Fifty Years Later – Part 5

What is God Like?


Almost 50 years ago I wrote a book entitled What to Believe?, subtitled The Questions of Christian Faith. Fortress Press had been looking for such a book, and so published it in 1974. Fifty years later, I thought it might be interesting to see how my thinking today has changed. Hence the title.

Question 5: What is God Like?


Good question! And, relatedly, how do we know?! Everyone has their own idea of God if they think about God at all, but concepts tend to fall into two categories. On the one hand, is the anthropological model. God is a person, only bigger and omni everything, present everywhere, knowing everything and capable of doing anything. This person God lives in “heaven”, as yet not on the map. So that’s a problem. The second model is based on some notion of Being, Being-Itself, or the Ground of Being. Variations on this theme speak perhaps of God as Process-Itself, or as Energy, or as …The problem here is that it is difficult if not impossible to understand how this God loves me or is even intentional. So both models intended to help us understand what God is like, actually present insurmountable difficulties. If God is a Person, relative to the universe, where is this Person? And if God is Being, how does Being love and relate? Any concept that is applied to God must deal with these two issues. A Great Spirit who is in everything and who loves me is not easy to understand.


My answer 50 years ago was to recognize the philosophical problem as unsolvable and for Christian theology to look for clues where God had revealed Godself in the Christ event, and I continue in this direction. If we look at the disciples, we find a process that does not explain what God is like, but instead describes their experience of this God. To begin with, they experienced in Jesus God’s love for them. Also, because he was a truly human person, Jesus enabled the disciples to understand that the “moments” they had experienced throughout their life were in reality a liberating encounter with God, who was everywhere and in everything. They also knew that this Presence and this love was in their mutual sharing with and caring for one another, a spirit of community. Same God, three manifestations. The idea of a trinity is not a description of some abstract concept, but rather a description of the disciples’ experience of God, first, in Jesus, second, in all of Reality, and third, in their spiritual life together. 

How this can be, is a mystery. That God is 1] in everything and also 2] loves the whole of creation, is beyond comprehension. Combining the concepts of God as Person and God as Being is inconceivable given the limits of our understanding, but current human understanding is not the totality of all that is. The disciples experienced Jesus living on even though he was dead, – what Paul called a “spiritual body” -, just as they experienced God as both Person and as Being. That some Realities are mysteries is not cause for denial, but rather cause for wonder. And such wonder is available to everyone. The understanding of Jesus’ disciples is that the Universe of Love loves you, that this is a mystery beyond human comprehension, and available to all. This, no doubt, is why they were so excited. They had a story to tell and a secret to share.


Read the Series Here

Dr. Carl Krieg received his BA from Dartmouth College, MDiv from Union Theological Seminary in NYC and Ph.D. from the University of Chicago Divinity School. He is the author of What to Believe? the Questions of Christian Faith,   The Void and the Vision and  The New Matrix: How the World We Live In Impacts Our Thinking About Self and God. As professor and pastor, Dr. Krieg has taught innumerable classes and led many discussion groups. He lives with his wife Margaret in Norwich, VT.

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