If you had to define who God is, how would you begin? In the post-christian West, the answer to this question could not be of more importance. An undefined God in an undervalued God. As A.W. Tozer said over fifty years ago :
“The low view of God entertained almost universally among Christians is the cause of a hundred lesser evils everywhere among us...We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God...The man who comes to a right belief about God is relieved of ten thousand temporal problems, for he sees at once that these have to do with matters which at the most cannot concern him for very long; but even if the multiple burdens of time may be lifted from him, the one mighty single burden of eternity begins to press down upon him with a weight more crushing than all the woes of the world piled one upon another. That mighty burden is his obligation to God...unless the weight of that burden is felt, the gospel can mean nothing to man; and until he sees a vision of God high and lifted up, there will be no woe and no burden. Low views of God destroy the gospel for all who hold them.” [A. W. Tozer The Knowledge of the Holy (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 1961) pgs. vii-3]
An undefined God is an undervalued God. I remember when I was first asked to define God several years ago, I was surprised by my own inability to articulate an answer. I had been a Christian my whole life and yet when pressed I couldn’t actually provide a definition. When the Westminster assembly was formulating the shorter catechism over 350 years ago, they had to answer this question. This was their answer:
Q. 1 Who is God?
A. God is a spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth.
The catechism is not infallible, nor is this answer perfectly comprehensive—no definition of God would be. However this answer does provide us with a basic framework that is accurate and Biblical. This answer not only provides us with God’s essential attributes but it also teaches us the basic simplicity of God. God is His attributes. God’s attributes are not additions to His being, nor are they parts that can be taken or left. If any one attribute is taken away, you lose God. (If God is all love but not righteous in exercising His wrath, how can He be said to be God. A god who is not wrathful against evil, is not a god of love.) Who is God? God is His attributes. Choose one attribute, any attribute, and it will imply, demand, and prove all the rest. As we peer into the mystery of God’s attributes, we are gazing into His glory. “Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD." Jeremiah 9:23-24
Notice what God is delighting in there? His own attributes. The knowledge of Himself. His glory being displayed for all the world to enjoy and benefit from. Who is God? That is the most important question we can ever hope to answer. A failure to answer this question just is an undervaluing of God.
[NOTE: This is part one in a series. Next up: defining God as Spirit]