In Scion , a character's Legend rating represents how well-renowned an individual is, and determines the strength of his divine powers. Full-blooded deities have very high Legend ratings, but some very famous mortals even without divine Ichor can have very low Legend ratings. The non-Abrahamic gods in In Nomine are called Ethereals, explained as being formed by humanity's imagination and empowered by their worship.
Yves came up with the different Abrahamic religions in order to undercut their power, and Uriel opted to wipe them out directly before God yanked him up to the Higher Heavens to have a little chat with him about it. Eon , the highly detailed Swedish RPG, kinda works like this; gods generally don't die, but lack of worshippers can lead them to the brink of "starvation". An entity called "King Frost"; an amnesiac old man walking the frozen deserts of the northlands, is theorised to be a 'fallen god' clinging to life. It's worth to note that the gods can return when they get worshipped again though.
Over the Edge , here it's part of All Myths Are True , one character in a splatbook takes a drug that allows humans to commune with the gods. Hecate scolds him and tells him to go back to church and let her "sleep" In Yu-Gi-Oh! Unfortunately, his temple was destroyed and his worshipers stopped supporting him, causing him to revert to mortality as Testudo erat Numen.
The Discworld Roleplaying Game naturally inherits this trope from the Discworld novels see above , and permits "small god" characters — who have to take the "Faith Maintenance" character disadvantage. This one is Older Than Feudalism - in The Birds , the Greek gods lose power because the prayers they were offered couldn't reach them because of a great wall built in the sky.
Actually, it was not prayers that were intercepted - it was rather more physical smoke of animal sacrifices. The gods did not immediately lose power - rather, they suffered from hunger, although they turned out to have some stockpiles of smoke and rationed the smoke. It was a plot point that not only Greek gods suffered - non-Greek gods were also starving and did not have stockpiled smoke. They accordingly threatened to attack Greek gods unless they made terms with Nephelokokkygia that would lift the blockade. And this trope was applied with good reason — he was a Humongous Mecha , and the Matoran kept him functional by doing essential work inside him.
Video Games. Populous is the Trope Codifier. The more worshippers you have, the more powerful miracles you can perform. In the first two games, only settled worshippers benefit you in that way, by the strength of the settlement. Giving you the choice between producing a lot of worshippers or personal power and tougher worshippers.
This ends up becoming a gameplay mechanic and a key plot point in Neptunia. Goddess party members gain stat points when the shares of their homelands increases, usually by completing dungeons there. In the first game , Arfoire, the villain, spends most of the game spreading rumors of a fake overlord with monster attacks and heretics, using the fear and belief of the people to gain power. It's how she kept reviving and getting stronger each time. Re;Birth 1 which takes notes from the first game but tells its own story does something similar, and then flips it on its head.
How do the CPUs defeat a monster that regenerates because people believe it will? Run a propaganda campaign to convince a majority of people it won't. In the second game , Arfoire's goons are deliberately increasing Arfoire's shares by taking them from the goddesses in order to revive Arfoire. At least thrice in the third game , but for separate reasons. The first time it happens, Eden, a new nation born from the Seven Sages or what's left of them , ends up sapping the shares as the new console on the market, the TurboGrafx The new console Yellow Heart holds well, but its price threshold and the eventual reveal about who she really is marks the end of its short life.
The second time, although it takes place in the past but is explained near the end, the previous nation's CPU, Rei Ryghts, was the leader of Tari. She controlled the populace through fear and greed, but she didn't know her power was fueled by the people, so when that happened, the people revolted and she became extremely weak. In retaliation, she decided to destroy the entire nation outright.
The third is when Hyper Dimension Rei manipulates the populace to only believe in her and weaken every other nation, effectively destroying the balance of the dimension's shares and threatening to destory an entire dimension with her newfound power. Alundra : The villagers of Inoa pray to Melzas, who is unknown to said villagers actually evil. Even better or worse, Melzas knows he gets his powers from prayer, and thus perpetuates a vicious cycle of secretly inflicting horrible nightmares on the people of Inoa to keep them in fear so that they keep praying to him.
Also Nirude, a giant god, lives off the prayer of midgets. The Elder Scrolls : Throughout the series and in the backstory , it is repeatedly implied that a deity becomes more powerful as they gain mortal worshipers. According to one theory, the Aedric Divines are technically dead, having sacrificed much of their power during the creation of Mundus, the mortal plane. Now, they "dream they are alive" through mortal prayer and worship. The deities who did not participate in the creation of Mundus, the Daedra, have Complete Immortality as they did not sacrifice any of their power to create the world, and can exist independent from prayer and worship.
Though they do seem to enjoy receiving it and may still gain power from it. Other lesser deities can be outright killed by lack of worship. The reason it's easier for greater deities Aedra and Daedra is because they personify widely-known abstracts, so even if all their followers in one culture are purged, they have another culture to pick up the slack. As Aldmeri precursors of the modern races of Mer society evolved, commoners stopped worshiping their own ancestors and began worshiping the ancestors of their social "betters", elevating them to the level of gods through collective adulation.
The warrior-spirit Trinimac was one such ancestor. Morrowind : This is the case for the Tribunal a trio of Dunmeri Physical Gods after the Nerevarine severs their ties to their divine power source the Heart of Lorkhan. Unlike Dagoth Ur , who is destroyed by this process, the Tribunal are able to persist with a trace of their divinity in tact thanks to, as Vivec states, the faith of their followers.
Vivec actually has this going on in a second instance as well: In ages past, Sheogorath, the Daedric Prince of Madness , hurled the "rogue moon" Baar Dau at Vivec's new Egopolis. Vivec used his power to freeze it in place above the city, and told his followers that it was held in place by their love for him. Due in no small part to the player's actions , Vivec disappears early in the 4th Era.
After some temporary measures fail, the moon continues its descent with its original momentum , destroying the city and causing Red Mountain to erupt, destroying most of Vvardenfell and choking much of mainland Morrowind with volanic ash for centuries to come. Boethiah's Daedric quest is for this exact reason. His shrine has been destroyed and sunk beneath the sea, meaning he isn't getting as much worship as he used to. He tasks the player with rebuilding it so that he can once again receive worship.
In Oblivion , if the Champion of Cyrodiil choses to do the Daedric quest for Sheogorath after becoming the new Sheogorath at the end of Shivering Isles , their servant questions why they just prayed to themself According to Word of God , this is a motivation of the Thalmor in Skyrim. The Aldmeri Dominion , led by the religious extremist Thalmor , a faction of elven supremacists, have forced the Empire to ban the worship of Talos , leading to the Stormcloak rebellion. The "official" reason for this ban is that the Thalmor believe that they descend from the Aedra and refuse to accept that a human could join their ranks.
The unofficial reason is because they play up Altmeri religious beliefs which state that the creation of the mortal world was a cruel trick which robbed their ancestors of pre-creation divinity. They believe that Talos is one of the last things keeping the mortal world extant, and if he is destroyed, the mortal world would be destroyed as well, allowing them to return to a divine state.
There is also evidence that they aren't completely wrong about this. Furthermore, it's possible that Talos isn't quite a god in the same way as the other Divines are, and he may have even surpassed them and the Daedra as well. It's quite possible that he no longer even needs prayer.
Believer’s Handbook, The (5 in 1 Anthology): God’s Miracle Power for Your Life
If you kill it, Jiyva simply stops existing Each god is called into existence by a single pure prayer and gains power by convincing villages to believe in it above all other gods; a god who loses all its followers vanishes in a Puff of Logic. Additionally, villagers who actively worship at temples and altars generate Mana for their god, which enables it to cast Miracles. And at the end, Ammy gets an 11th-Hour Superpower through people praying directly to her. Purely cosmetic, though. Overall, this trope seems to be one of the game's underlying themes, as it's mentioned quite early on how people's faith in the divine has dwindled.
In Age of Mythology , the player literally generates favour for their gods to produce mythical creatures, heroes and upgrades. Greeks pray at temples, Egyptians build monuments, Norse go to war, and Altanteans control town centers to generate favour. Seven Kingdoms had temples where you'd sent people to pray to your nations "Greater Being" based on a god of the respective mythology.
In this case, you'd could either summon the god himself some are fighters, some have special abilities or trigger a random miracle. Used for evil by the Church of St. Eva in Breath of Fire II , where half the priests are demons in disguise trying to power-up the Big Bad , who is in fact not a god but an evil dragon with an Omnicidal Maniac agenda. Subverted by Ladon the dragon god, who's a bit grumpy that nobody believes in him anymore but nonetheless continues to exist.
This is most relevant in the 10th game, Mountain of Faith , where goddess Kanako Yasaka, faced with fading away due to modern Japan's waning faith in the divine, decides to relocate the Moriya Shrine to Gensokyo , where she ought to have an easier time finding worshipers. Unfortunately this muscles in on the local religious "authority," protagonist Reimu Hakurei , and Bullet Hell ensues.
