Explaining God’s ‘being’ and his relationship
to our universe and ourselves.

Differing theories from the world’s major religions,
when compared,

offer an overall concept that seems logical.

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1.    INTRODUCTION

What is God? Well, trust me, logical theories about God’s being and existence are available for us ‘thinkers’!

But firstly, I think most of us know ‘what God is not’. Few would think that he is an old white haired gentleman, dressed in wonderful robes, sitting on a golden throne up on the clouds. Simple views like that, left without sensible alternatives, have badly damaged many a thinker’s ability to even trust in his existence.

I must highlight, upfront, that what follows in this article is a high level presentation on God’s being and its relationship to us human beings and our home, planet Earth. The article tries to ‘sort out’ the big differences between major religious groups in that regard … and make overall sense of them!

Again, I explain in this article “what God is”. As a Christian myself, I believe that ‘Christianity‘ does offer a pretty good explanation of “who God is”. Mind you, I am pretty sure that people considering Judaism and Islam for themselves should also find this article useful.

(I am from a senior auditing background and the majority of my advisory team are Christian clergy. To glimpse the ‘who’, ‘how’ and ‘why’ of this website please click here.)

Please note that if you, the reader, simply want to ‘test’ for yourself whether God actually does exist, I suggest you begin by reading the article, “How to believe in God?

2.    THE CONFLICTING VIEWS

In the very early stages of my long term analysis and evaluation of religion, I did decide that I needed to understand what God actually was! Maybe then, I thought I could come to experience his presence; prove to myself that he is real.

Now we know the major religions of this world each have millions of followers. And, we should logically be able to turn to those religions for a common answer on, “What is God?” However, they don’t really seem to agree do they?

Serious conflict does at least appear to exist between the two major camps – the “monotheist religions” and the “pantheist religions”. (Explanations of those religious systems follow.) In essence, most theories about God fall into either one or the other of these two opposing groups as discussed in this article.

3.    PANTHEISM

The pantheist religions (including Taoism in its early form and large segments of both Hinduism and Buddhism) SEEM to have a very different viewpoint from mainstream monotheism, as explained under Heading 4 below. Montheism includes religions such as Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

3.1   God’s relationship to reality

Pantheists simply view God as the “basis of reality”; the “Ground of Being”. That is ‘God’ and ‘reality’, are believed to be ‘one and the same‘, as I will explain. This outlook is often based on the mystical experiences (i.e. arising from religious ‘meditation’) of the founders of relevant religions. And there are two articles in this small subsection, titled “Mysticism explained” and “Mysticism evaluated“, that explains what that stuff is about.  That is, how religious meditation can lead us to better understand how God, the universe and ourselves all fit into the ‘big picture’.

Anyway, within pantheism, everything is understood as having a shared ‘one-ness’ with reality itself, and as such with God. That is, God is totally present in/ throughout this world, and the universe as a whole. (The term for his presence in that regard is “immanent”.)

3.2   Human relationship with God

Many of pantheism’s writings offer a theoretical state where, in very simple terms, all living and inanimate things, although having a ‘visible’ individuality, are also One (i.e. God). In this particular school of thought it is reasoned that ‘God is all of us’ and indeed everything else that does exist. As indicated above, the individuality or separate nature that we seem to have is supposedly just not there! For example, you are God, as I am also God. And the trees outside my window, as I write this, are also God. Our basis seems to be separate … but it is not … as far as pantheism is concerned,

And look, I ABSOLUTELY understand the basis of the reasoning behind that view at least, because it stems from meditative experiences (mysticism) that I have successfully tested. Yes, as explained in that article, “Mysticism evaluated” I have personally analysed and then evaluated those experiences. So yes, I do at least know where pantheists “are coming from” with their beliefs.

The planet Earth, and indeed the entire universe, within these models takes on a whole new religious dimension. In pantheist systems of belief there is no God external to the universe, or even separate to ourselves, with whom we humans can enter into a personal relationship.

If all of us, put together, are theoretically God then obviously we do not have anything ‘outside of ourselves’ to pray to, or enter into a personal relationship with for that matter, do we?

But finally on this subject of “pantheism”, please keep in mind, it is theoretically possible for each of us human beings to ‘connect’ our minds with the basis of reality as such … to experience it for ourselves … to be ‘enlightened’ in a religious sense. That is come to test our ‘one-ness’ with everything else that does exist.

