Who is God? What is God like?
This may be the most important question (asked in two different ways) you will ever ask. Over the next several weeks, I’ll share a few of my “in the moment” reflections about who God is and what God is like.
There is no end to the answers that are given. When I survey the contemporary answers to this question, I am left with this about the answers. They are surface answers or inadequate answers. Some are disturbing answers; others are silly answers. A few are insightful but incomplete answers. Many are sincere but flawed answers. And when you set the answers side by side, there is a great deal of confusion and contradiction.
Still, we go on asking, “What is God like?” because there is a God-shaped vacuum in the human soul. There is something about “eternity in the heart” (Ecclesiastes 3:11) that makes us mere humans ask and search and seek to know God.
Here are six starting point ideas that will help you ask and search out the best wisdom about the most important question.
In the play Hamlet, Hamlet says, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio / then are dreamt of in your philosophy.” Let’s use this as our starting point. There are more things about God then are dreamt of in all our theologies. God is big and we are small. We are finite, frail, and foolish. Humility is the starting point where we need to ask and consider our most important question.
I have always found this insight a bit comical and helpful: “In the beginning God created man in His own image, and man has been trying to repay the favor ever since” (Voltaire). It means we all tend to answer the most important question along our own preferences. We tend to see God as a bigger version of who we are. We tend to see God as supporting our preferences, policies, and prejudices. Whether it is Marxism, feminism, capitalism, liberalism, progressivism, scientism, or mysticism, by the time we are done envisioning God, he sounds suspiciously a lot like us. These are, of course, the worst idolatries. The worst gods are our own selves magnified large.
NOT A TAME GOD
Therefore, C.S. Lewis reminds me, Aslan is not a tame lion. Christ is not tame, not manageable, not reducible, not able to be put in my preferred box (or category), nor able to be enlisted to my personal causes. Christ is the Lord, the Lord God Almighty, the roaring lion (and the sacrificial lamb), the King of Glory (and the humble servant), the Word of life (and the dying Savior, risen again). It is not a safe journey to ask and discover who is this one called God.
GOD REVEALS WHO HE IS
Christians believe that special revelation from God to us is essential if we are to truly know who God is. The Bible is the Revealed Word of God. In the Bible, God tells us who he is and what he is like. Even if we have only “partial” truth, it is still truth. And that truth is provided over the long centuries of encounters and experiences and revelations by God to those who sought after him.
YOU NEED ALL THE BIBLE
You can’t go to just one Bible verse and say “THIS IS GOD.” You can go to one Bible verse and realize, “This is one insight into who God is.” Then begin to put all the pieces of the Epic Mystery Revealed together and discern the larger picture that begins to emerge. You need all the Bible to know as much about God as you can learn.
Some of the worst mistakes made in our thinking about God is the either-or sort of mistakes. We latch on to one quality of God (like love) and then think that is ALL that God is, or that is MAINLY what God is. We then ignore the corresponding quality (like holiness). God is not EITHER loving OR holy. God is love. God is holy. God is BOTH holy and loving. God is the sovereign, all-powerful Lord AND God is the suffering servant. God is majestic and awesome AND God is humble and gentle. All true answers to our most important question will involve a good deal of both/and answers.
In closing this first reflection, here is one of those both/and answers that is found in one verse:
For this is what the high and exalted One says—
he who lives forever, whose name is holy;
“I live in a high and holy place,
but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly,
and to revive the heart of the contrite.”
Who is God? What is God like? God is transcendentally high above the world AND God is immanently close to the humble.
Who is God? What is God like? God is holy AND God is loving (seen in his purpose to revive, renew, and restore all who are lowly and contrite).
As we begin to answer this most important question, I pray this will be your conclusion:
Among the gods there is none like you, Lord;
no deeds can compare with yours.