4

What is the biblical basis for the idea that God can be defined as the Ground of our being?

Secondly, anyone (perhaps already familiar with this) who can give us a better sense of it, beyond definitions and simple descriptions?

This link describes the theological concept of God as Being Itself or, equivalently, The Ground of Being, but those don’t seem identical. I cannot recall from whom, but I have read also Ground of our being and Ground of one’s Being, especially the former. Why the former? Is there an “our being” corporately beyond the church? Also, the definition would seem to describe some ongoing grounding beyond creation?

The article promotes the idea that it is better to think of God as The Ground of being and doing and provides verses for that, but it does introduce the main concept. I feel that in its criticism it probably misses the motivation for defining it solely on being. It has been hard to find lay descriptions that weren’t either trite or merely definitional. Also, the article seems to equate existing with being, whereas some don’t (existence vs reality):

https://www.baptiststandard.com/opinion/other-opinions/right-or-wrong-god-as-ground-of-being/

From the link:

Paul Tillich(1886-1965) was a German-American philosopher and theologian who coined the term “Ground of Being” to describe God. He taught that God is Being Itself. In fact, Tillich used the terms “Ground of Being” and “Being Itself” interchangeably.

Tillich’s concept was born in a time when existentialist philosophy was popular. Tillich and others were saying two of the most critical questions facing humanity were, “Why do I exist?” and “What does my existence mean?” Seeing God as the Ground of Being provides some answers to these questions. Yet not all the questions of existence are answered. The concept seems too static. Scripture describes a God who not only exists but also acts.

Of course we have Acts 17:28 (KJV), possibly the best support:

For in him we live, and move, and have our being.

That wonderful verse can’t be the whole of the theory, nor motivate why it’s primary or even definitional, nor can it be the only basis. The verse as primary support for some of these descriptions of God doesn’t work. If God is Being Itself, then it isn’t “our” being it’s His (or it’s Him), which only strengths the confusion about Tillich equating Being Itself with Ground of Being. That said, thoughts about that verse are very welcomed.

Edit: this UU page says Tillich also used Ground of our being. I guess both could be true, with and without “our”? It also doesn’t do justice to his emphasis on that, implying it’s one of many metaphors, all equally true, but that’s another story: https://www.uufhc.net/sermons/s050102.html

Thanks in advance.

6
  • 7
    For in him we live, and move, and have our being Acts 17:28 (KJV).
    – Nigel J
    Jul 31 at 3:54
  • 1
    Which Christian groups or denominations believe this? Where did you hear this idea from? Jul 31 at 5:03
  • 2
    @SpiritRealmInvestigator That phrase is commonly associated with modern existentialist theologians like Paul Tillich (see short explanation here from evangelical perspective which says it should be coupled with "God as Ground of Doing" as well). Additional Biblical support is Ex 3:14. Jul 31 at 9:35
  • 2
    This question would benefit from a description (or a link) defining the phrase "ground of our being". Jul 31 at 11:03
  • 3
    For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. - Colossians 1:16-17 Jul 31 at 11:09
5

Subject : "God as the ground of our being"

Content :

    1. Creation
    1. Possession
    1. Oversight
    1. Enlightenment
    1. Living

1. Creation

In Creation, Genesis 1:1, God expressed himself by creating (by Logos), John 1:3, but, particularly, when he created humanity he did so 'in his own image' Genesis 1:27.

In Eden, by his presence, Genesis 3:8, and by his word, Genesis 2:16, God communicated to humanity, expressing both a blessing, Genesis 2:16, and a warning, Genesis 2:17.

And there, in the midst of Eden, Genesis 2:9, was the provision of life, the tree of life, that is to say, the presence and the word of God by which to live.

God is the ground of our being by his own creation, by his own blessed provision and by the making available of the life of he, himself, through his presence and by his word.

2. Possession

The blessing pronounced by Melchizedek upon Abraham was a blessing from 'the most high God, possessor of Heaven and earth'.

This blessing, pronounced by what is identified (by the writer to the Hebrews, Hebrews 7:1-10) as a similitude of the Son of God, comes from the very pinnacle of all dominion, from Deity himself who possesses all things that he made.

They are his, and we are among that which he made.

Our being is his by creation, and therefore also by the possession (of the highest possible order) of what he created.

God is thus the ground of our being, by possession.

3. Oversight

We have not been simply made and then neglected. The writer to the Hebrews tells us, Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do, Hebrews 4:13.

And Job says, I know that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from thee. Job 42:2.

All that we are, all that we have, all that we do, all that we speak, and all that we think : is open and visible to Him who made our humanity, our faculties, our soul and the spirit of our being.

God is the ground of our being by his constant, unfailing oversight.

4. Enlightenment

John the apostle tells us, of him who was in the beginning with God, and was God, that, In him was life and the life was the light of men, John 1:4.

If we have light, then it is the life of God himself, in the Person of Logos, who is revealed to be the Son of God, Jesus Christ. His life, his being, is our light.

Else we abide in darkness, not knowing anything aright. What we 'see' is only dark and meaningless shapes that can neither be comprehended individually nor can be appreciated as a composite whole of logical structure.

Only in him do we see aright. His life is the light by which see : or we are blind.

Quoted on the memorial of the martyr John Hooper, in Gloucester, a few streets away from where I am now sitting writing (John Hooper who was burnt at the stake) are the words 'When I came to know the truth more clearly, then I knew the Lord aright'. Through the words of truth, concerning Jesus, Hooper came to know the Lord himself.

God is the ground of our being in its enlightenment.

5. Living

God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; 25Neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; 26And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; 27That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: 28For in him we live, and move, and have our being; [Acts 17:24-28 KJV]

Lord of heaven and earth, he gives life to all, and is not far from every one of us : thus said Paul to the Athenians upon Mars Hill two millenia ago.

God is the ground of our being in the living that we do.


As a young child of about six, I looked up to the horizon one day and felt, I am here, I exist, at this moment I have being. Too young to express all those words, nevertheless that is what I felt. My first moment of self-awareness.

About that time, my teacher handed out copies of the Shorter Catechism and as she moved on to other desks, I had already read the first question and its answer : Man's chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him for ever.

My existence is a gift. It is part of God's existence whose existence is independent of all other.

In him I live and move and have my being. Not a thought is withholden from him.

But much stood in the way of my knowing him 'aright' as said John Hooper. The fall of humanity, my own sin, my own part in that humanity, my own personal wicked deeds, my own immersion in a wicked world : but by His sacrifice, who came into the world, by his redemption, through justification and by sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth (if I endure to the end) I shall be saved.

My existence was given to me that I might know His Existence.

For His purpose is to bring many sons to glory, Hebrews 2:10.

2
  • Ok I will. Excellent answer. Thanks. I had already thought “Ground of our being” was the best of the three or four definitions, although I still cant quite cognize why thats better than Ground of my being.
    – Al Brown
    Jul 31 at 23:44
  • 1
    Hi Nigel. I read that a third time. Thanks again. Hey for whatever reason i had an intuition youd like this talk: youtu.be/K96e1tK7eN4 it’s a half hour. I dont believe any theological disagreements with the speaker would impact this particular talk just fyi. Only if interested of course. Something told me, “This is Nigel stuff right here.” Lol. Probably due some on the above. Not certain thats right of course. Ok God bless be well.
    – Al Brown
    Aug 3 at 2:54

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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