So, let’s look at the ‘other religious group’ …

4.    MONOTHEISM

Now, let’s study the ‘other side of the coin’ that is monotheism.

The monotheist religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have a common heritage. (Christianity’s basis has been presented in the section, “Christianity explained”.)

Somewhere around three thousand plus years ago I believe that God ‘orchestrated’ a particular verse in the Bible that obviously intrigues me. It provides some understanding of his actual being. And he did this via the name that he chose for himself there, “I AM” (as used in the title of this website). It appears firstly in the Christian Old Testament [Exodus 3:14) and is repeated again in a very profound way within the Christian New Testament [John 8:58]. The Jewish religion also accepts the wording in Exodus 3:14. Of course the New Testament belongs only to the Christian religion.

The name “I AM” makes it clear that: he ‘exists’, although not necessarily in a physical sense like us. It also hints that he himself is ‘uncreated’ and ‘self-existent’. Essentially, he just is! Indeed, unlike us humans etc, God is not reliant on any other force to allow him to exist. The term term “I AM” also indicates his transcendence (absolute superiority), when compared to us human beings.

“I AM” is a pretty impressive name alright. 

In essence, each of the three great monotheist religions maintain that there is only one god. There is also a very strong emphasis, within monotheism, on the ‘transcendent’ nature of God that I already mentioned above. That is: all three religions understand God as all-powerful, all-knowing and even beyond our ability to fully understand or experience him.

4.1    A personal relationship with God

Again, we have a very different outlook here to the ‘pantheist’ view.

As already stated, God theoretically transcends us, our universe and even our ability to fully perceive or understand him.

Many Christians also think of God as having an existence that is ‘spatially’ separate from themselves. They believe he is in Heaven and we are on Earth.

Unlike pantheists, all monotheists DO agree that God and humans ARE all separate beings. YES, our individual human existences do rely on God, BUT each of us have definite ‘separation’ from him as distinct ‘beings’, and other human beings for that matter.

All monotheist religions believe that God is capable of, and indeed WANTS to have, a personal ‘one-on-one’ relationship with every human being in this world. As a result, most monotheist followers tend to think of God as a ‘super’ person. The term, “personal God” also arises from this outlook. To understand a bit about the Christian-based ‘personal relationship with God’ that awaits each of us, please read the article, “A relationship with God“.

4.2    God’s relationship to reality

When it comes to God’s relationship with our planet though, many Christians, particularly ‘fundamentalists’, point to the Biblical Book of Genesis. And if that alone is taken literally, God created the world and has his own existence outside of it, i.e. totally separate from it.

Theoretically, in that view, the world generally continues to tick along quite well and ‘independently’ without his help. Now, this outlook is a very different view from that one held by pantheist religions. AND ‘non-fundamentalist’ monotheists like me, I might add, don’t agree with it either.

In fact there are verses, in both the Old and New Testaments of the Christian Bible, that suggest we are CONTINUALLY dependent on God for our existences. And they clearly mean that God is ‘immanent‘, AS WELL AS being transcendent. I offer those Biblical explanations of God’s relationship to reality under the next heading.

So, within much of Christianity, this element of God’s nature termed, “immanence” (i.e. his presence ‘pervades’ the entire universe) is definitely acknowledged. Remember, pantheism ‘is all about’ that aspect of God. But pantheism DOES NOT include ‘transcendence’ at all in its theology.

And as we read those verses that follow, we get the impression that reality is ‘held together’ or ’empowered to exist’ by God, and also probably exists ‘within him’. As explained earlier, God is ‘uncreated’ and ‘self-existent’ in a transcendent sense.

And as such then it seems that as well as being transcendent, God also contains everything that does exist – our universe, us and eternity – within himself.

How can we think of God ‘himself’ in this context, then? Could God be described as a ‘spiritual force’ … or a ‘super-powerful mind’? You know, I believe we just waste our time trying to work it out! But, God certainly has no need of structure or form as we know it. No, I personally do not think that he is an old white haired gentleman, dressed in wonderful robes, sitting on a golden throne!

4.3    The Bible and how it all fits together

Firstly, I need to explain that the Bible’s “Old Testament” (written way before the Jesus bits: the New Testament) offers explanations to us human beings about ‘existence itself’ through its ‘imagery’. That is the universe, and all within it, is continually dependent on God for its existence. So bear that in mind, with regard to the following verses relevant to God’s immanence.

