Archive for Saturday, August 1, 2009

Faith Forum: What do you picture God looking like?

August 1, 2009


Judy Roitman, guiding teacher of the Kansas Zen Center and a member of the Lawrence Jewish Community Center:

When my son was about 5 or 6, his Hebrew school class drew pictures of God. Most of the kids drew (or tried to draw) a man with a white beard wearing a long robe. But my son drew the sky, the sun, grass, trees and flowers. “Where is God?” I asked. “Everywhere,” he answered.

While the Torah speaks of God sitting on a throne, and of human beings made in the image of God, traditional Judaism, like traditional Islam, does not encourage pictures of God. It even forbids speaking or writing the name of God except in prayer — that’s why when Rabbi Teichtel writes for this column, he writes “G-d.” God is beyond human definition. How could you possibly picture what God looks like?

In Buddhism there is nothing resembling a notion of God. But human beings want to have someone to turn to, and so a huge panoply of beings — buddhas, bodhisattvas, asuras and so on — arose. But these, while supernatural, are contingent beings; to many Buddhists, they are more like abstract principles. They are not God. That’s why they are so easy to picture.

My teacher, Zen master Seung Sahn, used to lead retreats at Gesthemane Abbey. When he did this, he never used Buddhist terminology. In that setting he spoke freely of God. He understood that what the monks called God was universal, no matter what name you gave it. Like my son, he understood that it was in the sky, the sun, grass, trees and flowers, in cars, lawn mowers and high-definition TVs. There is nothing that does not have it. You don’t have to picture it. You just have to look.

— Send e-mail to Judy Roitman at

The Rev. Gary O’Flannagan, pastor, Cornerstone Southern Baptist Church, 802 W. 22nd St.:

This is an interesting question. As a born-again Christian I take seriously what the Bible says about God, and many times God is described in the Bible as having eyes, hands and arms. This is called anthropomorphism, the attributing of human characteristics to God.

The Bible says in Exodus 33:20 that God told Moses, “You cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” Then in Jeremiah 29:13 we are told, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

Jesus, the son of God, once said “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” (Matthew 5:8).

So how do I picture God? God is a loving father and creator who seeing us our sin, seeks to redeem us first before condemning us. I see God as pleased, happy, sad and, at times, angry. God is pleased when we seek him, happy when we give him our very selves, sad when we reject him and his son, Jesus, and he is angry when we misuse his name.

I see God in his people as they obey his commands and teachings and strive to live their lives honoring him. I picture God waiting for me every day to spend time with him, and I picture God eagerly waiting for the day when I will finally see him face to face. Jesus said something that I believe is very profound and helpful in picturing God. In John 14:9, Jesus said, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” Jesus Christ, who is discovered in the pages of the New Testament is a living picture of God. Are you seeking God? Then seek Jesus Christ and you will find God.

— Send e-mail to Gary O’Flannagan at


WHY 8 years, 4 months ago

What does a Zorfnderferner look like? What ever you want it to look like, it is imaginary.

jonas_opines 8 years, 4 months ago

"Christian brainwash propaganda."

Brought to you by. . . a Buddhist?

Leslie Swearingen 8 years, 4 months ago

I have never thought about what God looks like or what gender God is. These questions are really lame. To me paradise would be either on the Black Pearl with Captain Jack Sparrow, or on the Surprise with Captain Jack Aubrey.

Orwell 8 years, 4 months ago

I remember Greg. He restored my eyesight. And turned water into Grolsch. Also.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 8 years, 4 months ago

God and all other notions of a divine image are all fiction and imagination of individuals trying to explain the unexplainable and know the unknown.

Those who claim to have divine communication are quick to inform us of what "HE" wants us to do, and usually that is in conformance to the predjudices and notions of the individual trying to define the Divine.

There is no "sin" in trying to determine what the divine plan is, which is usually in human terms. But the real sin is the zealot who claims that his "god" wants me to subjugate you to travel the world at your own expense spreading the "message" or to stand on the street corner spewing your pastor's version of "the word".

Yeah, this question is inane and pointless. Divine power and control is beyond any human understanding and notion and those who seek to inflict their "religion" on others are just showing their ignorance and disregard to all of humanity.

gimpypad4 8 years, 4 months ago

God looks like my family, my friends, my home, my pets, flowers, food, etc. because theses things are important to me and I see God in them all.

yourworstnightmare 8 years, 4 months ago

4125 snarked: "“We need more ad exposures - put one of those 'faith questions' up…..”

Worked on you, didn't it?

Calliope877 8 years, 4 months ago

Well, from what I recall of my lessons in Sunday school -- if a human being were to somehow stand in the presence of god, he/she would drop dead where they stood. So maybe god is a big blob of radio active energy...

kansasfire911 8 years, 4 months ago

" I like to think of Jesus as a mischievous badger." -Cal Naughton Jr.

jumpin_catfish 8 years, 4 months ago

But I don't think God can be seen.

Who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.

Stuart Evans 8 years, 4 months ago

hey Jumpin.. now take the literal translation of that and now you know that god is the sun. This is the way the pagans originally felt.

Leslie Swearingen 8 years, 4 months ago

Wow! Posters are so against religion. I think that God is smiling benignly on you even if you don't believe in Him and that one day you will know Him. God's face can be seen in how we treat everyone around us, or not.

kugrad 8 years, 4 months ago

Don't you know God is a woman? Mother Goose!

Steve Bunch 8 years, 4 months ago

It's about time we got here. God. God. God.

alm77 8 years, 4 months ago

When I was little I always thought God looked like Robert Redford in a pin striped suit. I dunno why, but that's what I thought.

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