Defining God

This is quite amusing. On one of the political discussion websites I frequent, there is a discussion about Richard Dawkins letter to his daughter. The letter itself is full of the inconsistencies and half-truths that we are used to seeing from Dawkins (religion is eeeevil, but by what standard etc.), but the more interesting part comes from the responses.

The discussion of course very quickly descends into the existence or non-existence of God. In response to the statement that atheists cannot conclusively prove that God does not exist (even Dawkins admits this, his stock statement is that the probability that God exists is really small), one atheist responder says this: “As soon as you provide a definition for God, I will disprove its existence.” Of course, our unbelieving friend wants to argue that there is no clear definition of God, so one cannot disprove what cannot be defined.

I have some bad news for him. There are loads of clear definitions for the Christian God. But I like this one, from the WCF, best:

Of God, and of the Holy Trinity
2:1 There is but one only (Deu_6:4; 1Co_8:4, 1Co_8:6) living, and true God (Jer_10:10; 1Th_1:9): who is infinite in being and perfection (Job_11:7-9, Job_26:14), a most pure spirit (Joh_4:24), invisible (1Ti_1:17), without body, parts (Deu_4:15, Deu_4:16; Luk_24:39; Joh_4:24), or passions (Act_14:11, Act_14:15), immutable (Mal_3:6; Jam_1:17), immense (1Ki_8:27; Jer_23:23, Jer_23:24), eternal (Psa_90:2; 1Ti_1:17), incomprehensible (Psa_145:3), almighty (Gen_17:1; Rev_4:8), most wise (Rom_16:27), most holy (Isa_6:3; Rev_4:8), most free (Psa_115:3), most absolute (Exo_3:14), working all things according to the counsel of His own immutable and most righteous will (Eph_1:11), for His own glory (Pro_16:4; Rom_11:36); most loving (1Jo_4:8, 1Jo_4:16), gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin (Exo_34:6, Exo_34:7); the rewarder of them that diligently seek Him (Heb_11:6); and with all most just and terrible in His judgments (Neh_9:32, Neh_9:33), hating all sin (Psa_5:5, Psa_5:6), and who will by no means clear the guilty (Exo_34:7; Nah_1:2, Nah_1:3).

2:2 God hath all life (Joh_5:26), glory (Act_7:2), goodness (Psa_119:68), blessedness (Rom_9:5; 1Ti_6:15), in and of Himself; and is alone in and unto Himself all-sufficient, not standing in need of any creatures which He hath made (Act_17:24, Act_17:25), not deriving any glory from them (Job_22:2, Job_22:23), but only manifesting His own glory in, by, unto, and upon them: He is the alone fountain of all being, of whom, through whom, and to whom are all things (Rom_11:36); and hath most sovereign dominion over them, to do by them, for them, or upon them whatsoever Himself pleaseth (Dan_4:25, Dan_4:35; 1Ti_6:15; Rev_4:11).  In His sight all things are open and manifest (Heb_4:13); His knowledge is infinite, infallible, and independent upon the creature (Psa_147:5; Rom_11:33, Rom_11:34), so as nothing is to Him contingent, or uncertain (Eze_11:5; Act_15:18).  He is most holy in all His counsels, in all His works, and in all his commands Psa_145:17; Rom_7:12).  To Him is due from angels and men, and every other creature, whatsoever worship, service, or obedience he is pleased to require of them (Rev_5:12-14).

2:3 In the unity of the Godhead there be three persons, of one substance, power, and eternity; God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost (Mat_3:16, Mat_3:17; Mat_28:19; 2Co_13:14; 1Jo_5:7).  The Father is of none, neither begotten, nor proceeding: the Son is eternally begotten of the Father: the Holy Ghost eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son (Joh_1:14, Joh_1:18).

I do think the fact that there actually is such a challenge is more a symptom of how weak the Christian community has become in defining its fundamental beliefs. I can’t really blame an atheist for not knowing who God is, because there are many who profess to be Christians who don’t know.

It is up to Christians to know God first, because how can you serve a God that you don’t know? How can you implore others to believe in a God that you don’t know? How do you confess your sins to a nondescript God, or pledge your loyalty or love? How do you worship a vague Lord? How do you have a relationship with a distant and removed entity?

Yet this is what we see in churches across the world. Depending on the strain of theology that the church leadership adheres to, God is squeezed, pressed and manipulated to fit into that box. Whatever the fad, whatever the latest feel-good, get-rich-quick, cheap grace, man-centered “teaching” is, that is what God is made to fit. And in the process, God remains as nondescript as before. Because if God fits all frameworks, He fits none.

(Some may argue that this is what my quote from the WCF above does, but then the counter-challenge is for them to show the inconsistencies from the definition above. In addition, reformed theology starts with God, not with man.)

So the challenge is for Christians, know who God is, and proclaim it, so that everyone knows.


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