In a world filled with many different beliefs in “gods,” it is crucial to define what we mean when we speak about “God.” Without defining what God’s characteristics are, we quickly get lost in a haze of philosophical and theological ideas. French philosopher Voltaire was right when he commented, “In the beginning God made man in his own image, and Man has been trying to repay the favor ever since.” Mankind is constantly creating religious systems and inventing theological ideas that give us gods in our own image.

The true God, however, is not invented, or even discovered. He is transcendent (beyond the universe); therefore, science and human reason are unable to “figure out” God as we might figure out quantum physics or aerodynamics. Therefore, the question of science proving or disproving God is really a lost cause from the start. In a short essay, British writer C.S. Lewis explains this clearly, when he wrote:
“...science studies Nature. And the question is whether anything besides Nature exists–anything 'outside.' How could you find that out by simply studying Nature?" (From "The Grand Miracle")
But this does not leave us at a dead end. Although we cannot, with our limited powers of intellect and observation, “discover” God for ourselves, He can still be found. This is because God has not kept Himself hidden from us, but has rather revealed Himself to mankind. We understand this concept in our human relationships. No one else has the power to know what I am thinking at any given time–they cannot see into my mind. However, if I choose to tell them what I am thinking, to reveal myself to them, then, on that basis, I can be known.

This revelation of Himself begins with creation. As humans, we look into the vastness of the universe, the grandeur of mountains and oceans, and the expanse of solar systems and galaxies. We see this greatness and we can see clearly, if we are willing, that the One who made all this must be very great and very powerful. We know that within this universe is contained all time, space and matter and we learn that the One who made these things must be timeless, spaceless, and immaterial.

Then we turn within the human heart. We find in us, whether we like it or not, a conscience. Something shouting to us in our inner-being that there is right and wrong, good and bad. Sometimes our conscience makes us feel better about ourselves, and sometimes it condemns us. From this, we learn that God, the Creator of all things, is a moral being, and that the universe He has created is imbued with a moral law. We may transgress this moral law, but we cannot escape the fact that it exists, and that the Moral Lawgiver is behind all of it.  

Yet God has revealed Himself even more than what we can learn from these general revelations of Creation. Far from being merely some kind of eternal life-force, God has revealed Himself as the ultimate Personality. He has thoughts and feelings. He has character qualities and can be known and related to.

The historical record of the Bible tells us of God’s interactions, and the revelation of Himself to mankind. You must read the Scriptures for yourself to get the full story, as this is simply a short essay on the subject; however, from these interactions we find that God is merely His generic title. Just as a person may be a “man” or a “woman” genetically, so “God” is what He is. We use names, personal names, to stand for the particular character of individual people, in order to represent the totality of the person we refer to. If I were to say, “A man did a great job as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom,” you would be left guessing who I was referring to. But if I say, “Winston Churchill did a great job as minister of the United Kingdom,” then all the deeds, words and personality traits of that particular man come flooding to your mind.
And God has a name. He revealed His name to mankind thousands of years ago in the Hebrew language as Yahweh (יְהֹוָה). This name means “I am who I am” and speaks to the faithfulness and purity of God–that in Him is no darkness or deceit. This name now distinguishes God from the countless “gods” that have been invented by mankind through the centuries. It was to Moses that God spoke and said,
“Say to the Israelites, ‘Yahweh, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’ “This is my name forever, the name you shall call me from generation to generation.”
(Exodus 3:15)
With the revelation of His name, we begin to associate the attributes of God not just to timeless eternity, or theological concepts, but with the actions in history of the Divine Person. He is the God of three men, with whom He had dealings and to whom He made certain promises–Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He is the God who freed hundreds of thousands of slaves from Egypt to make them His own special people. He did this so that through them He might reveal Himself to everyone on earth.

It is at this point that we must understand that God’s revelation of Himself to mankind had to take this dramatic turn because the relationship between Man and God had been broken by sin. Like Boeing makes airplanes to fly and Ferrari makes cars to drive, so God made mankind to trust and love Him, as well as to love one another with justice and mercy. Sin in the moral equivalent of trying to use a Boeing jet as a submarine or a Ferrari car as a jackhammer. They are abuses of the use for which they were made, and they both fail to serve the faulty purpose and are destroyed in the process. Likewise, sin not only is a misuse of human life and will, it destroys the person who commits it.

We can press this point further. Perhaps you were a billionaire and owned many jets and sports cars, and you didn’t mind destroying them through this kind of misuse–whose business is it besides yours? But suppose the jets and sports cars you were misusing were not yours at all. Suppose they were your wealthy father’s, who had leant them to you as a gift. Now the egregiousness of your misuse and wanton destruction becomes clearer. You would not only be willfully destroying someone else’s property, but you would be insultingly breaking the trust of the one who had only tried to do good to you.

This is a proper analogy for sin. Our lives do not belong to us. We did not make ourselves. Life is a gift, entrusted to us by our Creator, and when we sin we are willfully destroying what has been entrusted to us, thus alienating ourselves from the Gift Giver.
And so God has this problem: a world full of men and women, whom He created to be loved and to love, to receive good and do good, who instead have taken these gifts He has so graciously given and have destroyed them and turned away from Him. God, as the ultimate moral lawgiver and totally just, must punish these wrongs. And yet, His love longs to forgive and reconcile. But how could this be done without being unjust?

At one point in history, God revealed Himself in a powerful way to a man named Moses. In this revelation of Himself, He spoke about His character and highlighted the problem:
Then Yahweh came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, Yahweh. And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “Yahweh, Yahweh, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”
(Exodus 34:5-7)
Again, for justice’s sake, God never leaves the guilty unpunished. And yet, for love’s sake, God longs to forgive and not punish.

It is for this reason that we have the record of God’s interactions with mankind in the books of the Bible. It is the story of redemption. The story of how Yahweh, the God Who made the universe, Who is all powerful, all wise, all just, ever-present and Who is Himself love, reconciled the conflict in His own nature between justice and love. Ultimately, He did this through Jesus Christ. And in Jesus we have the greatest revelation of who God truly is. The story of history is “His story”; bringing about the circumstances through which He might reconcile mankind to Himself through Jesus. We invite you to continue by learning more about Jesus in the following essay, and more fully in the Bible, for yourself.