Do I not fill heaven and earth
[Jeremiah 23:24] (Written as the words of God.)

If it were his intention and he withdrew his spirit and breath,
all mankind would perish together and man would return to the dust.
[Job 34:14-15]

But when it comes to the “New Testament” (the Jesus bits) the Bible offers much ‘clearer’ explanations of God’s immanence and his transcendent, sustaining nature. So, from the New Testament:

God did this so men would seek him
and perhaps reach out for him and find him,
though he is not far from each of us.
‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’
As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’
[Acts 17:27-28]

He is before all things,
and in him all things hold together.
[Colossians 1:17]

For from him and through him and to him are all things.
To him be the glory forever.
Amen.
[Romans 11:36]

So, to me, it is pretty clear that the Bible intends us to know that God is immanent; his presence and power pervades reality, as we know it. And as such, he makes ‘everything’ be! That is in addition to his own transcendent nature of course.

5.    THEORIES OF AFTER-LIFE

The theories of ‘life after physical death’, or ‘after-lives’, of the two religious ‘schools of thought’ differ radically. Not surprisingly, their theories are related to their different viewpoints on God’s nature.

5.1    Pantheism and death

Pantheism, due to its lack of a God with separate existence to the universe, or indeed each of us, cannot offer us a personal relationships with him after death. (There is no state of ‘heaven’, in this religious system, to share with God or each other.)

Commonly, pantheist religions offer reincarnation of the soul, through life after life in human form, here on earth.

5.2    Monotheism and death

Within monotheist religions on the other hand, God’s ‘being’ is transcendent and figuratively speaking he is elevated way above all else that exists. His ‘basis’ pre-existed the universe, at the least. God is not reliant on the universe’s existence for his own. No, the universe continually relies on God’s creative/ sustaining power. As do we human beings. (Of course he is then immanent as well as transcendent.)

And because he has personal relationships with each of his ‘faithful followers’ during their lives, then life after death CAN be with him in eternity (what we refer to as “Heaven”).

6.    EVALUATING BELIEFS

In the early stages of my own faith journey, as mentioned already, I decided to investigate mysticism for myself. At the time I wanted to evaluate all there was to know about God’s existence.

6.1    Insight through mysticism 

The article, “Mysticism explained” mentioned earlier in this small subsection of the website, provides an overview of the practise. And that includes its historical use within both pantheism and monotheism (including Christianity).

Please also access the article, “Mysticism evaluated” to read about my own ‘full-on’ experiences. And my verdict on those experiences. I think that even surprised me!

6.2    Both opinions are based on reason

But, before moving on with this article, let us look at how we can reconcile two apparently opposing views of God’s existence: pantheism and monotheism? These differences fuel the arguments of atheists and even cause some doubt in the minds of ‘faithful’ thinkers. Obviously these thinkers, within their own systems of faith, wonder how can the god of another ‘faith’ differ so much from their own.

Maybe, you have already worked it out? Well, from my own understanding, it is just a case of differing aspects of our one God being recognised within the experiences of the two groups. As is the case when two individual people ‘beg to differ’ on any logically based opinion, one view MAY be more important in the scheme of things BUT that doesn’t stop both opinions having a logical basis.

Monotheism simply bases its major beliefs about God on its methods of personally engaging/ connecting with him. That is by deliberately entering into a personal one-on-one relationship with a transcendent God who we believe has created us for that purpose. Trust me, that relationship ‘can be proven‘ to be very real for each of us. And again, please see the article, “How to believe in God?”.

Pantheism on the other hand bases its beliefs on the outcome of ‘communion’ with God, e.g. as the Ground of Being through the practise of mysticism. And mysticism, as I see it, really highlights God’s immanent aspects. That leads them to concentrate on a relationship that I guess we can describe as a ‘connection’. But it is not a ‘personal relationship’ as such. Again trust me, it is possible to come to accept their point of view as well.  

7.    CHOOSING PANTHEISM OR MONOTHEISM?

So, as far as I am concerned both major streams of religion, ‘pantheism’ and ‘monotheism’, do have substance. As stated, I believe that they are both based on the relative religious experiences of their followers.

And I feel at this point that I need to offer an explanation of why I have chosen a monotheist religion (Christianity) for myself. Firstly though, before going on, let me make it clear that God loves us all, regardless of our chosen religions. In the words of South Africa’s Archbishop Tutu, “God is not a Christian.” The late Desmond Tutu went on to declare that, with regards to us humans, “None is an outsider … all are held in a divine embrace that will not let us go – all, for God has no enemies.”

7.1    Considering the alternatives

Well, not withstanding that God loves us all, I personally believe our choice of religion does matter. Most religions contain some truth. Some religions obviously contain more truth than others. And again some religious truths are more important than others.

So, although God may love the followers of all religions, I do not believe that he views all religions as equal.

As explained, I seriously trialled mysticism for myself – to experience God’s immanence. I could have left it at that, but due to my additional experiences of a ‘personal God’, I also came to have a practical understanding of other aspects of him.

These additional experiences of mine support the Jewish/ Christian/ Muslim view of God’s transcendent nature, and his potential ‘personal relationship‘ with each of us human beings. And that understanding differs so much from pantheist beliefs. Look … the majority of this website concentrates on ‘engaging with God’, in a Christian sense, within our lives and the Church, guided by the Bible I must add. And yes, we all CAN come to rock-solid belief in God’s existence through engaging with him in that way.

Theories on the nature of God’s ‘existence’ (immanence and transcendence) have little relevance to the average monotheistic believer (Jew, Christian or Muslim). They generally have no need to think about it. And, ‘on the other hand’, I can see the pantheist’s point as to why they solely concentrate on a totally immanent God.

BUT! When it comes ‘to the crunch’ for Judaism, Christianity or Islam, the transcendent and personal aspects of God HAVE to be there. Otherwise, we cannot have the God who loves and cares for each individual one of us. That is a God who can: listen to us, strengthen us, guide us and assist us. ‘Christianity‘ as a religion certainly adds emphasis to one of God’s personal characteristics, “love”.

7.2    Monotheism is my winner

By comparison to monotheist religions, the follower of a pantheist religion will experience a very different relationship with God. Their religious experiences will lead them to what is best explained as a sense of deep contentment that is very meaningful and holy. They can, through their practises, detach themselves from all the worries of this planet and enter into a peaceful yet ‘non-personal’ relationship with the ‘Universe’. That is, a relationship with a God who, to them, is solely the ‘Ground of Being’ and nothing more. Bear in mind though their overall experiences can be very rewarding for them. 

However, from my experience of both types of religion, the loss of a relationship with the personal God of Jews, Christians and Muslims – which unfortunately occurs through the pantheist religions – is a bit of a trade-off. There are truly positive life-changing outcomes available to us through a monotheist relationship. For more on this, please read the article, “What does faith offer us?

Bear in mind that I have a deep respect for those people who can commit to a long term relationship with the ‘Ground of Being’. There are rich rewards for them. It is a ‘beautiful thing’, BUT to my point of view it is not the ‘whole thing’.

8.    WHERE TO NEXT?

By all means access the writings of the world’s great religions to learn more of God’s theoretical being, and relationship to humankind, if you wish.

The caption, “Be still, and know that I am God” in the image at the beginning of this article, carries a strong message from God for all monotheist religions. It is about realising that he is indeed real, and we should actually acknowledge him; engage with him as our religious books explain. The verse also carries a tone of his ‘might’. Yeah, God DOES deserve our respect as such!

Of course God has other characteristics, as far as monotheists are concerned. For example, as I have mentioned already, us Christians recognise his loving nature; the way he has and still does bestow his ‘grace‘ upon us. So, if you feel that you would like to begin a relationship with the great I AM and ‘test the waters’, then access the “Journey of faith” section of this website, beginning with “How to believe in God?”.

Methods to build ‘Christian faith’ and come to believe in him (i.e. by recognising his presence ‘in the Church‘ and ‘in your life‘) are also introduced in that section of the website. AND let’s not forget the Bible itself either! Please have a read of the article, “Our amazing Bible” to get some idea about it and indeed how to understand its wisdom.

The final section of this website explains the basics of Christianity. The first article, “Christianity explained” is sub-titled “God’s Beloved” for a good reason. It provides an overview of the religion:

  • How God is to be understood within it;
  • How we should connect and engage with him;
  • How we should treat our fellow human beings etc.

It includes descriptions of God’s personal nature, i.e. the ‘who is God’ stuff, as opposed to the nature of God’s being that has been the primary subject of this article.