After this ends, Kanako stays around and attempts to gain faith other ways, treating the whole thing like a business venture. Isn't it strange how we must bribe our gods to stay? While you gain levels as your population grows, it turns out that your powers are dependent on the number of people on the planet, not their faith. At one point, a Path of Inspiration turns a lot of people in one country against you, but it doesn't lower your levels. Additionally in the end your temples are empty because the people can stand on their own and no longer need you to handle their every need , but you don't fade away or anything.
In the sequel, one of the towns you need to save is initially closed off, because the townspeople there don't believe in you and thus you can't read their minds. In Dominions II the faith of people in various provinces is represented by a candle. This affects the knowledge you have on the province, the level at which you can affect it and, should you move it into the area, the hitpoints of your Pretender God. The old gods reveal to the player in Ultima VIII ; they are nearly powerless now that about everyone worships the four new gods instead.
Paper Mario. The star spirits in the first game gain power from the wishes of the denizens of Mushroom Kingdom. In the final boss fight, the young star spirit Twink gains enough power from Peach's wishes to beat up Bowser's sidekick and help Mario save the day. Sierra's City-Building Series cuts both ways. While gods need sacrifices or festivals almost constantly, ignoring them only makes them angry.
Cue earthquakes, plagues, floods, failing crops On the other hand, keeping them happy also brings benefices. In Shin Megami Tensei , the gods, demons, and spirits feed on a substance called Magnetite or Magatsuhi - which is human belief and emotion and works as the setting's mana source. In Nocturne , when humanity was wiped out, demons had to abuse Artificial Humans to produce Magatsuhi to stay alive.
In IV , one of the factions produces Red Pills, foodstuffs the demons find delectable. The Pills, naturally, are made of materials extracted from conditioned brain matter harvested from the faction's captured enemies, implying they're largely the same as Magnetite or Magatsuhi. Unfortunately, it seems the MegaTen universe works on the same principle as Malazan Book of the Fallen - Humanity's own inner darkness and desire for a God that accurately represents them has horrifically twisted Him into a bitter, unsympathetic tyrant with nothing but contempt for humans.
This trope is exploited in Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse if the player sides with Dagda at the game's second of two alignment locks. Dagda's plan to destroy all gods is to kill every human who believes in them. This trope is also true for the Persona universe, where Philemon, Nyarlathotep , Erebus , Izanami , and Yaldabaoth are all personifications of various aspects of human mind within the Collective Unconscious.
During one sidequest in Baldur's Gate II set in the Forgotten Realms , you meet an avatar of a god with so little belief that he is fading away. Amaunator and a small village of followers were bound to immortally guard "the device" forever, over the years their faith has transformed to hatred and the avatar can barely even show himself, much less do anything. It shows just how far gods dependent on worship will go. They built the Wall of the Faithless, which punishes not sinners but non-believers.
Being an atheist or paying lip service to religion is the biggest of all sins against all the gods, and thus the good, evil, lawful, and chaotic gods all agreed that atheists shall be punished by ultimate torture and eventually the very destruction of their souls by having your soul slowly digested over thousands of years. It should be noted that if you read the supplements, you'll find out that the current administrator only makes use of the Wall because the other gods forced him to. Also, this is a setting where the gods are very real and walked the earth in mortal form en masse less than twenty years ago a period known as the Time of Troubles.
On Toril, literally every atheist is a Flat-Earth Atheist : ending up in the Wall for atheism is akin to starving to death because you don't believe food exists. Not quite. The punishment exists not so much for atheism, which is only synonymous if this were monotheism, but for lack of worship and reverence to a particular deity.
Long story short? If you either don't pick one specific deity who will save you from the Wall in exchange for your complete acceptance of what they are and stand for, or you worship Ao who exerts power over the others but does not accept worship of itself, or don't make a contract with a devil, whose imprisonment of your soul supersedes it, you're heading for the Wall. Then the game gives you the opportunity to finish him off with the Spirit-Eater. This is a plot point in Disgaea 4: A Promise Unforgotten. The Netherworld and Celestia need fear and love from humans to maintain their power, but it's become difficult for demons to plant fear in humans since humans have become so corrupt that they now fear themselves more than demons.
As a result, this means they no longer have to pray to angels for protection and guidance. BlazBlue has an interesting variation on this trope: Yuuki Terumi's existence is sustained by other people's despair, fear and hatred of him. Which really does explain his thorough traumatization of Ragna at the start of the story, as well as his behavior in general He also has his network of Observers and Life-Links to fall back on if that lifeline ever failed him.
Though despair, fear and hatred sustains Terumi's existence, thus making it necessary for him to be the worst kind of Jerkass possible in order to stay alive, he is still as far from sympathetic as one can get. He has no shades of I Did What I Had to Do , and has even openly admitted that he loves ruining other people's lives for the sheer hell of it.
The final game in the series, Central Fiction, reveals that Terumi's long-term goal is to use The Azure to remake reality into a cesspool of fear and despair with no reprieve and no escape, where he will be the Top God and all other beings in existence will pay tribute to him with their "prayers" in the form of cries of fear, wails of despair, and curses laced with hatred. Ergo, the same thing he's always done, but dialed Up to Eleven. The Zuul, on the other hand, need to give that prayer if they want their "gods" to help.
Given their shift from Difficult, but Awesome Crutch Character to Magikarp Power , this is a vital end-goal for them now. In the game's tie-in comic, Wonder Woman suggests Ares become the god of something else in order to regain his powers, then hilariously calls him, "Ares, God of Ponies". In the game proper, Ares decides to help the heroes, explaining that their struggle against the Regime is empowering him in the short-term, but if the bad guys win, conflict will drop completely. In Dungeon Crawl the gods are powered by worship. This doesn't come up very much, because they have plenty of worshipers.
All of them except Jiyva the Shapeless, god of slimes. There's only one slime smart enough to worship it and if you kill it, unless you yourself are for some reason a follower of Jiyva, the god ceases to exist. Unfortunately for said followers, Primals take a very proactive role in ensuring their continued worship by "tempering" them into mind-controlled slaves who seek to gather more people to turn into brainwashed worshippers.
The player turns out to be one of a handful of people immune to tempering. This is a good thing, as your first encounter with a Primal is as part of a group of prisoners brought before Ifrit to become his new servants. The pantheon worshiped by the player races, the Twelve, are implied to be the same, with Gaius van Baelsar claiming they're Not So Different from the Primals, but they at least are benevolent enough not to brainwash people into following them.
The post-launch patches and first expansion extrapolate on the nature of Primals revealing them to be figments made real more than actual deities, making them closer to Tulpa than true gods. While they do require worship to be sustained, they are not divine so much as they are very, very powerful beings made from magic that take a form and personality in lieu of whatever their followers believe them to be.
The strength of the Primal is determined by a combination of how fervent the prayers of its followers are, and how strong the source of magic being used to summon them is. This is how the game justifies its hard mode encounters ; not only are the Primals able to be resummoned if slain, but stronger sources of magic and more fervent prayers from their followers create stronger incarnations. Like the Populous example above Peter Molyneux is at it again with Godus where the number of followers affects the type of spells you can use. Tears to Tiara 2 : The reason Tart at first could not cast even a single heal spell and is no different from a teenage girl.
Her people are forced by the Holy Empire to worship Watos, and her temples are torn down to build churches. Only by Hamil 's desperate pleas for guidance was she even able to take form. Part of her powers come back to her on the Canaanites' battle cry of Ashtarte, and prevents both of them from being burnt alive. In Asura's Wrath , humanity prays to provide the Seven Deities with Mantra, which is used as a power source for various weapons in their fight against the Gohma. Unfortunately, the Deities later learn how to take Mantra by force A variation in The Wolf Among Us : Fables are classic fairy tale characters forced into the real world.
If their fairy tale is popular among " mundies ", then that belief makes the Fable very resistant to physical injury and capable of healing very quickly. For example, Little Red Riding Hood is one of the most popular of all fairy tales, and hence the Big Bad Wolf can survive dozens of shotgun blasts at close range, and the Woodsman can survive taking his own axe to the back of his head.
It is also suggested that killed Fables can be resurrected if enough people still know about their stories. The only way for a Fable to be permanently killed is if not enough people know about their story any more as is seemingly the fate of Faith and Georgie Porgie , or if the Fable is physically thrown down the Witching Well as is possibly the case with the Crooked Man. Everquest has two examples. Mayong Mistmoore ascends to Godhood because having a raiding party assembled to defeat him somehow counts as worship.
When killed, his disembodied voice says "You have martyred me, you have worshipped me. Another expansion dealing with Time Travel showed the bad future after the end of the world. The only two survivors were Zebuxoruk Sealed in a prison that could only be opened by the end of the world and a single tree. The tree relied on him to keep the air bubble around the rock fragment, and that 'worship' gave him just enough power to maintain the air bubble.
