Monday, September 25, 2017

Who is God?

1. God is the creator of the universe, of everything that is seen and unseen.

Christians believe that God created the universe out of nothing. This is not just creation of everything out of emptiness. It is creation of the emptiness itself. The laws of nature did not exist before. The laws of logic did not exist before. The rules of math did not exist before. God invented them all.

God must therefore have more knowledge than the universe (because God created all knowledge). God must therefore have more power than the universe (because God created all matter and energy). We believe that God is everywhere present in the universe.

2. It is conventional to refer to God as a "he," but God has no sexuality. Christians do believe that God is personal rather than a thing. God has intellect and intentions.

Indeed, Christians believe that God is mysteriously three persons yet only one God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). This is a mystery. It says everything that needs to be said: 1) there is only one God, 2) God the Father is God and is a distinct person, 3) Jesus is God and is a distinct person, and 4) the Holy Spirit is God and is a distinct person. How these statements can all be true is a mystery.

God is self-sufficient. That is to say, God does not need the world. God created the universe because he wanted to, not because he needed to. It was an act of supreme artistry and creativity, and God loves everything God created.

3. Christians have historically believed that God not only knows everything that can possibly happen but everything that will actually happen. This is God's foreknowledge. However, the Wesleyan tradition does not believe that God predestines what will happen in every detail. God has an overall plan for history, including the coming of Christ and the salvation of the world.

But God does not predetermine every aspect of the world. God has built freedom and creativity into the creation on the quantum level. And at this time God empowers human beings to decide whether they choose to serve him or not.

4. God is the ruler of the universe. The appropriate response is submission and obedience. To surrender yourself to God is to transcend the impoverished, selfish state that is our default human condition. We humans are born thinking only of ourselves and perhaps of our own tribes. Submission to God is submission to Truth beyond what is convenient for ourselves. It is submission to the "other," which makes humanity better than it would otherwise be. It is submission to the justice of the prophets in the Bible, which seeks to see every human valued and equal to every other.

God is Love and Justice. God is love from the very act of creation. God wants what is best for the creation. God wants to save what is lost in the creation, without forcing his help on the creation. God calls us to love one another as God has loved the world.

God is justice in that he has created a certain order to the universe. When of our choices we crash into that order, we hurt ourselves. Sometimes God "disciplines" us to help us get back on course. Sometimes God removes us to protect others. Sometimes God removes us because we can no longer be saved and have become a symbol of that which stands against the Good.

5. God is both "beyond" the universe (transcendent) and present within the universe (immanent). In his "otherness," we say that God is holy. To say that God is holy is to say that God is God. It is to say that he is not like us. It is to say that he is awesome and tremendous. There is a certain fear we can have around something that is so much greater than us, something that is so much more powerful. This is the holiness of God.

When we become God's possession, we become holy as well. We become God's property, God's "stuff." As such we do not want any part of our being to be out of sync with God. We want to "be holy as God is holy." We want to be like God, and God makes it possible for it to happen.

6. God is a God who reveals Godself to us. The Bible is a witness to God walking with humanity, especially one people known as Israel. But the Bible ends in the New Testament with a decisive turn to the whole of humanity.

When God reveals himself, he comes to us in language and categories that we can understand. All revelation is thus "incarnated" revelation. It comes to us in terms that we can understand. The Scriptures are the central and most important record of God meeting his people in their own language and categories.

The most important record within Scripture is the coming of Jesus Christ to earth. Jesus is the Word of God for the world. In Christ all of God's speakings hold together. The speakings before point to Christ. The speakings after unpack the significance of Christ. The Scriptures are thus sufficient revelation for us to know God and be reconciled to him. The Scriptures tell us the most important truths about God and the world. The Scriptures tell us God's authoritative will for how to live in his world.

7. The Holy Spirit continues to speak to us. The Holy Spirit makes the words of the Bible come alive for us today, although we must test the spirits to see if these revelations are truly of God. The Holy Spirit gives us experiences of God, including knowledge. The Holy Spirit can also guide our reason to the truth.

The most important check and balance on individual whim and fancy is the Church, the body of Christ. The church is that collection of God's people who have lived and will live in all places and times. Under the guidance of the Spirit, God's people as a whole can redirect our interpretations of the Bible when they have gone astray. The body of Christ can clarify our reason and experience when they are off track. When God's people have commonly believed and practiced something throughout history, it is then very likely that God has revealed that truth to the Church.

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