Existence of God
The existence of God is a subject of debate in the philosophy of religion and popular culture. A wide variety of arguments for and against the existence of God can be categorized as metaphysical, empirical, or subjective. In philosophical terms, the question of the existence of God involves the disciplines of epistemology and ontology and the theory of value; the Western tradition of philosophical discussion of the existence of God began with Plato and Aristotle, who made arguments that would now be categorized as cosmological. Other arguments for the existence of God have been proposed by St. Anselm, who formulated the first ontological argument. John Calvin argued for a sensus divinitatis. Philosophers who have provided arguments against the existence of God include Immanuel Kant, David Hume, Friedrich Nietzsche and Bertrand Russell. In modern culture, the question of God's existence has been discussed by scientists such as Stephen Hawking, Francis Collins, Lawrence M. Krauss, Richard Dawkins, Carl Sagan, Neil deGrasse Tyson, John Lennox and Sam Harris, as well as philosophers including Richard Swinburne, Alvin Plantinga, William Lane Craig, Rebecca Goldstein, A. C.
Grayling, Daniel Dennett, Edward Feser and David Bentley Hart. Scientists follow the scientific method, within which theories must be verifiable by physical experiment; the majority of prominent conceptions of God explicitly or posit a being, not testable either by proof or disproof. On these bases, the question regarding the existence of God, one for which evidence cannot be tested, may lie outside the purview of modern science by definition; the Catholic Church maintains that knowledge of the existence of God is the "natural light of human reason". Fideists maintain that belief in the existence of God may not be amenable to demonstration or refutation, but rests on faith alone. Atheists view arguments for the existence of God as insufficient, mistaken or weighing less in comparison to arguments against whereas some religions, such as Buddhism, are not concerned with the existence of gods at all and yet other religions, such as Jainism, reject the possibility of a creator deity. Positions on the existence of God can be divided along numerous axes, producing a variety of orthogonal classifications.
Theism and atheism are positions of belief, while gnosticism and agnosticism are positions of knowledge. Ignosticism concerns belief regarding God's conceptual coherence. Apatheism concerns belief regarding the practical importance of. For the purposes of discussion, Richard Dawkins described seven "milestones" on his spectrum of theistic probability: Strong theist. 100% probability of God. In the words of C. G. Jung: "I do not believe, I know." De facto theist. High probability but short of 100%. "I don't know for certain, but I believe in God and live my life on the assumption that he is there." Leaning towards theism. Higher than 50% but not high. "I am uncertain, but I am inclined to believe in God." Impartial. 50%. "God's existence and non-existence are equiprobable." Leaning towards atheism. Lower than 50% but not low. "I do not know whether God exists but I'm inclined to be skeptical." De facto atheist. Low probability, but short of zero. "I don't know for certain but I think God is improbable, I live my life on the assumption that he is not there."
Strong atheist. "I know there is no God, with the same conviction as Jung knows there is one." The Catholic Church, following the teachings of Paul the Apostle, Thomas Aquinas, the First Vatican Council, affirms that God's existence "can be known with certainty from the created world by the natural light of human reason". In classical theism, God is characterized as the metaphysically ultimate being, in distinction to other conceptions such as theistic personalism, open theism, process theism. Classical theists do not believe that God can be defined, they believe. Robert Barron explains by analogy that it seems impossible for a two-dimensional object to conceive of three-dimensional humans. In modern Western societies, the concepts of God entail a monotheistic, supreme and personal being, as found in the Christian and Jewish traditions. In monotheistic religions outside the Abrahamic traditions, the existence of God is discussed in similar terms. In these traditions, God is identified as the author of certain texts, or that certain texts describe specific historical events caused by the God in question or communications from God.