Literally the basic story premise of Smite. The Gods need prayers, so they fight in various arenas to prove who's Top God. In Skyforge the players start out as mere immortals, but as they perform heroic acts they attract followers and gradually become Gods. Discworld Noir : As usual on the Disc. The entire plan turns out to be an attempt by the worshippers of the small god Anu-Anu to have their god defeat Nylonathotep and thus win enough believers to become a recognised deity.
Tales of Innocence : A direct, symbiotic case. The Devaloka needs the prayer and faith of people from the Naraka to sustain itself. The church's role was to deliver the prayers of the faithful to the gods. In turn, the gods would bestow miracles upon Naraka with the power of the Heavenly Artes. When the people's faith started to wane, they had to resort to taking human souls to fortify it, and the church lost its influence.
He exploited the hell out of this trope by imprisoning every other god in history , then began intercepting and answering all the prayers meant for them in their place in order to starve them to death. By the time of your arrival, only the Three are still left standing, reduced to mindless rotting husks that attack you on sight even if you are one of their worshippers. And the only reason they're still standing at all is because their religion is the most recently founded one in the setting so they've only been imprisoned for a relatively short time compared to the rest, who have all been there so long that they've decayed away to nothing.
The Elder Powers in Nexus War games need mortals to keep fighting for them in the titular war in order to have a chance at reshaping the cosmos and keeping the ideas that they represent relevant. The current pantheon is made up of the gods that win often enough that their divinity isn't immediately in peril and there's no sign of a clear winner in sight , but all of them have no choice but to keep manipulating the war for eternity. In Runescape , pre- Retcon , most gods required worshipers to maintain their influence in a given world, though a few were able to draw energy directly from the Anima Mundi without mortal intermediaries.
Post retcon, the gods' power has no direct connection to their followers. Visual Novels. Their strength appears based partly on their actual power and partly on pure Popularity Power. As Rin explains in the game prologue, even fictional characters count, what matters is the image created by the minds of the people.
The game features two major explorations of this - Assassin is a nameless samurai called forth to play the role of Sasaki Kojiro , an opponent of Miyamoto Musashi , who is entirely fictional in the Nasuverse. In other words, the pure belief that humanity has in the existence of said hero is so strong that it allows him to exist, albeit through summoning a nameless spirit to take on his name and fill his role.
On the flip side, Archer EMIYA is a hero from the future ; nobody knows of his existence and he therefore owes neither his existence nor any of his powers from belief, persisting as a Heroic Spirit only through the connection all Heroic Spirits have with the earth itself. Heracles , naturally, gets top billing either way you look at it. To clarify a bit, if a person gains enough acknowledgement in the minds of humanity at large - be it as a Hero, Villian, or Anti-Hero - , real or imagined, they go to the afterlife known as the Throne of Heroes, rather than what happens to normal souls.
Once there, they become pseudo-deific spirits of enormous power known as Heroic Spirits. As the Throne exists outside of time, all Heroic Spirits, past, present, and future, dwell there, even after being completely forgotten. That said, a Heroic Spirit's power as well as their specific Noble Phantasms.
Such as, King Arthur's Excalibur is the most famous part of his legend. So naturally it is more powerful than another, such as Rhongomyniad, another weapon of his, yet a far more obscure one increases the most people know about it. So while being forgotten won't kill or destroy them, being remembered makes them stronger. It even happens on a local level. This has lead to him being dubbed by fans as "the Most Useless Servant in the War".
Don't overestimate this sort of power, however. While the overall belief that the world possesses in a Heroic Spirit can certainly increase their power if summoned, they can still easily lose to a less-known Servant by virtue of simply possessing an inferior skillset to said opponent. Skill is just as necessary in a fight as power, after all. The gods of the Nasuverse also experienced this. While some existed before there were beings who could believe in them, many Divine Spirits were created by the belief of humanity. As time passed and worship waned, they faded and became weaker Elementals, or ceased to exist.
Gilgamesh was created by the gods of ancient Mesopotamia in a vain attempt to stop this from happening to them. He saw that the gods were oppressing humanity , and instead hastened their end. Web Comics. In A Moment of Peace the gods of the universe eat human emotions to survive, like baked cheer or gruel made of sorrow. Played with to an epic extent in the now completed Indefensible Positions. Demons are sentient memes and it's implied that gods are simply demons with a lot of believers. These gods usually claim they were conceived by Roman clergy, during nights with a little too much wine.
These gods include the god of gaming, and the anti-cupid who shoots you with a tommy-gun and takes away your devotion to another person. Being partially based on 40K, the Gods in Exterminatus Now work this way. Daemons, or at least former mortals , supposedly do as well. The Order of the Stick universe in general employs this trope to explain any god not in the three original pantheons. In particular, Elan and some orcs are Banjoists, worshippers of Banjo the Clown, god of puppets. According to the ancient magical conception of God in the scheme of the universe, evil is the inevitable contrast and complement of good.
God permits the existence of the shadow in order that it may intensify the purity of the light. He has created both and they are thus inseparable, the one being necessary to and incomprehensible without the other. The very idea of goodness loses its meaning if considered apart from that of evil — Gabriel is a foil to Satan and Satan to Gabriel.
The dual nature of the spiritual world penetrates into every department of life, material and spiritual. It is typified in light and darkness, cold and heat, truth and error, in brief, the names of any two opposing forces will serve to illustrate the primary law of nature — namely, the continual conflict between the positive or good and the negative or evil. For a scriptural illustration of this point, the story of Cain and Abel can be used.
The moral superiority of his brother is at first irksome to Cain, finally intolerable. He murders Abel, thus bringing on his own head the wrath of God and the self-punishment of the murderer. For in killing Abel, Cain has done himself harm. Cain has not done away with Abel's superiority, but has added to himself a burden of guilt that can end only by much suffering. Suffering is shown in the Judaeo-Christian scriptures to be one means evil is overcome by good.
Cain reappears in the story of the prodigal son , who after deprivation and suffering is restored to his father who forgives him fully and freely. It is believed that the possibility of sin and error is consistent with and inseparable from life. The great sinner is a more vital being than the colorless character, because having greater capacity for evil he has also greater capacity for good, and in proportion to his faults so will his virtues be when he turns to God.
And that power is the most precious thing in life. The apostle Paul specifically rejected this approach to understanding sin and redemption in Romans 6: This dual law of right and wrong, two antagonistic forces, is designated by the term "duad. This secret is embodied in the myth of the Tree of Knowledge in Genesis. At death the discord will be resolved, but not until then. From the duad is derived the triad based on the doctrine of the Trinity.
Two forces producing equilibrium, the secret of nature, are designated by the duad, and these three — life, good, and evil — constitute one law. By adding the conception of unity to the triad the tetrad is produced, the perfect number of four, the source of all numerical combinations. According to orthodox theology there are three persons in God, Father, Son and Holy Ghost, and these three form one Deity.
In occult speculations, three and one make four, the fourth reality being the unity required to explain the Three. Hence, it is suggested, in many languages most notably Hebrew , the name of God is symbolized by four letters. Again, two affirmations make two negations either possible or necessary.
According to the Kabalists the name of the Evil one consisted of the same four letters spelled backward, signifying that evil is merely the reflection or shadow of good — "The last reflection or imperfect mirage of light in shadow. The triad or trinity, then, is explained by the duad and resolved by the tetrad. Such occult interpretations of God echo the ancient mysticism such as the Eastern religion of Hinduism , where the pairs of opposites like good and evil are regarded as twin poles of a larger reality, where anthropomorphic concepts of God the creator are considered legal fictions for a divine infinity, beyond time, space, and causality.
Achad, Frater. The Anatomy of the Body of God. Chicago : Collegium ad Spiritum Sanctum, Akiba ben Joseph Rabbi. The Book of Formation. Sepher Yetzirah. London: William Rider, Angeles, Peter A. Buffalo, N. Brightman, Edgar S. The Problem of God. New York : Abingdon Press, Goblet D'Alviella, E. Lectures on the Origin and Growth of the Conception of God. London, Nor is God the conclusion of an argument, although argument points to the probability of God, at least in the sense that the universe makes more sense if it exists as a consequence of one who produces and sustains it, than otherwise.
Since God cannot be produced as an object among objects, and since God is, whether this or any other universe happens to exist, it follows that God cannot be described in language, since God is far apart from humanly apprehended categories in time and space i. In all theistic religions, this has led inevitably to apophatic theology , to the recognition that we can only say with confidence what God is not, e. Theistic religions have always been aware of the inadequacy of human language about God hence the importance of analogy.
Even in the human affection of worship , it is known that no words or images can contain or describe God, and yet the experienced consequence of God creates its own and continuing demand for, or invitation into, relationship. Religious and theological traditions then offer the inadequacies of language, sign, symbol , icon , etc.
