Five Degrees of God

Modernity has lost sight of God in a great measure because it has lost the correct understanding of the meaning of the term “God.”

I will say this again and again: No one can discuss theism meaningfully until they learn not to confuse “God” with “a god” or “gods.”

There is a very good reason Western languages adopted the convention of spelling “God” with a capital G, but only writing “gods” for certain other kinds of beings.

Here are five possible gradations of the concept of God, courtesy of philosopher Edward Feser.


The Level 1 concept of God is very childish, and besides children, the only people who “believe” in this sort of God are atheists who insist that this childish idea is what theists “really believe.”

The Level 2 concept of God is the God of much of Protestant theology and of Enlightenment Deism.

The Level 3 concept of God is classical Western (and non-Western for that matter) philosophical and theological concept of God.

We cannot go higher than the Level 3 concept of God unless God chooses to reveal himself, as He has to the Prophets and Saints.  Level 4 will only ever be experienced by a very few.

And the Level 5 understanding of God is something reserved for the next life. Are there still higher levels?  Orthodox Christianity says “Yes,” that even after death, the beatific vision of God is not static but remains a journey into ever greater splendor, love, and joy.  Perhaps the infinite goodness of God will remain its element of infinite wonder and mystery ever after.  And atheists think heaven will be “boring”!

Be that as it may, until we recover a Level 3 concept of God, it will remain impossible to talk about theism in a serious way.

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