This is an Essay Submitted by myself, for the purposes of Grading at Southern Methodist University. It is published here to serve as a journal entry for my thoughts on the question who is God.
God is God. To make any other claim, would be to misunderstand the very nature of God. God’s attributes are infinitely bound up within themselves and cannot be separated for individual review as they are applicable in the definitions of themselves. The principle question of Who is God, cannot be answered by human reason alone, nor can human reason begin the process of understanding who God is. Humans are utterly reliant on God to reveal such information, that is to say, that the only way that humans can know that God is God, is because God has revealed such to humanity. Therefore, the only place to begin answering the questions who is God and how would we know, is the question of whether or not it is plausible, that should God exist, for God to have revealed himself as an innate idea to humans, secondly, is God’s revelation, should it be plausible, also intelligible.
I would argue and maintain the position that not only does God exist, though this is not the topic at hand, but that further, it is plausible and reasonable to conclude that God has revealed himself to humans as an innate idea. I am not the first to suggest as much, there have been, over time, others who also suggest that God has revealed himself as an innate idea, that is to say, that the concept of God as an infinite uncaused being exists within the mind as a contemplation regardless of sociocultural development because God has revealed himself within the mind in such a fashion. Renes Descartes is an example of such an individual, who made the following remark near the conclusion of his ontological proof for the existence of God, “Now all these characteristics are such that the more diligently I attend to them, the less do they appear capable of proceeding from me alone;”(Descartes, Meditation III). Descartes proceeds from this statement to then go on and continue with the idea that God exists because such a concept of God which he defines as “…infinite [eternal, immutable], independent, all-knowing, all-powerful, and by which I myself… have been created.”(Descartes, Meditation III) is fundamentally foreign to his mind and that because he is finite surely such a concept must come “from some substance which was veritably infinite”(Descartes, Meditation III).
Immanuel Kant quite thoroughly obliterates the ontological argument for God, but in doing so he provides a unique proof for the plausibility of the revelation of God to humans as an innate concept of the mind, a concept that is easily conjured and upon surface-level contemplation easily comprehended. Throughout his explanation of how the argument works and the different ways it shows up in thought, he grants the reality that “…there shine amidst even the most benighted polytheism some gleams of monotheism…” (Kant on ontological proof, 499).
While I recognize that Kant’s work strives to disprove the plausibility of the Ontological argument, his numerous statements about the natural function of the human mind that results in the frequent and to an extent universal primitive understanding of something akin to the ontological argument is an extremely powerful assurance for the revelation of God to humans through an innate conceptualization of divinity. If then we take Descartes’s remarks and the remarks offered by Kant, alongside the works by other philosophers such as John Locke, and Alvin Plantinga, we can conclude that if God exists, it is reasonable to infer that he has revealed himself as an innate concept to humans.
With the understanding that it is plausible for God to have revealed himself as an innate idea, the first half of the conundrum has been dealt with. The next topic that must be considered is whether or not such a revelation is intelligent and comprehensible. A most intriguing place to begin this consideration is that of the concept of idolatry, which is generally understood as referring to the worship of a false God or a God that does not exist. If idolatry is possible, then could the inverse of it not also be possible, that worship of a God that is not false and exists is possible. I think it is, based on the innateness of a concept of God plausibly being placed within the minds of humans by God. But how would one intelligibly begin to comprehend such a lofty consideration, this has typically been solved with the consideration of either continued prophetic revelation or the disposition and giving of scripture that is holy texts which convey the necessary understandings of God’s nature, commands, and worship practices to be done in reverence of God.
With such considerations in place, it is time to consider how Scripture might be seen as two things, expression of God’s revelation, and testimony of the divine. To address the plausibility of scripture as a revelation it is necessary to acknowledge the failings of traditional arguments that try to refute the denial of the inerrancy of scripture. One such example from the Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics goes as follows:
An argument against Scripture:
P1: Bible is made by Humans
P2: Humans err
C: the Bible errs
In the encyclopedia, Norman Geisler claims that the following shows this argument to be in err.
P1: Jesus was human
P2: Humans sin
C: Jesus Sinned
The problem with this type of refutation is that it requires a presupposition of the Doctrine of the Incarnation and the inerrancy of scripture. Because of these presuppositions, Dr. Geisler’s refutation fails.