In the terms, therefore, of a critically realistic theology, religions accept that anything which is said about God is approximate, provisional, corrigible, and mainly wrong; but the question still remains, Is it wrong about some One? Even those religions which are most secure in their confidence that God has overcome the epistemic gap of transcendence, by revealing his word and his will, accept that all revelation is conveyed contingently through words which are not identical with that concerning which they purport to be about—in terms which are approximate.
In ways which humans have tested and winnowed through time, and in virtually all cultures of prayer , worship , sacrifice , contemplation , meditation , art , music , artefact, the reliability of the communities of faith has been tested. In each tradition, there emerge characterizations of God which impress themselves on the style in which its adherents live. In Judaism , the major emphasis is on holiness, in Christianity on the commitments of love which reflect a relatedness in the Godhead itself; in Islam on mercy and demand; among Hindus on the real presence of God in every circumstance.
The logic of God, therefore, remains, that if God does indeed turn out to be God, it is God that God will turn out to be. The ways and the words of human attentiveness to God leave such a mark on the possibilities of life now, that the nature of the future remains open: it is necessarily the case that All remains yet to be known. God, divinity of the three great monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, as well as many other world religions.
See also religion and articles on individual religions. YHWH is the most celebrated of these; the Hebrews considered the name ineffable and, in reading, substituted the name Adonai [my Lord]. The ineffable name, or tetragrammaton [Gr. The most common name for God in the Old Testament is Elohim, a plural form, but used as a singular when speaking of God. The name El, not connected with Elohim, is also used, especially in proper names, e.
The name Shaddai, used with other words and in names e. Of these names only Adonai has a satisfactory etymology. It is generally not possible to tell from English translations of the Bible what was the exact form of the name of God in the original. In Islam, the name of God is Allah. Conceptions of God The general conception of God may be said to be that of an infinite being often a personality but not necessarily anthropomorphic who is supremely good, who created the world, who knows all and can do all, who is transcendent over and immanent in the world, and who loves humanity.
By the majority of Christians God is believed to have lived on earth in the flesh as Jesus see Trinity. In the Hebrew Bible the concept of God is not a unified one. The attitude of believers to this apparent inconsistency has generally been that God, unchanging, revealed Himself more and more to Israel. Scholars belonging to the rational schools of the 19th cent. They see a series of stages in which God was first held by the Jews as simply the head of a tribal pantheon, then gradually assumed all the attributes of God's fellow divinities, but was still worshiped more or less idolatrously.
Gradually, according to these scholars, the Jews considered their God as more and more powerful until they believed God creator and ruler of all humans though preferring Israel as God's chosen people. God's attributes of goodness, love, and mercy these critics consider as very late in this development.
More recent scholars have refuted this latter position, seeing these very qualities in the God of the Exodus. Although the idea of God, through its long acceptance by Jews, Christians, and Muslims, has come to be associated with the concept of a good, infinite personality, in recent times the name has been extended to many principles of an utterly different sort; thus, a philosopher may consider the unifying concept in his philosophy e.
Arguments for God's Existence There are several famous arguments for the existence of God. The argument from the First Cause maintains that since in the world every effect has its cause behind it and every actuality its potentiality , the first effect and first actuality in the world must have had its cause and potentiality , which was in itself both cause and effect and potentiality and actuality , i.
The cosmological argument maintains that since the world, and all that is in it, seems to have no necessary or absolute nonrelative existence, an independent existence God must be implied for the world as the explanation of its relations. The teleological argument maintains that, since from a comprehensive view of nature and the world everything seems to exist according to a certain great plan, a planner God must be postulated. The ontological argument maintains that since the human conception of God is the highest conception humanly possible and since the highest conception humanly possible must have existence as one attribute, God must exist.
Immanuel Kant believed that he refuted these arguments by showing that existence is no part of the content of an idea. This principle has become very important in contemporary philosophy, particularly in existentialism. The consensus among theologians is that the existence of God must in some way be accepted on faith. God in Christianity and other monotheistic religions, the creator and ruler of the universe and source of all moral authority, the supreme being.
In certain other religions with lower-case initial , a superhuman being or spirit worshipped as having power over nature or human fortunes; a deity. God helps them that help themselves often used in urging someone to action. The saying is recorded in English from the mid 16th century, but is found in the early 15th century in French. In classical Greek, the tragedian Aeschylus c. Saying recorded from the late 14th century.
God of the gaps God as an explanation for phenomena not yet explained by science; God thought of as acting only in those spheres not otherwise accounted for. The phrase itself is recorded from the mid 20th century, deriving from earlier critical accounts of this mode of thought. God save the Queen or King the British national anthem. Evidence suggests a 17th-century origin for the complete words and tune of the anthem. God sends meat, but the Devil sends cooks anything which is in itself good or useful may be spoiled or perverted by the use to which it is put; saying recorded from the mid 16th century.
God tempers the wind to the shorn lamb God so arranges it that bad luck does not unduly plague the weak or unfortunate. The saying is recorded from the mid 16th century. See also all things are possible with God , the land God gave to Cain , gods , man's extremity is God's opportunity , the mills of God grind slowly at mill , the voice of the people is the voice of God. Why didn't you tell us sooner? God bless an expression of good wishes on parting.
God damn you , him , etc may you, he, etc. God the Father in Christian doctrine the first person of the Trinity , God as creator and supreme authority. God forbid see forbid. God grant used to express a wish that something should happen: God grant he will soon regain his freedom.
A brief history of God
God help you , him , etc. God the Son in Christian doctrine Christ regarded as the second person of the Trinity ; God as incarnate and resurrected savior. God willing used to express the wish that one will be able to do as one intends or that something will happen as planned: one day, God willing, she and John might have a daughter. God's acre churchyard XVII.
Godspeed XV. God One of the supernatural, divine and usually immortal beings worshipped by followers of polytheistics religion such as those of ancient Greece and Rome. Also, the single supreme being, creator, and mover of the universe, as worshipped by the followers of monotheistic religions such as Judaism or Islam. Christianity , a monotheistic religion, conceives of one God with three elements — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
In Hinduism , Brahma is considered the soul of the world, but there are lesser gods. See also agnosticism ; atheism ; Buddhism ; Deism ; monotheism ; polytheism ; Zeus Cite this article Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography. The Bible is not a single book, but a collection of volumes composed by different authors living in various countries over a period of more than a millennium.
In these circumstances, divergencies of emphasis cf. Kings with Chronicles , outlook cf. Jonah with Nahum , and even of fact cf. These factors have also affected the biblical presentation of the concept of God. There are passages in which Israel's monotheism is portrayed in unalloyed purity and incomparable beauty i Kings ; Isa. Notwithstanding these discrepancies the Bible is essentially a unity; its theology is sui generis and must be studied as a whole to be seen in true perspective. This total view of biblical doctrine does not seek to blur differences and to harmonize the disparate; rather it resolves the heterogeneous elements into a unitary canonical ideology — the doctrine of the final editors of the Bible.
It blends the thoughts, beliefs, and intuitions of many generations into a single spiritual structure — the faith of Israel — at the heart of which lies the biblical idea of God. It is this complete and ultimate scriptural conception of the Deity that will be described and analyzed in this section. God is the hero of the Bible. Everything that is narrated, enjoined, or foretold in biblical literature is related to Him.
Yet nowhere does the Bible offer any proof of the Deity's existence, or command belief in Him. The reason may be twofold: Hebrew thought is intuitive rather than speculative and systematic, and, furthermore, there were no atheists in antiquity. When the psalmist observed: "The fool hath said in his heart 'There is no God'" Ps. That a divine being or beings existed was universally accepted. There were those, it is true, who did not know yhwh Ex. Completely new, however, was Israel's idea of God.
Hence this idea is expounded in numerous, though not necessarily related, biblical passages, and, facet by facet, a cosmic, awe-inspiring spiritual portrait of infinite magnitude is built up. Paganism is challenged in all its aspects. God is One; there is no other Deut. Polytheism is rejected unequivocally and absolutely Ex. Syncretism, as distinct from identification Gen. The thought is: Beside the true God, how can these idol-imposters claim divinity?
The term "sons of gods" in Psalms and refers to angels, the servants, and worshipers of the Lord; there is no thought of polytheism see E. Briggs, The Book of Psalms icc , 1 , ff. The one God is also unique in all His attributes. The prophet asks: "To whom then will ye liken God? Or what likeness will ye compare unto Him? Though the question is rhetorical, the Bible in a given sense provides a series of answers, scattered over the entire range of its teaching, which elaborate in depth the incomparability of God. He has no likeness; no image can be made of Him Ex. He is not even to be conceived as spirit; the spirit of God referred to in the Bible alludes to His energy Isa.
