A few years ago, while a graduate student in seminary, my course readings brought to mind a few points regarding the person and nature of God that I had not previously considered or addressed. Although I spent a large portion of my life in church and witnessing many divine acts of God, including various signs and wonders, giving a clear description of God’s person and nature would prove challenging.
First, most Americans, like myself, lack the same clear picture of God, despite being inundated with references to Him and bearing His image. According to Paul Froese and Christopher Bader, “it is not clear what Americans mean when they talk about God; yet references to God are everywhere.”(1) This tragedy is further exasperated by politics and cultural extremes on the one hand, and denominational disunity within the body of Christ on the other.
Second, an inaccurate understanding of God fosters disappointment when He fails to act in accordance with this understanding. According to Froese and Bader, “nearly all Americans feel that the term “loving” describes God well; in fact, the term ‘God’ is almost synonymous with the idea of a loving deity.”(2) While it is true that He is a loving God, the Bible reveals many more of His attributes that accompany this one. Since we tend to only focus on His love, we are rendered impotent when faced with an unexplainable disaster or trial.
Third, in order to know who God really is, one must take stock of those methods used by Him to reveal Himself to humanity, such as Scripture. As Gerald Bray explains, “if God is a personal being, it is not surprising that we can know Him only by revelation, since the same is true of every person.”(3) While one may never know why God chose to utilize human authors to reveal Himself through the written word, one must recognize and accept the fact that He did just that. Once this occurs, Scripture is viewed as infallible truth, which can be used to validate everything else, including the person and nature of God.
Fourth, in trying to explain how God can allow such tragedies as natural disasters and warfare, one must know the character of God. As Bray states, “the point we need to bear in mind is that the acts of God are always subordinate to His character, and are explained by it.”(4) In order to know the character of God, one must consult with the only person capable of knowing and revealing the mind of God—the Holy Spirit.
Finally, I developed a personal goal this week in terms of experiencing God, which is to develop a closer and deeper relationship with the Holy Spirit in order to gain a deeper understanding of God. 1 Corinthians 2:10-12 affirms that only through the Holy Spirit can one truly know the thoughts of God. Since there is only one Spirit, and He indwells all Christians, this must be the path to unity within the body of Christ, especially with knowing the true person and nature of God. Through a more committed and submissive relationship with the Spirit in my daily life, I will develop a clearer understanding of the mind of God each day.
1. Paul Froese and Christopher Bader, America’s Four Gods: What We Say About God—and What That Says About Us (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 1.
2. Ibid., 15.
3. Gerald Bray, The Doctrine of God: Contours of Christian Theology (Downer’s Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 15.
4. Ibid., 26.