“Humans explaining the nature of God is like an ant trying to explain who dropped the sugar.” Trish O’Connor
Attributes of God can be enumerated in many ways and different lists come from scholars of various stripes. Some of the lists, such as mine, are pretty basic and others include almost any activity of God. My view leans toward looking at His essential nature rather than the way He interacts with us; e.g. mercy or mercifulness is included in many lists as one of His attributes where I consider it more an expression of His attributes of holiness and love, discussed in last week’s blog, June 25, 2018.
Besides this, there are likely attributes, that is, essential characteristics that are inherent in being God, that we will not nor cannot understand at our level of development and may never fully grasp even in the eons of eternity. Remember always, He IS God, the Uncreated, and we are merely His creatures, created for His pleasure and glory (Revelation 4:11).
Consider Genesis 1:26: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” So a clue to understanding what we are able to about God is found in looking at humankind and considering what we “look like.” Clearly, as we have shown from Scripture (see June 17, 2018), God is a Spirit so this reference does not refer to hands or feet or body shape. Yet He is not an impersonal spirit as some would construe, but He is a Person, with personality and intention to know and love and guide us. Personhood is often overlooked as one of His attributes, and though He goes far beyond mere personality, our understanding of Him begins there.
We, too, are spirits as much as we are physical bodies. A human is not one or the other, but as created in God’s image, our bodies carry in them the image of God in our spirits. Our spirits consist mainly of mind, emotion and volition, and this gives us our reference for understanding that God is intelligent, emotional and willful. As He is the designer and Creator of all that exists, we recognize that when we pray we are addressing a mind that encompasses the entire universe down to the detail of quarks and DNA and more. Thus His omniscience is more than simply an awareness of existence, but a personal knowledge of each individual in His creation.
When we think of who we know, our minds can easily grasp the dozen or so close friends of our inner circles. If we expand our view, we can think of hundreds of people we know by name and to whom we would say “Hello” in passing. Further out, we can grasp the identities of perhaps a couple thousand people in an auditorium, but we cannot “know” them all. Beyond this, the individuals become “lost in a sea of faces,” unidentifiable and unknowable to our small minds. Yet, He knows each one, from the formation of the embryo in its mother’s womb to the old man resting down into his coffin (Psalm 139:13).
Very importantly, He feels. Even before He came down into His creation in the form of Jesus, the God-Man, He felt the pains and longings of His people and wanted to develop a relationship with every man and woman. (Psalm 67; Ezekiel 18:23). When God came to walk with Adam and Eve after they had disobeyed His simple command, He asked, “Where are you?” When Adam identified his location, God then asked, “Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” (Genesis 3:8-11) He was not lacking in knowledge, but rather giving opportunity for Adam and Eve to confess and turn from their disobedience, because He loved them and knew the only way to build the relationship was to be open and communicate.
He still desires that relationship that is more than just a formality. He takes no joy in our subservient obedience to duty or regulation. In fact, most of Jesus’ conflicts were with those who followed all the rules! He feels love for His creation, both man and beast, both living creatures and the environment.
His emotions also extend to anger, disgust, grief and sorrow, but also to joy, delight, anticipation, calmness, and pity. His experience of these emotions is something we can barely begin to understand, but each of these is mentioned at various times throughout Scripture. We who are created in His image bear this emotional stamp and feel as well, although our emotions are often warped somewhat by the sin in our lives or in the world.
Most importantly, He is volitional. He makes a decision and acts on it! When the Bible says He never changes (James 1:17) it is referring to His character, not His activity. At some point in time past, He said within the Trinity, “Let us make man in our image,” and He acted on it. Adam and Eve, faced with a choice of trusting their Creator or the tempter who questioned His simple command, made their choice and acted on it.
Every day, you are faced with a myriad of decisions from what time to get out of bed to how to respond to others’ treatment of you. Sometimes you must cooperate in decisions to act by voting, sometimes you must act alone, but you and I act! We are volitional, willful, and express something of the attribute of God when we make decisions. Again, many of our decisions are warped by sin, but it remains a reflection of His divine Spirit in us, that we are made in His image.
So when you consider What in the World is God, look for His interactions with you! You matter to Him as much as Jesus, His own son does! His holiness and love, expressing through His omnipotence and omniscience and omnipresence, offering guidance to us to let His Spirit lead us in our thoughts, emotions and wills, brings us into communion with The God Who Is There.
Keep in mind that my short list, barely begins to dust the snow off the top of this iceberg. “He is great and greatly to be praised.” (Psalm 145)