Idolatry, though it lingered on for centuries, was doomed to extinction by this new conception of the Godhead. It is true that the Torah itself ordained that images like the cherubim should be set up in the Holy of Holies. They did not, however, represent the Deity but His throne cf. Yet the invisible God is not a philosophical abstraction; He manifests His presence. His theophanies are accompanied by thunder, earthquake, and lightning Ex. These fearful natural phenomena tell of His strength; He is the omnipotent God Job None can resist Him ; hence He is the supreme warrior Ps.
God's greatness, however, lies not primarily in His power. He is omniscient; wisdom is His alone Job ff. He knows no darkness; light ever dwells with Him Dan. He is the source of human understanding Ps. The pagan pride of wisdom is sternly rebuked; it is deceptive Ezek. He is also the omnipresent God Ps. Pantheism is likewise negated. He transcends the world of nature, for it is He who brought the world into being, established its laws, and gave it its order Jer. He is outside of time as well as space; He is eternal. Everything must perish; He alone preceded the universe and will outlive it Isa.
The ever-present God is also immutable; in a world of flux He alone does not change Isa. He is the rock of all existence ii Sam. God's power and wisdom find their ultimate expression in the work of creation. The miracles serve to highlight the divine omnipotence; but the supreme miracle is the universe itself Ps.
There is no theogony, but there is a cosmogony, designed and executed by the divine fiat Gen. The opening verses of the Bible do not conclusively point to creatio ex nihilo. The primordial condition of chaos tohu and bohu mentioned in Genesis could conceivably represent the materia prima out of which the world was fashioned; but Job appears to express poetically the belief in a world created out of the void see Y. Kaufmann , Religion, 68 , and both prophets and psalmists seem to substantiate this doctrine Isa.
The real criterion, however, is the overall climate of biblical thought, which would regard the existence of uncreated matter as a grave diminution of the divinity of the Godhead. God is the sole creator Isa. The celestial beings "sons of God" referred to in Job , and the angels who, according to rabbinic aggadah and some modern exegetes, are addressed in Genesis cf. Angels are portrayed in the Bible as constituting the heavenly court, and as taking part in celestial consultations i Kings ff.
They perform various tasks cf. Nor are they God's only messengers; natural phenomena, like the wind Ps. Some scholars think that since the Bible concentrated all divine powers in the one God, the old pagan deities, which represented various forces of nature, were demoted in Israel's religion to the position of angels. The term shedim Deut. Kaufmann, denote demons, but rather "no-gods," devoid of both divine and demonic powers.
The fantastic proliferation of the angel population found in pseudepigraphical literature is still unknown in the Bible. It is fundamental, however, to biblical as well as post-biblical Jewish angelology that these celestial beings are God's creatures and servants. They fulfill the divine will and do not oppose it. The pagan notion of demonic forces that wage war against the deities is wholly alien and repugnant to biblical theology.
Even Satan is no more than the heavenly prosecutor, serving the divine purpose. The cosmos is thus the work of God above, and all nature declares His glory Ps. All things belong to Him and He is the Lord of all i Chron. This creation theorem has a corollary of vast scientific and social significance: the universe, in all its measureless diversity, remains a homogeneous whole. Nature's processes are the same throughout the world, and underlying them is "One Power, which is of no beginning and no end; which has existed before all things were formed, and will remain in its integrity when all is gone — the Source and Origin of all, in Itself beyond any conception or image that man can form and set up before his eye or mind" Haffkine.
There is no cosmic strife between antagonistic forces, between darkness and light, between good and evil; and, by the same token, mankind constitutes a single brotherhood. The ideal is not that of the ant heap. Differentiation is an essential element of the Creator's design; hence the Tower of Babel is necessarily doomed to destruction. Although uniformity is rejected, the family unity of mankind, despite racial, cultural, and pigmentary differences, is clearly stressed in its origin Adam is the human father of all men and in its ultimate destiny at the end of days Isa.
The course of creation is depicted in the opening chapter of the Bible as a graduated unfolding of the universe, and more particularly of the earth, from the lowest levels of life to man, the peak of the creative process. God, according to this account, completed the work in six days that "days" here means an undefined period may be inferred from Gen. Tur-Sinai, in EM, 3 , The biblical accounting of the days, however, is not intended to provide the reader with a science or history textbook but to describe the ways of God.
Running like a golden thread through all the variegated contents of the Bible is the one unchanging theme — God and His moral law. Of far greater significance than the duration of creation is the fact that it was crowned by the Sabbath Gen. The concept of the creative pause, sanctified by the divine example, is one of the greatest spiritual and social contributions to civilization made by the religion of Israel.
The former was a designation for the ill-omened 15 th day of the month, and the notions associated with it are as polarically different from those of the Sabbath, with its elevating thoughts of holiness and physical and spiritual renewal, as a day of mourning is from a joyous festival.
The Sabbath did not mark the retirement of the Deity from the world that He had called into being. God continued to care for His creatures Ps. The divine providence encompasses both nations Deut. Cosmogony is followed by history, and God becomes the great architect of the world of events, even as He was of the physical universe.
He directs the historical movements ibid. He is the King of the nations Jer. There is a vital difference, however, between the two spheres of divine activity. Creation encountered no antagonism. The very monsters that in pagan mythology were the mortal enemies of the gods became in the Bible creatures formed in accordance with the divine will Gen. Nevertheless, the stuff of history is woven of endless strands of rebellion against the Creator. Man is not an automaton; he is endowed with free will.
The first human beings already disobeyed their maker; they acquired knowledge at the price of sin, which reflects the discord between the will of God and the action of man. The perfect harmony between the Creator and His human creation that finds expression in the idyll of the Garden of Eden was disrupted, and never restored. The revolt continued with Cain, the generation of the Flood , and the Tower of Babel. There is a rhythm of rebellion and retribution, of oppression and redemption, of repentance and grace, and of merit and reward Jer. Israel was the first people to write history as teleology and discovered that it had a moral base.
The Bible declares that God judges the world in righteousness Ps. The moral factor determines the time as well as the course of events. The Israelites will return to Canaan only when the iniquity of the Amorite is complete Gen. It is this moral element in the direction of history that makes God both Judge and Savior. God's punishment of the wicked and salvation of the righteous are laws of the divine governance of the world, comparable to the laws of nature: "As smoke is driven away, so drive them away; as wax melts before fire, let the wicked perish before God…" Ps.
Cassuto, in Tarbiz , 12 , 1— Nature and history are related Jer. The ultimate divine design of history, marked by universal peace, human brotherhood, and knowledge of God, will be accomplished in "the end of days" Isa. Man's rebellions complicate the course of history, but cannot change the design. God's purpose shall be accomplished; there will be a new heaven and a new earth Isa. Within the macrocosm of world history there is the microcosm of Israel's history.
It is natural that in the context of national literature the people of Israel should receive special and elaborate attention, although the gentile world, particularly in prophetic teaching, is never lost sight of. He redeems His people from Egyptian bondage, brings them to the promised land, and comes to their aid in periods of crisis. Israel's election is not, however, to be interpreted as a form of favoritism.
For one thing, the Exodus from Egypt is paralleled by similar events in the histories of other peoples, including Israel's enemies Amos The choice of the children of Israel as God's people was not due to their power or merit; it was rather a divine act of love, the fulfillment of a promise given to the Patriarchs Deut. The Lord did, however, foresee that the spiritual and moral way of life pioneered by Abraham would be transmitted to his descendants as a heritage.
Subsequently this concept found material expression in the covenant solemnly established between God and His people at Sinai Ex. This covenant demanded wholehearted and constant devotion to the will of God Deut. Thus to be a chosen people it was incumbent upon Israel to become a choosing people as Zangwill phrased it. The rhythm of rebellion and repentance, retribution and redemption, is particularly evident in the story of Israel.
Yet the fulfillment of the divine purpose is not in doubt. God's chosen people will not perish Jer. It will be restored to faithfulness, and in its redemption will bring salvation to the whole earth by leading all men to God Jer. Until that far-off day, however, Israel will remain God's witness Isa. The covenant that binds the children of Israel to their God is, in the ultimate analysis, the Torah in all its amplitude. God, not Moses, is the lawgiver; "Behold, I Moses say unto you" cf. It would not only be inconsistent with Moses' humility Num. However, notwithstanding its divine origin, the law is obligatory on Israel only.
Even idolatry, the constant butt of prophetic irony, is not regarded as a gentile sin Deut. Yet the Bible assumes the existence of a universal moral code that all peoples must observe. The talmudic sages, with their genius for legal detail and codification, speak of the seven Noachian laws Sanh. Although the Bible does not specify the ethical principles incumbent upon all mankind, it is clear from various passages that murder, robbery, cruelty, and adultery are major crimes recognized as such by all human beings Gen.
It would thus appear that the Bible postulates an autonomous, basic human sense of wrongdoing, unless it is supposed that a divine revelation of law was vouchsafed to the early saints, such as assumed by the apocryphal and rabbinic literatures and perhaps by Isa.