Rather than attempting the traditional arguments which typically rely on the scripture itself to prove its plausibility as actual scripture, the following will suffice. From the plausibility of God revealing God’s Self as an innate idea, which was discussed in the first portion of this work, it seems also plausible that God could cause humans to have an innate sense of what needs to be recorded for the understanding of God’s actions in history at present. Further one might argue that it is indeed even plausible that God could cause an innate sense of when words within a text might need to be changed to preserve proper understanding as language changes over time. It would seem, from what has just been considered, that if it is indeed plausible for God to reveal God’s Self as an innate idea to the human mind then it is also plausible for God to reveal and preserve the revelation of Himself in a holy Scripture.
Setting aside the disputes of which scripture is, in fact, the scripture that God reveals and preserves, presupposing the work of many Christian Apologists and Theologians, the question is whether or not the Bible can also be considered a divine testimony or autobiography through which humans can form relationships and intimacy with God. This question is the very difference between a deistic deity and a personal deity, and to answer it, some objections must be dealt with. Primarily regarding the perceived inconsistency of the Character of God within Christian Scripture. A few examples of this would include Marcion (85-165 CE) who taught that because of the differences between Jesus of the NT and the God of the Jews that they were not the same deity (as the proto-orthodox community was claiming) but rather that Jesus was a superior God. In more contemporary times individuals would come to suggest that Christ was inconsistent within the Gospels between his actions and the attributes given to him in the description, one such person is Bertrand Russel who argues quite distinctly that Christ was not supremely wise, this is dependent upon Russel’s interpretation of New Testament texts and as such, there may yet be a fault within his argument. So the two primary objections are the consistency of divine attributes from OT to NT, and the consistency of Christ in the NT. These two arguments get at the heart of the question of divine testimony for if the divine is not unchanging and consistent then the testimony is immediately at odds with the scriptural revelation.
To address first the objection brought forth by Marcion it is necessary to highlight the compassion and grace of the God of the OT and the Wrath of Jesus in the NT. The first to be addressed is from the creation story of Genesis 2, wherein, God creates a companion for Adam due to expressed loneliness, then there is the story of the prophet Jonah, which depicts a prophet who, recognizing the compassion of God, refuses, at first, to proclaim the necessity of repentance and threat of destruction. Further, there is a very direct portion of the book of Exodus where God declares that his Glory is that he is compassionate and gracious(or merciful). From these basic pieces of text, it is seen that God is at the most a firm handed parent who seeks after the welfare of Creation. The Wrath of Jesus requires more effort to unveil in modern eyes, but in the eyes of contemporary people the following event would have been incredibly useful in the portrayal of the wrath of Christ: Luke 13:15 reveals the verbal wrath of Christ, some might call this righteous anger, but I believe it would be more accurate to the understanding of early Christian circles to consider this as a display of wrath given that the teachings of Christ include such messages as anger being a sin, and if Jesus was held in the early Christian community as God then it would be improper to describe his actions and words or temperament with anything that might be concluded as being outside the bounds of his own teaching.
To address Russell’s remarks about the Consistency of Christ it is necessary to visit the actual passages he references, and their context, it is also important to note how his interpretations may have been influenced by methodology and presuppositional understandings about scripture. To paint a picture of why these things matter it is important to note that Russel’s quotation of Matthew 16:28 Omits an extremely important word for exegesis and interpretation, specifically the word that translates to see, here is the quote from Russel, followed immediately by the original: “There are some standing here which shall not taste death till the Son of Man comes into His kingdom”, “Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” Looking at these two texts the difference is clear, not only does Russel’s quote of the scripture omit certain sections it changes the understood translation of the Greek word that results in coming/comes. These differences highlight the significance of methodology and reliance upon scholarship when quoting or attempting to argue with scripture. As it stands, Russel’s arguments are built with a technical error that prevents his methodology and interpretation from holding water.
With the objections shown to be rather incomplete and perhaps even methodologically faulty, it is best to perhaps consider that the arguments in support of the objections do not conclude in any sort of accuracy, as such, one might conclude that since the objections fail their point of contention is true, this has not yet been proven so that is what must now be done.
If it is possible that God can preserve Scripture, then surely it follows that God can preserve a scripture that acts as a meeting place for the deity and the creation such that the creation can know the details of the God that have been revealed within the Scripture. At the end of the day, ultimately one must rest upon the assurance that God is God, and that all things pertaining to God must be revealed by God, meaning that all that humans may know about God is surely revealed by God.