Some traditions believe that God is the entity, answering prayers for intervention or information or opinions. Many Islamic scholars have used rational arguments to prove the existence of God. For example, Ibn Rushd, a 12th-century Islamic scholar and physician, states there are only two arguments worthy of adherence, both of which are found in what he calls the "Precious Book". Rushd cites “providence” and “invention” in using th
Names of God
A number of traditions have lists of many names of God, many of which enumerate the various qualities of a Supreme Being. The English word "God" is used by multiple religions as a noun or name to refer to different deities, or to the Supreme Being, as denoted in English by the capitalized and uncapitalized terms "god" and "God". Ancient cognate equivalents for the biblical Hebrew Elohim, one of the most common names of God in the Bible, include proto-Semitic El, biblical Aramaic Elah, Arabic'ilah; the personal or proper name for God in many of these languages may either be distinguished from such attributes, or homonymic. For example, in Judaism the tetragrammaton is sometimes related to the ancient Hebrew ehyeh. In the Hebrew Bible, the personal name of God is revealed directly to Moses, namely: "Yahweh". Correlation between various theories and interpretation of the name of "the one God", used to signify a monotheistic or ultimate Supreme Being from which all other divine attributes derive, has been a subject of ecumenical discourse between Eastern and Western scholars for over two centuries.
In Christian theology the word must be a proper name of God. On the other hand, the names of God in a different tradition are sometimes referred to by symbols; the question whether divine names used by different religions are equivalent has been raised and analyzed. Exchange of names held sacred between different religious traditions is limited. Other elements of religious practice may be shared when communities of different faiths are living in close proximity but usage of the names themselves remains within the domain of a particular religion, or may help define one's religious belief according to practice, as in the case of the recitation of names of God. Guru Gobind Singh's Jaap Sahib; the Divine Names, the classic treatise by Pseudo-Dionysius, defines the scope of traditional understandings in Western traditions such as Hellenic, Christian and Islamic theology on the nature and significance of the names of God. Further historical lists such as The 72 Names of the Lord show parallels in the history and interpretation of the name of God amongst Kabbalah and Hebrew scholarship in various parts of the Mediterranean world.
The attitude as to the transmission of the name in many cultures was surrounded by secrecy. In Judaism, the pronunciation of the name of God has always been guarded with great care, it is believed that, in ancient times, the sages communicated the pronunciation only once every seven years. The nature of a holy name can be described as either attributive. In many cultures it is difficult to distinguish between the personal and the attributive names of God, the two divisions shading into each other. El comes from a root word meaning might, power. Sometimes referring to God and sometimes the mighty when used to refer to the God of Israel, El is always qualified by additional words that further define the meaning that distinguishes him from false gods. A common title of God in the Hebrew Bible is Elohim; the root Eloah is used in poetry and late prose and ending with the masculine plural suffix "-im" ים creating a word like ba`alim ("owner" and adonim that may indicate a singular identity. In the Book of Exodus, God commands Moses to tell the people that'I AM' sent him, this is revered as one of the most important names of God according to Mosaic tradition.
Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” God said to Moses, "I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.'" God said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, 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". In Exodus 6:3, when Moses first spoke with God, God said, "I used to appear to Abraham and Jacob as El Shaddai, but I did not make myself known to them by my name YHWH." YHWH is the proper name of God in Judaism. Neither vowels nor vowel points were used in ancient Hebrew writings and the original vocalisation of YHWH has been lost. Commentaries additionally suggested that the true pronunciation of this name is composed of vowels, such as the Greek Ιαουε. However, this is put into question by the fact that vowels were only distinguished in the time-period by their absence due to the lack of explicit vowels in the Hebrew script.
The resulting substitute made from semivowels and glottals, known as the tetragrammaton, is not ordinarily permitted to be pronounced aloud in prayer. The prohibition on misuse of this name is the primary subject of the command not to take the name of the Lord in vain. Instead of pronouncing YHWH during prayer, Jews say "Adonai". Halakha requires that secondary rules be placed around the primary law, to reduce the chance that the main law will be broken; as such, it is common religious practice to restrict the use of the word "Adonai" to prayer only. In conversation, many Jewish people when not speaking Hebrew, will call God HaShem, Hebrew for "the Name". All Orthodox Jews avoid using either Yahweh or Jehovah altogether on the basis that the actual pronun
God the Father
God the Father is a title given to God in various religions, most prominently in Christianity. In mainstream trinitarian Christianity, God the Father is regarded as the first person of the Trinity, followed by the second person God the Son and the third person God the Holy Spirit. Since the second century, Christian creeds included affirmation of belief in "God the Father" as his capacity as "Father and creator of the universe". However, in Christianity the concept of God as the father of Jesus Christ goes metaphysically further than the concept of God as the Creator and father of all people, as indicated in the Apostle's Creed where the expression of belief in the "Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth" is but separately followed by in "Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord", thus expressing both senses of fatherhood. In Christianity, God is addressed as the Father, in part because of his active interest in human affairs, in the way that a father would take an interest in his children who are dependent on him and as a father, he will respond to humanity, his children, acting in their best interests.
