A supernatural being or power, the object of worship. In some world
religions (eg Christanity, Judaism, Islam' there is one God only (monotheism)
who is transcendent, all-powerful, and related to the cosmos as creator.
In other religions (eg Hinduism, Classical Greek and Roman religions, and
primitive religions) many gods may be recognized (polytheism) with individual
gods having particular properties and powers.
In the Judaeo-Christian tradition, God, though transcendent and invisible,
is believed to have revealed himself in history through the life and response
of the people of Israel, and, in the Christian tradition, supremely and finally
in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, all
as testified to in the scriptures of the old and New Testaments. The conviction
that jesus stood in a unique relation to God led to the development in Christian
thought of the Trinitarian understanding, whereby the one God is confessed
as three persons Father, Son, and Holy Spirit' of one substance.
In the mainstream western tradition, influenced by Classical Greek philosophy
as well as Christianity, God is conceived as 'being itself or 'pure actuality'
(St Thomas Aquinas), in whom there is no unactualized potentiality or becoming;
as absolute, infinite, eternal, immutable, incomprehensible (ie unable to
be comprehended by human thought), all powerful (omnipotent), all-wise
(omniscient), all-good (omnibenevolent), and everywhere present (omnipresent).
He is also said to be impassible, or incapable of suffering.
The fact that the New Testament sums up its understanding of God as 'Love'
(1 john 4.8), coupled with the apparent fact of evil in the world, has led
to various modifications of this traditional western conception. Thus God
is sometimes understood as all-good but finite (and therefore unable to prevent
evil); or as di-polar, ie in one aspect absolute and infinite but in another
aspect, in so far as he relates to the cosmos, relative and finite (panentheism
or process theo.'oovi or as comprising the whole of nature (oa,ntheirm
Corresponding to particular concepts of God are particular understandings
of God's power In relation to human beings and the world of nature. These
vary from absolute transcendence, such that God is reponsible for initiating
the world process and laying down its laws, thereafter letting it run its
course (deism) to total immanence, whereby God is understood as a
non-transcendent power or spirit within the world motivating human beings.
Orthodox Chnstanity seeks to preserve both the transcendence and immanence
From the time of the ancient Greeks, philosophers have tried to prove the
existence of God by reason alone (ie not by divine revelation), and of these
attempts the 'ontological' arguments of St Anselm and flescartes, the 'Five
ways' of St Thomas Aquinas, and Kant's moral argument are among the more
famous and abiding. while the philosophical consensus seems now to be that
none of these arguments is coercive, discussion in the 20th-c of various
aspects of individual arguments has continued unabated. Attempts to disprove
the existence of God or to show concepts of God to be incoherent have been
likewise generally unpersuasive.
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