Types of God

This is a survey of different types of God that I’ve encountered in Christian belief, though I’m sure some or many of them are also present in other faiths. Notes and caveats at the end.

Theistic Gods

The theistic God is an independent being with a name, personality, will, emotion and morality. God can be weep, God can have desires, God can do good deeds. God is separate from people: God may send the Holy Spirit to indwell us, but that doesn’t make us divine. God is still a different being to us.

Some nuanced views within this:

Henotheistic God

There are many theistic Gods. They may differ in power, and definitely differ in personality and morality. Baal is a God, as is Allah, but you’re not to worship them.

God in the Metadivine Realm

The metadivine realm is the idea that there are supernatural laws governing God (or Gods for the henotheistic view). God cannot just forgive sin without the price being paid. God cannot create creatures with free will who do not sin.

Omnimax God

God is infinite in certain characteristic ways. God is omni-present: not a being in a particular place that you could go and meet. God is omni-powerful, there are no metadivine rules to limit his power. God is all-good.

Apophatic God

God is so infinite as to be literally indescribable. All one can say about God is what God is not. God can only be comprehended with negative statements: God is not evil, God is not divisible, God is not human, God is not understandable.

Deistic God

Hovering between Theism and Abstract Gods is the Deistic God. A being or force responsible for the creation of the universe, but one who is not now accessible from within it.

Abstract God

God is the name we give to something that is both important and beyond our comprehension. God is not a being or a person, but is the expression of something inexpressable. What that something is, can take various forms:

Pantheistic or Panentheistic God

God is the totality of the cosmos. Everything is God. But in the Panentheistic view God may be even greater still, having elements beyond the universe.

Ground of All Being

God is the reason there is something rather than nothing. And more than that, existence itself is God. Any talk about being is ultimately talk about God.

Ultimate Concern

All our concerns, and deepest struggles point to God. Being human is about seeking meaning, purpose, place and morality, concerns which, if extrapolated fully, define God.

Humanistic God

God is a product of human psychology and culture. It is not something above and beyond humanity, but something we have created.

Group-Dynamics God (Demotheism)

God is interconnected humanity. God’s will is an average of the will of everyone who believes. God’s actions are the actions of his followers. God’s morality changes with the changing morality of his church.

Mythical God (Ideotheism)

God is a myth that we have created to humanize our deepest concerns, to personify our fears and to give form to our desire for something beyond ourselves. Relating to our shared humanity would be impossible if we didn’t give it some form by our myth making.

Notes

All my usual caveats for these classification posts apply. I don’t think classifications are anything more than labels that may or may not be useful to you. Categories are not necessarily exclusive, you may find yourself drawn to many of them at the same or different times. Categories can never summarize the sheer diversity of reality, they only provide a model to hopefully help us understand it a little better.

I struggled here to give a fair description of the Abstract God concepts. Obviously abstract things, or things that are supposed to be indescribable, are hard to describe! But beyond that I have little patience with these models, so it may show. If you do have patience with them, please suggest alternative wordings, I’d like it to be as fair as possible.

And as always, comments and suggestions are more than welcome. Previous category posts I’ve done (such as forms of atheism, forms of non-theistic religion) have been expanded due to excellent comments from you!

And finally, please comment about which models you find reasonable, understandable or believable.

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14 Comments

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14 responses to “Types of God

  1. Wow. Now that’s an extensive list. I’m something on the order of Pantheist/Panentheist, together with the Mythical, Humanistic, Ground of All Being ideas. When I first departed from Christianity I embraced Deism, which I still find attractive.

    As far as what I find “reasonable, understandable or believable,” that’s difficult for me to answer fairly because I’ve settled into a naturalistic assumption for the way the universe works. Perhaps – I remind myself from time to time – the natural encompasses a lot more than we at the present time realize. I’m thinking about how earthshaking quantum mechanics was.

  2. Ian

    Thanks Doug. Yes, my beliefs in God are limited to the humanistic Gods, because my naturalistic assumption has a more core status in my belief than anything else. Abstract Gods are also compatible with naturalism, I think, but they’re too postmodern for me. I am, at heart, not only a naturalist, but an empiricist.

    I also agree about the supernatural. My wife was responsible for my views on this:

    https://irrco.wordpress.com/2010/10/23/what-is-supernatural/

    I agree with her that things may effectively supernatural, but once we observe them and figure them out, they just become natural.

  3. Ven

    Hi, can I have an Omnimax deity with optional thunderbolt cannon and fries (in hell for eternity) please? No pickled gherkin. Do you deliver?

  4. Kay

    I think of God (or your Upper Case Term of choice) in ground of being, non-dual, monist, panentheistic, naturalistic ways. (With the expanded definition/caveat of what “natural” or nature means.)

