Mortimer Adler said, “More consequences for thought and action follow the affirmation or denial of God than from answering any other basic question.”
The popular Chris Tomlin song, “Indescribable”, poetically articulates how God is beyond our comprehension. So how can we describe an indescribable God?
Thoughts about the existence and nature of God are all over the place, even within the evangelical church. How can we know we are thinking well about God and that we are not in fact guilty of idolatry? What are God’s attributes, and why does it matter that we get this right? For the next two weeks, we’re going to be discussing these issues with long-time SES professor, Dr. Doug Potter.
The Importance of Theology
Our theology, or our understanding of the nature of God, informs and colors our view of reality because the essence and intentions of the one who made us has direct implications for understanding what it means to be human, as well as the constitution of the rest of our world.
Good theology begins with either Scripture or with natural (general) revelation, for if we begin with Scripture, we find that special revelation ultimately claims that some truth about God can be known from outside the Bible (Romans 1:20).
The focus then becomes doing theology correctly with a sound methodology, with an eye on prolegomena (the subject of study that deals with philosophical preconditions) in order to lay legitimate foundation for systematization. A paucity of renaissance scholars intent on integrating the aspects of general revelation studied by philosophy with their pursuit of theology has led to the compounding of theological aberrations as well as manufactured conundrums.
As Norman Geisler put it,
“A mistake here [in prolegomena or theology proper] is going to cause us problems down the line when we unfold our theology about God.”
Stand or Fall
Geisler’s analysis in this area led him to align with the classical understanding of God’s attributes (classical theism) espoused by Thomism. Under this framework, God is pure actuality, and all his attributes are entailed and connected in such a way as to imply and support one another. Conversely, if one attribute is removed or altered, the others collapse as well. In other words, the ostensible individuation of God’s attributes, in reality, is the attempt of our finite human understanding to break God’s magnitude and majesty into digestible bites.
God is unlike anything in the created world, and an inevitable complication in translation is to be expected when a being composed of parts (a human) attempts to understand a being that is not composed of parts, or simple (God).
Unlike everything in the created order, which is limited and changing, God is infinite and pure, unchanging existence. Where classical theism honors the fact that God is in a category by himself, other systems can often impose finite human characteristics on God.
Don’t miss the full interview with Dr. Doug Potter, and if you’re ready to examine your faith intellectually and give reasons for your hope in Christ, consider SES by downloading our free e-book at the link below.