Many believe they can communicate with God and come closer to him through prayer – a key element of achieving communion with God. In general, the title Father signifies God's role as the life-giver, the authority, powerful protector viewed as immense, omniscient, omnipresent with infinite power and charity that goes beyond human understanding. For instance, after completing his monumental work Summa Theologica, Catholic St. Thomas Aquinas concluded that he had not yet begun to understand ‘God the Father’. Although the term "Father" implies masculine characteristics, God is defined as having the form of a spirit without any human biological gender, e.g. the Catechism of the Catholic Church #239 states that "God is neither man nor woman: he is God". Although God is never directly addressed as "Mother", at times motherly attributes may be interpreted in Old Testament references such as Isa 42:14, Isa 49:14–15 or Isa 66:12–13. In the New Testament, the Christian concept of God the Father may be seen as a continuation of the Jewish concept, but with specific additions and changes, which over time made the Christian concept become more distinct by the start of the Middle Ages.
The conformity to the Old Testament concepts is shown in Matthew 4:10 and Luke 4:8 where in response to temptation Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:13 and states: "It is written, you shall worship the Lord your God, him only shall you serve." 1 Corinthians 8:6 shows the distinct Christian teaching about the agency of Christ by first stating: "there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, we unto him" and continuing with "and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, we through him." This passage acknowledges the Jewish teachings on the uniqueness of God, yet states the role of Jesus as an agent in creation. Over time, the Christian doctrine began to diverge from Judaism through the teachings of the Church Fathers in the second century and by the fourth century belief in the Trinity was formalized. According to Mary Rose D'Angelo and James Barr, the Aramaic term Abba was in the early times of the New Testament neither markedly a term of endearment, nor a formal word. According to Marianne Thompson, in the Old Testament, God is called "Father" with a unique sense of familiarity.
In addition to the sense in which God is "Father" to all men because he created the world, the same God is uniquely the law-giver to his chosen people. He maintains a special, covenantal father-child relationship with the people, giving them the Shabbat, stewardship of his prophecies, a unique heritage in the things of God, calling Israel "my son" because he delivered the descendants of Jacob out of slavery in Egypt according to his covenants and oaths to their fathers, Abraham and Jacob. In the Hebrew Bible, in Isaiah 63:16 it reads: "For You are our father, for Abraham did not know us, neither did Israel recognize us. To God, according to Judaism, is attributed the fatherly role of protector, he is titled the Father of the orphan and the widow, their guarantor of justice. He is titled the Father of the king, as the teacher and helper over the judge of Israel. According to Alon Goshen-Gottstein, in the Old Testament "Father" is a metaphor. In Christianity fatherhood is taken in a more literal and substantive sense, is explicit about the need for the Son as a means of accessing the Father, making for a more metaphysical rather than metaphorical interpretation.