    I guess you could say I’m a panentheist naturalist. Or perhaps a nondual naturalist. Or perhaps a monist naturalist. Or perhaps I’m just me. đŸ™‚

  5. Kay

    And I’d love a side of fries with that. Mmmm. Fries.

  6. Godfrey

    Wow,what an eye opening!!!
    Amen

  7. Eric

    Hi
    thanks indeed for your different gods. As an atheist I liked Humanistic God
    and Mythical God (Ideotheism) best. the bad thing about Humanistic God is that Secular Humanism was constructed to be very atheistic as a contrast to Religious Humanism so they would bark loud if anybody suggested they had a humanistic God đŸ™‚ And demotheism is maybe a good thing if it worked. I need to find others that can help me figure out how practical that one is. Much appreciated you included that one but I liked ideatheism best. Your description definition is very good.
    I wonder why you use the word ideo instead of idea. Using google translate from English idea give idea as the latin spelling. is it some grammar consideration that change a to o in ideotheism instead of ideatheism? If you change to Latin to English translation and write ideo then it translates to therefore so how did you arrive at ideo being the right way to spell the combination? I have no knowledge of latin and barely get understood with my home grown English.
    Would love to get feedback on this you are the second person I have found suggesting ideatheism only spelling differ

    Best wishes Eric

  8. Eric

    So typical, I trust the reason is that the word idea is spelled ideo when used in ideology. Anyway would love comments from you what kind of feedback you have gotten from friends and so on that does not write here in your WP entries.
    Can I quote your description? Should I refer to you as Ian or just as
    https://irrco.wordpress.com as the reference.
    Eric

  9. Ian

    Thanks for the feedback. I’m very happy the post was useful.

    Ideotheism, it is greek, rather than latin (as are most of these words: ‘theos’ is greek for god). It is greek that gives us ideology too. In greek the word would be ‘idea’ on its own, but it changes form when used in different ways (called noun cases). When it means ‘of ideas’, the word changes into ‘ideo-‘. So ideatheism would be incorrect, or at least would grate on anyone with a bit of greek. I’m not sure the word is well established enough to have a proper ‘correct’. One cute thing about ideatheism is that it has ‘atheism’ inside the word. But this is just a fun coincidence.

  10. Eric

    Much appreciated Ian!
    Ah the old Greeks. no need for Latin when we have Greek language
    You are right. I where totally ignorant. So what do you say?
    Can I quote your and give a link to this entry then. You being the author
    of the very good explanation for what the word may refer to. I did find it
    on a list on a forum too. http://atheistangpinoy.blogspot.se/2005/04/usapang-ism.html there the definition is very short “the belief in God as an idea”
    John Paraiso also has a FB page with the list https://en-gb.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=535782629800637&id=129615870417317
    so I will link to these too to be fair to all involved.
    Regards
    Eric

  11. Ian

    Yes, you’re more than welcome to quote. The link is appreciated too!

  12. John Clavin

    I have always thought that the minimum requirement for any kind of god was a belief in intent to structure or existence of the universe. As an atheist who believes in natural algorithms and randomness I don’t see how a god with that minimum requirement could be entertained.

  13. Eric

    John Clavin I trust you take up something important. There is seems to be “constraint” on what kind of gods that a believer can accept. And as atheists there is no kind of god that we can accept as God we see all of them as religious imaginary friends at most and 99.999% of all atheists reject imaginary friends.

    And the cool thing is that most believers do reject the gods they see as made up among other religions. Mormon LDS get much criticism from the more regular churches and some churches even reject the theology of Jehovah Witness christians and the Gnostics gods got rejected by what became Catholic Church and Orthodox church. So not all kind of gods get approved of. Pascal Boyer did experiments on students at his University and tested what kind of gods that could be accepted and his result most likely confirm what you take up. Gods need to live up to a certain standard or else the believer feel unsure of if that god really exist or are supernatural or the creator or not.

    So my naive conclusion is that maybe the only way to make a god is to give that God all the features that believers expect and then to make a totally other God that contrast to the first one and let people chose and that way one see which one that get selected by the believers? The difficult thing is to set it up so the first God come through as the real God and not a made up God because it will be obvious that the second God is totally made up by an atheist so the believers would get skeptic right away. One would need to somehow do some clever rhetoric to hide that both are human made now 2013. If that is even possible. I see it as a kind of research experiment to find out what works and what not logically and in real life test. How to make that an ethical experiment is most likely beyond my capacity. I just long for to do it by have no talent for it.

  14. Ian

    @John – “As an atheist who believes in natural algorithms and randomness” – what a lovely way of putting it! I agree, I believe in natural algorithms and randomness too!

    @Eric – thanks for your thoughts, I agree. Believers like to claim God is a universal concept when faced with atheists, but tend to shrink their God to just-what-they-believe when they’re with each other.

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