Friday, June 13, 2014

What God Is Like

Everyone has some kind of a picture formed in their minds concerning what God is like.  Even those who do not believe he exists have a mental image that they argue against.  That picture is likely not very well defined, and may not be coherent, but it exists for each of us, and is reflected in how we believe or expect God to act in the world and towards us.  The thing that all of these pictures have in common is that they are all inadequate.  It is not possible for a finite mind to comprehend the infinite God.

As a Christian, most of what I know and believe about God is based on his revelation of himself in the Bible.  And is there really any other way?  If he chooses not to reveal something to me, I can really do no more than guess.  Fortunately he has chosen to reveal some of himself to us, although necessarily in terms that are meaningful to us.  The Bible, inspired by God, tells us, among other things, that God is the creator of the universe, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, loving, good, righteous and holy.

But there is a danger here if we try to picture him as being the way that we understand these words.  One of the most common examples of this I see concerns God being good.  For most people this conjures up the idea of being moral, and that is not necessarily wrong.  But when we do that we too often expect God to act according to our human morality.  But should we?  We can judge a dog as being good without expecting it to conform to human morality, so why should we expect the creator of the universe to conform to our morality?  It is not really logical to expect God to conform to our ideas of morality, or goodness, especially since we ourselves cannot even decide what is moral.

In the Genesis creation accounts we are told that God made man in his own image.  But we seem to have generally turned that around and formed God in our image.  While I have never heard anyone actually say it, in listening to people talk about God it appears like they view God as almost human, just bigger, stronger and smarter.  And God seems to like the same things we like and hate the same things we hate.  Thinking along these lines is essentially constructing a box that we put God into, placing limits on who he is and what he can do.  Again, I have never met anyone who would admit to doing this, but it seems like most of us do it to one extent or another.

I do believe that God is not like me in any significant way.  He is not just a super powerful human like being.  He is the creator and sustainer of a universe that is beyond my comprehension, both at the largest and smallest scales.  I cannot begin to conceive of the power and intelligence it took to pull that off.  He exists outside of time, at least as I know it.  So much of what I am and how I understand the universe around me is centered around time, something that does not apply to him.  When I try to think about existing outside of time I end up just spinning my wheels.

Isaiah 55:8-9 expresses that as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are God's ways and thoughts higher than my ways and thoughts.  As much as I try and understand why God did something in a certain way, or allows something to occur, it is really beyond my comprehension.  I crave understanding of God, and I believe that is OK.  But I have to satisfy myself with getting no more than a glimmer, knowing that I am not capable of understanding him.

I do believe that he has a purpose in his creation and that he is working out that purpose.  I do not believe that humanity is capable of frustrating his purpose, although we do have a part to play in that purpose; a purpose will not be fully realized until we have left the restraints of this universe behind us.  In other words, I believe that this creation, and our presence in it, is only a temporary step in a much larger plan.

It would appear from the Bible that humanity does not have 'just a part' to play in God's purpose for creation, but has a central part.  It would seem that the primary reason this universe was created was to produce a redeemed church, not just for life here, but for his purpose in eternity.  And if that is true, then God has a special interest in humanity now, caring about us and our development.  We can express that as his love for us, but need to be careful that we don't try to limit him to love as we know it.

While there is a part of me that wishes I could completely understand God, I am really glad that he is beyond my comprehension.  I am afraid that if I could get my mind around him that it would make him smaller, at least in my mind.  I really like God being mysterious and far above me.  It makes him worthy of worship

So what is he like?  Unimaginable and far above my comprehension.  Not limited in space or time.  A purposeful creator.  Interested in his creation and caring about humanity.  Worthy of my honor and worship.

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