This is one of the great questions that people have wrestled with over millennia and is a question of paramount importance, because what we think about God will affect the way we relate to Him. To think of God simply in terms of Creator might lead us to imagine a being of great power and yet relationally distant. If we were brought up to view God simply as the Cosmic Judge, then we might appear outwardly religious yet be inwardly resentful.
Sometimes when people say they don’t believe in God what they actually mean is that they don’t like the picture of God that has been presented to them. The question is, do we have the right picture, the right view of God?
Many of our views of God come from our own guesses, we think God must be x because of y. Our natural tendency is to create God in our own image and what we end up with is simply a god of our imagination. The only way we can really know what God is like is if He makes Himself known and the Gospel (meaning good news), as recorded by John, tell us God has done exactly that.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
He was with God in the beginning. (John 1:1-2)
We’re told that in the beginning was the Word, which is something of strange way to start. At the time John was writing people had lots of different views about God, a bit like today. One thing that was agreed upon is that there was something behind the universe and the term that various groups used to describe that thing was ‘the Word’. It is as though John begins by saying ‘we all agree that in the beginning there was something called the Word, now let me tell you about this Word.’ The first thing we’re told is that this ‘thing’ is not a thing at all.
the Word was with God, and the Word was God
From all eternity the Word has been in a relationship with God (which is what is meant by the term was with God) but is also Himself God. This is one of the places where the Christian doctrine of the trinity comes from – perhaps a question for another time. What is crucial for us to see is that this means that God, by His very nature, is relational. For all eternity God has known and shown perfect love. Therefore, God did not create because He needed someone to love or someone to love Him; meaning you were not created to serve a needy God, rather you were created to share in the life of the all-sufficient and fully satisfied God.
We’re going to have to leave it there for now but next time we’ll continue answering this question by looking at John’s extraordinary statement that the Word became flesh, that God came and dwelt among us, enabling us to see and know what God is really like.