There is a deep sense in which Christians believe that they are made participants in the eternal relationship of Father and Son, through Jesus Christ. Christians call themselves adopted children of God: But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons, and because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, if a son an heir through God. In Christianity the concept of God as the Father of Jesus is distinct from the concept of God as the Creator and Father of all people, as indicated in the Apostle's Creed; the profession in the creed begins with expressing belief in the "Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth" and immediately, but se
Indian religions, sometimes termed as Dharmic faiths or religions, are the religions that originated in the Indian subcontinent. These religions are all classified as Eastern religions. Although Indian religions are connected through the history of India, they constitute a wide range of religious communities, are not confined to the Indian subcontinent. Evidence attesting to prehistoric religion in the Indian subcontinent derives from scattered Mesolithic rock paintings; the Harappan people of the Indus Valley Civilisation, which lasted from 3300 to 1300 BCE, had an early urbanized culture which predates the Vedic religion. The documented history of Indian religions begins with the historical Vedic religion, the religious practices of the early Indo-Iranians, which were collected and redacted into the Vedas; the period of the composition and commentary of these texts is known as the Vedic period, which lasted from 1750–500 BCE. The philosophical portions of the Vedas were summarized in Upanishads, which are referred to as Vedānta, variously interpreted to mean either the "last chapters, parts of the Veda" or "the object, the highest purpose of the Veda".
The early Upanishads all predate the Common Era, five of the eleven principal Upanishads were composed in all likelihood before 6th century BCE, contain the earliest mentions of Yoga and Moksha. The Reform or Shramanic Period between 800–200 BCE marks a "turning point between the Vedic Hinduism and Puranic Hinduism"; the Shramana movement, an ancient Indian religious movement parallel to but separate from Vedic tradition defied many of the Vedic and Upanishadic concepts of soul and the ultimate reality. In 6th century BCE, the Shramnic movement matured into Jainism and Buddhism and was responsible for the schism of Indian religions into two main philosophical branches of astika, which venerates Veda and nastika. However, both branches shared the related concepts of saṃsāra and moksha; the Puranic Period and Early Medieval period gave rise to new configurations of Hinduism bhakti and Shaivism, Vaishnavism and much smaller groups like the conservative Shrauta. The early Islamic period gave rise to new movements.
Sikhism was founded in the 15th century on the teachings of Guru Nanak and the nine successive Sikh Gurus in Northern India. The vast majority of its adherents originate in the Punjab region. With the colonial dominance of the British a reinterpretation and synthesis of Hinduism arose, which aided the Indian independence movement. James Mill, in his The History of British India, distinguished three phases in the history of India, namely Hindu and British civilisations; this periodisation has been criticised, for the misconceptions. Another periodisation is the division into "ancient, classical and modern periods", although this periodization has received criticism. Romila Thapar notes that the division of Hindu-Muslim-British periods of Indian history gives too much weight to "ruling dynasties and foreign invasions," neglecting the social-economic history which showed a strong continuity; the division in Ancient-Medieval-Modern overlooks the fact that the Muslim-conquests took place between the eight and the fourteenth century, while the south was never conquered.
According to Thapar, a periodisation could be based on "significant social and economic changes," which are not related to a change of ruling powers. Smart and Michaels seem to follow Mill's periodisation, while Flood and Muesse follow the "ancient, classical and modern periods" periodisation. An elaborate periodisation may be as follows: Indian pre-history including Indus Valley Civilisation. Evidence attesting to prehistoric religion in the Indian subcontinent derives from scattered Mesolithic rock paintings such as at Bhimbetka, depicting dances and rituals. Neolithic agriculturalists inhabiting the Indus River Valley buried their dead in a manner suggestive of spiritual practices that incorporated notions of an afterlife and belief in magic. Other South Asian Stone Age sites, such as the Bhimbetka rock shelters in central Madhya Pradesh and the Kupgal petroglyphs of eastern Karnataka, contain rock art portraying religious rites and evidence of possible ritualised music; the religion and belief system of the Indus valley people have received considerable attention from the view of identifying precursors to deities and religious practices of Indian religions that developed in the area.
However, due to the sparsity of evidence, open to varying interpretations, the fact that the Indus script remains undeciphered, the conclusions are speculative and based on a retrospective view from a much Hindu perspective. An early and influential work in the area that set the trend for Hindu interpretations of archaeological evidence from the Harrapan sites was that of John Marshall, who in 1931 identified the following as prominent features of the Indus religion: a Great Male God and a Mother Goddess.
