In any discussion of an infinite God, man by necessity is hobbled by his finite language. Since the day of Creation when God created man, man has created gods to his liking, each god being created with traits and temper which were best suited to each man's peculiar imagination. Thus we see evolving through the earth's short history an impressive array of deities, semideities, saints, and other objects of worship and adoration.
But what is God? What is His substance? What is His make-up? We as Christians supposedly have spent much time in contemplation of God, yet are universally lacking a full comprehension of His magnitude.
The worship of God has taken many forms. The Buddhist created his god as a squatting or reclining enigmatic image who gazed placidly upon his supplicating worshipers. To the pantheist, who sees God in everything, God takes on a nebulous quality, permeating all with an intangible ethereal spirit. To the polytheist, God is not a single being, but a collection of greater and lesser deities representing objects, thoughts, actions, or deeds. The Greeks and Romans, under this system of polytheism, developed vast numbers of gods for every conceivable situation of daily living. From the great gods such as Zeus and Jupiter the scale descended to such gods as Terminus who allegedly was given control over boundaries and borders. Next we are confronted with the deist, who believes only that God exists and beyond this makes no visible effort to seek after further information; or similarly, the agnostic, who feels that insufficient information is available or that God is incomprehensible. Beyond this is the infidel, who doubts seriously even the existence of God but believes all is an accidental existence.
The so-called modern-day Christian tends to be somewhat polytheistic. He accepts Christ as his Saviour and then surrounds himself with many other lesser objects of worship. In this class are those who worship power of leadership, others who worship gods of avarice or lust. There are many who worship the god of wealth; others who attempt to worship science or learning. These idols have been set up in competition with the true worship of Christ and most certainly represent man's modern-day attempt at polytheism.
In attempting to prepare an acceptable Christ for our modern-day activities, some authors have tried to modernize Him. Not too long ago a religious paper showed a picture of Christ in Bermuda shorts and a sport shirt speaking to a select audience held in rapt attention. In such characterizations of God it is not so much the attire with which they adorn Christ that is sacrilegious, but more the devaluation of His character and power implied in such characterizations. It would seem that Satan is not particular about which spurious deity we believe in so long as we accept some form of a false god or at least devaluate the God we worship.
But what is the character of God? As students of the Bible, we know that one approach to understanding God is to understand His character. We are told that God is love, that Christ was His greatest manifestation of this love. We know also that God is our Creator. We know that God is our sustainer, and keeps His creation in its perfect clocklike function. We know also that God is a lawgiver, an organizer. Furthermore, we are taught that God is a judge, a ruler. Beyond this we know that God is our Father who is intimately interested in our welfare. These things are all well known to any serious Bible scholar. But beyond this what is the actual substance, the physical make-up of God?
We know from studies of the Scriptures that angels, who are closely associated with God, can at times of their choosing be invisible. But this again leaves us little knowledge or understanding of the true substance and make-up of God, the Creator of these beings. As it states in the Scriptures, the only inclination as to what God looks like and His physical features is man himself, for we are told that man was created in the image of God. But if this image is a physical one, how many and how great are the similarities and differences?
Some Divine Characteristics
If we are to be at least temporarily deprived of a visual image of our God, let us then approach the knowledge of God by studying into some of His characteristics. We are told in Psalm- 90, verse 2, that God is everlasting. This word everlasting is man's feeble attempt to describe a situation for which he has no concept. Where does everlasting begin and where does it end? Is it like a great circle wherein should you start at any point and go far enough you will again return to the original point? If this is what everlasting means, then the plan of salvation must again be repeated and repeated and repeated. This we know is false, as we are told that sin will not appear a second time. In a world where everything is life and death, beginning and end, the word everlasting has no meaning. Where all is finite, anything that is infinite is beyond our comprehension.
We are told in Colossians 2, verse 3, that God has all knowledge. Again we attempt to seek out a situation for which we have no concept as mortal beings. How can anyone have all knowledge? Does God seek knowledge from some celestial books? Since God is from everlasting, it would be only wise to assume that His knowledge likewise has been from everlasting and not derived from study. Again this is an intangible concept, for all our knowledge is acquired or instinctive. Both of these methods are obviously unacceptable explanations for an everlasting, omniscient God. Another characteristic of God is His ability to sustain all that He has created. In Revelation 19:6 this fact is implied in the statement that God is all powerful. Again, this is a concept that is impossible for us to comprehend fully.
To this point we have said only how difficult it is to understand God, and have provided little evidence of the magnitude of God. It would be the sheerest folly to attempt to portray God to anyone as a vivid and real image, as one sees a film projected upon a screen. But rather, let us attempt just a small fleeting glimpse of God by approaching God and God's character in the matter of His great strength, energy, and ability to sustain man. In science we constantly seek our large facts by first attempting to analyze and catalog small portions of the problem. Likewise, in our attempt to understand the magnitude of the power of God, let us approach God by seeking some small object and from this object evolve a microscopic impression as to the power of God.
The Power of God
Several years ago I became acquainted with the game of golf. This is the sport that was described by one sage observer as an attempt to hit one stationary, small ball off a rotating larger ball without striking the larger ball. By taking the golf ball as our small object, let us then see what we can learn from it of God of His energy and power.
