Ralph Waldo Emerson in one of his essays, on Plato, the Greek philosopher, stated “in all nations there are minds which incline to dwell in the conception of the fundamental Unity…this tendency finds its highest expression in the religious writings of the East and, chiefly in the Indian scriptures” (1857: 106). While it is indeed true that many great thinkers as well as ordinary men have acknowledged a relationship with a Supreme Natural Order of things, the concept of ‘God’ and the position of ‘God’ in relation to man, differs radically from religion to religion.
This essay shall consider three religions, Christianity (western) and, two ancient (eastern), religions – Hinduism and Buddhism and analyze the portrayal of ‘God’ in these three religions. In the process, the essay shall highlight some similarities, and point out some fundamental differences between the three, in their conceptualization of ‘God’. God, Our Lord, and the Holy Trinity ‘God’ in Christianity, is the Supreme Creator, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis I. 1), light, water, earth, animals & all living beings.
And then, God made man in his own image, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (Genesis I. 27). Thus, God is “our Father”, and “the relationship between God and man is that of father and child” (Fox, Undated). His dwelling is in heaven, surrounded by angels, who do his bidding. Here, God is conceived as the archetypical father, who provides for his children with all material things that give them joy and happiness. But it is to be noted that, He is also the Supreme Being, and His “Will be done” at all times.
God created Adam and Eve, and bestowed them with all the bounty of the earth for their enjoyment. However, they “fell” from their favored status, when they disobeyed His orders not to taste the forbidden fruit, from the tree of knowledge of Good and Evil. God curses the Serpent, Eve and Adam tells him that he will now have feel pain, and suffer death, struggle for his sustenance (Genesis 3:16-21). God, the Father is clearly portrayed as also their Lord, very angered, that Adam fears facing Him. But, on Adam and Eve seeking God’s forgiveness, God forgives them.
God is conceptualized more as man’s Father, and therefore God too, is portrayed like man – subject to Mercy, Benevolence, Anger, and Forgiveness, just as human beings are. Most fundamental to the Christian Faith is the belief that ‘God’ is real (Casebolt, 2003). God is omniscient, knew that human beings will sin against Him; and incapable of redeeming themselves. So God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to atone for the Sins of Mankind. Thus redemption from the fallen, sinned state of Adam is possible, by reposing faith voluntarily in the Son of God, in whom the Holy Ghost is said to have been lodged.
Thus understanding ‘God’ in Christianity also means a clear understanding of the concept of Trinities, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19). Faith in the truth of the Trinity is imperative to comprehending the biblical revelations and the Christian gospel (Little, 2005 cited in Christianity 101). ‘God’ is also the One who passes the souls into heaven or hell on the Judgment Day. ‘God’ is portrayed as resplendent, eternal, omniscient, omnipotent, benevolent and yet, angry, punishing, over-lord like Father- figure to be loved and feared. This concept of ‘God’ is very different from the Buddhist’s view of the Supreme Truth.