Thursday, June 24, 2010

This is Who We Are: What a Baptist Is and Believes - God

Amanda and I disagree regarding food.  I like my bacon to still have meat and fat on it.  Amanda, on the other hand, likes for her bacon to be so burnt it could hold up a bridge.  I like my steak to be medium-rare while she likes hers to be like charcoal.  We also disagree with buffets.  I love them and always try to get my money’s worth by stuffing my face.  Amanda, however, isn’t so fond of them.  Why is one of the many mysteries of marriage.

Buffets are great because one can easily pick and choose what they want.  I like steak, but I don’t like broccoli, so I’ll take the steak and leave the broccoli.  I especially like fixing my own desert: a chocolate chip brownie covered in Hersey’s chocolate syrup with chocolate ice cream on top covered again with more Hersey’s chocolate syrup.  Is your mouth watering yet? – mine is.

Buffets are great when it comes to food, but not so great when it comes to theology.  In our postmodern, relativistic, tolerant society, we have turned our understanding of God into a buffet of beliefs.  We want a God of love, but don’t want the wrath and judgment part.  In goes God’s love, out goes His righteousness. We want a God who is personal yet distant enough to not hold us accountable.  In goes God’s as personal, out goes His Omnipresence.  We want a God who is like us and our culture and so we reject His Immutability.  In other words, though God created us in His image, we have to return the favor.

Thankfully, God isn’t limited to our wants and needs.  God is not clay that we can mold and shape.  The motivation behind such theology is to turn us into gods where we determine truth, morality, and righteousness.

God is greater than our imagination.  The Baptist Faith & Message 2000 writes concerning God (before venturing into discussing the Trinity):

There is one & only one living & true God. He is an intelligent, spiritual, & personal Being, the Creator, Redeemer, Preserver, & Ruler of the universe. God is infinite in holiness & all other perfections. God is all powerful & all knowing; & His perfect knowledge extends to all things, past, present & future including the future decisions of His free creatures. To Him we owe the highest love, reverence, & obedience. The eternal triune God reveals Himself to us as Father, Son, & Holy Spirit, with distinct personal attributes, but without division of nature, essence, or being.

If I can sum up this description of God is would be: God is beyond human language and description.  By my count, the BF&M 2000, in this one paragraph, uses approximately twenty different adjectives to describe God.  The statement of faith says that He is one, personal, the Creator, the Redeemer, infinite, holy, perfect, Omnipotent, Omniscient, triune, and eternal just to name a few.

This is an important reality when we speak about God: our human language is limited and cannot adequately describe God.  This is why so many confessions of faith and theologies utilize multiple and countless adjectives to describe God.  He is greater than our human language.

But there is a serious danger at this point.  Though we can never fully describe or grasp God, that does not mean that we ought not seek to understand and study His character.  Many in modern evangelicalism that simply ceases to try to explain or understand God.  This is a convenient way of excusing licentiousness and bad theology.  After all, how can you say that your theology is right when theology (the science and study of God) is impossible since God is beyond human description?

At this point we must admit that though God is beyond complete understanding, He has clearly revealed Himself to us.  Our responsibility is to take what He has revealed about Himself and affirm, believe, and apply those truths.  We know God is holy because the angels in heaven sings such wonder (Isaiah 6:3; Revelation 4:8).  We know that God is immutable because Scripture clearly says that He does not change (Malachi 3:6-7a; Romans 11:28-36; Hebrews 13:8; James 1:17).  We know that God is love because it has been revealed to us (John 3:16; 1 John 4:8, 16).  We could do this all day.  Christian theology is not the art of guessing about God.  Yes, God is beyond words, but that does not mean that God cannot be known at all.  In His grace, God has not only revealed Himself in the creation and in our conscience, but also through the canon of Scripture.

This means that we have a responsibility in understanding, studying, and applying what God has revealed.  Scripture, at its center, is direct revelation from God about God.  Apart from the Bible we would know very little and what could be known would be speculative.  If God can be known (though not exhaustively), are we taking advantage of it or are we simply leaving our Bible’s on the shelf until next Sunday?  We say much about God, but because of our infrequent study of Him, we know very little about Him.  We struggle and want to know where God is and yet are unwilling to understand His nature.  All theology is practical and the study of God is no different.  If God is Omnipresent (everywhere) then I am not alone.  If God is immutable (unchanging) then my salvation is secure.  If God is holy then injustice and evil will be judged and I need not retaliate.  If God is forgiving, then I know how to forgive.  If God is love, then I know how to love.  If God is Sovereign then I need not fear.  If God is provident, then I need not worry about tomorrow.  If God is creator then I know that I am not an accident and God has a purpose for me.  Will I fulfill and do His will?  Though I struggle, I know God.  Though I mourn, I know God.  Though I am worried and anxious, I know God. 

There is a God and He has made Himself known to us and what we know is far beyond our comprehension.  So though we cannot pull God down, let us instead lift Him up and praise Him name as he truly is.  Thanks be to God that we are not in the dark but can enjoy the light of truly knowing who God is.  To study and encounter God is to be overwhelmed.  Are you overwhelmed?

For more:
This is Who We Are:  What a Baptist Is and Believes - Introduction 
This is Who We Are:  What a Baptist Is and Believes - Scripture  

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