Originally posted by josephw
[b]God [is] a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship [him] in spirit and in truth.
The term supernatural does not occur in scripture. So I think it a waste of time using it in relation to understanding who or what God is.
My experience with the term supernatural generally is that it is used by those who profess to know somethin nd listen to George Noory on his radio show Coast to Coast. A lot of supernatural stuff there.[/b]
You have a point, and I read in a Greek Orthodox theologian some time back that the concept of “supernature” wasn’t used in theological discourse until Aquinas.
However, it’s not the word per se
, I think—it’s what it is used to indicate. Someone might not use the word “supernatural”, but claim that God is “above or beyond nature”, or “unexplainable by natural law or phenomena” (these two from Webter’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary
); or “transcendent” to the natural order, or “wholly other” (both of which occur in the theological literature); or “outside, or beyond, time and space” (a claim that has occurred often enough on here). I have suggested, for example, that “wholly other” (as used by Karl Barth and other theologians), indicates inconceivability.
I think that those are the kind of things that “supernatural” generally stands in for, in theological talk. However, it could also refer nature “of a superlative degree” (also from Webster’s)—in this case, “God is a supernatural being” could indicate that God is a being of the natural order, but to a superlative degree; perhaps the ultimate nature, from which the rest of nature derives (e.g., the” ground of being”, as in Paul Tillich); and this might be akin to St. Gregory of Nyssa’s understanding, especially if his diastema
(space or gap) is epistemological rather than ontological.
Similarly, the word “spirit”
. Below is the entire list of definitions from the Merriam-Webster online dictionary (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/spirit). 1. Is essentially how the ancient Stoics used the word (associating it, in their physics of the time, with either the element of fire, or air and fire combined). 2. Seems to be the way that most Christians would intend the phrase “God is [a] spirit”—and we’re back to “supernatural” again—
1: an animating or vital principle held to give life to physical organisms
2: a supernatural being or essence
a capitalized : HOLY SPIRIT
b : SOUL 2a
c : an often malevolent being that is bodiless but can become visible; specifically : GHOST 2
d : a malevolent being that enters and possesses a human being
3: temper or disposition of mind or outlook especially when vigorous or animated <in high spirits>
4: the immaterial intelligent or sentient part of a person
5a : the activating or essential principle influencing a person<acted in a spirit of helpfulness>
b : an inclination, impulse, or tendency of a specified kind :MOOD
6a : a special attitude or frame of mind <the money-makingspirit was for a time driven back — J. A. Froude>
b : the feeling, quality, or disposition characterizing something <undertaken in a spirit of fun>
7: a lively or brisk quality in a person or a person's actions
8: a person having a character or disposition of a specified nature
9: a mental disposition characterized by firmness or assertiveness <denied the charge with spirit>
10a : DISTILLATE 1: as (1) : the liquid containing ethanol and water that is distilled from an alcoholic liquid or mash —often used in plural (2) : any of various volatile liquids obtained by distillation or cracking (as of petroleum, shale, or wood) —often used in plural
b : a usually volatile organic solvent (as an alcohol, ester, or hydrocarbon)
11a : prevailing tone or tendency <spirit of the age>
b : general intent or real meaning <spirit of the law>
12: an alcoholic solution of a volatile substance <spirit of camphor>
13: enthusiastic loyalty <school spirit>
14 capitalized Christian Science : GOD
So the question becomes, when it is said that "God is [a] spirit", what does that mean? What qualities or attributes does it indicate for God that would differentiate God from other beings?