You are on page 1of 3

(Published in The Greek Australian VEMA, February 2004)

Who is the God of the Christians?

The most fundamental claim of the Christian Church is its belief in the one true and
living God.
"Hear O Israel: the Lord our God is one God; and you shall love the Lord
your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your might.
And these words which I command you this day shall be placed upon
your heart, and you shall teach them to your children…" (Deut.6:4)
This claim was not simply born out of any religious need to relate to something
superior out of psychological needs for security in the face of the unknown nor was it
only a result of a thirst for truth and true knowledge arising out of logical necessity.
Rather for the Christians and indeed for the Hebrew people the starting point for God
was a concrete historical event. While it was an intimate personal encounter with
Abraham that verified God's existence to the Israelites, for the Christians it has been
the ultimate intervention God in the person of his Son, Jesus Christ.

God revealed himself to Moses and spoke with him "face to face" as one person
speaks to another person (Ex.33.11) and revealed the mystery of his name.
"God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM." (Ex.3.13)
God proclaims Himself to be the one who IS, the "Existing One", the one true and
living God. This name for God, "I am who I am" means that God draws his existence
from Himself existing eternally without beginning and without end. For the Israelites,
this God whose name was "I am who I am" was the one true and living God who
remained so faithful that he formed several covenants with his chosen people
continuing to fulfil all his promises to them. According to the Scriptures, the name of
God was so sacred that it was never mentioned.

The Orthodox Christian tradition teaches that the one true God is the perfection and
super perfection of all that we know to be good, true, wise, just, all-powerful,
righteous and loving without God ever being exhausted by these attributes. These
characteristics of God cannot be compared with those of our experience since He is
beyond all these. So, for example, while it is true to say that God exists, yet He is
'above existence'. Ultimately Orthodox theology would claim that God cannot be
defined as "existing" or "not existing" since He is not a "being" who exists the way
that created human beings exist. However God offers himself to our existence with
the amazing an immeasurable intimacy in a relationship of person to person. Yet this
familiarity does not exhaust our understanding of who God is. And since we cannot
easily grasp who God is, He remains forever the cause of our wonder and
astonishment.
It is this one and true living God who in a concrete historical framework sends His
son, Jesus Christ, who now makes the almighty God known and experienced as
"Father". Jesus continues to emphasise the uniqueness and oneness of God but also
underlines that he has a unique relationship with this God – he is the Son of God.
Jesus, who is able to call God "father" because he is the only begotten Son of the
Father, also allows us to relate to God with the intimate title of "abba" which means
"father". In fact even though the word "abba" is an Aramaic word meaning father it
carries with it a nuance of familiarity and intimacy bringing it close, in meaning to the
term "daddy". With Jesus, not only can we pronounce the name of God, but we are
now commanded to pray using this intimate name for God. This was unheard of for
the Hebrew people who would not dare even to pronounce the name of God let alone
refer to him as "abba".

Furthermore, by the sending of the Spirit, we can continue to this day to refer to God
as "father and therefore can dare to pray in the following manner: "Our Father in
heaven…": on this way making us also sons of God.
"For when the time had fully come, God sent forth His Son, born of
woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, so that we
might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent
the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying "Abba! Father!". So through
God you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son then an heir (of the
eternal kingdom of God). (Gal.4.4-7)

In stressing the personal dimension of God, the Church wanted to show that we
cannot draw near to God simply by learning certain facts about Him. That is to say
that since God is a person, knowing him implies much more than being able to
reiterate certain facts. Rather we approach God by means of a personal encounter
and experience with him. Since the one God is our Father – a person, not an idea -
we are called to place our trust and hope in him and ultimately to love Him just like
we do other persons around us. And even though today we may not have directly
encountered the historical person of God as revealed in his Son Jesus, slowly we
surrender ourselves in trust since others before us, whom we consider trustworthy –
the apostles, fathers, prophets and saints of our Church – guarantee his credibility. In
this endless journey of lesser to greater trust in this personal meeting with God, the
birth of love gives rise to an absolute surrender, self-offering and uninterrupted
astonishment at the unquenchable thirst for God where intellectual and logical
certainties become superfluous.

In contemplating this mystery of who God is we therefore come to conclude that God
is personal; he is Father. And this leads us to the claim that God is at same time one
in three persons and three persons yet one God. However, how this is so we will
examine in later issues of this column.
By Dr Philip Kariatlis
Academic Secretary
Lecturer in Theology,
St Andrew's Greek Orthodox Theological College