#4 Theology: Who is God
Emery + Daniel, my loves! (Emery you were just barely 1 in this picture).
So the most basic and simple way for us to understand who God is, is to look to Jesus and who He revealed Himself to be in the way He lived.
Without Jesus, we wouldn’t have an idea of who God is. The coolest part about that is what that says about the nature of God because it shows how God actually desired to reveal Himself to us, so that a relationship would be possible. You can’t have a relationship with someone or something that you don’t know. To me, this is one of the major components setting Christianity apart from other religions, the idea that God did not want heaven without us. He created a way to know Him on human terms, and as a result, offered us the best opportunity to use our God-given free will to accept Him for who he is or to turn away from it.
What Jesus revealed about the character of God was His desire to be near to us, to heal what is broken, to heal the weak and the sick, to light the way for us, to minister to our daily needs, and to regenerating our minds. The picture is like this to me: imagine that the most powerful King on earth who already had everything he could ever imagine, stepped off his throne, went to the ghettos and put on beggars clothing because He wanted to get on the level of those who He wanted to help; he then humbly served the needs of those around Him without condition. He paid off everybody’s debt, and put the ones that society deemed weak, unworthy or hopeless into a position of honor. He asked for nothing in return, offered everyone a free gift upon his departure, and then went back to His throne to rule.
Who is this God?
Thinking of this idea in contrast to the alternatives available is not only unprecedented but nearly unfathomable when you think about what sort of deity it would be that is actually interested in loving such an unfaithful humankind that is bent on denying him, with love so fierce that it was His joy to die for us because that’s what it required for us to be free.
If religion were merely an emotional crutch, we would not be wise to lean on Christianity as a soft landing tool, because Christianity makes no promise of good fortune or appeals to feel-good emotions. It is no spiritual high- it is a life sold-out because anything else would be a lie. To look upon the face of God and then pretend that He is not who He says He is would be impossible for those whom have understood the character and nature of this loving, faithful, and deeply personal God.
Because Jesus came in order to reveal who God is, being fully man AND fully God, we are able to understand the nature of God when we observe and study the life of Jesus. In His nature itself is the ultimate source of all truth. As simplistic as that sounds, here is the basis: nothing that is objectively true can contradict the nature of God, and Jesus’ life speaks to the totality of that truth from God’s perspective in His very essence and attributes.
The question of who is God or what is ultimate reality is probably the deepest rooted question for humanity, because all other important and influential questions stem from this.
After several interviews of average everyday people, here are what seems to be the most common range of answers I have heard to the question of “Who is God? ”
Some say that, “God is what you make it inside of you.” Or,
“God can be anything you need or want it to be.”
“God is not a he or a she but an energy, or an essence of which I am in relationship with.” “God is me; my higher power is myself,”
“God is my creative process, for good or for evil,”
“God is a fantasy concept. God does not exist.”
The idea of God takes on so many different forms and shapes for so many people based their knowledge, traditions, or opinions. The most explicitly stated frustration that so many people have with Christianity is that the Bible claims that God actually has a name, and that He is actually the only true God. And even more, as He reaches down into the human story, developing and nurturing our understanding of Him, He speaks life and truth into all areas of our lives and puts his lens over how we are to live and love in the world. We are to follow His lead in that.
That (above) concept of God as the standard for all of our lives is so despised quite naturally, because the God of the Bible embodies an absolute truth claim and thus holds a mirror up to all else that falls short of His nature. That is not meant to deflate us, but rather to render honesty from us. When we finally understand our need for a savior to redeem our lives from the inside out, that is when new life is born and real freedom is experienced.
I understand completely why that is difficult for so many people to accept, because what God calls us to contradicts so much of our human nature and our own will and our definitions of freedom.
If doing your own thing is all that you’ve ever done, then making any changes in that direction, not to mention submitting your life by faith to God, requires a bold and incredibly genuine faith. I would assert that it is nearly impossible to humbly accept this doctrine about God being the way to life and love and real freedom until you’ve personally experienced the reality of God in your own life and have gazed upon His face. It requires faith to get to this point, and God meets us in our measure of faith we’re able to offer. Nothing can ever be the same after experiencing God either in his divine revelation (that is His word in the Bible), in general revelation (which is in creation), or in a personal faith revelation experience. I’ll explain to you both (Emery + Daniel) a little more about my personal experience of God as time goes on.
