Who or What is God?


by Bishop Kallistos Ware (PhD, Oxford)*

“What or who is God? The traveller upon the spiritual Way, the further he advances, becomes increasingly conscious of two contrasting facts—of the otherness and yet the nearness of the Eternal. In the first place, he realizes more and more that God is mystery. God is “the wholly Other”, invisible, inconceivable, radically transcendent, beyond all words, beyond all understanding. “Surely the babe just born”, writes the Roman Catholic George Tyrrell, “knows as much of the world and its ways as the wisest of us can know of the ways of God, whose sway stretches over heaven and earth, time and eternity.” A Christian in the Orthodox tradition will agree with this entirely. As the Greek Fathers insisted, “A God who is comprehensible is not God.” A God, that is to say, whom we claim to understand exhaustively through the resources of our reasoning brain…

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5 Responses to Who or What is God?

  1. Rhonda says:

    Good article for reblogging. Thanks 🙂

    “Thus the essence-energies distinction is a way of stating simultaneously that the whole God is inaccessible, and that the whole God in his outgoing love has rendered himself accessible to man.”

    Well said.


    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      Met Kallistos’s formulation of the essence/energies distinction is the only way I can make sense of it. The language of “energies,” I have to admit, makes me uncomfortable. All I can think of is something like “the Force.” Perhaps it sounds different in the original Greek. Met John Zizioulas raises a similar point in his writings, which is why he prefers to think of theosis in terms of union with Christ rather than participation in the divine energies.


      • Agni Ashwin says:

        “Energy” is from “ergon”, meaning “work”. Could theosis be seen as the participation in the Divine Work?


      • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

        Agni, I’m not sure how to reply to your query. Those who following in the footsteps of St Gregory Palamas on the divine energies speak of the energies as eternally existing even if God had never created the world–like the rays of the sun. If this is so, would the English word “work” work?


  2. Timothy M. Teeter says:

    I had the pleasure of meeting Metrolpolitan Kallistos this summer in Oxford. A very nice man.


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