As any scientist knows, a golf ball has energy in several forms. There is the energy available to us if we should take a golf ball and burn it. This would produce a certain amount of heat of combustion with the release of gaseous elements, and this amount of energy, though not particularly great, is measurable. The energy the golfer is primarily interested in is the energy displayed when the ball is forceably compressed by impact and then allowed to expand spasmodically and cyclicly to obtain a fairly linear trajectory. Should the golfer be less than adept, part of the club's energy is likely to be expended in rotation of the ball and part of the golfer's energy is likely to be expended in trying to find the ball in the adjoining woods. The third form of energy contained in a golf ball is atomic energy, and it is to this particular type of energy I wish to call attention.
The average golf ball weighs 1.54 ounces, or approximately 1/10 of a pound. Within this small compressed object is a tremendous amount of energy if man were given the ability to release all this energy and convert it to a useful form. Einstein, in unlocking the atom, gave us a rather simple formula for calculating this amount of energy, and if my college physics serves me correctly, the amount of energy contained in this aforementioned golf ball is approximately equivalent to 1,124,000,000 kilowatt hours of electricity. Perhaps it would be simpler to say that if one should turn on one hundred 100-watt bulbs now it would take 13,000 years to expend the amount of energy available as atomic energy in this one golf ball. But suppose we convert the energy in this golf ball into gasoline. If we should do this, we should have on our hands approximately 37,820,000 gallons of gasoline. For those of us to whom 37,000,000 gallons of gasoline is an incomprehensible quantity, let us say that if one could get a reasonable mileage of 15 miles per gallon, he would be able to drive his automobile on one golf ball for 567,400,000 miles. This is still a most difficult figure. If man somehow could drive his car at 40 miles an hour without stopping, it would take him 1,619 years to expend the available atomic energy in this single 1.54-ounce golf ball.
How does this lead to an understanding of the magnitude of God? Let us suppose that we were suddenly given the ability to create, not life, but simply substance, or mass. This golf ball would be a good example. If we had the ability we would also need the energy, and to create this one golf ball we would again need the 37,820,000 gallons of gasoline or its equivalent energy to expend. In other words, with any huge supply of energy and the ability to create, a predictable light-weighing object could be produced.
But we look further than our 1/10-pound golf ball. Let us look to our earth, which weighs 1,300,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 pounds. Consider or at least attempt to consider how much energy would be necessary to create our earth on which we live, keeping in mind that it took only 37,820,000 gallons of gasoline to create one golf ball. Beyond this, attempt to contemplate the complexity of the earth with its many, many minerals, its great expanses of water and land, its varied and complicated vegetation, its animal life, including man and that unknown quantity—the spark of life that fires all living creatures and plants.
So far we have confined our attention to the earth and the amount of energy it would take to create the earth. Let us look further. The earth is one of nine planets that circle the sun, and in size is only the middle-sized planet of our solar system. Therefore, let us stretch our imaginations a little farther and see how much energy it would take to create, and create alone, this planetary mass of these nine planets and their adjacent moons, keeping in mind the energy required to create one golf ball. But then we must account for the sun. The sun has been estimated to be of such magnitude that it could easily contain 1,000,000 earths. Again, remembering that one golf ball requires 37,820,000 gallons of gasoline, how much energy would be required to create the sun?
Shall we stop here? Our comprehension of the required creative energy has probably already stopped; but for completeness, let us go on further.
Our sun is only one of many stars in the Milky Way. Within the limits of the Milky Way it has been estimated that there are approximately 100,000,000,000 stars, most of which are larger than our sun. How much energy did it take to create these? How large is our God becoming? Let us go on. Man has been reaching farther and farther into space, and to date has not found any outer boundaries. Our Milky Way is a galaxy. So, consider millions of galaxies that represent man's now-limited knowledge, each containing a hundred billion stars, most of which are larger than our sun, which is able to contain a million earths, and then at this point again contemplate and think how much energy is available to our God. All of these millions and billions of stars and galaxies must be kept in perfect order. God sustains all of these, constantly maintaining their perfect symmetry and intricate courses of celestial travel.
A Glimpse of God's Love
How great is our God? What mortal can say? We have only touched upon His power, and the rest of His attributes are similarly beyond our full comprehension. Consider at this point a God all powerful, Creator and Sustainer of such a magnificent and inconceivable creation, who was willing to condescend to a sacrificial death —the sacrificial death of Christ upon the cross. Through this fragmentary understanding of the power of God and of His divine sacrifice we can catch a fleeting glimpse of what real love is; namely, that God would sacrifice His Son to save a degenerate and disobedient world. Applying this sacrifice to man, it would be like man dying for a small invisible bacteria. Many men die because of bacteria, but where would one find a man who would be willing to die that a bacteria might live?— a bacteria dedicated to the destruction of man. A glimpse of God? Yes, this is all we have been allowed. God in His love has allowed us only limited comprehension of His magnitude. To know more of Him at this time and in our present state would be too much for mortal man to survive.
Soon Christ will be returning in a glory and magnitude of beauty beyond understanding or words of man—this powerful Creator, so dedicated to His subjects that He would come and die for them. Thus when all discussions of God are closed, and all mortal knowledge is assembled, assessed, and systematically reviewed, one is again forced to say that all he knows for certain is that his Redeemer liveth and is soon to return to redeem His ransomed from this earth.