What is God like?

e7f8fc3f6f542d00f119b1eff60f98d5

One of Gary Larson’s famous The Far Side cartoons depicts God sitting at his computer, on which is displayed an image of a man strolling innocently down the sidewalk. A grand piano hangs precariously over the fellow’s head, supported by slender ropes. God’s hand is hovering over the keyboard, His index finger about to strike the “SMITE” key.

Larson’s cartoon is funny, but also tragic. It reflects a notion in the minds of many of a God who takes delight in judging and smiting.

Most people have serious questions about the kind of God they’re dealing with. Sadly, many Christians cannot shake the notion that God is a stern celestial patriarch fussy, easily annoyed, demanding and reluctant to forgive. Our twisted ideas about God are deeply entrenched.

Popular notions of God tend to gravitate to two extremes: harsh impacable hostility or sappy doting benevolence. Omni-anger or omni-mush.

The God who exists is neither.

He is exactly like Jesus.

There is no ominous God who lurks behind Jesus. If we have seen the Son, we have seen the Father. Jesus is the final answer to the question, “What is God like?” We have a Christ-like God. Jesus is the truth about God.

God is neither a sadist judge, nor doting grandfather. He is a Calvary-like God. He is a turbulent, ardent, holy, fiery, awesome, passionate Lover. And He has set his affections on you.

That is the most staggering piece of news you will ever hear.

–J. O. Schulz

Advertisements

That simple liberating truth

7934 copyGod is love. God is a lover. He is not a manager, businessman, accountant, owner, or puppet-master. What he wants from us first of all is not a technically correct performance but our heart. Protestants and Catholics alike need to relearn or re-emphasize that simple, liberating truth.

–Peter Kreeft

Published in: on 09/26/2015 at 4:06  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

Unstinting affection

108200125 copy

We must understand that God does not “love” us without liking us – through gritted teeth – as “Christian” love is sometimes thought to do. Rather, out of the eternal freshness of his perpetually self-renewed being, the heavenly Father cherishes the earth and each human being upon it.

divide decorative-lines-300x56

The fondness, the endearment, the unstintingly affectionate regard of God toward all his creatures is the natural outflow of what he is to the core – which we vainly try to capture with our tired but indispensable old word “love”.

–Dallas Willard
The Divine Conspiracy

Published in: on 10/07/2014 at 5:54  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

His undivided attention

beautiful-dream-forever-dreaming-fashion-flowers-Favim.com-243903

How often have we been told that it is important that we love God.  And this is true.  But is it far more important that God loves us!  Our love for God is secondary.  God’s love for us is first:  “This is the love I mean: not our love for God, but God’s love for us” (1 John 4:10).  This is the foundation…

rule14

“We ourselves have known and put our faith in God’s love towards ourselves” (1 John 4:16).  This is the content of our faith–“God’s love towards ourselves.”  The whole Apostles’ Creed is nothing but a statement twelve times over of belief in this very love which God has for us…

rule14

God does not measure love.  God cannot but love totally–100%.  If we think God is a person who can divide his love, then we are thinking not of God but of ourselves.  God is perfectly one, the perfect unity.  We have love, but God is love.  His love is not an activity.  It is his whole self.  If we but grasp some idea of this, we understand that God could not possibly give 100% of his love to his Son and then 70% to us.  He would not be God if he could do that.  When we read the dialogues of St. Catherine of Siena, we get the impression that God has nothing to do but simply occupy himself with Catherine.  And that is right.  The undivided attention of God is with her and with each of us.

–Peter Van Breeman, S.J.
The Courage to Accept Acceptance

The problem of pleasure

24-always-together

Why is sex fun? Reproduction surely does not require pleasure: some animals simply split in half to reproduce . . . Why is eating enjoyable? Plants and the lower animals manage to obtain their quota of nutrients without the luxury of taste buds. Where are there colors? Some people get along fine without the ability to detect color. Why complicate vision for all the rest of us?

It struck me, after reading my umpteenth book on the problem of pain, that I have never seen a book on “the problem of pleasure.” Nor have I met a philosopher who goes around shaking his or her head in perplexity over the question of why we experience pleasure. Yet it looms as a huge question: the philosophical equivalent, for atheists, to the problem of pain for Christians. On the issue of pleasure, Christians can breathe easier.

A good and loving God would naturally want
his creatures to experience delight,
joy and personal fulfillment.

1280_Tree and the Sunset copy

Christians start from that assumption and then look for ways to explain the origin of suffering. But should not atheists have an equal obligation to explain the origin of pleasure in a world of randomness and meaninglessness?

. . . Where does pleasure come from? Chesterton settled on Christianity as the only reasonable explanation.

Moments of pleasure are
the remnants washed ashore
from a shipwreck, bits of Paradise
extended through time.

We must hold these relics lightly, and use them with gratitude and restraint, never seizing them as entitlements.

. . . Evil’s greatest triumph may be its success in portraying religion as an enemy of pleasure when, in fact, religion accounts for its source: every good and enjoyable thing is the invention of a Creator who lavished gifts on the world.

