Your view of God determines your outlook on life. It shapes your relationships, your values, your view of authority, and even your approach to politics. Christopher Watkin makes this point in his chapter on “Trinity” in Biblical Critical Theory: How the Bible’s Unfolding Story Makes Sense of Modern Life and Culture. I found his chapter compelling because he shows how the doctrine of God found in the Scriptures makes a difference in the way we think, feel, and live in the world. Watkin identifies four features of God that enable us to engage with our culture in a beautiful way.
First, God is PERSONAL. Philosophers and scientists talk about ultimate reality—that is, the most fundamental, basic reality that goes back in time as far as we can go. The question they are asking is, What is at the origin of everything? Is everything fundamentally made of water or air? According to Watkin, many scientists today suggest that the “most fundamental level” is “composed of strings, wave-packets, quantum fields, or simply mathematics generated by an original big bang.” Yet the Bible’s answer is revolutionary and brief. The ultimate reality is a personal God who creates, speaks, understands, loves, knows, can be known, and relates to us as our Father. God’s personalness is what enables us to view and treat other people with dignity. If humans are simply a combination of matter, time, and chance, then it’s difficult to argue logically that a person is more valuable than a rock or a flower. Yet we have dignity that comes from being created by and sharing a resemblance to a personal God.
Second, God is ABSOLUTE. He is personal, yet he is an uncaused cause. The ancient Greeks and Romans believed in dozens of personal gods. Yet these gods were not portrayed as being self-sufficient or ultimate. However, God cannot be broken down into more simple building blocks. God, in the person of the Son, is “before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17). God’s absoluteness is necessary, argues Watkins, if we are to have stability and order in the universe. It’s the only way we can establish laws and define justice. He observes that convictions about the character of God developed into scientific reasoning and gave birth to science.
Third, God is RELATIONAL. This brings us to the doctrine of the Trinity—that is, the triunity of God. God has existed eternally as one God in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Therefore, the human beings God created are both one and many. Human beings are individuals who live in community. There are some important implications of God being relational and his creation of human beings as relational. Individuals should not be forced to conform in ways that stifle or deny their personalities. Yet, they must live in community and look out for the welfare of others. They should avoid political approaches that threaten individual liberty or else privilege it over the needs of others.
Fourth, God is LOVE. It’s not only that God is loving, but God is love (1 John 4:8, 16). Watkins observes that the relations between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are not characterized by discord, competition, rivalry, apathy, or by a goal of just “getting things done.” Rather, the relationship is loving. The implications of this are clear. We are to “love one another, for love comes from God” (1 John 4:7). This love must be expressed in sacrificial actions in the same way Jesus Christ expressed love for us by laying down his life for us. (1 John 3:16-18).
Truly, as Watkins says, our understanding of God has “real, far-reaching, and practical consequences for our approach to society and culture.” May we devote our lives to knowing God (see Jeremiah 9:23-24).
This Sunday, January 22, I plan to preach on “Investing our Physical Resources.” The focus will be on using the opportunities God gives us even when life seems to be stacked against us. The Scripture we’ll study includes Ephesians 5:15-16 and Philippians 1:12-26.
Finally, I had a fascinating conversation with my granddaughter Gabriella (8) last weekend when she stopped by our house. She began by asking, “Is Satan the snake still alive?” Then, in rapid succession, she asked, “Does Satan give you bad dreams? If we won't get sick or break our arms in God's new world, what will doctors do? In God’s new world, will I fall off a cliff? What will happen if I do? Will there be any laws there?” Finally, she said, “My friend didn't invite me and another girl to his birthday. I felt bad. But that won't happen in God's new world, right?” That’s absolutely right. What a wonderful world it will be! Thanks as always for reading. I’ll see you Sunday.
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