Monolatry is belief in the existence of many gods but with the consistent worship of only one deity. The term "monolatry" was first used by Julius Wellhausen. Monolatry is distinguished from monotheism, which asserts the existence of only one god, henotheism, a religious system in which the believer worships one god without denying that others may worship different gods with equal validity; the pharaoh Akhenaten -, enthroned as Amenhotep IV - introduced Atenism in Year 5 of his reign during the Eighteenth Dynasty of Egypt. He raised Aten, once a obscure solar deity representing the disk of the Sun, to the status of supreme deity in ancient Egyptian religion. Year 5 marked the beginning of his construction of a new capital, Akhetaten "Horizon of the Aten", at the site known today as Amarna. Amenhotep IV changed his name to Akhenaten "Agreeable to the Aten" as evidence of his new worship. In addition to constructing a new capital in honor of Aten, Akhenaten oversaw the construction of some of the most massive temple complexes of ancient Egypt, including one at Karnak and one at Thebes close to the old temple of Amun.
In his ninth year of rule, Akhenaten declared a more radical version of his new religion, declaring Aten not the supreme god of the Egyptian pantheon but the only God of Egypt, with himself as the sole intermediary between the Aten and the Egyptian people. Key features of Atenism included a ban on idols and other images of the Aten, with the exception of a rayed solar disc in which the rays appear to represent the unseen spirit of Aten. Aten was addressed by Akhenaten such as the Great Hymn to the Aten; the details of Atenist theology are still unclear. The exclusion of all but one god and the prohibition of idols was a radical departure from Egyptian tradition, but most scholars see Akhenaten as a practitioner of monolatry rather than monotheism, as he did not deny the existence of other gods, it is known that Atenism did not attribute divinity to the Aten. Akhenaten continued the imperial cult, proclaiming himself the son of Aten and encouraging the people to worship him; the people were to worship Akhenaten.
Under Akhenaten's successors, Egypt reverted to its traditional religion, Akhenaten himself came to be reviled as a heretic. Some historians have argued that ancient Israel practiced a form of monolatry or henotheism. Both Frank Eakin, Jr. and John Scullion believe Moses was a monolatrist rather than a monotheist, John Day suggests that angels are what became of the other gods once monotheism took over Israel. John McKenzie has stated: "In the ancient Near East the existence of divine beings was universally accepted without questions.... The question was not whether there is only one elohim, but whether there is any elohim like Yahweh."Some scholars claim the Torah shows evidence of monolatry in some passages. The argument is based on references to other gods, such as the "gods of the Egyptians" in the Book of Exodus; the Egyptians are attributed powers that suggest the existence of their gods. In the ancient Near East, magic was believed to exist, though the Israelites viewed magic as being malign in origin and were forbidden from it.
With regard to miracle and prophecy, the Bible commands the Israelites not to follow false prophets and not to refrain from putting them to death. The miracles of false prophets are, like those of the Egyptian sorcerers, regarded by the Israelites as a divine test to see if the Israelites "love the LORD God with all heart and with all soul"; the Ten Commandments have been interpreted by some as evidence that the Israelites practiced monolatry. Exodus 20:3 reads "Thou shalt have no other gods before me", they argue that the addition of "before me" at the end of the commandment indicates that not only other gods may exist but that they may be respected and worshiped so long as less than Yahweh. There is evidence that the Israelite people as a whole did not adhere to monotheism before the Babylonian exile in the 6th century BCE. Much of this evidence comes from the Bible itself, which records that many Israelites chose to worship foreign gods and idols rather than Yahweh. During the 8th century BCE, the monotheistic worship of Yahweh in Israel was in competition with many other cults, described by the Yahwist faction collectively as Baals.
