2. The Christian Definition
We proceed next to develop more fully the contents of the Christian definitionof God. This entire volume is indeed an unfolding of the definition we havegiven. But before we deal with God’s relations with nature and history, andbefore setting forth the meaning of his redemptive purpose and his moralkingdom, it is necessary that we present the Christian teaching as to God’scharacter and attributes.
We note first that God is Spirit. He has not a body. Matter is limited andchangeable. It is made up of parts. God is not compounded of parts. He hasnone of the limitations of matter. In the Scriptures God is often described ashaving hands, feet, arms, eyes, a mouth, and most of the bodily organs. Butthese are anthropomorphic expressions designed to set forth his actions in avivid human way for our apprehension. He is also described as having wings,and in many other ways figures of speech are employed to describe God. Theserepresentations are in no way opposed to the spirituality of God. There are four chief reasons for ascribing spirituality to God.
, our own higher nature is spirit, and from it we deduce thespirituality of God;
, our spirits have fellowship with God as Spirit, and thus weknow him immediately;
, Spirit is the highest form of existence known to us, and wenaturally think of God as a spiritual being; and finally, God’sspirituality is clearly and repeatedly taught in Scripture. Jesus said tothe woman at the well,
“God is a Spirit, and they that worship himmust worship him in spirit and in truth.”
We remark next that God is a person. A personal being is one who isintelligent, self-conscious, self-determining, and moral. Perhaps the qualitiesby which we distinguish personality most clearly are self-consciousness andself-determination. Self-consciousness is the consciousness of self. A personalbeing can make himself an object of thought. He knows himself as distinctfrom other persons and other forms of existence. Self-determination is theactivity of the will. Our freedom inheres in the capacity for self-determination.It means that we are determined from within rather than from without. Godpossesses these attributes of personality in the highest possible degree of perfection.
We show the truth of God’s personality in several ways.