Mon | Apr 6, 2020

Ethon Lowe | Who or what is God?

Published:Friday | July 27, 2018 | 12:00 AM

With the ongoing discussions about the Bible, following Dr Michael Abrahams' July 2 article 'Why the Bible is a dangerous book?', we should not let off the hook God, the Bible's main character. If God does not exist, the Bible should be relegated to the mythology section of your library.

Millions (if not billions) call on him (for convenience, let's call God 'Him'. Sorry, ladies), every day. Eleven-year-olds thank him for their success in GSAT. The victorious athlete attributes her win to him, no matter that the other competitors also prayed to him to win, which makes us wonder if God is not immune to a bit of favouritism. Politicians seek his intervention for their lame-duck performances. It's tough being God. Forget Zeus, Thor, Mithra, Isis and Elvis, believers are happy to go one God more - the Christian God, Yahweh (we won't mention the thousands of other gods existing today).

Of course, God exists. Didn't rain fall on Farmer Brown's drought-stricken property in High Mountain after he prayed to him for showers. And Samantha, the bride-to-be, also prayed to him for a beautiful sunny wedding day, on the same area of High Mountain, on the same day, and also was not disappointed. With God, all things are possible.

So, God exists, said Farmer Brown, the believer. So does Oonie, answered Mr Jones, the non-believer. Confused? Describing Oonie is comparable to describing God. Until Mr Brown does so intelligently, 'God' makes no more sense than 'Oonie'. Either we can use the human language to speak meaningfully of 'God', or we cannot, in which case the word 'God' is meaningless.




For the believer, by analogy, God takes on many forms. Is He a spirit? (John 4:24). But a spirit is immaterial, intangible, non-corporeal and therefore beyond human sense. He is a supernatural being and exempted from natural laws, like an acorn will grow into a tree, or a cat will have other cats, not elephants. We cannot comprehend a supernatural existence like ghosts, and to talk of an immaterial existence is to talk of nothing.

Energy is ubiquitous. Might God be energy? As the Nobel Laureate Steven Weinberg said, "If God is energy, you can find him in a lump of coal." Are we in the image of God? (Genesis 1:26) If we are, looking at the physical attributes of my fellow humans, I am sure God could have done better.

How does the believer relate to Him? For some, He is a remote unintrusive presence, while others experience a direct personal relationship that involves every object of their lives, from what they shouldn't eat to who they shouldn't have sex with. If the God of Spinoza and Einstein is what we mean, i.e., the physical laws of the universe, more or less, surely God exists. If he is an outsize male with a long white beard sitting on a throne in the sky, tallying the flight of every sparrow, there is no evidence of that kind of God. Still God has its usefulness: the word 'goddamn' is a most effective swear word when you stub your toe.

The Christian apologist is right. God is indeed a mystery, too great for our finite mind to comprehend. He is unknowable. If God were to appear on earth today, I would be the first to greet him and ask him, "Why didn't you reveal yourself before? It would have avoided all the terrible atrocities committed in your name, and the horrible suffering throughout the ages?"

I suspect he would answer, "The Devil, my boy, the Devil, he made me do it." Yeah, right. So who or what is the Devil? But that's another story.

- Ethon Lowe is a medical doctor. Email feedback to and