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Many Christian theologies from the past and present are against the idea that God has a form. The common argument I found is something like this; "God is Spirit and spirit has no form, hence God has no form".

Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.” (Luke 24:39, NKJV)

Another popular argument is that Jesus said that spirit has no flesh and bones. However, this left me with another question, "Does the Bible say that spirit has no form?". Jesus didn't mention explicitly that spirit has no form, only that spirit has no flesh and bones.

In contrast to this, there are many verses which compels me to believe that God indeed has a form, having a head, hands and legs - God made us in his image, God sits on a throne, God speaks, God has feet, Moses saw the backside of God, God spoke to Moses as a friend, God laughs etc.

Personally, I have no problem in believing that God has a spiritual form.

1. Why is it difficult for many Christians to believe that God has a form?

2. Is this deemed as heresy by some denominations? If so, why?

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possible duplicate of Does God have a form as seen by John the Apostle? –  lonesomeday Dec 20 '13 at 12:31
    
@lonesomeday No. It's different. –  Mawia Dec 20 '13 at 12:39
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@lonesomeday Can't you read the title? It's not asking about God has form or not. It's asking why many Christians cannot believe that God has a form. –  Mawia Dec 20 '13 at 12:46
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@Mawia Please consider adding a reference as an example of Christians being antagonistic towards this idea. –  The Freemason Dec 20 '13 at 16:23
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There are so many worldview presumptions in this question. Read some articles on 'dualism' and 'anthropomorphism.' –  maj nem ɪz dæn Dec 20 '13 at 16:44

7 Answers 7

Me think the following applies here:

You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.

That means (at least), that even if god had a form, we could not know it rightfully, for everyone that would show us how that form is like would violate the 3rd commandment.

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Colossians 1:15 Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:

The “Who” spoken here is in reference to Christ, Christ is the form, the manifest will of God the Father.

Ephesians 3:9 And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:

Christ is also the creator of spirit beings. Do they have form? If realty is defined from an empirical perspective then the answer is “NO”. While spirits do not have physical form, form within the Spirit-Reality, is another thing.

Ezekiel 1:1-10 Now it came to pass…that the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God…And I looked, and, behold…Also out of the midst thereof came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance; they had the likeness of a man. And every one had four faces, and every one had four wings. And their feet were straight feet; and the sole of their feet was like the sole of a calf's foot: and they sparkled like the colour of burnished brass. And they had the hands of a man under their wings on their four sides; and they four had their faces and their wings. Their wings were joined one to another; they turned not when they went; they went every one straight forward. As for the likeness of their faces, they four had the face of a man, and the face of a lion, on the right side: and they four had the face of an ox on the left side; they four also had the face of an eagle…

Our physical eyes glimpse a fallen world. But the Bible does speak to those that have “eyes to see”.

Ezekiel 12:2 Son of man, thou dwellest in the midst of a rebellious house, which have eyes to see, and see not; they have ears to hear, and hear not: for they are a rebellious house.

They are likely antagonistic because they see not!

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Most importantly, Jesus himself says that God is spirit. When speaking to the woman at the well (John 4:24), He says:

God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth."

This would prove that if spirits have no form, then God, as Spirit, would have no form.

That Spirits have no form has been at the root of Christian theology since the beginning. The Platonic culture into which the New Testament was written would suggest that if Spirits did have form, the onus would be on the biblical writer to clarify the point. One of the most basic rules of hermeneutics is that a thing cannot mean what its original audience would not have expected it to mean.

Indeed, the early heresies centered around whether or not we would have physical form ourselves in the resurrection, because we would only be spirit. Indeed, Gnostics and Docetists taught that Jesus had to only "appear" to be physical, because they understood matter to be evil, and hence incarnation and 'taking one form' to be beneath God.

Additionally, the doctrine of omnipresence would seem to contradict the idea - if there is "no where I can go to flee from your spirit," then it seems odd to fix God into a form - as incarnated presence in a given location (separating a locale into 'is occupied' and 'is not occupied) would inherently give form, but by suggesting there is no 'not occupied by God', the converse is in fact, validated.)

God the Father, then, having historically not being understood as incarnated (the converse of this being the heresy of patripassianism), would be Spirit.

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Sorry! was editing that as you wrote! –  Affable Geek Dec 20 '13 at 14:11

God is Described in Human Terms so that We can Understand More Easily

On numerous occasions in the Scripture, God is described in the way we would describe a human (e.g. mentioning his hands, head, or feet). The vast majority of these seem to be attempts to describe God in a way that humans will understand. "Hands," "head," and "feet" all have symbolic meaning as well, and so it makes sense (to me) when God says through Isaiah:

Isaiah 40:12 (NASB) Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, And marked off the heavens by the span, And calculated the dust of the earth by the measure, And weighed the mountains in a balance And the hills in a pair of scales?

He's speaking metaphorically in the manner in which someone would describe a carpenter building a house. I don't think the intent is to say one way or the other that God must have a hand and used scales when he made the earth. It's an attempt to express a spiritual idea (God is the sovereign and master creator) in a way that is accessible to a regular person. That message was sent 2,700 years ago, and so the particular details of the metaphor were probably more apropos then than today, but the essential truth and meaning behind the statement is unchanged.

Visions

The way that God is described in various visions is somewhat different than the poetic "projections" (like Isaiah 40:12). In the visions, someone sees Him (Isaiah 6) or he is described as if he resembled humans in form (Job 1-2).

I think the same principle applies here, too. For example, let's pretend that I wanted to explain Calculus to a 4-year old. For a typical 4-year old, it would be impossible for him to understand completely. I'd have to settle for a simplified version of it, expressed in terms that he understood. That doesn't make my explanation incorrect. Rather, it's imprecise because there's no way to make the child understand all the detail. When God is described in human terms, I think the purpose is to give us an accurate understanding (so far as we're capable of understanding it) of the most important things that are going on, and the details we are given are not necessarily meant to be understood as a precise description of God's physical/spiritual appearance (form).