The oldest books of the Hebrew Bible reflect this competition, as in the books of Hosea and Nahum, whose authors lament the "apostasy" of the people of Israel and threaten them with the wrath of God if they do not give up their polytheistic cults. On the other hand, medieval scholars interpreted ancient texts to argue that the ancient Israelites were monotheistic; the Shema Yisrael is cited as proof that the Israelites practiced monotheism. It was recognized by Rashi in his 11th century commentary to Deuteronomy 6:4 that the declaration of the Shema accepts belief in one god as being only a part of Jewish faith at the time of Moses but would be accepted by all humanity. A similar statement occurs in Maimonides' Thirteen Principles of Faith's second principle: God, the Cause of all, is one; this does not mean one as in one of a pair, nor one like a species, nor one as in an object, made up of many elements
Deism is the philosophical belief which posits that although God exists as the uncaused First Cause – responsible for the creation of the universe – God does not interact directly with that subsequently created world. Equivalently, deism can be defined as the view which asserts God's existence as the cause of all things, admits its perfection but rejects divine revelation or direct intervention of God in the universe by miracles, it rejects revelation as a source of religious knowledge and asserts that reason and observation of the natural world are sufficient to determine the existence of a single creator or absolute principle of the universe. Deism as a form of natural theology gained prominence among intellectuals during the Age of Enlightenment in Britain, France and the United States. Deists had been raised as Christians and believed in one God, but had become disenchanted with organized religion and orthodox teachings such as the Trinity, Biblical inerrancy, the supernatural interpretation of events, such as miracles.
Included in those influenced by its ideas were leaders of the American and French Revolutions. Deism is considered to exist in the classical and modern forms, where the classical view takes what is called a "cold" approach by asserting the non-intervention of a deity in the natural behavior of the created universe, while the modern deist formulation can be either "warm" or "cold"; these lead to many subdivisions of modern deism. Deism is a theological theory concerning the relationship between the natural world. Deistic viewpoints emerged during the scientific revolution of 17th-century Europe and came to exert a powerful influence during the 18th-century Enlightenment. Deism stood between the narrow dogmatism of the skepticism. Though deists rejected atheism, they were called "atheists" by more traditional theists. There were a number of different forms in the 18th centuries. In England, deists included a range of people from anti-Christian to non-Christian theists. For deists, human beings can know God only via reason and the observation of nature, but not by revelation or by supernatural manifestations – phenomena which deists regard with caution if not skepticism.
Deism is related to naturalism because it credits the formation of life and the universe to a higher power, using only natural processes. The classical deism of the 17th and 18th centuries is a form of natural theology and denies that that power has any continuing involvement with the world. Modern deism may include a spiritual element, involving experiences of God and nature; the words deism and theism synonyms in English, both derive from words for "god": the former from Latin deus, the latter from Greek theos. By the 17th century the English terms were starting to diverge, with deism referring to the new form of belief; the term deist first appeared in its new sense in Robert Burton's The Anatomy of Melancholy. Deism is thought of as having taken root first in England and subsequently spread to mainland Europe, but the term déiste appears in French, in the new sense, as early as 1564. Pierre Viret, a Swiss Calvinist, wrote of deism as a heretical development from Italian Renaissance naturalism, resulting from misuse of the liberty conferred by the Reformation to criticise idolatry and superstition.
Lord Herbert of Cherbury is considered the "father of English deism", his book De Veritate the first major statement of deism. Deism flourished in England between 1690 and 1740, at which time Matthew Tindal's Christianity as Old as the Creation called "The Deist's Bible," gained much attention. Deism spread to France, to Germany, to North America; the concept of deism covers a wide variety of positions on a wide variety of religious issues. Reviewing classical deism a century Sir Leslie Stephen presented it as having "constructive" and "critical" aspects. Elements common to the deist writers, on the constructive side, identify deism as a form of natural theology, include: God exists and created the universe. God gave humans the ability to reason. Most regarded themselves as Christians. Deists differed more from one another in their critical concerns, these were their chief differences from their orthodox contemporaries. Critical elements common to deist thought include: Rejection of religion based on books claiming to contain the revealed word of God.
