Christian theology in a Sudanese context. The essential nature and character of God.
God is Spirit In Bahri suk one day a man tried to sell me a small sewn leather pouch on a neck cord. He told me inside the pouch was some writing from the Qur’an, and if I wore it bad spirits would be kept away. He also sold little metal tubes for similar purpose. This is a folk-Islam belief, where traditional African spirit worship has adapted to partly receive Islam. Many traditional religions have beliefs like this, that something must be worn, or done, or sacrificed in order to keep the spirit gods happy. The Bible says that “God is Spirit”, John 4:24. Does this mean He is just one of many spirit gods? How is God different from a jinn in Islam? Jesus Christ gave the statement “God is Spirit” in answer to a question about holy places for worship. His answer showed that true worship is all about a person’s spiritual condition, not their physical location. Unlike ancestral or tribal spirits,God is not interested in just one family or a single tribe. God is not localised to any one place. He is not so small as to be here without being there. He is not so big as to be only partly here while partly there. No one person can ever have the exclusive presence of God. As Spirit all of God is everywhere. (Psalm 139:1-10). God does not have size, nor take up any space. This enables all of God to be present everywhere at every moment in time. God has no body. He is invisible, yet He is real. Any image or representation of God limits our understanding of Him. It may illustrate one aspect of God’s being, but in doing so it will hide many other aspects of Him. This is rather like some of the wooden carvings available from shops and roadside tables. An African female figure may be shown with very large lips or breasts, but her real beauty will be in her personality and character, neither of which can be reproduced in a carving.
God does not have the limits we humans do. His excellent spirit-existence means He is never tired, never hurried for time, never taken by surprise, never absent, never too busy, never limited – but always doing what He wants to do and when He chooses to do it.
Electricity is powerful and brings light to areas where it is taken. But God is not just a force to be used. God is an intelligent, purposeful, living Being Who always uses the absolute power under His personal control, wisely and well. (Isaiah 46:8-10).
In the same room, one person can be aware of God being there while another is not. Just as the radio waves in the air can only be picked up and heard by people using radios, so God is knowable only by those who are tuned in to Him. To worshipGod in spirit and in truth we must be born of the Spirit ourselves (John 3:1-8)and we must set our minds to think often about God’s spirituality (Colossians 3:1,2).
Thinking it through.
(a). What does the description, ‘God is Spirit’, mean to you?
(b). Explain how this is different from belief in ‘the spirit of the tree’ or ‘the spirit of an