The Torah — which properly means "instruction," not "law" — does not, in the strict sense of the term, contain a properly formulated code; nevertheless, detailed regulations appertaining to religious ritual, as well as to civil and criminal jurisprudence, form an essential part of pentateuchal teaching. The halakhic approach is reinforced by a number of the prophets. For instance, Isaiah , Jeremiah ff. Ezra and Nehemiah rebuilt the restored Jewish community on Torah foundations.
Yet paradoxically the Bible also evinces a decidedly "anti-halakhic" trend. In Isaiah the Lord cries: "What to Me is the multitude of your sacrifices… I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts… who requires of you this trampling of My courts? Jeremiah not only belittles the value of the sacrifices ; he derides the people's faith in the Temple itself: "The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord are these" Even the Book of Psalms, though essentially devotional in character, makes an anti-ritual protest: "I do not reprove you for your sacrifices… I will accept no bull from your house… For every beast of the forest is Mine, the cattle on a thousand hills… If I were hungry, I would not tell you; for the world and all that is in it is Mine.
Do I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats? These and similar passages represent a negative attitude towards established cultic practices. No less inconsonant with Torah law seems the positive prophetic summary of human duty formulated by Micah : "He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love lovingkindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
I will espouse you with faithfulness; and you shall be mindful of the Lord"; by Amos : "Seek good, and not evil, that you may live"; and by Isaiah : "Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow. The paradox, however, is only one of appearance and phrasing.
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Inherently there is no contradiction. The ostensibly antinomian statements do not oppose the offering of sacrifices, prayer, or the observance of the Sabbath and festivals. It is not ritual but hypocrisy that they condemn. Isaiah expresses the thought in a single phrase: "I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly. The underlying motive of the precepts is to purify and elevate man Ps. The Torah Wisdom is a tree of life and its ways are ways of peace Prov. This conception of the Church as an icon of the Trinity has many further applications.
This idea of the Church as an icon of the Trinity also helps to understand the Orthodox emphasis upon Councils. A council is an expression of the Trinitarian nature of the Church. The mystery of unity in diversity according to the image of the Trinity can be seen in action, as the many bishops assembled council freely reach a common mind under the guidance of Spirit. The unity of the Church is linked more particularly with the person of Christ, its diversity with the person of the Holy Spirit.
The Church is the extension of the Incarnation, the place where the Incarnation perpetuates itself. The Church and its Founder are inextricably bound together Christ did not leave the Church when He ascended into heaven: " Lo! I am with you always, even to the end of the world," He promised Matt. It is only too easy to fall into the mistake of speaking of Christ as absent:. The unity between Christ and His Church is effected above all through the sacraments. The Eucharist, by uniting the members of the Church to Christ, at the same time unites them to one another: " We, who are many, are one bread, one body; for we all partake of the one bread" 1 Cor.
The Eucharist creates the unity of the Church. The Church as Ignatius saw is a Eucharistic society, a sacramental organism which exists — and exists in its fullness — wherever the Eucharist is celebrated. The Church must be thought of primarily in sacramental terms. Its outward organization, however important, is secondary to its sacramental life. A continued Pentecost. It is easy to lay such emphasis on the Church as the Body of Christ that the role of the Holy Spirit is forgotten.
But, as we have said, in their work among men Son and Spirit are complementary to one another, and this is as true in the doctrine of the Church as it is elsewhere. The Church, precisely because it is the Body of Christ, is also the temple and dwelling place of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a Spirit of freedom. The gift of the Spirit is a gift to the Church, but it is at the same time a personal gift, appropriated by each in his own way.
Life in the Church does not mean the ironing out of human variety, nor the imposition of a rigid and uniform pattern upon all alike, but the exact opposite. The saints, so far from displaying a drab monotony, have developed the most vivid and distinctive personalities. It is not holiness but evil which is dull. Such in brief is the relation between the Church and God. This Church — the icon of the Trinity, the Body of Christ, the fullness of the Spirit — is both visible and invisible, both divine and human.
It is visible, for it is composed of concrete congregations, worshipping here on earth; it is invisible, for it also includes the saints and the angels. It is human, for its earthly members are sinners; it is divine, for it is the Body of Christ. There is no separation between the visible and the invisible, between to use western terminology the Church militant and the Church triumphant, for the two make up a single and continuous reality.
It stands at a point of intersection between the Present Age and the Age to Come, and it lives in both Ages at once. Those who are alive on earth, those who have finished their earthly course, those who, like the angels, were not created for a life on earth, those in future generations who have not yet begun their earthly course, are all united together in one Church, in one and the same grace of God The Church, the Body of Christ, manifests forth and fulfils itself in time, without changing its essential unity or inward life of grace.
Mascall, p. This is a cardinal point in Orthodox teaching. Orthodoxy does not believe merely in an ideal Church, invisible and heavenly. Yet Orthodoxy does not forget that there is a human element in the Church as well as a divine. The dogma of Chalcedon must be applied to the Church as well as to Christ. Just as Christ the God-Man has two natures, divine and human, so in the Church there is a synergy or cooperation between the divine and the human.
But the sin of man cannot affect the essential nature of the Church. We must not say that because Christians on earth sin and are imperfect, therefore the Church sins and is imperfect; for the Church, even on earth, is a thing of heaven, and cannot sin See the Declaration on Faith and Order made by the Orthodox Delegates at Evanston in , where this point is put very clearly. How is it that the members of the Church are sinners, and yet they belong to the communion of saints? Such is the way in which Orthodoxy approaches the mystery of the Church.
The Church is integrally linked with God. It is a new life according to the image of the Holy Trinity, a life in Christ and in the Holy Spirit, a life realized by participation in the sacraments. The Church is a single reality, earthly and heavenly, visible and invisible, human and divine.
So wrote Khomiakov in the opening words of his famous essay. If we take seriously the bond between God and His Church, then we must inevitably think of the Church as one, even as God is one: there is only one Christ, and so there can be only one Body of Christ. No: the Church is one, in the sense that here on earth there is a single, visible community which alone can claim to be the one true Church. Unity is one of the essential characteristics of the Church, and since the Church on earth, despite the sinfulness of its members, retains its essential characteristics, it remains and always will remain visibly one.
There can be schisms from the Church, but no schisms within the Church. In its teaching upon the visible unity of the Church, Orthodoxy stands far closer to Roman Catholicism than to the Protestant world. But if we ask how this visible unity is maintained, Rome and the east give somewhat different answers.
For Rome the unifying principle in the Church is the Pope whose jurisdiction extends over the whole body, whereas Orthodox do not believe any bishop to be endowed with universal jurisdiction. What then holds the Church together? Orthodox answer, the act of communion in the sacraments. The Orthodox theology of the Church is above all else a theology of communion.
Each local Church is constituted, as Ignatius saw, by the congregation of the faithful, gathered round their bishop and celebrating the Eucharist; the Church universal is constituted by the communion of the heads of the local Churches, the bishops, with one another. Unity is not maintained from without by the authority of a Supreme Pontiff, but created from within by the celebration of the Eucharist.
The Church is not monarchical in structure, centered round a single hierarch; it is collegial, formed by the communion of many hierarchs with one another, and of each hierarch with the members of his flock. The act of communion therefore forms the criterion for membership of the Church. An individual ceases to be a member of the Church if he severs communion with his bishop; a bishop ceases to be a member of the Church if he severs communion with his fellow bishops.
Orthodoxy, believing that the Church on earth has remained and must remain visibly one, naturally also believes itself to be that one visible Church. This is a bold claim, and to many it will seem an arrogant one; but this is to misunderstand the spirit in which it is made. Orthodox believe that they are the true Church, not on account of any personal merit, but by the grace of God. They say with Saint Paul: " We are no better than pots of earthenware to contain this treasure; the sovereign power comes from God and not from us" 2 Cor. But while claiming no credit for themselves, Orthodox are in all humility convinced that they have received a precious and unique gift from God; and if they pretended to men that they did not possess this gift, they would be guilty of an act of betrayal in the sight of heaven.
But such a view cannot be reconciled with traditional Orthodox theology. Claiming as it does to be the one true Church, the Orthodox Church also believes that, if it so desired, it could by itself convene and hold another Ecumenical Council, equal in authority to the first seven. Since the separation of east and west the Orthodox unlike the west have never in fact chosen to summon such a Council; but this does not mean that they believe themselves to lack the power to do so.
So much for the Orthodox idea of the unity of the Church. Orthodoxy also teaches that outside the Church there is no salvation. This belief has the same basis as the Orthodox belief in the unbreakable unity of the Church: it follows from the close relation between God and His Church. So wrote Saint Cyprian; and to him this seemed an evident truth, because he could not think of God and the Church apart from one another.
