What Is Your Concept of God?
ELEVEN-YEAR-OLD Janie was asked: “How do you think of God?” She excitedly answered: “God has long brown hair, covered by a nun’s hood. He wears a black cloak and black slip-on shoes. He just loafs about in space, looking down on the world.”
An unusual concept? You might be inclined to laugh it off as the lively imagination of youth. But what about the views of many of today’s adults? How precise and well-founded are their ideas about God?
In his book God for Men of Today, religious author Jacques Duquesne writes: “When questioned for any length of time, most of these Christians end up by admitting that they are perplexed. They no longer know what they believe, what they should believe nor why they believe.” Have you ever felt like this? Do you find it hard to put into words your own thoughts about God?
There are innumerable concepts about God. Little Janie’s is just one. Hundreds of millions of persons believe in a God that predetermines the fate of every person, tormenting everlastingly those who are rejected. For still others, God is not a person, but, rather, an all-pervading power present throughout the universe. Some even associate God with the inanimate forces of nature.
What is your own concept of him? Is it clear-cut, or could it be that you, too, have vague ideas as to who God is and for what he stands? Or perhaps the picture that your religion has painted of God has alienated you from him, since you find it hard to conceive of a vengeful God who would torment pitilessly those whom he rejects.
Why is it so important that we have an accurate concept of God? Without such we lose the very heart of our worship. For instance, recently the leader of 60 million Anglican Christians dramatically said: “God forgive us. We would not admit to it; it would shock our congregations if we did. But we have stopped listening [to God], and our spiritual life has died on us, though we keep up appearances and go through the motions.”* If God is not real to us, if our concept is blurry, we could find ourselves likewise merely ‘keeping up appearances and going through the motions.’
Haziness in our view of God could cause us to acknowledge belief in God simply so as to “take no chances.” We may, in effect, make the “wager” that 17th-century French philosopher Blaise Pascal propounded, namely: “Wager that God exists; if you win, you win everything, if you lose, you lose nothing.”
Perhaps you feel as do the vast majority who profess belief in God that “there must be something or someone above us.” Yet even here a great difference exists between feeling that there is “something” above us and “someone” above us. “Something” implies that God is just a force, a universal powerhouse, whereas “someone” describes a person. Which is true? If he is a person, what is he really like? Many views exist, but how can we know the truth?
One religious book gives a clear, well-defined answer. This book is the Bible. Millions of its readers have been warmed by its concept of God and have been drawn to love this God. What description does it present? Let us now see.
The London Daily Telegraph reported on this speech of the archbishop of Canterbury, delivered on July 23, 1978, at the 11th Lambeth Conference to 400 bishops, under the following headline: “Dr. Coggan Warns Bishops over ‘Lost Belief.’”