Wittgenstein stated we can best define a term by observing how it is normally used. In the Western world the term, "God," has been commonly used in two primary ways:
(1) Colloquially, God is usually personified in the West as a supreme male figure, the very name itself being masculine. This is made even worse by capitalizing pronouns pertaining to God as "He," "Him," and "His." Hence on the Sistine Chapel ceiling God hovers like an Olimpian Zeus in a bed sheet. Moreover, Biblical personifications have God walking in the cool of the day (Gen. 3:5), or smelling burnt offerings. (Ps. 66:15)
(2) But when pressed, even the fundamentalist must agree with the Biblical strain stating God ultimately has no complete likeness and is finally beyond the idolatry of images. (Is. 4:18, 42:8; Ps.115:4-8; John 1:18; 1John 5:21). Philosophers and theologians therefore state God ultimately transcends personification in being all powerful, all good, all creative, all present, etc.
The medieval St. Anselm, coined a useful maxim for describing God, namely: You have not yet defined God if you can think of an attribute greater than the one you just stated. Hence when we or the Bible speak of God as a mere person it must become idolatry unless used as poetic license. For humanity is but an infinitesmal speck in this incredibly vast universe in which beings may exist with powers far beyond the fabled angels.
A defensive cliche is that God can be no less than a person. However, that is similar to saying Einstein is no less than a miicrobe.
Christains seek to avoid the problem of an impersonal Deity by relating to Christ as God. (This will be addressed in the "Kaballic Son" and the "Christ" links above.) However, Jews and Islamics consider a human Christ or personified Trinity totally blasphemeous to the one true God..
At this point a positivist might say: "Okay, according to religious scholars the final God concept must transcend idols and personification. However, you cannot prove a negative. Therefore we must also have some positive attributes we can objectively observe before we can agree there is an empirical entity great enough to call 'God'." According to Hume the nature of a Creator must in some way manifest in creation itself.
POSITIVE ATTRIBUTES OF DIVINITY:
The problem of the Christ-as-God will be addressed in other essays. But God's other claimed attributes, i.e. as "Law Giver" and "Spirit," are acknowledged by both Judiasm and Islam, as well as Christianity. Following Anselm's dictum, how can such attributes be defined in ways in which nothing can be greater? Further, to satisfy the critical mind, how can we define such as observably existing in creation as well?
"Open my eyes that I may see great things from your Law" (Ps.119:1). Extending the attribute of "Law Giver" to its ultimate manifestation, it would transcend mere human laws to become Cosmic Law encompassing the very laws of nature and the universe. This also corresponds to the laws of science, which is seeking the one unified law encompassing all nature's forces.
The ultimate act of "God's Spirit" was stated in Scripture as moving over the face of the deep creating all things. (Gen. 1:2). If the writer of Genesis were alive today he would call this unbegettable, indestructable creative force "Cosmic Energy.". Today we know the law resides in the energy and both are one, as described in E=mc2. But this concise equation does not explain the mystery.
One might now ask if we are not relegating "God" to a totally impersonal power, regardless of how lawful or creative it might be. A school of artificial intelligence called Functionalism states that, regardless of the hardware, with the right amount of interacting complexity and organization - intelligence can emerge.
If a computer can produce artificial intelligence - why cannot a far vaster amount of interacting complexity and organization like the universe produce real intelligence on a grand scale? (See also Whitehead's Process Theology.)
Throughout the mysterious fields and dimensions of the cosmos such intelligence could go infinitely beyond mind or consciousness as we know it, as it progressively self organizes into ever greater complexity. Its intelligence could be related to the cosmos as ours is to the brain..
The poet, Pope, spoke of "one stupendous whole whose body is nature and God the soul"....
And the ultimate Mystery from which such miracles outpour (the Aquinian "causeless cause") continues to baffle science. Here we may be moving away from the God of the gaps into the ultimate God of the abyss....
But how does this cosmic mystery relate to the relative infinitesima of humanity?
First of all such horrendous power did , in our umwelt, subdue itself and become subtle enough to create life, the Logos here becoming flesh in incredibly complex and ingenious DNA. Still this lawful and creative power had to remain impartial enough to rain and shine on the big and the small, the good and the bad alike. So how does it care for individuals?
Such intricate power evolved to become intelligent and self-aware as we know it in ourselves. Now we are its personifications as it works in and through persons, because we are a part of it and conected deeply to it. And we project our personifications out onto the Mystery in order to reconnect with it . (The root of "religion" is "religare," meaning connecting back to.)
Only those approaching the intelligence of an Einstein or the discipline of a Buddha can mystically regain unity without personification. However even through the power of personification alone we can tap the power of healing, overcoming, and rebirth. For the religious response was hardwired into our brains for over a hundred millennia before this semi-secular age.....
Moerover, no law says we have to stay with the male symbols of Divinity. Stone fertility-goddess figurines were the earliest relics found from the Paleolithic era so far. Click the "Hyms of Sophia" link to taste the poetic aspect of it all. For pure objective study would be like reading the notes without experiencing the music. And to learn more about the mystical connection, click the "Mystic Way" above as well.