“What? ‘Who is God’? Aw, c’mon. You know God. Everybody knows God!”
I know it sounds like a line out of an 80’s comedy, but the sad fact is that in the realm of religious clichés, this one actually does reign supreme. It’s perfectly understandable, of course. After all, we’re finite beings attempting to describe a Being who is MORE than we are or are capable of becoming. It’s almost a given that we tread only so close to the infinite, touching on only the most obvious points, and assume that it’s enough. But if we’re to do our due diligence on the subject of religion—particularly the Christian faith—we have to start here.
Standard disclaimer: I’m already convinced of just who and what God is—I’ve already followed the logic to what I currently believe—but this is an attempt to approach the question from a nonbeliever’s perspective, to give an insider’s perspective in such a way as to impart some insight to an outsider (how’s THAT for a play on words? hehe). Bear in mind, this may get pretty deep. That’s not in any way testament to my own intelligence or imagination, but rather a warning of just how involved examining this issue can get.
Now, before we answer the question of WHO God is, we have to address the question of WHAT a god might be. In the most general terms, a god is anything or anyone that a person recognizes as their ultimate authority—having authority greater than any other “higher” authority that the individual might recognize. In other words, their god is the absolute TOP of their food chain, with nothing higher. One might even call these gods “idols”.
This god doesn’t necessarily have to be a supernatural being, nor even an all-powerful force. The only power it has to have is over its adherent. Thus, such a god can literally be anything. It can be an addictive drug, like cocaine or meth. It can be the subject of an obsession, like Kim Kardashian or Scarlett Johansson. It can be football or work or porn or logic or science or… or… or…
You get the point. A god is, subjectively, anything that takes the extreme top spot in a person’s life and belief system. But what about OBjectively?
For there to be an OBjective god, we must consider something or someone who remains supreme, whether we recognize it as such or not. Now, this argument can go any of a million different directions—from a Being to a physical law to a given reality and so on—so I’m going to pare it down from the start.
More and more these days, we’re finding that man has the ability to CHANGE reality, to GRASP physical laws and in some cases find “loopholes” in them. Given enough time and research and opportunity, I’m confident that there is nothing in this physical universe that mankind could not bring to heel, no loophole that cannot be found. So as mankind has the POTENTIAL to dominate the unthinking, unconscious, physical universe—in other words, the potential to grow beyond the sum of his parts—I think it’s safe to assume that any objective god must be a Being capable of everything man is capable of, and more. For there to be an objective god, that god’s potential must necessarily be GREATER than the potential of everything else in existence—to include mankind, or any other intelligent being.
That really narrows the field, because all we have to do is define ourselves, and take those definitions to an infinite potential, and we have defined what an objective god looks like. The first and most obvious factor in determining our potential (and by extension, any objective god’s potential) is simply the fact that we exist. We are real. We have a given lifespan—in other words, we are born, we grow, and we die. We may be able to ADD to that lifespan, but ultimately, that lifespan is finite. We may find creatures out there that have a LONGER lifespan, but if the universe itself is any measure of reality, those lifespans will similarly be finite.
So there’s are first, and possibly most important, definition. Whatever an objective god is, his lifespan must necessarily be infinite. If he were finite, then there would always be the possibility of there being another who has a GREATER lifespan, which would make that OTHER an objective god rather than he himself—god to a “lesser” god, as it were. So an objective god must be infinite. But if his lifespan IS infinite, that necessarily tells us not just one thing but two—both that he has no end, and also that he has no beginning. Having no beginning, this necessarily means that he was not created by any previous intelligence or force. In other words, he is self-existent, having no reality or authority superior to himself.
Further, if this god is OBJECTIVELY god, it necessarily follows that he will be without peer. Just as he could not be a “lesser” god to a GREATER god (while remaining objectively god), he could neither be JOINTLY god with another EQUAL god. In such a scenario, both gods would be SUBJECTIVELY god, as neither could view the other’s godhood without drawing conclusions about his own, and neither could exercise his authority without compromise at some point. The only way this reality could be circumvented is if the multiple beings were in absolute unity of intention and essence, effectively defining them as a singular god expressed in multiple manifestations (which, of course, would explain the Trinity, but that’s a debate for another time).
Which leads us to our next definition—authority. As this objective, self-existent god has no reality or authority greater than himself, it follows that he will have supreme authority over any reality that he involves himself in. Everything within that reality would be subject to his authority, and any opposition to that authority could only exist at his allowance. Not at his direction, mind you, as that would by definition be AGREEMENT with his authority, but allowance—which implies that it’s his to give and his to define by whatever measurement he deems worthy.
So what does this tell us about God? Simply this—that if our gods are only subjective, they can take any form and fit any definition. But if God is OBJECTIVE, He will fit a very exacting definition, one that can be logically examined in light of our various religions, eliminating all but a handful (or one?) of potential candidates.