Take the 2-minute tour ×
Christianity Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for committed Christians, experts in Christianity and those interested in learning more. It's 100% free, no registration required.

How do we describe God? Does He have a shape or form? Is He human-like, a light, or something else? Does He have a shape? What does Christianity say about it?

share|improve this question
1  
As a side note, one of the things you'll find if you visit the site often enough is that there are very few things that can be said to be true of all Christianity. Subtele differences in the way we understand Scripture makes such a question difficult to answer, without including caveats like "Not all Christians believe this". If you haven't yet, it may be a good idea to check the FAQ, and perhaps this post: meta.christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/1379/… to help you to phrase the questions more constructively. –  David Stratton Oct 10 '12 at 3:08
    
These are good, too! meta.christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/tagged/… and meta.christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/tagged/… (and please don't take this as criticism, or discouragement. We need good questions like this, and I'm just hoping to help you to make them better, and ensure they don't get closed as "not constructive".) –  David Stratton Oct 10 '12 at 3:10
2  
Wittgenstein would call this a non-sensical question. Its not that its not a good question, its that it doesn't make sense to focus on the shape of a spirit, anymore than it would to ask about the number of touchdowns the hockey player made. –  Affable Geek Oct 10 '12 at 11:46
    
@AffableGeek one should allow religion to be scrutinized by anyone. This question was asked from Athiest point of view and most importantly I wanted to compare Christianities concept with that of Islam, what was borrowed and what was not borrowed. To me this is a very valid question and can be /should be asked from any faith, not just Christians. I hope it is not too weird one. But if someone wants to prove God by defining his shape, then this is definitely a weird question :) –  Learner Oct 10 '12 at 16:25
1  
I voted to close this question as off-topic, since it's really a philosophical question. (The word "form" is a tip-off Plato is involved somehow.) It might be a useful question for the site (since divisions in Christianity do not seem to be drawn on the answer to the question), but I'd like to see more precision in the way the question is asked. We've got some great answers already, but I'm concerned this question will acquire less good answers over time. (So I'm also protecting it.) –  Jon Ericson Nov 28 '12 at 19:00
show 4 more comments

3 Answers 3

Mainstream Christianity - Catholicism, Orthodox, and the various Protestant denominations, God doesn't have a form. He is spirit, omnipresent, and not confined to a single place. He doesn't have a form. (Although He could manifest one and speak through it, such as a burning bush...)

Of course, when He came to earth as Christ (as mainstream Christianity believes) He had a body of flesh.

The above is true of most denominations and traditions within Christianity.

A few denominations do, however, believe that God has a physical body. (One such example, the LDS Church teaches that He has a perfected physical body of flesh and bone).

God is the Father of our spirits.3 He has a glorified, perfected body of flesh and bone.4 We lived with Him in heaven before we were born.5 And when He created us physically, we were created in the image of God, each with a personal body.6

share|improve this answer
    
"as mainstream Christianity believes" - Believing God came to earth as Christ is part of the definition of Christian. If you don't believe it you are not Christian (and quite mainstream). –  user1907 Oct 10 '12 at 11:16
1  
@slater - While that may be true, (and plenty of here would argue it is, while others would argue it isn't) that's something we carefully steer away from on the site. Suggested reading: meta.christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/193/… –  David Stratton Oct 10 '12 at 12:29
2  
@slater: The definition of "Christian" used on this site typically means "anybody who claims to be such", even those who mainstream Christianity would label as heretical cults. Part of the definition of what makes a cult is that they CLAIM affiliation with a larger entity that likewise rejects them as being genuine parts of it. The scope of this site is all of self professed Christianity including it's heretics. –  Caleb Oct 10 '12 at 13:46
add comment

Does God have no shape or form?

Objection 1

The book of Genesis uses these words to describe man's creation

“Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. (Genesis 1:26 NIV)

therefore, God must look like man.

Objection 2

Throughout the Old Testament, the Spirit of God has appeared as moving flames, columns of fire and burning bushes. Columns of clouds, wind passing over the waters and smiting cedars, and the tiniest whisper. In the New Testament He came as tongues of fire above the heads of the Apostles. Therefore God must have some elemental form.

Objection 3

God has appeared to man as a visitor come to dine with and bless Abraham and his family; A stranger who would wrestle with Abraham's grandson Jacob; and finally as Jesus, the only Son of the Father.

On the contrary God has no physical body, therefore no shape.

I answer that even though God chooses to appear as someone or take on a form, it is not His shape nor His nature that has any form. The shape God chooses to take is not His shape. An ogre desiring to impress a clever kitten may take the form of the mouse, but the form of the ogre is still ogreish.

Reply to Objection 1 The Ox Says God made a spiritual image to Himself in man. The image which God made man in was after God's spiritual Self, not His physical Self (which doesn't need to exist).

Reply to Objection 2 God is made manifest in more than just flames and smoke. His character is impressed on us at Baptism, confirmed in us soon after and with us for a time when we consume His body, blood soul and divinity in the Holy Eucharist. God is not further from us than He was from the Israelites or the Apostles and we can't see His shape any better than they can, for it still takes the eyes of faith to see Him. After the Apostles received the Holy Spirit, some took them for drunkards, others seeing it was too early for drunkards to be roaming about saw, with the eyes of faith, that these men had the Holy Spirit about them and were Baptized soon after

Reply to Objection 3 The means by which God occasioned to visit the Patriarchs is not ours to judge, but we can hardly assume that He spent the rest of His time milling about the desert. Chances are very good that He passed from place to place as Jesus did, after His resurrection, coming upon the Apostles suddenly, making Himself known occasionally and leaving (or rather, disappearing) at just the right moment. One thing we believe about the Trinity is that all parts are equal in glory; Father Son and Holy Spirit. So, if the Second Person of the Trinity, Jesus, was some how created to be the only one with a fixed form, He would be the only one encumbered, as we are, with a fleshly body that puts our soul in one place at a time. Jesus, begotten, not made and consubstantial with the Father must have the same form as the Father and the Holy Spirit. And, as I said in the reply to Objection 1, it doesn't follow that because Jesus "took on the form of a servant" that His form is that of a servant from the start

share|improve this answer
    
If the Quodlibet didn't give it away, this is a Catholic answer. Not necessarily indiciative of Catholic doctrine though you could find this answer through the Catechism. But, it plays if of things only Catholics believe, but if you assume these things to be true, as I do, I think the logic is sound enough. –  Peter Turner Oct 10 '12 at 11:24
    
Well done. I like the format and the answer is really clever. –  Jon Ericson Nov 28 '12 at 19:03
add comment

I think the answer is implied in this command:

You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. (Exodus 20:4, NIV)

When we imagine God to have a form we make an idol in our mind, when we carve this image into wood or stone then we make that idol visible.

The reason why imagining a form is idolatry is because God is immense, infinite and boundless, and any boundary or form we imagine limits God's limitless glory and is therefore an unholy thought that does not ascribe due glory to God. ‘Infinite’ essentially means that nobody can grasp it.

share|improve this answer
add comment

protected by Jon Ericson Nov 28 '12 at 19:00

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality answers, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site.

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.