–Philip Yancey
Soul Survivor

His love is a consuming fire

When Christianity says that God loves man, it means that God loves man: not that He has some ‘disinterested’ . . . concern for our welfare, but that, in awful and surprising truth, we are the objects of His love.

You asked for a loving God: you have one.

The great spirit you so lightly invoked, the ‘lord of terrible aspect’, is present: not a senile benevolence that drowsily wishes you to be happy in your own way, not the cold philanthropy of a conscientious magistrate, nor the care of a host who feels responsible for the comfort of his guests, but the consuming fire Himself, the Love that made the worlds, persistent as the artist’s love for his work and despotic as a man’s love for a dog, provident and venerable as a father’s love for a child, jealous, inexorable, exacting as love between the sexes.

How this should be, I do not know:
it passes reason to explain why any creatures,
not to say creatures such as we,
should have a value so prodigious
in their Creator’s eyes.

It is certainly a burden of glory not only beyond our deserts, but also, except in rare moments of grace, beyond our desiring…

–C.S. Lewis (emphasis added)

He came to show us God

Because of Jesus…I must adjust my instinctive notions about God. Perhaps that lay at the heart of his mission? Jesus reveals a God who comes in search of us, a God who makes room for our freedom even when it costs the Sons life, a God who is vulnerable. Above all, Jesus reveals a God who is love.

–Philip Yancey

Ultimate power

Omnipotence is not to be understood
as the power of unlimited coercion,
but as the power of infinite persuasion,
the invincible power of self-negating,
self-sacrificial love.

–G. B. Caird
(1917 – 1984)

The divinest thing about God

For the divinest thing in God is love, and the true ‘glory of God’ is neither some symbolical flashing light nor the pomp of mere power and majesty; nor even those inconceivable and incommunicable attributes which we christen with names like Omnipotence and Omnipresence and Infinitude, and the like. These are all at the fringes of the brightness. The true central heart and lustrous light of the glory of God lie in His love, and of that glory Christ is the unique Representative and Revealer, because He is the only Begotten Son, and ‘full of grace and truth.’

–Alexander McLaren
(1826 – 1910)

What makes God glorious

God’s glory does not lie
in self-aggrandizement
but in self-giving.
God glories not in domination
but in loving.
What we see most centrally
in God is the shining
radiance of love.

–Clark H. Pinnock
(1937 – 2010)

His pleasure is to give

It is written that God has “created all things for His pleasure.” At first thought that sounds selfish, until one realizes that His pleasure is that of giving His all. He’s not looking for something to get from us to fulfill His desires or to please Himself, but rather His pleasure is to give.

–Christopher Bernard

God: Holy or Loving?

What word best describes your view of God: “holy” or “love”? Which is the primary quality of God?

In his book, God in the Wasteland, theologian David Wells expresses his concerns that the contemporary church is sliding into apostasy because of its failure to maintain the supremacy of God’s holiness. He refers to a 1993 survey of students from seven conservative seminaries. The students were asked which statement best described their primary view of God: (1) God is love, or (2) God is holy. The results troubled Wells. 80% answered that “God is love” best described their view of God. Only 18% said the same concerning the statement, “God is holy.” In light of these responses, Wells argues that evangelicalism is degenerating into a form that no longer resembles biblical Christianity. For Wells, to emphasize God’s love over God’s holiness denies the message of Scripture and results in a weakened and compromised gospel.

Is Wells right? What do you think? Is God’s holiness the quality that should take precedence in our view of God? Or, is love the central quality of God?

A close look at Isaiah 6 – Isaiah’s well-known vision of God – answers the question, but not in the way one might expect. Only when Isaiah 6 is placed in the full context of the complete revelation of God in sacred scripture does it shed the fullest light on the nature of God.

Read the rest of the article…

http://www.theocentric.com/theology/godhead/god_holy_or_loving.html

Ultimate reality

The eternal experience of God is a shared life of personal love between Father, Son, and Spirit. This is the basis for John’s unique declaration in his first epistle: God is love!   (1 John 4:8, 16) We often forget how absolutely amazing this affirmation really is. It has absolutely no equal in the whole of ancient literature. It is therefore worth repeating: God is love! John is not simply emphasizing that God loves; John proclaims that God is love.

Love is not merely a function or expression of God;
love is the very essence of God.

The constant experience of God is love. Ultimate reality – the divine reality – is love.

–Richard J. Vincent

Overflowing goodness

God is not an absolute Ego, unchangeable and all-determining. God is not a single self, isolated and solitary. God is a beautiful and alluring relational and dynamic community of love who does not alienate but fulfills us.

God’s glory does not lie in self-aggrandizement
but in self-giving.

God glories not in domination but in loving. What we see most centrally in God is the shining radiance of love.

According to self-revelation, God is not an Unmoved Mover but the God of Jesus Christ, who goes out of himself and acts in history, who becomes involved in the affairs of his people and enters into conversation with them. God is closer and more intimate to us than we allow ourselves to believe. God is not preocupied with himself, not unable to give himself away.

It is the essence of God that he go out from himself and overflow for the sake of the other.