Until that point, when God stands as the pillar of truth no matter what generation or time period in history, that standard feels threatening to most humans who do not believe in Him. His ways can feel like “judgement,” and is thus deemed undesirable, and untrue at best. Here’s how I tend to reason about things like this where its a matter of intense implications in either direction: Whether God is real and the Bible is true or not has a 50-50% chance at being true or untrue. It is or it isn’t.
If it is not true, then everyone could reasonably agree that it has been the most longstanding, most epically proportioned lie in all of history. The implication would also be that millions upon millions upon millions of people have all arrived at untrue conclusions about identical realities that they had/have either personally witnessed or experienced, and in thousands of cases, were willing to die for. 90,000 Christians were killed for their faith in the world last year, in 2016, so it’s not as if it is merely an ancient ignorance or blind faith.
To offer the benefit of the doubt, we should account for human error in eye-witness accounts, and misinterpretation of scripture etc which can all be fairly taken into account and assessed. But at the end of those calculations that would still leave an unfathomable majority margin of accounts and people who still claim the reality and truth of the gospel and are willing to die for it. Are that many millions of people over thousands and thousands of years all completely crazy? I reject that idea particularly because that same logic could be applied to the other half of the 50-50 odds, that God is not real or true. Are they all crazy, too? “No” to both ends of that spectrum.
And yes, I know, I know… but Science, right? We’ll get there.
The study to either prove or disprove the reality of God would seem to me to be really important to everyone because the implications in either direction would be life-altering. I suppose it depends on the ways that you choose to care about life or to what degree you feel the need to know answers that fit not only your understanding of clinical facts but also how those facts measure up to your actual experience of reality.
For Christians, the answer to ‘Who is God’ is revealed in the life of Jesus. The life He lived is amongst many things, a corrective and exhortative life-giving force, grounded in love and fortified through the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit. The cost of following Jesus is extremely high because it means that we die to ourselves (in the language of the New Testament), and our self-interested pursuits. Like, that doesn’t sound fun, right?
Here’s the hinge: It is an incredibly humble place of recognition when we actually begin to understand who we are in contrast with who God is. Owning and naming the aspects of our fallen nature that hinder us (which is often hard swallow) and allowing God to be the source and sustainer of everything in our being is the foundation for faith and a genuine relationship with our redeemer God. It’s understandable why that is not appealing to so many because the goal of the Bible and the goal of Jesus was not to make people happy nor to make blind followers. His aim was not to ‘soothe’ the self, or to feel good, even though often those feelings accompany us in a relationship with God.
God is after something more than appeasing shallow, short-sighted emotional needs. The God of the Bible is after a deep and loving connection with His creation based upon the choice of faith that has eternal weight. The eclipse of God in our generation is a passion to remove that which puts a filter in front of who God is, making God as abstract notion or as moldable as we would prefer. We want God to fit our bubble, not the other way around. We end up making God into someone or something that is essentially just like ourselves.
That conflicts with who God claims to be in the Bible.
WHAT IS ETERNAL LIFE?
In John 17 we get a glimpse of an intimate conversation between Jesus and the Father just prior to Jesus’s death on the cross. Jesus says, “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. 2 For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. 3 Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. 4 I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.”
What this conversation reveals is that eternal life equals knowing the Father, and knowing Jesus- a deep and reverent relationship with God.
“To know,” means an intimate understanding, a privilege, and a fellowship with Him. It’s not clinical knowledge of God, but a knowing that is experienced and felt deeply. Think of it as the difference between the way that you know your dearest friend, or your spouse, versus knowing an acquaintance. Eternal life is the ultimate gift and the purpose of Jesus coming into the world.
Charles Spurgeon (love him) has this to say:
“The highest science, the loftiest speculation, the mightiest philosophy, which can engage the attention of a child of God is the name, the nature, the person, the doings, and the existence of the great God which he calls his father.”
The question of who is God is clearly answered for Christians, but for the skeptic, the two aspects that we need to address are Who is God, and the trustworthiness of scripture. Who He is and the veracity of God’s word is heavily under fire from all angles. It’s a fair set of questions to be sure, but it is not to be feared at all, and there are no questions more worthy of pursuit and proper answering in my opinion. For this, we look to the experts and the classic specialists in these areas of study, and will be using their framework as we proceed from here with those questions.
Emery and Daniel, my babes, I love you both so much. I hope you use any of my framework here as a diving board to launch your own study into these life questions. It’s worth every ounce of your attention. I love you both