Part 6 here.
Q. 4. What is God?
A. God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.
John 4:24 “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
The difficulty of accurately defining God is because He is one of a kind. There is no one else like God. There is no one that we may accurately compare Him to. This is due in part to the truth that He is spirit and we live in, as the 80’s pop song says, a material world. We are used to dealing with things we can see and touch. In fact, you and I have grown up and been incubated into a materialist worldview. That is, we are tempted to think that the material is all there is, that at the most fundamental level, everything that exists consists of nothing but matter and energy. Even thought we might not voice it this way, we are tempted to think every object is a purely physical object and every event has a purely physical cause.
The Materialist worldview rejects the idea that there are immaterial or spiritual entities, such as souls, angels or God because it rejects out of hand there can be anything that does not have a purely physical cause. In the materialist worldview, science can explain everything in terms of matter and physics. Yet, for all the ways that people throw around the term “science” to be an infallible interpreter of life, science cannot explain all that there is. Scientists doing the scientific method cannot account for science’s own foundation. That is, there are certain things needed to be presumed in order to do science i.e., the existence of a theory-independent, external word, the orderly nature of the external world, the knowability of the external world, the existence of truth, the laws of logic, and the reliability of our cognitive and sensory faculties. You cannot get to those presumptions by only using science.
But we still live in a world where materialism is a dominating worldview, and we are tempted by it. And because of so much of what we deal with is physical, we have a hard time accurately thinking of God. Jesus told us in John 4:24 that God is Spirit. What does that mean?
Alexander Whyte in his commentary on the catechism helpfully describes this
“This word Spirit,—" the profoundest word in human language",— as employed in Scripture and theology bears a figurative or metaphorical sense. The growth of the word is something like this. It first means air, the air that is the atmosphere of the earth, and the breath of all its living creatures. From this it is a short and easy step to become expressive of the life of man, and the life of his soul, as in the cry: "Into Thine hand I commit my spirit." And from that highest earthly use the word has been taken up and consecrated to describe for us the manner of God's own life. "God is Spirit." And this single expression at once does this great service for us, that it removes God's nature far from all association with material and corporal organization. For, as our Lord said: "A spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have."
Now this may make you think about God being like a ghost or a phantom. We might be tempted to think of an ethereal transparent apparition, but this is not what we mean. When the catechism, repeating after Jesus, says that God is spirit, it is teaching us that the Father is not limited by the physical, that he is life-giving and life-sustaining, that he can never be totally comprehended, and that he transcends creation.
He is not like anything else. He is unique. Men are defined by our localization, that is, we are at one particular place at one particular time. Though we do have both a body and spirit, our spirits are tied to our bodies, in this life. We are in one place at one time. God on the other hand is not limited to one place and time. He is not contained. For something to be physical it has a limit or boundary to its being. For example, our bodies extend out to a definite boundary. God is spirit and has no extension or limit. God is everywhere and yet He is at the same time not a part of everywhere. God is not the creation and yet God is present working in His creation.
Let us reject the materialistic worldview that cannot even account for something like the human mind or the laws of logic. Let us also marvel at God who is Spirit and who is infinite (more on that part tomorrow). Reflect on how amazing it is that the God who is so far above the creation is present everywhere. He is on the highest mountain and at the lowest point of the sea. He is present in Washington DC and in Southern Indiana. No matter where you are today, the good news is that He is near.