All the categorical strength and point of this aphorism lies in its tautology. Does it therefore follow that anyone who is not visibly within the Church is necessarily damned? Of course not; still less does it follow that everyone who is visibly within the Church is necessarily saved. If anyone is saved, he must in some sense be a member of the Church; in what sense, we cannot always say On this question, see pp. The Church is infallible. This again follows from the indissoluble unity between God and His Church. It is " the pillar and the ground of truth" 1 Tim. But before we can understand what makes a Council Ecumenical, we must consider the place of bishops and of the laity in the Orthodox communion.
The Orthodox Church is a hierarchical Church. An essential element in its structure is the Apostolic Succession of bishops.
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He is a living image of God upon earth At his election and consecration an Orthodox bishop is endowed with the threefold power of 1 ruling, 2 teaching, and 3 celebrating the sacraments. At his consecration a bishop receives a special gift or charisma from the Holy Spirit, in virtue of which he acts as a teacher of the faith. But although the bishop has a special charisma , it is always possible that he may fall into error and give false teaching: here as elsewhere the principle of synergy applies, and the divine element does not expel the human.
The bishop remains a man, and as such he may make mistakes. The Church is infallible, but there is no such thing as personal infallibility. But the Church is not only hierarchical, it is charismatic and Pentecostal. Despise not prophesyings" 1 Thes. There is a special ordained ministry of bishops, priests, and deacons; yet at the same time the whole people of God are prophets and priests. In the Church of later days, these charismatic ministries have been less in evidence, but they have never been wholly extinguished.
Seraphim of Sarov and the startsi of Optino exercised an influence far greater than any hierarch. We have called the bishop a ruler and monarch, but these terms are not to be understood in a harsh and impersonal sense; for in exercising his powers the bishop is guided by the Christian law of love. He is not a tyrant but a father to his flock. Make him a guide to the blind, a light to those in darkness, a teacher to the unreasonable, an instructor to the foolish, a flaming torch in the world; so that having brought to perfection the souls entrusted to him in this present life, he may stand without confusion before thy judgment seat, and receive the great reward which thou hast prepared for those who have suffered for the preaching of thy Gospel.
The authority of the bishop is fundamentally the authority of the Church. However great the prerogatives of the bishop may be, he is not someone set up over the Church, but the holder of an office in the Church. Bishop and people are joined in an organic unity, and neither can properly be thought of apart from the other. Without bishops there can be no Orthodox people, but without Orthodox people there can be no true bishop. The relation between the bishop and his flock is a mutual one. The bishop is the divinely appointed teacher of the faith, but the guardian of the faith is not the episcopate alone, but the whole people of God, bishops, clergy, and laity together.
Infallibility belongs to the whole Church, not just to the episcopate in isolation. The case is quite different. Birkbeck, Russia and the English Church , p. This conception of the laity and their place in the Church must be kept in mind when considering the nature of an Ecumenical Council. The laity are guardians and not teachers; therefore, although they may attend a council and take an active part in the proceedings as Constantine and other Byzantine Emperors did , yet when the moment comes for the council to make a formal proclamation of the faith, it is the bishops alone who, in virtue of their teaching charisma , take the final decision.
But councils of bishops can err and be deceived. How then can one be certain that a particular gathering is truly an Ecumenical Council and therefore that its decrees are infallible? Many councils have considered themselves ecumenical and have claimed to speak in the name of the whole Church, and yet the Church has rejected them as heretical: Ephesus in , for example, or the Iconoclast Council of Hieria in , or Florence in Yet these councils seem in no way different in outward appearance from the Ecumenical Councils.
What, then, is the criterion for determining whether a council is ecumenical? This is a more difficult question to answer than might at first appear, and though it has been much discussed by Orthodox during the past hundred years, it cannot be said that the solutions suggested are entirely satisfactory.
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All Orthodox know which are the seven Councils that their Church accepts as ecumenical, but precisely what it is that makes a council ecumenical is not so clear. There are, so it must be admitted, certain points in the Orthodox theology of Councils which remain obscure and which call for further thinking on the part of theologians.
With this caution in mind, let us briefly consider the present trend of Orthodox thought on this subject. To the question how one can know whether a council is ecumenical, Khomiakov and his school gave an answer which at first sight appears clear and straightforward: a council cannot be considered ecumenical unless its decrees are accepted by the whole Church. Florence, Hieria, and the rest, while ecumenical in outward appearance, are not truly so, precisely because they failed to secure this acceptance by the Church at large.
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One might object: What about Chalcedon? The bishops, so Khomiakov argued, because they are the teachers of the faith, define and proclaim the truth in council; but these definitions must then be acclaimed by the whole people of God, including the laity, because it is the whole people of God that constitutes the guardian of Tradition. There is no such plebiscite. Bulgakov, The Orthodox Church , p. At a true Ecumenical Council the bishops recognize what the truth is and proclaim it; this proclamation is then verified by the assent of the whole Christian people, an assent which is not, a rule, expressed formally and explicitly, but lived.
Protestants and Catholics usually fail to understand this fundamental truth of Orthodoxy: both materialize the presence of God in the Church — the one party in the letter of Scripture, the other in the person of the Pope — though they do not thereby avoid the miracle, but clothe it in a concrete form. Meyendorff, quoted by M. In God and in His Church there is no division between the living and the departed, but all are one in the love of the Father.
Death cannot sever the bond of mutual love which links the members of the Church together. Prayers for the Departed. Pardon every transgression which they have committed, whether by word or deed or thought. Orthodox are convinced that Christians here on earth have a duty to pray for the departed, and they are confident that the dead are helped by such prayers.
But precisely in what way do our prayers help the dead? What exactly is the condition of souls in the period between death and the Resurrection of the Body at the Last Day? Here Orthodox teaching is not entirely clear, and has varied somewhat at different times. It should be remarked, however, that even in the seventeenth century there were many Orthodox who rejected the Roman teaching on Purgatory.
Today most if not all Orthodox theologians reject the idea of Purgatory, at any rate in this form. The majority would be inclined to say that the faithful departed do not suffer at all. Another school holds that perhaps they suffer, but, if so, their suffering is of a purificatory but not an expiatory character; for when a man dies in the grace of God, then God freely forgives him all his sins and demands no expiatory penalties: Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, is our only atonement and satisfaction.
Yet a third group would prefer to leave the whole question entirely open: let us avoid detailed formulation about the life after death, they say, and preserve instead a reverent and agnostic reticence. The Saints. The saints in each generation, joined to those who have gone before, and filled like them with light, become a golden chain, in which each saint is a separate link, united to the next by faith, works, and love.
Such is the Orthodox idea of the communion of saints. In private an Orthodox Christian is free to ask for the prayers of any member of the Church, whether canonized or not. It would be perfectly normal for an Orthodox child, if orphaned, to end his evening prayers by asking for the intercessions not only of the Mother of God and the saints, but of his own mother and father.
In its public worship, however, the Church usually prays only to those whom it has officially proclaimed as saints; but in exceptional circumstances a public cult may become established without any formal act of canonization. The Greek Church under the Ottoman Empire soon began to commemorate the New Martyrs in its worship, but to avoid the notice of the Turks there was usually no official act of proclamation: the cult of the New Martyrs was in most cases something that arose spontaneously under popular initiative. Reverence for the saints is closely bound up with the veneration of icons.
These are placed by Orthodox not only in their churches, but in each room of their homes, and even in cars and buses. These ever-present icons act as a point of meeting between the living members of the Church and those who have gone before. Icons help Orthodox to look on the saints not as remote and legendary figures from the past, but as contemporaries and personal friends. An Orthodox has a special devotion to the saint whose name he bears; he usually keeps an icon of his patron saint in his room, and prays daily to him. An Orthodox Christian prays not only to the saints but to the angels, and in particular to his guardian angel.
The Mother of God. In Greek theology the distinction is very clearly marked: there is a special word, latreia , reserved for the worship of God, while for the veneration of the Virgin entirely different terms are employed duleia, hyperduleia, proskynesis. The first of these titles was assigned to her by the third Ecumenical Council Ephesus, , the second by the fifth Ecumenical Council Constantinople, But the word used here in Greek can mean half-brother, cousin, or near relative, as well as brother in the strict sense.
The title Panagia , although never a subject of dogmatic definition, is accepted and used by all Orthodox. The appellation Theotokos is of particular importance, for it provides the key to the Orthodox cult of the Virgin. We honour Mary because she is the Mother of our God. We do not venerate her in isolation, but because of her relation to Christ. Thus the reverence shown to Mary, so far from eclipsing the worship of God, has exactly the opposite effect: the more we esteem Mary, the more vivid is our awareness of the majesty of her Son, for it is precisely on account of the Son that we venerate the Mother.
