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1. Who is God?

1. Who is God?

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Published by Philip Kariatlis
This is part of an ongoing series which seeks to reflect upon the basic doctrines of the Orthodox Church.
This is part of an ongoing series which seeks to reflect upon the basic doctrines of the Orthodox Church.

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Published by: Philip Kariatlis on Jul 21, 2010
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07/20/2010

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(Published in The Greek Australian VEMA, February 2004)Who is the God of the Christians?
The most fundamental claim of the Christian Church is its belief in the one true andliving God.
"Hear O Israel: the Lord our God is one God; and you shall love the Lordyour God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your might.And these words which I command you this day shall be placed uponyour heart, and you shall teach them to your children…" (Deut.6:4)
This claim was not simply born out of any religious need to relate to somethingsuperior out of psychological needs for security in the face of the unknown nor was itonly a result of a thirst for truth and true knowledge arising out of logical necessity.Rather for the Christians and indeed for the Hebrew people the starting point for Godwas a concrete historical event. While it was an intimate personal encounter withAbraham that verified God's existence to the Israelites, for the Christians it has beenthe ultimate intervention God in the person of his Son, Jesus Christ.God revealed himself to Moses and spoke with him "face to face" as one personspeaks to another person (Ex.33.11) and revealed the mystery of his name.
"God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM." (Ex.3.13)
God proclaims Himself to be the one who IS, the "Existing One", the one true andliving God. This name for God, "I am who I am" means that God draws his existencefrom Himself existing eternally without beginning and without end. For the Israelites,this God whose name was "I am who I am" was the one true and living God whoremained so faithful that he formed several covenants with his chosen peoplecontinuing to fulfil all his promises to them. According to the Scriptures, the name of God was so sacred that it was never mentioned.The Orthodox Christian tradition teaches that the one true God is the perfection andsuper perfection of all that we know to be good, true, wise, just, all-powerful,righteous and loving without God ever being exhausted by these attributes. Thesecharacteristics of God cannot be compared with those of our experience since He isbeyond all these. So, for example, while it is true to say that God exists, yet He is'above existence'. Ultimately Orthodox theology would claim that God cannot bedefined as "existing" or "not existing" since He is not a "being" who exists the waythat created human beings exist. However God offers himself to our existence withthe amazing an immeasurable intimacy in a relationship of person to person. Yet thisfamiliarity does not exhaust our understanding of who God is. And since we cannoteasily grasp who God is, He remains forever the cause of our wonder andastonishment.
 
It is this one and true living God who in a concrete historical framework sends Hisson, Jesus Christ, who now makes the almighty God known and experienced as"Father". Jesus continues to emphasise the uniqueness and oneness of God but alsounderlines that he has a unique relationship with this God – he is the Son of God.Jesus, who is able to call God "father" because he is the only begotten Son of theFather, also allows us to relate to God with the intimate title of "abba" which means"father". In fact even though the word "abba" is an Aramaic word meaning father itcarries with it a nuance of familiarity and intimacy bringing it close, in meaning to theterm "daddy". With Jesus, not only can we pronounce the name of God, but we arenow commanded to pray using this intimate name for God. This was unheard of for the Hebrew people who would not dare even to pronounce the name of God let alonerefer to him as "abba".Furthermore, by the sending of the Spirit, we can continue to this day to refer to Godas "father and therefore can dare to pray in the following manner: "Our Father inheaven…": on this way making us also sons of God.
"For when the time had fully come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, so that wemight receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sentthe Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying "Abba! Father!". So throughGod you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son then an heir 
(of theeternal kingdom of God).
(Gal.4.4-7)
In stressing the personal dimension of God, the Church wanted to show that wecannot draw near to God simply by learning certain facts about Him. That is to saythat since God is a person, knowing him implies much more than being able toreiterate certain facts. Rather we approach God by means of a personal encounter and experience with him. Since the one God is our Father – a person, not an idea -we are called to place our trust and hope in him and ultimately to love Him just likewe do other persons around us. And even though today we may not have directlyencountered the historical person of God as revealed in his Son Jesus, slowly wesurrender ourselves in trust since others before us, whom we consider trustworthy –the apostles, fathers, prophets and saints of our Church – guarantee his credibility. Inthis endless journey of lesser to greater trust in this personal meeting with God, thebirth of love gives rise to an absolute surrender, self-offering and uninterruptedastonishment at the unquenchable thirst for God where intellectual and logicalcertainties become superfluous.In contemplating this mystery of who God is we therefore come to conclude that Godis personal; he is Father. And this leads us to the claim that God is at same time onein three persons and three persons yet one God. However, how this is so we willexamine in later issues of this column.

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