Is God Really An Old, Glowing, Bearded Man? How We See God Defines Everything


Worship transports me. While books and lofty notions illuminate His character and reveal various intellectual qualities of God, nothing connects and moves me to see God than in worship and song. While in the middle of worship recently, I saw within my mind the heavens open and the entire congregation was transported to the throne room of God. There, we stood, kneeled, sang, and raised hands to the one sitting on the throne. He was an eternal light pulsating brighter and brighter as it broke through the clouds of darkness and shone down on creation.

Such is how I see God. He is this eternal, inexplicable, incomprehensible, infinite being who holds the very universe in His hands. At His spoken word, all came into being. His vastness beyond us is not something that can be grasped. The closest I can come to understanding Him is that I am a speck of dust and He is infinitely larger, that in comparison, it is as if I don’t exist.

When we catch a glimpse of how vast the Universe is and realize that our God is the one who created it, how can we not praise Him? How can we not glorify Him as one who is vastly beyond us? Francis Chan demonstrated this recently in a video showing the magnitude of the Universe and how small we actually are within it.

This universe is to us a seemingly infinite space. The size of it is beyond our comprehension. How much more the God who created it?

The way we see God defines everything. If we see God as this vast creator over all reality, of time and space, than we see ourselves in a certain way. We see our lives in a certain way. And we see the kind of God we worship, who would come down among us and shed his blood—one more infinite to us than we are to a microbe. This is His love.

Too often, however, we rationalize God and make him smaller than He actually is so that we can understand Him. We tend to cast Him in our image rather than Him making us in His.

Classically, God is imagined as an old, bearded, glowing man who sits in the clouds and shows up once in a while to speak with people.

God is not a man. He does not have flesh and blood. He does not have a beard, as if He needed to trim it up or stylize it once in a while. And with this, our God does not have sex, take extended bathroom breaks in some region of the galaxy, or eat food. At the heart of this idea, is a return to the ancient ideas of religion, in which God is a man, an animal, or some hybrid of the two.

And while few who believe in God make such antiquated arguments, none is as popular as the Church of Latter-day Saints. To them, God is a man who has flesh and blood, a soul, has sex, eats food, and no-doubt relieves himself (where else would this food go?). This doctrine is clearly attested throughout the Doctrine and Covenants. Brigham Young, the second president, taught “That God the Father was once a man on another planet who ‘passed the ordeal we are now passing through. . .” (11) Moreover, “God is a glorified and perfected man, a personage of flesh and bones. Inside his tangible body is an eternal spirit.” (130:22)

God is a tangible man? He is like us. He eats and has sex with his wife (or wives!)

“We have clearly shown that God the Father had a plurality of wives, one or more being in eternity, by whom He begat our spirits as well as the spirit of Jesus His first Born, and another being upon the earth by whom He begat the tabernacle of Jesus (Mary – ed.), as his only begotten in the world.” — LDS Apostle Orson Pratt, The Seer, p. 172.

It is from this sex that all of His children are born. Christ becomes just like some Greek myth of old, a man born from a god who came down and seduced a lowly human—who in fact is his child and thus a product of incest!

The doctrine of God having flesh is often defended by pointing to the moments when God revealed himself as a man to Humanity. And indeed He did! God walked with Adam and Eve. Moses saw the backside of God. Steven saw Christ standing at the right hand of God. However, God also has revealed himself as many other things—as a burning bush, a rush of wind, or a booming voice. The ancient scriptures speak clearly regarding our God. He is no man!

“God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?”— Numbers 23:19

“And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor relent. For He is not a man, that He should relent.”— 1 Samuel 15:29

“For He is not a man, as I am, that I may answer Him, and that we should go to court together.”— Job 9:32

“God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”— John 4:24

And while God made us in His image, no declaration of this referring to flesh appears. In fact, He made man and woman together as an image of community which reflects the Trinitarian community that God the Father partakes in.

Our God is so much greater than flesh and blood. Whether Protestant Evangelical, Mormon, or Catholic, we come with baggage to our God. He is not a reflection of us. He does not share natures with us. To be infinite is by definition, one who transcends flesh and matter.

He is far beyond anything we could ever imagine. He had no beginning. He was never born. He was never created. He has simply always existed. Praise God that we worship a being that is beyond comprehension and yet wants to spend time with us. He is one worthy of our trust.

On Good Friday, the identity and nature of Christ, both as God and the son of God, will be discussed in the article Is Good Friday Really Good? Be sure to check it out. Give THEOLOGY21’s Facebook Fan page a “like” and keep up-to-date on all the articles and news. Click Here.

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  • Cruz5806

    If you find the image of God as a bearded old man so objectionable, why do you display it on this, and one other page?

  • Thanks for the comment. In actuality, the images capture and convey an idea, but showing the image is not sinful or objectionable as one might expect in strict Jewish and Muslim sects. 

  • Mondemash

    You seem to forget that we are made in God’s image; that means we ourselves are made to resemble Him- He has fingers, toes, a nose, hands . “Let us make man in OUR image”…
    And yes, when He walked the earth like a man 2,000 years ago He ate, breathed, slept and relieved Himself just like everybody else because He designed those biological functions Himself. When Jesus, comes back to rule from Jerusalem what do you think He will be coming as, a spirit or God in human flesh??

  • This is a GREAT question. You are absolutely right in saying that the triune god created man in THEIR image. But what does this mean? If you will notice, they/he creates both man and women together to demonstrate the image of God. If taken literally, is God then both man and women? Certainly not. I would argue that the “image” which we bare is metaphoric. Now when we talk about Jesus, one member of the trinity–his flesh is human because he took on the flesh of HUMANS just like ours–Romans chapter 8. However, neither FATHER nor the spirit have flesh. Cheers.

  • You should consider, where did God get the model..”the appearance of man” when he deigned the idea for how man would look like.  Also Angels have the appearance of man. In the book of Ezekiel 1..he even sees the preincarnate Christ in the image of a man.

  • An interesting, albiet speculative, question. But what is speculative on this topic?! While Christ certainly is timeless and it might be argued that Christ took flesh eternally forward and backward and thus when he created he created Adam in his image—but this creates a sort of Chicken-or-egg paradox. I am weary of the the notion of “where God ‘got’ the idea….” He is God, he did not “get” any of his ideas from anything other than himself. Thanks for your thoughts @facebook-100000667897773:disqus !

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