“Humans explaining the nature of God is like an ant trying to explain who dropped the sugar.” Trish O’Connor
“YAHWEH our God, YAHWEH is one.” (Deuteronomy 6:4) The I AM revealed Himself to Israel as a unique God in a time of religious pluralism when people around the fledgling nation had changed the idea of God to something more manageable to their minds and acquiescent to their desires. They had gods for the sea, mountains, and plains; gods for their crops, food, and sex. Lots of gods, none of whom was very powerful; often many of them in contention with each other.
So when God revealed Himself to Moses and Israel, He wanted to establish that He was not an invention of man, but to take them back to the beginning. When asked for His name, this nameless one communicated to us with language we could understand, and He called Himself, the “I AM WHO I AM.” (Exodus 3:14)
Each of us had a beginning, a cause that made us. Our parents at some time had conjugal relations and thus we came into existence. Going back in history through grandparents, great-grands, etc., to ancestors in ancient time, every person could say “I am because of my parents,” all the way back to Adam and Eve. In fact, everything in the universe had and has a “cause” which brought it into being. Even the “gods” around Israel had their beginnings in ideas men had and the statues men had made.
In Part 2 of this series, I referred to God as “the First Cause.” This is a term used first by Aristotle to describe the initiation of all other phenomena in the observable world (“Don’t be impressed, you can look it up!” Steve Elliott 😉). The alternative to First Cause is that “causes” extend back into eternity past, negating a “need” for God. However, within just a few centuries we can see a progression in the events on Earth that suggests a starting point and an ending point. This lines up with the Bible that tells us directly, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1) Furthermore the Bible teaches that history on this earth has a terminal point, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.” (Revelation 21:1)
The issue for us is whether to believe the Bible or not, and I have addressed its reliability in several previous blogs (beginning with June 28, 2015) with the conclusion that there is no book in history that has been more reliably preserved and translated than the Bible. Central to the question of believing the Bible is whether Jesus arose from the dead, also a subject of several blogs (April 19, 2015, August 16, 2015 to name a couple) and that conclusion is that there is more historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus than for George Washington being the first president of the United States.
If we begin with these assumptions, that the Bible is true, and that Jesus arose from the dead, the identity of the First Cause becomes very important to our lives, not as a theological question for intellectual debate, but as a practical consideration of how we are going to live day to day in our short time spent here.
Attributes of God are not parts of who He is. They are facets of His unity. He is not at one time, judgmental and just, then changing to be kind and merciful at another. His justice and love, truth and grace, judgments and mercy, all flow from one fountain of One Who Is. We will explore a couple of these attributes and others in the next couple weeks.
The First Cause argument for the existence of God carries with it several ideas that become important for the foundation of our lives. When we look back in time and find that He was already there, we conclude that He was always there, i.e. eternally existent, a necessary condition for a First Cause. As Eternality is an attribute of God, it is not something that He can lose, thus He will always exist into eternity in the future.
If He is First Cause, He is unique and alone in this status. There cannot be two First Causes. And as the First Cause of the universe, He is all powerful, or Omnipotent. He created all that exists, spangling the sky with stars and galaxies, exploding them outward to catch up with the light He had created (Genesis 1:3-5; 14-19). He formed the earth from His ideas and sat it in the cosmos at the precise location to support the lives He would go on to create here.
His Eternality and Omnipotence go hand in hand in that one who was not eternal could not be omnipotent. Conversely, one who was not omnipotent would not be able to guarantee his eternality. Like facets on a sculpted jewel we see these characteristics of what He is. And we will see in the next few weeks other facets that all blend together to reveal what we are able to grasp of The I AM.
There may be attributes of God that we cannot know about until we see Him “face-to-face” (1 Corinthians 13:12), and even then, there may be characteristics of the Divine that will continue to elude us through all eternity. I note again, He is God, and we will never be what He is, nor able to fully comprehend Him.
This begins a frightening prospect for the person who does not know The God Who Is There. To realize there is Someone who lives in eternity and holds all power in His hands creates in the untrained heart a great fear as we come into His presence. But in the heart of one who has become acquainted with I AM, this fear is mingled with adoration for One in whom we can have complete confidence that He will always be there, or rather here, for us (Psalm 16:8) and there is nothing too hard for Him. (Jeremiah 32:27)