1. Religion & Spirituality
Send to a Friend via Email

What is God? Definitions, Characteristics, and Attributes of God

When a theist claims that a god exists, one of the first questions atheists should ask is "what do you mean by 'god'?" Without understanding what the theist means, the atheist simply cannot evaluate the claim. By the same token, unless the theist is very clear about what he means, he cannot adequately explain and defend his beliefs.
  1. God / Allah
  2. Hindu Gods & Goddesses
  3. Arguments for God
  4. Arguments Against God

God in Judaism
From Lisa Katz, Judaism Guide: "What are Jewish beliefs about God? What does Judaism say about the nature of God?"

What is Theism?
Critiques of and basic information about theism: What types of theism exist? Do gods exist? What is the difference between theism and religion? What is the difference between theism and atheism? In what ways is theism flawed or insufficient?

Christian Conceptions of God: Can God be Judged?
When responding to various skeptical objections to theism, like the Argument from Evil, it's common for theists to insist that we cannot 'judge' God. Because God is so much greater than we are, it's inappropriate for us to try to use our puny human reason to evaluate whether God's actions or plans are good. Do theists understand the implications of this position, though?

What is God? Defining and Understanding the Alleged Nature of God
It might seem odd to list 'existence' as an attribute of God, but that's not actually the point here. Of course believers think that their god exists - what is at issue is how God exists. According to philosophical theism, God exists in a very special and unique way: God's existence is necessary rather than contingent

Importance of Defining God
When debating the existence of god, perhaps the most important step is the one that gets overlooked the most often, and by both atheists and theists: defining what is meant by the concept 'god.' You can't debate the existence of something unless everyone is clear what it is they are talking about; otherwise, people might be talking about completely different things.

God as Abuser: Similarities Between the Christian God and Abusive Spouses
It's common for Christians to compare the relationship between humanity and God to that between husband and wife. God is the "man" of the house to whom humanity owes obedience, respect, and honor. Usually this relationship is portrayed as one of love, but in far too many ways, God is more like an abusive spouse who only knows how to love through...

Index of Attributes and Characteristics
The one thing that differentiates atheists from theists is that the latter believe in some sort of god while the former don't. If they are going to debate the existence of any gods, it's critical that understand just what it is they are talking about and why. What's the point of debating the possible existence of God if no one has tried to come to an agreement as to what they mean by God?

Why Defining God is Important
It might seem to some that discussing the nature, attributes, and character of a supposed god doesn’t make a whole lot of sense unless there is some reason to think that this god or even any gods exist in the first place. After all, isn’t discussing whether or not a god is omnipotent or omniscient just a waste of time if we have no good reason...

God Exists: Necessary & Self-Existent
It might seem odd to list "existence" as an attribute of God, but that's not actually the point here. Of course believers think that their god exists - what is at issue is how God exists. According to philosophical theism, God exists in a very special and unique way: God's existence is necessary rather than contingent.

God is the Creator & Sustainer of Existence
A very common attribute of gods in religious traditions around the world is that of creation — our universe, our world, and indeed our very selves often owe their existence to creative acts of the gods. In the Western traditions of philosophical theism, the existence of everything is owed to a single creative act by a single perfect God.

God is Worthy of Worship: Divine Perfection
There several divine attributes which receive a lot of attention, but there is none quite so important for traditional believers as the general principle of absolute perfection and the narrower implication that, therefore, God is worthy of our worship. These are the reason why the existence of God is the subject of so much debate.

God is Omnipotent: What does it mean to be all-powerful?
Omnipotence, sometimes known as being all-powerful, refers to God's ability to do absolutely anything God wants. This characteristic is usually treated as implied from God's characteristic as absolute creator. Unfortunately, the most absolute sense of omnipotent has been found to be incoherent.

God is Omniscient: What does it mean to be all-knowing?
Omniscience, also sometimes known as being all-knowing, refers to God's ability to know absolutely everything. This characteristic is usually treated as a consequence of one of two ways in which God exists: either because God exists outside of time, or because God exists as part of time. Unfortunately, the most absolute sense of omniscience has...

God is Omnibenevolent: What does it mean to be all-loving?
The concept of omnibenevolence stems from two basic ideas of God: that God is perfect and that God is morally good. Therefore, God must possess perfect goodness. Being perfectly good must entail being good in all ways at all times and towards all other beings - but there remain questions. First, what is the content of that goodness and second...

God is a Person: Personal Relationships with God
For many people in Western religious traditions, the idea that God is a “person” is a necessary and fundamental part of their beliefs. Indeed, the very idea that God might not be a person is almost inconceivable for that would render them unable to adequately explain their religious history and their own religious experiences.

God & Gender: Is God Really Male?
In many religions throughout history, gods have been portrayed variously as male and female, often embodying important masculine and feminine attributes. The tradition of philosophical theism, however, has had difficulty with the issue of gender. Many people act as though God is male rather than female or genderless, but theologians argue that God is genderless. Why does this difference exist?

God is Free: Constraint vs. Freedom
One attribute which does not receive a lot of individual attention, but which is commonly assumed when discussing other attributes, is the idea that God is absolutely and perfectly free. What this means is that there is a total absence of any constraints or force or limitations on God whenever God acts - for God, freedom is absolute.

God is Eternal: Timeless vs. Everlasting
God is commonly portrayed as being eternal; however, there is more than one way to understand the concept of "eternal." On the one hand, God may be thought of as "everlasting," which means that God has existed through all of time. On the other hand, God may be thought of as "timeless," which means that God exists outside of time, unconstrained...

God is Provident & Sovereign: God Acting in Human History
Although not usually given much attention, one critical attribute of God for many believers is the idea that God is ‘provident,‘ which means that God acts in some fashion that requires God to become involved with humanity and causes the course of human history to be aligned with God's ultimate desires and purposes.

God is Incorporeal: Mind without Body?
It is commonly taken for granted that, when talking about God, we are discussing a being who has no body and is not in any way constructed from matter or energy - both of which are features of the "created universe" rather than the "uncreated God." This attribute of incorporeality should not be taken for granted, however, because it has important implications for other divine characteristics.

God is Immutable: Why can't God change?
Philosophical theism commonly ascribes to God the attribute of "immutable" - the idea that God cannot and does not change. Whatever God is like now is the way that God was for all of the past and the way God will be for all of the future. It doesn't matter what happens elsewhere, God always and inevitably remains the same. Why do people believe...

God is Transcendent & Immanent
The characteristics of transcendence and immanence appear to conflict. A transcendent God is beyond perception, independent of the universe, and wholly 'other'. An immanent God exists within - us, the universe, etc. - and a part of our existence. How can these qualities exist simultaneously?

God, From a Mormon Perspective
From Rachel Woods, Latter-day Saints Guide: "I know that God is our Eternal, Heavenly Father. I know he loves us and that he sent his son, Jesus Christ, to save us from our sins if we choose to follow him and repent. I know that the above aspects about God are true and share them with you in the name of Jesus Christ, amen."

What About Metaphorical Gods? Metaphorical Gods are a Waste of Time
One of the most significant developments in Christian theology during the modern era may be the shift from talking about God as an actually existing person to God as impersonal force or even a metaphor for something else, like the 'ultimate ground of being.' Not all of theology or all theologians have made such a shift, but enough have in order...

You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Discuss in my forum

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.