Christianity - Their God

This GCSE RE Christianity quiz takes a look at the Christian God. 'Who, or what, is God?' The concept of God is at once so huge and wonderful, yet surprisingly hard to 'pin down' within our limited human understanding, since we (as beings) are finite: there are limits to the scope of our life, in terms of our dates of birth and death and the reach of our senses, whereas God can have no 'edges' in space or time beyond which He does not pervade.

Any God worthy of worship must presumably be demonstrably powerful and probably benevolent ~ a permanently angry and vengeful god, in whose eyes we could do no right, would be a frustrating and futile focus for our affections. Yet He (or indeed She) would also need to embody some form of justice and fairness, in order to command our respect.

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The Christian God, as revealed and understood in the Trinity, reconciles justice and mercy in a very particular, astonishing way and which is accessible to all people, whatever their gender, ethnicity, upbringing or other circumstances. Christians believe He became incarnate (made flesh) in human form ~ at Christmas ~ to experience the worst that earthly life can throw at anyone (e.g. being virtually 'born a refugee'; and, later, betrayed by a chosen friend, and a grim death sentence on a trumped-up charge, after a trial that ought never to have taken place) … and yet to break and reverse even the power of death. A God with power over all that, through the Resurrection victory at Easter, is surely a God worth reckoning with, and who can be known two thousand years later in the person of His Holy Spirit.

This quiz will do its best to help you gain a grip on who and what Christians understand God to be, both in their common and different traditions.

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  1. One initial problem is that for creatures such as us humans, it is hard to grasp the concept of a God without limits. Sometimes this can be addressed by comparing Him with other more familiar things in your life, such as the table at which you may be sitting as you do this quiz.

    Which would you regard as the WEAKEST amid the following arguments?
    You could always walk away from (or indeed lose, destroy or sell) your table ~ but God, so Christians (and others) believe, is always there! Christians put their faith in Him as being eternal, omnipresent (always everywhere) and omniscient (all-knowing) ... how could any God worth His salt be any less?
  2. Another key belief is about God as the Holy Trinity: three distinct 'persons', yet comprising one God. Which of those listed below is NOT one of these Persons?
    For Christians, the Scriptures (though directly inspired by God) are not in themselves a part of the Godhead ( ... while in Sikhism, the Guru Granth Sahib has a very special status alongside the deities).
  3. Which of the following did the missionary St Patrick use to explain the doctrine of the Trinity ('one God in three Persons') to the Irish?
    He might perhaps have tried answer 4, but the first two were probably rather after his time. They had not invented cricket, nor discovered the formula for water, 1,500-odd years ago! A more local visual aid became his emblem, whose botanical Latin name clearly references the 'trefoil' ('three-leaves').
  4. The means by which God the Father chose to reveal Himself to the world give us various clues as to His nature. In which of the classical 'elements' did He very first make Himself known in Creation, according to the mystic account at the beginning of Genesis (in the front of the Jewish and Christian Scriptures)?
    His first action was to say 'Let there be light'. There are many later stories in which He manifests His presence by means of lights or flames: see our following question.
  5. Which of the following appears to be mistaken, or otherwise unreasonable, in identifying or interpreting such a 'theophany' (disclosure of God)?
    It was Noah, rather than Abraham, who had survived the Flood. Apart from that 'deliberate mistake', the symbolism holds; we now know that there needs to be a balanced presence of both rain and sunlight to achieve this 'sign', but Noah would not have appreciated the finer optics of this phenomenon!
  6. The following, listed here in alphabetical order, are key elements in God's plan for salvation through the Incarnation*. Which of them should come FIRST if they were in their correct chronological sequence?

    * 'Incarnation' = 'making flesh', i.e. God 'dwelling among humankind in the Person of Jesus'
    (The '-carn-' stem of this word is linked with 'carnivore' and indeed 'carnival')
    'Nativity' = 'birth'; then in due course came the Passion (Jesus' sufferings during what we now refer to as Holy Week, including His betrayal, arrest and illegal overnight trials), Crucifixion (when He was publicly tortured to death) and Resurrection (triumphant return from death on Easter morning).
  7. It may (perhaps rather selectively and simplistically) be argued that while the God of the Old Testament is generous, He also has what seems to be a vengeful streak ~ there are many stories of tribal and individual bloodshed. Of the equally simplistic options given below, which would probably be the best way to characterise God as encountered in the New Testament?
    If God represents (among much else) the principle of perfect 'righteousness', He cannot ignore the mistakes that we humans make ~ since we are inevitably less perfect than He is. Thus we would be 'doomed to fail' by a supposedly loving Creator ... something doesn't quite seem right with that! But in the New Testament He sends His own Son among us to model what life can be and offer, right to the point of 'taking the sins of the world upon Himself', in order to re-clear the way for love and hope between ourselves and God. The penalty for our imperfections is borne by Jesus, so God is indeed 'just' yet also 'loving'. (See John 3:16)
  8. Jesus Himself inevitably spoke a lot about God and His kingdom, likening these (in parables) to various everyday objects and situations with which His listeners could readily identify. ONE of the following is NOT such a genuine Scriptural example: which one?
    Answer 4 is, rather, a slight paraphrase from the Revelation to St John the Divine, in which he is almost lost for words as he experiences 'the new heaven and earth'. Meanwhile Jesus Himself offers no fewer than 14 'takes' on the Kingdom of Heaven (see Kingdom of Heaven)
  9. Even people with only a very residual link to Christianity or the church, will probably be familiar with the words of the 23rd Psalm: 'The Lord is my shepherd, therefore I shall lack nothing', etc. Jesus Himself would have sung and meditated on this text on numerous occasions, and indeed quoted the immediately previous Psalm at various key points during His Passion. What, about these comforting words, came as the greatest surprise to people who first heard 'the Shepherd's Psalm'?
    Yes: if you have a mind's-eye image of some (probably Victorian) milky watercolour of a suspiciously Northern-European looking Jesus ~ in a suspiciously clean white smock, smiling benignly over a flock of clean white fluffy sheep, under a sunny sky with occasional fluffy clouds to match ~ in some idyllically verdant and not very Holy Land-y landscape ... perhaps glimpsed on the wall of a church or Sunday-school ... then that's a very far cultural diagonal from what King David (psalmist and former shepherd-boy) would originally have had in his own mind ~ if, indeed, this or any other of the Psalms were in fact his work. Jesus' first visitors (at the original Christmas) were shepherds and He is sometimes referred to as the Good Shepherd; this is partly why bishops, in such churches as have them, traditionally carry a 'crook' as an emblem of their responsibility to direct and protect their flock. But the metaphor of a shepherd is definitely conceived as direct, bold and practical, rather than simply soppy!
  10. Another entirely reasonable way of discovering what Christians believe about their God is to consider the 4th-century Nicene Creed (with Constantinople revisions), which is formally and collectively recited in worship as a declaration of faith. The following are four key excerpts from that Creed; one of them has been brought forward from the usual order in which they occur (i.e. not answer 4). Which one is out of its proper position in the sequence?

    'I/We believe in ...'
    The material in Answer 3 should come last among these excerpts, because answer 4 refers to Jesus (and His Second Coming) rather than to the Spirit or the three Persons of God as a whole.

Author: Ian Miles

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