We honour the Mother on account of the Son: Mariology is simply an extension of Christology. Anyone who thinks out the implications of that great phrase, The Word was made flesh , cannot but feel a certain awe for her who was chosen as the instrument of so surpassing a mystery. When men refuse to honour Mary, only too often it is because they do not really believe in the Incarnation. God, who always respects human liberty, did not wish to become incarnate without the free consent of His Mother. He Waited for her voluntary response: " Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to your word" Luke Mary could have refused; she was not merely passive, but an active participant in the mystery.
But was she also free from original sin? In the past individual Orthodox have made statements which, if not definitely affirming the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, at any rate approach close to it; but since the great majority of Orthodox have rejected the doctrine, for several reasons.
They feel it to be unnecessary; they feel that, at any rate as defined by the Roman Catholic Church, it implies a false understanding of original sin; they suspect the doctrine because it seems to separate Mary from the rest of the descendants of Adam, putting her in a completely different class from all the other righteous men and women of the Old Testament. From the Orthodox point of view, however, the whole question belongs to the realm of theological opinion; and if an individual Orthodox today felt impelled to believe in the Immaculate Conception, he could not be termed a heretic for so doing.
But Orthodoxy, while for the most part denying the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, firmly believes in her Bodily Assumption Immediately after the Pope proclaimed the Assumption as a dogma in , a few Orthodox by way of reaction against the Roman Catholic Church began to express doubts about the Bodily Assumption and even explicitly to deny it; but they are certainly not representative of the Orthodox Church as a whole.
She has passed beyond death and judgement, and lives already in the Age to Come. Yet she is not thereby utterly separated from the rest of humanity, for that same bodily glory which Mary enjoys now, all of us hope one day to share. The Mother of God was never a theme of the public preaching of the Apostles; while Christ was preached on the housetops, and proclaimed for all to know in an initiatory teaching addressed to the whole world, the mystery of his Mother was revealed only to those who were within the Church … It is not so much an object of faith as a foundation of our hope, a fruit of faith, ripened in Tradition.
For the Christian there exist but two ultimate alternatives, Heaven and Hell. But Hell exists as well as Heaven. In recent years many Christians — not only in the west, but at times also in the Orthodox Church — have come to feel that the idea of Hell is inconsistent with belief in a loving God. But to argue thus is to display a sad and perilous confusion of thought.
While it is true that God loves us with an infinite love, it is also true that He has given us free will; and since we have free will, it is possible for us to reject God. Since free will exists, Hell exists; for Hell is nothing else than the rejection of God. If we deny Hell, we deny free will. God will not force us to love Him, for love is no longer love if it is not free; how then can God reconcile to Himself those who refuse all reconciliation?
The Orthodox attitude towards the Last Judgment and Hell is clearly expressed in the choice of Gospel readings at the Liturgy on three successive Sundays shortly before Lent. On the first Sunday is read the parable of the Publican and Pharisee, on the second the parable of the Prodigal Son, stories which illustrate the immense forgiveness and mercy of God towards all sinners who repent. But in the Gospel for the third Sunday — the parable of the Sheep and the Goats — we are reminded of the other truth: that it is possible to reject God and to turn away from Him to Hell.
There is no terrorism in the Orthodox doctrine of God. Hell is not so much a place where God imprisons man, as a place where man, by misusing his free will, chooses to imprison himself. And even in Hell the wicked are not deprived of the love of God, but by their own choice they experience as suffering what the saints experience as joy.
Hell exists as a final possibility, but several of the Fathers have none the less believed that in the end all will be reconciled to God. It is heretical to say that all must be saved, for this is to deny free will; but it is legitimate to hope that all may be saved. No one must be excluded from our loving intercession.
Wensinck, Amsterdam, , p. Gregory of Nyssa said that Christians may legitimately hope even for the redemption of the Devil. The Bible ends upon a note of keen expectation: " Surely I am coming quickly. Even so, come, Lord Jesus" Rev. From one point of view the first Christians were wrong: they imagined that the end of the world would occur almost immediately, whereas in fact two millennia have passed and still the end has not yet come. It is not for us to know the times and the seasons, and perhaps this present order will last for many millennia more.
Yet from another point of view the primitive Church was right. For whether the end comes early or late, it is always imminent, always spiritually close at hand, even though it may not be temporally close. The Day of the Lord will come " as a thief in the night" 1 Thess. Christians, therefore, as in Apostolic times, so today must always be prepared, waiting in constant expectation. One of the most encouraging signs of revival in contemporary Orthodoxy is the renewed awareness among many Orthodox of the Second Coming and its relevance.
Yet the Second Coming is not simply an event in the future, for in the life of the Church, the Age to Come has already begun to break through into this present age. Even so, come, Lord Jesus. He comes already — in the Holy Liturgy and the worship of the Church. There is a story in the Russian Primary Chronicle of how Vladimir, Prince of Kiev, while still a pagan, desired to know which was the true religion, and therefore sent his followers to visit the various countries of the world in turn.
They went first to the Moslem Bulgars of the Volga, but observing that these when they prayed gazed around them like men possessed, the Russians continued on their way dissatisfied. Finally they journeyed to Constantinople, and here at last, as they attended the Divine Liturgy in the great Church of the Holy Wisdom, they discovered what they desired. We cannot describe it to you: only this we know, that God dwells there among men, and that their service surpasses the worship of all other places.
For we cannot forget that beauty. In this story can be seen several features characteristic of Orthodox Christianity. There is first the emphasis upon divine beauty: we cannot forget that beauty. It has seemed to many that the peculiar gift of Orthodox peoples — and especially of Byzantium and Russia — is this power of perceiving the beauty of the spiritual world, and expressing this celestial beauty in their worship.
In the second place it is characteristic that the Russians should have said, we knew not whether we were in heaven or on earth. This we know, that God dwells there among men. A very grimy and sordid Presbyterian mission hall in a mews over a garage, where the Russians are allowed once a fortnight to have the Liturgy. A very stage property iconostasis and a few modern icons. A dirty floor to kneel on and a form along the wall When they wanted to discover the true faith, the Russians did not ask about moral rules nor demand a reasoned statement of doctrine, but watched the different nations at prayer.
Every, The Byzantine Patriarchate , first edition, p. The Church is first of all a worshipping community. As Philip said to Nathanael: " Come and see" John Because they approach religion in this liturgical way, Orthodox often attribute to minute points of ritual an importance which astonishes western Christians.
But once we have understood the central place of worship in the life of Orthodoxy, an incident such as the schism of the Old Believers will no longer appear entirely unintelligible: if worship is the faith in action, then liturgical changes cannot be lightly regarded. They do not even know how to venerate the church of God. They raise their voices as the fools, and their singing is a discordant wail. Zernov, Moscow the Third Rome , p. Orthodoxy sees man above all else as a liturgical creature who is most truly himself when he glorifies God, and who finds his perfection and self-fulfilment in worship.
Into the Holy Liturgy which expresses their faith, the Orthodox peoples have poured their whole religious experience. It is the Liturgy which has inspired their best poetry, art, and music. In the dark days of their history — under the Mongols, the Turks, or the communists — it is to the Holy Liturgy that the Orthodox peoples have always turned for inspiration and new hope; nor have they turned in vain.
In addition to these, the Orthodox Church makes use of a great variety of lesser blessings. While in many Anglican and almost all Roman Catholic parish churches, the Eucharist is celebrated daily, in the Orthodox Church today a daily Liturgy is not usual except in cathedrals and large monasteries; in a normal parish church it is celebrated only on Sundays and feasts.
But in contemporary Russia, where places of worship are few and many Christians are obliged to work on Sundays, a daily Liturgy has become the practice in many town parishes. The Divine Office is recited daily in monasteries, large and small, and in some cathedrals; also in a number of town parishes in Russia. But in an ordinary Orthodox parish church it is sung only at week-ends and on feasts.
One of the first tasks of Orthodox missionaries — from Cyril and Methodius in the ninth century, to Innocent Veniaminov and Nicholas Kassatkin in the nineteenth — has always been to translate the service books into native tongues. In practice, however, there are partial exceptions to this general principle of using the vernacular: the Greek-speaking Churches employ, not modern Greek, but the Greek of New Testament and Byzantine times, while the Russian Church still uses the ninth-century translations in Church Slavonic.
Yet in both cases the difference between the liturgical language and the contemporary vernacular is not so great as to make the service unintelligible to the congregation. In many Russian bishops in fact recommended that Church Slavonic be replaced more or less generally by modern Russian, but the Bolshevik Revolution occurred before this scheme could be carried into effect. In the Orthodox Church today, as in the early Church, all services are sung or chanted.
Of these traditions the Russian is the best known and the most immediately attractive to western ears; many consider Russian Church music the finest in all Christendom, and alike in the Soviet Union and in the emigration there are justly celebrated Russian choirs. In the Orthodox Church today, as in the early Church, singing is unaccompanied and instrumental music is not found, except among certain Orthodox in America — particularly the Greeks — who are now showing a penchant for the organ or the harmonium.