Return to 4th Quarter 2022 articles.
What is God? Is God male or female? What race is God? Is God bisexual, lesbian, trans, homosexual, or heterosexual? Is God on the Earth or in the stars or the air? Does God dwell in animal life? Are animals reincarnated humans who are in the image of the natural gods? All of these questions are ones we have received and have done our best to answer.
The confusion is partly due to what people say about God on television or radio, in books and magazines, and how movies and video games portray God. Even some world religions present gods active in sexual relationships or military conflicts. Some people propose God as a solution to climate or agricultural problems, disease pandemics, or infertility. Others present God as a cause — or solution — to losses or victories in war or athletic competition.
Is there any wonder that many people do not believe in God? Why is there so much confusion when the Bible plainly shows the Christian concept of God?
WHAT IS GOD?
Some ask if God is male or female. God is not a sexual being, and gender descriptions in the Bible are always symbolic of the message presented. It is obvious that someone does not understand the biblical concept of God if they ask, “What gender is God?”
When Jesus expressed his sorrow for Jerusalem, he used the female image of a hen and her chicks in Luke 13:34. At other times, he referenced male images when he spoke of “my Father.” But the essential point is that God is not a physical being. Throughout the New Testament, there is a strong emphasis that God is a spiritual being. For example, “God is spirit, …” (John 4:24).
The message is that God is concerned about spiritual things over material things. The Bible describes prayer as being oriented toward the spiritual and not the physical. Even Christians have been confused about how God answers prayers. James 4:3 says, “You ask, you do not receive, because you ask in error to consume it on your lust.” Asking God to meet our physical desires emphasizes the wrong thing and will not produce a positive result.
When people read passages such as Matthew 7:7–8 and John 14:1–15; 15:7, 16, they assume Jesus is saying that anything his followers ask will be given to them — no matter what it is. However, if you look at the context of these promises of Christ, you will see that they all relate to spiritual things. If all a person had to do to be cured of sickness or to make a lot of money were to become a Christian and pray to God, people would be flocking to churches to get a solution to their physical dilemmas.
WHY DO WE PRAY TO GOD?
Understanding what God is and what he desires for us can help us understand the meaning and importance of prayer. There is nothing wrong with praying to God for our physical needs. You can see that in the model prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11). However, it is illogical and unbiblical to get upset when God does not answer our physical requests in the way we desire. Failure to receive the things we pray for is rooted in a failure to understand what God desires for us.
When I was an atheist playing football in high school, one of my teammates asked God for victory in every game. Late in the season, we played a team from a Christian high school. One of their team members told me that he knew they would beat us because they had prayed to God for victory. Unfortunately, we lost that game, and my teammate, who had been praying for us to win, decided he needed to be an atheist like me because, clearly, God did not answer prayer.
There have been wars between cultures that worshipped the God of the Bible. Examples are the American Civil War and the Irish wars between Catholics and Protestants. Both sides prayed to the same God for victory. However, winning a victory would mean killing people who were Christians on the other side of the conflict.
When I gave my lectures in Ireland, people expressed great interest in my message that science supports belief in God. However, many people wanted nothing to do with the church because of the history of religious warfare. A Catholic priest in full clerical garb attended one of my lectures and informed me that he was an atheist. He was still conducting mass because that was the source of his income, but he did not believe in God. The things we pray for reflect our concept of God. It becomes clear that even “religious” people often do not understand the Christian biblical concept of God.
WHAT IS THE KINGDOM OF GOD?
We are familiar with the physical world, so it is easy for people to look for God to bring a physical earthly kingdom. However, the New Testament calls for us to understand that Christians serve a God who is not a man — or woman. Galatians 3:28 tells us that “there is neither male nor female” in Christ's kingdom, the church. This same message appears in Romans 10:11–13 and Colossians 3:11. In John 18:36–39, Jesus told Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world,” making it clear that he was not bringing in a physical earthly kingdom. Yet, even today, some Christian groups interpret Christ as a military leader who will defeat all other belief systems and establish a physical kingdom in Jerusalem.
This struggle to understand God goes back to Genesis 1:1, describing the creation of time, space, and matter/energy. When Peter describes the end of the world in 2 Peter 3:3; 10–12, he says that time will end and the physical cosmos will “dissolve in fervent heat” (verse 12). God is in a higher dimension than time or the material cosmos. He created the human soul in his image, not our physical bodies.
In 1 Corinthians 15:35–55, Paul conveys the concept of a kingdom that is not of this world. People in that day did not understand it, and still today, many Christians do not understand it. The fact that Christ's kingdom is not an earthly physical kingdom makes it unlike any human system. That brings us back to the biblical Christian concept of God.
WHAT IS THE CHRISTIAN CONCEPT OF GOD?
The Bible tells us that God is beyond time, space, and matter/energy, because he created them. As science goes deeper into understanding the structure of matter/energy, it becomes increasingly evident that there are forces beyond our familiar physical laws. For example, quantum mechanics and studies of the nature of matter show that creation is not merely a physical process.
Heaven and hell are not physical places with physical rewards or punishment. When we die, our soul, that part of us created in God's image, will no longer be limited by time. All the bad things that time brings will be gone, “… there will be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain, for the former things are passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
We struggle to understand metaphors in the Bible that use physical pictures of things that are not physical. The result is that when we approach them with a physical understanding alone, we become confused. These metaphors become much clearer if we understand the biblical Christian concept of God. Christ's promise of life after our physical life is over gives us joy and comfort beyond physical understanding. We can rejoice in knowing that the things afflicting us in this life will be gone, and our future will be secure and filled with joy in spiritual union with our Creator.
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Scripture links/references are from BibleGateway.com. Unhighlighted scriptures can be looked up at their website.