What is God?
For Christians God is:
omnipotent – all powerful
omniscient – all knowing
omnipresent – everywhere
Christians experience God in many ways:
Prayer – see below
Numinous – the idea that somethings are so awesome, so beautiful or so skillful that a superior being must have inspired them. These things could include amazing mountains, incredible paintings or the brilliant skills given to certain sportspeople etc.
Miracles – some Christians may experience something incredible, even impossible, such as surviving a car crash, or surviving a horrible disease and decide that od helped them overcome the odds. Jesus set the example by curing the blind, walking on water, turning water into wine etc. A miracle is a seemingly impossible occurence.
Conversion – some people ‘convert’ to religion after a life changing experience. They may feel God spoke to them, helped them or the may have felt His presence whilst attending a religious event etc…
Other experiences – some Christians feel God speaks to them or that he appeared in a dream etc. Some Christians get emotional in church, even speak in tongues etc. These are all examples of religious experiences.
Christians pray for many reasons. These include:
to feel closer to God
for forgiveness – for example a famous prayer is the Lord’s prayer, “forgive s our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”. This prayer was taught by Jesus in the Bible.
for thanksgiving – Christians may thank God for what they have. An example includes ‘grace’, which is thanking God for food before a meal.
for intercession – intercessory prayer is asking for God’s help. He is omnipotent and can change things. Therefore, Christians may believe he will intervene in the world to help them or someone they love.
The problem of unanswered prayers – there are many reasons why prayers may not be answered. perhaps they are unfair or selfish. Perhaps God wants us to try harder to achieve the,. Perhaps if all prayers were answerwed there would be chaos as everyone gets what they want!
Atheist and Humanist views – the is no God, so prayers are not really going to be answered. They might make people feel better and bring psychological comfort. University studies in US hospitals have shown praying for the ill makes no difference for survival.
How was the World Created?
Remember that Christians do not always agree on this.
Big Bang – some believe that God created the Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago. These means they can accept scientific hypothesise such as the Big Bang Theory and evolution. Sir Fred Hoyle coined the phrase Big Bang. He was a Christian as well as a scientist.
Intelligent Design – the argument from design suggests the world and life was designed by God. Life and the world is too complex to have occurred by its self and needed a creator to design all it component parts. This is compared to finding a watch in a desert. You would assume that it had a designer or maker and did not just appear. William Paley came up with this ‘analogy’. It is called ‘Paley’s watch.
Causation – this idea comes from the Greek philosopher. He suggested that everything has a cause. There must have been a ‘first cause’ to get everything started in the universe. Perhaps this was God. It means God may have allowed the Big Bang and evolution to happen and He just started everything.
Creationism – Some Christians believe the Bible word for word. They suggest that Genesis should be read literally. This means God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh. On the first day he created light and darkness. He created land and tress on the third. The sun, moon and stars on the fourth. Birds and fish on the fifth. Humans and land animals on the sixth. t was all ‘good’.
Atheists and Humanists – these are atheists who say religious believers misunderstand that the Big Bang and evolution can be explained by science. God does not exist.
Evil and Suffering
There are two types of evil. Moral (human) evil and natural evil.
Some people say humans can be morally evil as God gave them free will to choose to be evil. This goes back to the story of Adam and eve where Eve took the forbidden fruit and disobeyed God.
Some Christians say natural evil comes from God. There a number of reasons for this:
Punishment – evil and suffering are punishment for our sins. Some American Christians suggest Hurricane Katrina was punishment for American disobeying God. Many other Christians dislike this argument.
Plan – another reason is that everything is part of God’s plan. It may sound awful, but God does everything for a reason. Famine may be needed to control populations. Perhaps the ‘good die young’ as God wants them in Heaven etc…
A test – perhaps evil and punishment is designed to test Christian faith. In the story of Job (in the Bible), Job’s family was killed, his business destroyed and home wrecked. This was a test. He still believed in God and ended up getting everything back!
To know good – perhaps God created evil and suffering to allow us to understand what is good and to aim to be good people and ‘love our neighbours…’. If we didn’t experience evil, we wouldn’t know any better!
Satan – for some Satan, the devil, is responsible for evil. He tempts our free will. In the Bible he tempted Jesus in whilst Jesus was in the desert. Satan offered Him all the world’s riches to turn away from God, but Jesus refused this ‘evil’ offer.
Atheists and Humanists – Atheists and Humanist might say evil results from our up-brining (nurture) or psychological problems. Moral evil is just humans doing bad things. Natural evil is simply the environment. Earthquakes etc can all be explained by geography!
How is belief God portrayed in the Media?
Christians have often been portrayed positively in the media and there are a number of serious religious programmes on the TV and radio. On TV there is Songs of Praise, which allows Christians to join in with worship at home as it has hymns and prayers, as well serious discussion shows like The Big Questions, which debates topics of concern to religious believers, such as poverty and abortion.
The BBC has to broadcast a certain percentage of religious programmes by law. These include the above TV shows as well as Thought for the Day (religious reflection) and Prayer of the Day on BBC radio 4.
There are also Christian TV Channels and Premier Radio, which is Christian. All of these present Christians in a serious way.
However, many TV shows poke fun at Christians. Although very light-hearted, The Vicar of Dibly follows the lives of some very odd people who all attend the church of a very easy going vicar. Moreover, Father Ted presents Irish priests (Roman Catholic) as dysfunctional and often drunk. Both shows play on stereotypes.
Sometimes documentaries focus on religious believers, but these can often be the most extreme types, for example, Louie Theroux spent time the the Phelp’s family in ‘America’s Most Hated Family‘. Although shocking TV, the Phelp’s do not represent the values and opinions of most Christians.
Some Christians may feel that the music industry avoids religious bands, singers or rappers, but it is worth remembering that many hip hop stars, such as Kanye West (Jesus Walks) and Jay-Z, reference religion in their lyrics. There are also Christian rock bands and country singers, especially in the USA; their take on religion is positive.
Films such as The Ten Commandments, The Miracle Maker and the forthcoming Russell Crowe epic Noah all take their story lines from the Bible. Other films have also used a struggle between Christian good and evil in horror films from The Exorcist to Stigmata. Although not all Christians would watch these, God and Christ are the good guys!
However, some films have a light-hearted take on God. Both Bruce Almighty and the Man Who Sued God are comedies that some Christians may see as blasphemy. Also, Monty Python’s Life of Brian was once banned by local councils as it was percieved to take the micky out of Jesus. It also showed religious believers as maniacs.