A student asked us: “Does God have a physical shape/body form?” (Ms Rusu)
Answer given by pastor Christian Salcianu,
5 May 2023, Watford
A first answer, to place a good foundation for our talk, is a verse in the gospel of John, where the apostle reflects on Jesus and God the Father. It reads as follows:
No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.(John 1:18)
While this may sound like a… hey, you’re not helping 🙂 please bear with me. I’ll give you three arguments: first, this is the conclusion of John’s introduction (that is, before getting into his narrative on Jesus’ life), so it must be especially important, the essence of it all; second, it tells us that no one has ever seen God, which means that what I am going to tell you, or anyone else, for that matter, will be not only be incomplete but it may also be far from reality; third, if one wants to see God, that is not a sensorial experience but rather a relationship, as we read that Jesus ‘has made him known’.
Now I hope we can talk! Let me bring in ten Bible texts (there may be more, and even less than these will make the case).
1. Genesis 1:26
In the beginning, when God created the human race, He made us in His likeness, in His image. From here one may use reverse logic and think: well, if we have two hands, He must have the same, if we have eyes, He must also etc. The logic works up to certain limits only. For example, if I have two eyes and a blind spot (not being able to see behind), does God have a blind spot too? If my skin is of a certain colour (which, by the way, may be different than my parents’, especially in a mixed family), does God have a colour? Does He have a digestive system? Or is He male or female?
I hope you can see the fallacy of our search going (using the direction) from us to Him. It should be the other way around. And not focusing on shape, forms, but rather on ‘likeness’. Most probably some form is involved, surely something about character is the key concept.
2. Genesis 1:27
We must then take this verse (emphasis on both male and female in His likeness) as a form of being a representative. If both male and female represent Him, then He is much more than our clear differences and limitations.
I imagine an angel looking at Adam and then looking at God, rightly saying, ‘yes, Adam is made into your likeness’. And then doing just the same for Eve. Just like two or more kids from the same mother and father may still share some features while being yet so different.
3. Psalms 18:8 or Genesis 8:21
Doesn’t the Bible talk about God having hands, eyes, even mouth and nostrils? Yes, it does. Can you see them as a metaphorical language? If not, you will have a hard time answering again the first point raised above. I firmly believe God is using a metaphorical language, using terms and concepts well known to us. (If you want a Biblical illustration, God speaks to Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 2 in a language he knows: dream, mystery, statue, idols, metals, impact. While later, when presenting the same chronology of the empires to Daniel, in chapter 7, God uses other symbols easily understood by the prophet: beasts, saints, persecution, clear interpretation etc.)
4. Proverbs 15:3
That does not mean He is not sharing anything with us, as in there is a void of any resemblance. It may only be that He is so superior that what we think of His ‘eyes’ may be so much more than our ‘eyes’. My eye can see the stars. A telescope’s eye can see much further.
When it says that His eyes are everywhere, we can’t grasp it. Just remember John in the book of Revelation (4:6-8) looking at those four living creatures, full of eyes. It is something beyond our comprehension. And that is only about some living creatures, what about God himself?
5. Exodus 24:8-11
But the same God made Himself visible — though from afar — to humans. Elders of Israel, patriarchs (like Abraham), Moses, prophets such as Isaiah or Daniel and others saw His majestic being. They talked about Him as sitting on a throne, bright shining, looking ‘old’ (although that does not mean age, bent back and trembling hands, but rather dressed in white and having white hair) etc.
Again, these are ways for us to ‘see’ Him, not necessarily the way He really is. In almost all of these presentations you will see the word ‘like’ (especially in Ezekiel Daniel or Revelation) as the prophets used comparisons to express what they saw.
6. Daniel 10:5-8
As an illustration, a young girl may lay back in the snow, move her hands and feet, stand up again and look. What’s in the snow down there, what shape? An angel, she will say. Well, it may look like one, just as we may draw one, but it doesn’t really make it a description of an angel.
