This has been uploaded primarily for revision purposes. This is an essay I had to write for Philosophy & Ethics about the concept of God described in Western religions. I will upload the sources later.
Explaining the Judeo-Christian concept of God
Before any meaningful discussion of God can take place, it is important to define what exactly God is. While some people may simply perceive God as being a big, bearded man sitting on a cloud, the Judeo-Christian concept of God is far more complex than this, meaning that having a belief or disbelief in God is far from the simple statement it may appear to be at first glance.
Christian apologist Richard Swinburne nicely sums up the concept of this version of God as "present everywhere, the creator and sustainer of the universe, a free agent, able to do everything(i.e. omnipotent), knowing all things, perfectly good, a source of moral obligation, immutable, eternal, a necessary being, holy, and worthy of worship.", including the three basic traits Christians believe God to have; omniscience, omnipotence, and benevolence. However, there are arguments about whether or not these arguments are logical- for example, if God is all powerful, then could he create something so heavy that he could not lift it?
One element that needs to be defined is the crucial difference between "everlasting" and "eternal". Although God is described as "The Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end", Genesis, the first book of the Christian Bible, begins with the creation of the world. The birth of God is not mentioned. This makes it harder to argue that God is "everlasting", as anything within time must have a beginning as well as an end. That said, He could possibly be described as being "eternal"- existing outside of space and time- but he is described in the Bible as active in the world, which makes it awkward to call him eternal and therefore outside of time and space. Nonetheless, some philosophers do regard God as eternal, suggesting that he embodies reality's structure and consequently anything which emerges out of it, including time and space. In the words of one philosopher, "God is the structure of the board game itself... but you cannot throw dice and get him to move!".
God as the creator also needs to be discussed. According to the traditional Judeo-Christian view, God created the world ex nihilo(from nothing), making God the sole origin of everything as opposed to being an external force. This would mean that God cannot be seperate from creation because He has no matter outside of Himself: "You cannot say 'There is something of beauty' and then point to someone else and say 'There is its creator.'". Then again, this depends on whether "is" is used to define the nature of God or to identify God Himself. For example, it could be argued that if God is the "creator and sustainer", then God is the process by which hydrogen is converted to helium, as opposed to the traditional texts, which aim to define God as creator and sustainer.
The next trait we need to define is God's omnipotence. The doctrine of creation- that God created the Earth from nothing- suggests that God can do anything and his power is unlimited. However, there is a limitation to this argument: God can do anything that is logically possible. For example, He could not make 2+2=5. This also creates problems for those who believe in God because of evil and suffering in the world.
The final trait to identify is God's omniscience, which has two interpretations. If you assume that God is eternal, then so is his omniscience- his knowledge is external. He has no future as his knowledge is eternal. However, if you perceive God to be everlasting, then He must know everything that has an is happening, including anything that will affect the future, meaning He would be able to know what will happen despite not having witnessed it yet. The issue with either interpretation in what this means for the concept of free will and responsibility: If God knew that I was going to perform an action, then the action was predetermined, I didn't choose to perform the action after all, and therefore I am not to blame for the action or its consequences. This is occasionally used when Christians debate the responsibility of Judas Iscariot in the Bible- was he to blame, or was he simply an instrument of God's will?
However, Brian Davies argues that an individual's freedom is part of God's knowledge, leaving the individual free to choose. That said, this creates a flaw in the argument: If I am free to choose, then there must be at least two outcomes, and God cannot know which I will choose without denying me my free will.
One solution to this problem is that we don't fully understand our choices as God would, so would not know all the factors leading to our supposedly free choice. On the other hand is Swinburne's argument that God knows all that is logically possible, but would not have logically improbable knowledge- for example, the ability to predict the future.