Rejection of religious dogma and demagogy. Skepticism of reports of miracles and religious "mysteries". Most, at least, rejected the doctrine of the Trinity; some deists rejected the claim of Jesus' divinity but continued to hold him in high regard as a moral teacher, a position known as Christian deism, exemplified by Thomas Jefferson's famous Jefferson Bible and Matthew Tindal's Christianity as Old as the Creation. According to the deists reason provides all the information needed, they attempted to use it as a critical tool for exposing and rejecting what they saw as nonsense; some deists used the cosmological argument for the existence of God - as did Thomas Hobbes in several of his writings. A central theme of deist thinking was that the religions of their day were corruptions of an original, natural religion and rational: subsequently corrupted by "priests" manipulating it for personal gain and for the class interests of the priesthood in general, thus encrus
God in Christianity
God in Christianity is the eternal being who created and preserves all things. Christians believe God to be both immanent. Christian teachings of the immanence and involvement of God and his love for humanity exclude the belief that God is of the same substance as the created universe but accept that God's divine Nature was hypostatically united to human nature in the person of Jesus Christ, in an event known as the Incarnation. Early Christian views of God were expressed in the Pauline Epistles and the early creeds, which proclaimed one God and the divinity of Jesus in the same breath as in 1 Corinthians: "For if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth, yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live. "Although the Judeo-Christian sect of the Ebionites protested against this apotheosis of Jesus, the great mass of Gentile Christians accepted it." This began to differentiate the Gentile Christian views of God from traditional Jewish teachings of the time.
The theology of the attributes and nature of God has been discussed since the earliest days of Christianity, with Irenaeus writing in the 2nd century: "His greatness lacks nothing, but contains all things". In the 8th century, John of Damascus listed eighteen attributes which remain accepted; as time passed, theologians developed systematic lists of these attributes, some based on statements in the Bible, others based on theological reasoning. The Kingdom of God is a prominent phrase in the Synoptic Gospels and while there is near unanimous agreement among scholars that it represents a key element of the teachings of Jesus, there is little scholarly agreement on its exact interpretation. Although the New Testament does not have a formal doctrine of the Trinity as such, "it does speak of the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit... in such a way as to compel a Trinitarian understanding of God." This never becomes a tritheism. Around the year 200, Tertullian formulated a version of the doctrine of the Trinity which affirmed the divinity of Jesus and came close to the definitive form produced by the Ecumenical Council of 381.
The doctrine of the Trinity can be summed up as: "The One God exists in Three Persons and One Substance, as God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit." Trinitarians, who form the large majority of Christians, hold it as a core tenet of their faith. Nontrinitarian denominations define the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit in a number of different ways. Early Christian views of God are reflected in Apostle Paul's statement in 1 Corinthians, written ca. AD 53-54, i.e. about twenty years after the crucifixion of Jesus: for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live. Apart from asserting that there is but one God, Paul's statement includes a number of other significant elements: he distinguishes Christian belief from the Jewish background of the time by referring to Jesus and the Father in the same breath, by conferring on Jesus the title of divine honor "Lord", as well as calling him Christ. In the Acts during the Areopagus sermon given by Paul, he further characterizes the early Christian understanding: The God that made the world and all things therein, he, being Lord of heaven and earth and reflects on the relationship between God and Christians: that they should seek God, if haply they might feel after him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us for in him we live.
The Pauline Epistles include a number of references to the Holy Spirit, with the theme which appears in 1 Thessalonians "…God, the God who gives you his Holy Spirit" appearing throughout his epistles. In John 14:26 Jesus refers to "the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name". By the end of the 1st century, Clement of Rome had referred to the Father and Holy Spirit, linked the Father to creation, 1 Clement 19.2 stating: "let us look steadfastly to the Father and creator of the universe". By the middle of the 2nd century, in Against Heresies Irenaeus had emphasized that the Creator is the "one and only God" and the "maker of heaven and earth"; these preceded the formal presentation of the concept of Trinity by Tertullian early in the 3rd century. The period from the late 2nd century to the beginning of the 4th century is called the "epoch of the Great Church" and the Ante-Nicene Period and witnessed significant theological development, the consolidation and formalization of a number of Christian teachings.
From the 2nd century onward, western creeds started with an affirmation of belief in "God the Father" and the primary reference of this phrase was to "God in his capacity as Father and creator of the universe". This did not exclude either the fact the "eternal father of the universe was the Father of Jesus the Christ" or that he had "vouchsafed to adopt as his son by grace". Eastern creeds began with an affirmation of faith in "one God" and always expanded this by adding "the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible" or words to that effect; as time passed and philosophers developed more precise understandin