However, the early Christian solution can serve as a particularly noteworthy example. The early Christians expressed their faith in terms of their personal experience, not in terms of creeds or systematic theology.
However, by the fourth century following Jesus' death, the Christian community needed a creed to address the various theological questions and heresies that were threatening to fracture and dissolve the community. The result was the doctrine of the Trinity, the doctrine that states that God is paradoxically "The Father," "The Son," and "The Holy Spirit" so that God is three in one. This creed was never intended as a logical formula. Instead, it was intended as a symbol to capture the essence of the Christian experience. It also provides a clear example of how humans work to solve this dilemma between preserving the power and transcendence of God, on one hand, and the need for personal connection, on the other. The Father points to power and transcendence while The Son and Holy Spirit point to personal connection.
The third major distinction helping us understand the history of how others have defined God is the distinction between transcendence and immanence. Here, we confront the dilemma between having faith in God and being scientific and rational. If God is totally other and transcendent, we would feel satisfied were we able to know God through evidence and reason. But God is a mystery, and while others have sought God's nature in God's actions, doing so has always led to conflicting interpretations. Furthermore, God's being defined as totally outside us has allowed for God to become a convenient means to project and use God for selfish purposes.
Throughout the history of monotheism, then, humans have searched to find God not simply outside but also (and for some, mainly) within. This search to find God within ourselves has sometimes been called immanentism. The great Swiss developmental psychologist Jean Piaget thought the transition from focusing on a transcendent God to focusing on an immanent God represented not only an historical achievement, but an achievement in the development of individuals as well.
Examples of immanentism can be found in all the great mystical traditions and especially in Eastern traditions. Here we see the faithful turning inward, so to speak, to find God or the divine spirit, to meditate and listen to "that still small voice," to experience the spiritual, and sometimes to dissolve the boundaries between self and other that effects a final resolution to this particular dilemma.
There are other distinctions and dilemmas that have defined how humans have struggled to define God and express God, but these three have been central. However, overriding all three has been one major dilemma for every religious tradition, regardless of whether or how God is defined.
That overarching dilemma has to do with defining the indefinable-whether it be God, Nirvana, or some other concept of the Ultimate. Initially this dilemma was not experienced as a dilemma. In the same way that children take myths and symbols to be factually true, so too did our distant ancestors take myths and symbols to be factually true. Even today, many insist on taking myths and symbols of God to be factually true. Religious myths and symbols have truth, but their truth is in their supporting "living life truly," that is, living life with spiritual and ethical meaning. Their truth is not, then, in their providing scientific evidence and logical proofs.
When the great religious myths and symbols for God have been taken literally, there have been problems, not the least of which has been the problems of prejudice and intolerance. After all, if my myth or symbol is true in a literal sense whereas yours is not, then I am likely to feel more knowledgeable, enlightened, and superior. Put another way, the struggle to define God has been a struggle for strong faith rooted in trust, conviction, and commitment while also being a struggle for a tolerant faith rooted in the humbling awareness that, at best, we can know God only "through a glass darkly."