Skip to content

Four typologies of God

In our latest episode, we quote from an email sent by Samuel about four ways of viewing God.

We had to summarise the email a bit, but here are the four categories as he described them:

Listening to your musings, I got thinking about this typology, you might have come across it before, which suggests there are 4 categories for how humans conceive of God:

1. Superbeing: God is a being with qualities that we observe at the human level, in other humans or in our environment, just with a multiplier effect. So, God is strong – but all-powerful, wise – but all-knowing, kind – but all-loving, just – but all-judging, etc. Here the focus is on God’s tangible existence. Inherently hierarchical, here God is at the top of the pyramid of observable being. Aka the kataphatic tradition. To date this is perhaps the preferred lens for most humans.

2. Hyperbeing: God is a being so far beyond our comprehension, that we cannot conceive of what God is like. Here the focus is on God’s intangible essence. God suffuses all, and cannot be reduced to any individual thing or observation of a thing. Neti neti. The Apophatic or via negativa. The mystics and marginals embrace this.

3. Ground of Being: God is beyond being itself. God is the source of everything, both being and non-being. This often feels like a meta-version of 2. Maybe a difference is that as a hyperbeing, God is still within the realm of personhood, whereas a ground or source of being, God transcends even personhood? Perhaps we can understand this view to have emerged from the modern scientific and philosophical mind.

4. Moment of Being: God is narrowed back down to any ‘event’ that brings about transformation. Like 3, God as moment of being may be encountered beyond personhood (e.g. the Big Bang), or within personhood (e.g. the resurrection), but the focus is on specific action and change, rather than the background where that change happens. It might be fair to say this inherently attracts the more political and activist among us.

Now it strikes me that if you dwell in any one of these categories, you’re quite likely to think you have it down. We tend to prefer mono-causal, mono-theoretical lenses on reality. Yet, could it be the all of them contain some valuable and truthful components about who or what God is?

From Samuel’s email

What image most resonates with you?