Friday, October 2, 2009

What is God Like? (Part 2)

In a previous article I wrote on the greatness and goodness of God—two of four clear features which partially answer the question, “What is God Like?” These were two areas that demonstrated God’s attributes (his greatness) and his acts (i.e. his goodness to us). Part 3 and 4 of this topic (herein) are God’s immanence and transcendence and The Trinity.

By “immanence” it’s meant that God dwells with us, within nature, our human nature, and throughout history. He is close by. Nature and humanity have no independent status beyond God. God is “present and active [in all ways] within the universe.”[1]

God is. He is not only a being, he is being, a fact that famous theologian Paul Tillich highlighted. He took it way beyond the sublime (for some) and suggested that God was beyond being an actual being. By this it was meant that God was such a part of all things, he just simply is.

A God of immanence can, of course, break into a formerly non-believing person’s life and shed new meaning on the purpose and meaning of life; this in some ways proves the closeness of God to all people.

Notwithstanding God’s immanence, he also is transcendent—he’s totally separate and independent of nature and humanity. He is superior to both “in several significant ways.”[2]

Though we’re made in the image of God, he cannot be sufficiently known in comparison with the best of humanity and nature. He is on a separate scale, orders of magnitude higher than we could even begin to comprehend. We see evidence of this every day, even every moment, not that we appreciate these things, for we can barely perceive them all.

The higher realm of morality, for instance, can never be properly ordered by us; though God does charge us with doing the best we can—we are his agents after all. It is by this divinely-appointed role alone we can ascribe value i.e. it is not of our own doing.

When we consider both immanence and transcendence, awed reverence of God is the only logical response—all other responses do not acknowledge good, truth or value.

The Trinity, like the foregoing, is an entirely massive topic all its own. How does one begin to describe the relationship of Father, Son and Holy Spirit?

And the evidence?

Here’s one: all mainstream versions of Genesis clearly acknowledge that God in the second person i.e. “us,” was involved in the Creation narrative, viz., Genesis 1:26. God said, “Let us make humanity in our image and likeness.”

This is an important theological component. For Christ to have been ‘in God’ before Creation is a key premise of Christianity. And, yet, Genesis is first a Jewish book, the first of the Hebrew Canon—it agrees (or doesn’t disagree) with Christian concepts of God in this broad way.

Simply, the Trinity is an amazingly complex topic, and it’s only when we begin to plumb its depths we get this sense—it’s incomprehensible to us. God’s unity is basic, but the deity of the three persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) must be affirmed. This threeness and oneness of God are not the same. The Trinity is eternal—always has been, always will be. Each member of the Trinity has distinct roles, but none are subordinate or superior to the other two—there is gross equality existent in the Trinity.[3]

© S. J. Wickham, 2009.

[1] Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology – 2nd Ed (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 1983-1998), p. 328f. The entire article is based upon pp. 327-67 (the final two sections (of four) of Part 3 – “What God is Like” of Erickson’s work).

[2] Erickson, Ibid, p. 338.

[3] Erickson, Ibid, p. 362-3.

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