Who is God?

Who is God?

When the great prophet Moses asked this question, God replied to him: ‘I AM THAT I AM’ or ‘I am the existing one’ (אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה / ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ὤν).

God, then, is the one infinite and eternal source of all that is, the source of existence itself. God is not a being, but is being itself. God is not a part of the universe, nor is he the universe itself, nor does he exist alongside the universe, but all things continuously receive their being from God who is the source of all existence. There can only be one such source, which is why belief in only one God is the bedrock of the Christian faith.

In the Liturgy, we confess God to be ‘ineffable, incomprehensible, invisible, inconceivable, ever existing, eternally the same’. Yet, despite being absolutely transcendent, he is also ‘everywhere present and filling all things’; although he is beyond human comprehension, he reveals himself to his creation. The Bible says he desires that all people ‘should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. He is actually not far from each one of us, for “In him we live and move and have our being”’ (Acts 17:27).

God is love

(The Holy Trinity)

The Bible tells us that ‘God is love’ (1 John 4:8), not only that he has love for his creation, but that he is love; love defines his eternal being. God created us in love, and it is through love that we come to know him.

True love, of course, is something you give and have for another. Self-love is no love at all, and if God is love only in relation to his creation, this makes him dependent on something external to himself — he is no longer perfect, no longer absolute, no longer…God. So how can we then say that ‘God is love’?

The Bible, and the lived experience of the Church throughout the ages, reveals to us one God who exists eternally as a communion of three hypostases (subjects of existence): Father, Son (Logos), and Holy Spirit. This is what we mean when we refer to the Holy Trinity.

Sincere there is nothing in creation that is similar or analogous to God, every analogy will fail and lead us astray if taken too far. Indeed, anything we say about God using human language and concepts are at best symbols and approximations. However, certain analogies can nonetheless be helpful in understanding aspects of our idea of God. One image used frequently in the liturgical texts of the Church is that of the nous (mind), from which is born the logos (word, or rational principle) and action. There is only one mind and one operation, and yet we can distinguish three different principles, although these cannot be separated or exist independently of one another. Another image is that of a flame emitting heat and light. Again, we can distinguish three different principles here, but there is only one flame. Emitting heat and light is what makes the flame a flame — it is natural to it — and you wouldn’t have heat or light without the flame.

In the same way, the Logos and the Spirit proceed naturally from God the Father from all eternity. There was never a point in time when the Logos or Spirit did not exist. God was always a Trinity.

God is thus both one and three. Not in a contradictory way — he is not one in the same way that he is three — he is one in one respect (essence) and three in another (hypostasis). There is one living God (the Father) with his one divine Life (the Son) and his one Spirit of Life. There is one True God (the Father) with his one divine Truth (the Son) and his one Spirit of Truth, and so on. The three divine Persons are equal and alike in every way, having their being in one another, and sharing one divine nature which is not made up of parts, one divine will, one divine activity, one divine life in an eternal communion of love for one another.

‘In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son’ (1 John 4:10), Jesus Christ.

Andrei Rublev's Visitation of Abraham (Genesis 18).