Definition of God

August 20, 2012 — 23:36

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What do we mean by “God”? St. Anselm defines God as “a being than which none greater can be conceived” (Proslogion). This means that God is the greatest being that one can think of. Or similarly, God is the greatest being there could be. This is one sense of understanding God as a perfect being – if a being, x, could be any better than it already is, then x is not perfect.

All philosophers agree with this definition, or some form of it. What they may not all agree on, however, is what properties such a being would have. What is a property? A property of an object is anything that is true of that object. For example, I have the property of being a Tennessean, because it is true that I am from Tennessee. I also have the properties of being bipedal, of rationality, and animality (since I am a two-legged rational animal). Every existing thing has properties.

So, what properties would God have? According to Alvin Plantinga, God is “an all-powerful, all knowing, wholly good person (a person without a body) who has created us and our world” (Warranted Christian Belief, 3). Similarly, Richard Swinburne defines God as “a person without a body (i.e. a spirit) who necessarily is eternal, perfectly free, omnipotent, omniscient, perfectly good, and the creator of all things” (The Existence of God, 7).

God, then, is an omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, immaterial, eternal, personal being, worthy of worship, and creator of all things other than himself. The belief that God exists is called theism. God may have other properties as well; according to Christian theism, for example, God is a Trinity.

Now, what do those properties mean? I will give a quick definition of each one. Omnipotence means that God has the ability to do anything that is logically possible. Creating a square circle, or a married bachelor, would be logically impossible. Omiscience means that God knows everything, every true proposition and no false proposition. Omnibenevolence means that God is morally perfect, does only what is good, and wills what is good for all things. Immaterial means “not material,” i.e. does not occupy space or have a body. Finally, a being is worthy of worship if and only if it is morally perfect.

While people may mean something different by “God” (the term is used in many ways), this is the definition used in the philosophy of religion, and the one I will be using in this blog.


  • I think you’ve done a great job of breaking down the properties of God and defining them in a clear, concise way. Keep up the great work!

    August 21, 2012 — 12:30

    • I’ve been really exteicd to see PV’s mentality change just in the past year from bringing people INTO the church, to encouraging the church to go OUT. This year for Christmas, rather than doing the same Christmas program its done for over a decade, we’ve themed this Christmas Christmas to GO (picture a chinese to-go box as the image . Everyone in the Northland who has ever wnted to see The Singing Christmas Tree has come to PV to see it EXCEPT those who are homeless or in prison. So where are we taking the message of Christ? To the homeless and to prisons. I’m pretty exteicd about this I think this is one small way we see the Kingdom of God expanding in a real, and practical way.

      November 11, 2012 — 6:52

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