Understanding the Nature of God
By: Jim Virkler
What do we mean by “The Nature of God?” Do we clarify the meaning of God’s nature by studying and uttering esoteric, philosophical, academic, theological statements? Or may we understand the nature of God and get a grip on the notion with simpler, mundane observations? And what is the minimum age limit for teaching children a reasonable concept of the nature of God? Could pre-schoolers understand the concept? Primary or middle schoolers? Must our understanding wait until high school when our children have acquired more intellectual maturity?
With the arrival our children and grandchildren we have been able to hone our skills in order to introduce them to the nature of God concept. It is a notion to be approached with reverence, making the concept accessible to young developing minds. At the same time, we must stretch our children’s minds in an effort teach important concepts “…talking of them when you are sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up.” (Deuteronomy 11:19 NAS)
The following incidents took place with our grandchildren during their preschool years. Our grandson asked his mother about the reality of God even though we can’t see Him. The discussion about God’s invisibility provoked discussion about the reality of God notwithstanding His invisibility. The boy understood that many events have effects even though many causes of the effects are invisible. Examples are gravity, magnetism, sound, and many types of electromagnetic waves. In each case we see or feel obvious effects of invisible power and/or force. His understanding relates to analogies he is able to apply even at his level of comprehension.
A novelty levitating globe on my office desk supplies lessons about invisible forces. Magnetic repulsion forces keep the levitating globe suspended in air. Other activities are supplied by attraction and repulsion activities with inexpensive ceramic magnetic discs. Our grandchildren were cautioned against racing down our steeply sloping driveway with the warning, “Watch out, gravity will get you!” They realize they are able to leap only one or two feet into the air before they are pulled back to the ground. The invisible force of gravity pulls them back down. This explanation affirms the existence of an invisible force even if it doesn’t explain it at a technical level.
Young children are sometimes capable of relatively advanced thinking. Many are especially fascinated with insects and animals. When our granddaughter admired the intricate design and behavior of several neighborhood insects, we reminded her that they did not acquire those traits by accident. “The Designer, God, had great ideas,” we proposed. He builds the bodies of these animals just as you and your friends design and build your own houses out of blocks or Legos. Possibilities for design and function are limitless. The difference is that animal bodies possess far more complexity and functionality. Young people understand the design process when encouraged think about it. The intelligent design inference is difficult to deny.
Concepts such as “The Image of God” and “The Nature of God” may be difficult even for an adult. The Image of God refers to humanity, created with the ability to grasp ultimate, spiritual reality. We are, therefore, able to commune with our Maker. The nature of God may have a somewhat different meaning. Our planet with its magnificent physical constants, its coherent physical operating system, and the beauty of its living things, may be said to display the nature of God. Various sources blend the nature of God with the concept of the force, effect, and manifestation of His being.
Our description of the world’s living creatures and its physical operating systems helps reinforce the concept of the nature of God. His works of creation are coherent and beautiful. He manifests strength, power, and perfection. His many works are purposefully interrelated. Beyond the physical creation God also gifted humanity with free will and redemption which he had in mind before the beginning of time. By the special revelation of Holy Scripture, the Creator combines knowledge of the physical and the spiritual.
Whether we focus only on the glory of a few dozen special animals and plants in our own backyards, or the wonders of weather and astronomy only in our own community, the results still manifest the glory of the nature of God. We marvel at our personal inventory of wonderful events supplied by our local animals, weather, and our backyard astronomy, to name a few. Our readers may anticipate more accounts of wonders pointing the way to our understanding of the Nature of God.
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Jim Virkler, a retired New Jersey public school science educator, now devotes his time investigating the harmony of scientific discoveries and Christian faith. He and his wife, Eleanor, now reside in the mid-west near their children and grandchildren.