Friday, August 28, 2009

The Greatness and Goodness of God

It’s not until we open up a quality theological textbook that we realise how vast God, and the subject of God, really is—certainly as far as words are capable of describing.[1] Studying just two of the aspects of the awesome living God—his greatness and his goodness—help us in understanding two important differentiated issues of God. These are the attributes of God and the acts of God.

As Christians, these issues of God are both issues held in tandem; one is no more or less important than the other, for we see him as above all and beyond all by virtue of his very nature and his ‘otherness’ (his greatness), yet we also give important personal testimony to his works in our lives and the lives of others (his goodness) we know he’s touched.

My absolute favourite biblical genre is the psalms and some psalms proclaim so well the attributes of God and others recall or speak of the acts of God resplendent in, say, the Exodus account (among lots of others both personally and communally).

Praise psalms follow the attributes of God—simply for who he is, and thanksgiving psalms commensurately acknowledge with appropriateness those works of God that transform life as we know it, demonstrating his faithfulness, compassion and grace.

The attributes of God’s greatness range from his Spirituality (God is Spirit); his personality (he is a personal Deity and has a name(s)); his characterisation of living and of life—never a more certain concept; his infiniteness that no one but him can comprehend—his time is beyond time; and his constancy—the permanence of unchangeability.

The acts i.e. goodness of God are much different. There is an utterly moral basis to God. Of his moral qualities there is the moral purity of his holiness, righteousness and justice. There’s also his integrity relating to truth; the genuineness, veracity and faithfulness of God—that is ‘being true, telling truth, and proving true.’[2]

Finally, and almost most obviously, his moral qualities are rounded out by love i.e. benevolence, grace, mercy, persistence. And in his works of being there is a great tension developed between his love and his justice, his mercy and judgment.

These are such broad topics and I’d challenge anyone seriously investigating the faith to step out and truly taste the richness in the theology of God.

And if I took just a teensy little slice I’d seek to know more of his persistence. I fail so often, yet he continues to forgive me. And likewise this little taste of God gives me an important thing to reflect upon… he seeks me to follow hard after him. If he forgives me, I must forgive others. If he is all truth-telling, so must I be (as far as I humanly can i.e. I will continue to fail at times).

A difference between the heavenly majesty of our God and ourselves is this: we can follow hard after the goodness of God but we can never come close to his greatness.

Having said that, his greatness is somehow magnified and made real as we display the wonderful goodness of God in our interactions and daily living.
[1] Of course, it could very effectively be argued that sunsets, thunderstorms, and cosmic black holes speak equally if not more so to the ‘vastness of God’ than does a book.
[2] Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology – 2nd Ed (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 1983-1998), p. 316. The entire article is based upon pp. 289-326 (the first two sections (of four) of Part 3 – “What God is Like” of Erickson’s work.)

No comments: