many gods. He does not fit into a polytheistic system like the Egyptian, Greek or Roman gods. Jews and Christians -- along with Muslims -- are monotheistic.
We also learn that this God is personal. He is not some distant, unapproachable, cosmic force. He can actually be engaged relationally. In fact, that's what he wants -- to be in relationship with us individually and collectively.
From a further reading of the Old Testament we find that this God is:
CREATOR. He made the world. The Bible begins with the concept that, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" (Genesis 1:1). Early Christians claimed that God created the world ex nihilo ("out of nothing"). This claim was made more for philosophical reasons than for biblical reasons. It was important for them to show that God was first and foremost in the universe, that God was distinct from creation and that all creation is completely dependent upon him for its existence.
LORD. God is Ruler and King of everything there is. As such, he alone is worthy of worship.
SELF-SUFFICIENT. God has no need. He is not dependent upon anything in order to exist or to be God. We exist because God created us, but God simply exists. God is also eternal -- having neither a beginning nor an end.
HOLY. God is totally other, mysterious, terrifying. The more we become aware of God's character, the more we see our own flaws and imperfections. As a result, we are overcome with an awareness of our need for forgiveness.
GOOD. Fortunately, the Christian God is good. God created a world that was "very good" and is still basically good even though it's been marred by the introduction of sin and evil. Throughout both the Old and New Testaments, God is pictured as a Father -- unlike the Muslim God, Allah. Specifically, in the New Testament, Jesus calls God "Abba", which was a word similar to "Daddy". Because God is not needy, his love for us is not conditioned on our response to him. He does not love us in order to get anything in return; he simply loves because he is loving. He is not good so we will be good to him; he is good to us because he is good.
This is the God whose existence philosphers and theologians like Augustine, Anselm and Aquinas have tried to prove. For the next few days, we'll look at how some have tried to prove and disprove his existence. For today, look back through the list of qualities above and think through the implications of such a God. When we try to talk to non-believing people, are we sure this is the God we're telling them about?
What does it mean to be made in the image of a God like that?