I don't say that it's impossible that God has a form. I only say that it would be difficult to be certain that he did because what's described in the (whole) Biblical account does not lend itself to proving that God definitely has a definite form. It's at least possible, but I don't think what we have in the Bible is sufficient to prove it.

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Spirit does not have flesh and bones must be taken in the most literal sense. But it does not imply that spirit is formless. It has a shape and appearance. But it seems God can choose the form to be visible at his will. Exodus 33:20 suggests that God has a face

"For you cannot see my face because no one can see my face and live".

But John 4:24 says God is spirit. Therefore spirit must have a form, a face Exodus 33:22,23 further suggests

"When my glory passes by, i will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand. Then i will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen".

So God who is a spirit according to the scripture has a face, a hand, back but no flesh and bones. It sounds weird but everything in the heavens were weird including the angels. Acts 2:3 says the Holy spirit, which is also to my understanding spirit in nature had the form of some flaming tongue.

SO I THINK FORM EXIST BUT IT IS NOT SO GOOD LOOKING

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Because God has not told us he has one. That pretty much sums up any response I could give. If it were important for us to know God would have told us.

There is also this line of reasoning. I don't know, so rather than conclude anything I just conclude nothing. I would rather not assign anything to God I don't know as doing so would anger him. God may have a form or he may not. Leaving that unknown doesn't have a bearing on my perception of him, his word, or his promise for the future. As it doesn't change anything, it doesn't matter.

As to heresy Titus 3:10&11

"As for a man who promotes a sect, reject him after a first and a second admonition, knowing that such a man has deviated from the way and is sinning and is self-condemned."

As a Jehovah's Witness I know that if I presented a thought such as that I would first be counselled on the matter from the scriptures by the congregation elders. If I refused to follow the bibles counsel then those elders may have to ask me to leave so as not to spread such a teaching to others.

It is deemed to be "heresy" if I am teaching something not in the bible or supported by the bible. 2 Timothy 3:5-7&13

"having an appearance of godliness but proving false to its power; and from these turn away. From among these arise men who slyly work their way into households and captivate weak women loaded down with sins, led by various desires, always learning and yet never able to come to an accurate knowledge of truth.

"But wicked men and impostors will advance from bad to worse, misleading and being misled."

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Does JW teach that God has no form? –  Mawia Dec 20 '13 at 13:37
    
Rather it doesn't teach much on that subject at all. Only that he doesn't have a physical body. I think it is because they do not know or can find enough evidence of it in the bible so they don't teach anything about it. –  Jeremy Dec 20 '13 at 13:44

Well, as I told Mawia, precision of words is necessary here. We can say "form" in English, but what do we mean in Greek? I suggest that God does have a form, and by "form," I mean the Greek word εἶδος (eidos).

In John 5:37, it is written,

καὶ ὁ πέμψας με πατὴρ αὐτὸς μεμαρτύρηκεν περὶ ἐμοῦ οὔτε φωνὴν αὐτοῦ ἀκηκόατε πώποτε οὔτε εἶδος αὐτοῦ ἑωράκατε

which is translated as,

and the Father who sent me, the same testified about me. You have neither heard His voice nor have you seen His εἶδος.

Firstly, εἶδος can have several meanings in Koine Greek, but here, it's evident that εἶδος is something that can be seen, as indicated by the verb ἑωράκατε ("have seen"). BDAG primarily defines it as "the shape and structure of someth[ing] as it appears to someone, form, outward appearance," even citing John 5:37 as an example.

Jesus told the Jews, "You have neither heard His voice..." --- referring to the voice of God the Father. While we must certainly believe that those Jews (to whom Jesus was speaking) had never heard God the Father's voice --- since Jesus said so --- are we to assume that God the Father does not have a voice that can be heard? Clearly NOT, for whose voice but God the Father's declared, "This is My beloved Son in whom I am well-pleased" (Matt. 3:17 cp. Luke 3:22; Mark 1:11)? So, while those Jews had not heard the voice of God the Father, they potentially could have. Meaning, God the Father does have a voice capable of being heard.

Now, that being said, Jesus also told those Jews, "...nor have you seen His εἶδος." Again, although the Jews had not seen the εἶδος (that is, the form) of God the Father, are we to assume that God the Father does not have a "form" (εἶδος)? Clearly NOT. The structure of the verse does not allow it. Those particular Jews had not heard God the Father's voice, but God the Father has a voice to be heard. Otherwise, Jesus' reproach is hollow and nonsensical. Likewise, those particular Jews had not seen God's the Father's form (εἶδος), but God the Father has a form (εἶδος) to be seen! Is this not what the verse clearly implies?

The real question is, then, not whether God has a εἶδος, a "form," but rather:

  1. How can it be seen?
  2. How does it appear to the eyes?
  3. Must having an εἶδος imply corporality? (This many assume, but why must this be so?)

In addition, it is most certainly true that the persons of the Holy Trinity (with respect to the Son, His pre-incarnate existence) are invisible (ἀόρατος) (Col. 1:15). But isn't Moshe described as "seeing Him who is invisible" (Heb. 11:27)? Did not Jesus also say that the angels in heaven behold the presence of God the Father (Matt. 18:10)? Clearly, Moshe saw something. Clearly the angels see something. They may not see it as we do, and we may not be able to see what they have seen (not now at least), but nevertheless, is there not something to be seen? Jesus said (Matt. 5:8), "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." Can something be seen unless it has a form or appearance (εἶδος)?

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