When Daniel saw a majestic being he was overwhelmed. How much more then when one thinking about God?
7. John 4:24
While the Bible says that God is spirit, in other words something beyond human limitations, God is very real. We tend to assume that only physical, tangible things are reality, while others are just… well… not quite real (phantasy, spirits etc.)
God is living in — let me use this framework — in other dimensions than our 3D. We only know 3, perceived as left-right, front-back, up-down. (Remember, a dot is a dot. A line is 1D, a square or a circle or a triangle is 2D. A sphere, a pyramid, a cube is 3D).
With our limitations we cannot go through a wall. (Forget about magicians, that’s all ‘showtime’.) The beauty is that He can go through a wall!
So, when Jesus died on the cross, He died in a bodily shape. When He was resurrected, His body of flesh and bones was a human one and yet a superior one, since He could visit His disciples by going through the walls of their locked room, He could make Himself unseen (remember the self revelation at Emmaus), He could fly in the air (remember His ascension). This is not sci-fi: it is purely the Bible making us think outside the box (our 3D framework).
My point is that we can understand a 3D world, but not a 4D or more. It is like some squares, in their 2D world, arguing about a cube, which is a reality in 3D. No plane square on a piece of paper will ever get what an 8 corners 6 sides 3D cube is (don’t fool yourself thinking, well, it is just a square higher than another square. For the squares there is no… ‘higher’, only left-right and front-back.)
Coming back to Jesus, here is the thing: if a cube wants to incarnate itself (‘The Word became flesh’, John 1:14) and come into a 2D world, the squares will only perceive it as one of theirs. That’s what we saw: a Son of Man who was, at the same time, a Son of God.
I know this is an unusual way of explaining, but hey, it’s an open discussion, right? Welcome to my class 🙂 These ideas are taken from Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions and Mere Christianity (see chapter ”The Three-Personal God”).
8. Romans 1:22,23
Coming back to some specific Bible texts, remember how many times God is expressing His anger about the idolatry of His people? Have you wondered why? That’s because when we limit God — according to our frames — we are sinning more than once.
First is that we reduce Him to our imagination, a body, a colour, a shape, a place, a position etc. Second, we are making ourselves superior, since we are the ones drawing Him, putting Him under the microscope, naming and defining Him. Third, we leave no room for the real One, as every form He wants to use to make Himself manifest to us… it will be despised by us (and our smart guys), since it is not according to our ‘proven’ system of reference.
9. John 14:9
So, how is God like? An apostle raised your question. Lord, show us the Father, said Philip. And Jesus answered…
Which again, to me, means that if I want to know how God is, it is enough to look at Jesus. Not that God is/was a male, in His thirties, Jew, poor, walking in Palestine some two thousand years ago etc. But that if I want to see God on my own terms, that’s how He would look: kind, positive, having power over all forms of darkness (sin, sickness, deceit, suffering), even beyond death. Loving me, sacrificing for me, giving Himself in exchange for me. And that’s where Love goes beyond any differences we might have in this world, race, colour, accent, gender, background etc. That’s where Love goes even when I discuss with one of a different religion, trying to make me see God only as he/she sees it.
Remember Saul on the way to Damascus? Imagine his surprise when out of heaven (where he knew there was his God) came a voice rebuking him for persecuting… God. How come? Well, Paul had to renounce what he knew about God in exchange for knowing God! (heard it from a friend)
10. Psalms 50:21
Closing with one verse: ‘you thought I was exactly like you’ (Psalms 50:21). Well, surprise! God is much more.
‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways’, declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’(Isaiah 55:8,9)
And another, talking about all the things prepared in the past (as the Plan of Salvation) and as well about the things in the future, God says,
‘What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived’—these are the things God has prepared for those who love Him.’(1 Corinthians 2:9 quoting Isaiah 64:4)
May the God of heavens lead you in coming closer to Him.