In his very being as triune, God moves outward toward creation and incarnation. Giving us life and taking us to his own bosom are not afterthoughts but accord with God’s nature and purpose.

–Clark Pinnock

Making room for others

Self-giving love is the dynamic currency of the Trinitarian life of God. The persons within God exalt, commune with, and defer to one other… Creation is neither a necessity nor an accident. Instead, given God’s interior life that overflows with regard for others, we might say creation is an act that was fitting for God… In creation God graciously made room in the universe for other kinds of beings. God’s splendor [glory] becomes clearer whenever the Son of God powerfully spends himself in order to cause others to flourish… Jesus Christ’s pattern of life in the world reproduces the inner life of God.

–Cornelius Plantinga

Trinity, holiness and mothballs

Without the Trinity, holiness has the smell of mothballs about it, the look of a Victorian matron administering castor oil. And much of what purports to be holiness has just that aura about it: all prickliness and prudery. People even say things like ‘Yes, God is loving, but he is also holy’ – as if holiness is an unloving thing, the cold side of God that stops God from being too loving.

Balderdash! Or at least, it is if you are talking about the holiness of the Father, Son and Spirit. No, said Jonathan Edwards,

“Holiness is a most beautiful, lovely thing. Men are apt to drink in strange notions of holiness from their childhood, as if it were a melancholy, morose, sour, and unpleasant thing; but there is nothing in it but what is sweet and ravishingly lovely.”

Holiness and beauty

What is holiness, then? The words used for holiness in the Bible have the basic meaning of being ‘set apart’. . . For the reality about me is that I am cold, selfish, vicious, full of darkness and dirtiness. And God is holy – ‘set apart’ from me – precisely in that he is not like that; there are no such ugly traits in him. ‘God is God,’ wrote Edwards, ‘and distinguished from [that is, set apart from] all other beings, and exalted above them, chiefly by his divine beauty’ (for the connection between holiness and beauty, see Psalm 96:9).

Holiness is about love

Now the holiness of a single-person, non trinitarian God would be something quite different. His holiness would be about being set apart away from others. In other words, his holiness would be all about aloof distance. But the holiness of the Father, Son and Spirit is all about love. Given who this God is, it must be. Edwards again:

“Both the holiness and happiness of the Godhead consists in this love. As we have already proved, all creature holiness consists essentially and summarily in love to God and love to other creatures; so does the holiness of God consist in his love, especially in the perfect and intimate union and love there is between the Father and the Son.”

The holiness of the triune God is the perfection, beauty and absolute purity of the love there is between the Father and the Son.

There is nothing grubby or abusive about the love of this God – and thus he is holy. My love is naturally all perverse and misdirected; but his love is set apart from mine in perfection. And so, the holiness of the triune God does not moderate or cool his love; his holiness is the lucidity and spotlessness of his overflowing love.

For the believer to be holy, to be godly – means to be like God. If God is a being curved in on himself, then to be like him I should be like that. If Aristotle’s eternally introspective God is God, then plenty of navel-gazing seems to be just what’s called for. If love and relationship were not central to God’s being, then they wouldn’t feature for me either. Forget others. If God is all single and solitary, be a hermit. If God is cruel and haughty, be cruel and haughty. If God is the sort of oversexed, beer-sloshing war-god of the Vikings, be like that. (Though please don’t.)

But with this God, the two greatest commands are ‘Love the Lord your God’ and ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’. For that is being like this God – sharing the love the Father and the Son have for each other, and then, like them, overflowing with that love to the world. In Leviticus 19, the Lord famously says ‘Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy’ (v. 2). What does holiness look like there? It means not turning to idols but coming to the Lord with proper fellowship offerings (vv. 4-8). That is, it means fellowship with the Lord. And it means not being mean to the poor, not lying, not stealing etc. (vv. 10-16) – that is, it means ‘Do not hate your brother in your heart … but love your neighbour as yourself’ (vv. 17-18).

Love for the Lord, love for neighbor –
that is the heart of holiness and
how the triune God’s people
get to be like him.


The beautiful, loving holiness of this God makes true godliness a warm, attractive, delightful thing. Holiness for God, said Edwards, ‘is the beauty and sweetness of the divine nature’, and so ‘Christians that shine by reflecting the light of the Sun of Righteousness, do shine with the same sort of brightness, the same mild, sweet and pleasant beams.’ To know and enjoy the God who is love essentially means learning to love as He does.

–Adapted from Mike Reeves

We need a Trinity

A unipersonal god would not have within himself that eternal love or communion into which he would wish to introduce us. Nor would such a god become incarnate; instead he would instruct us from afar about how we were to live rightly.

–Dumitru Staniloae

Qualified to command love

There are other religions which claim belief in “one God,” and still others which worship many gods. But only Christianity embraces the magnificent reality of the Trinity, of three Divine Persons subsisting in perfect unity in the one Godhead.

Only a God who lives Himself in love can call upon a man and a women to love one another, let alone command all men to love their enemies.

This God alone embodies the power for gathering into the unit of love the vast multiplicity of mankind. He alone is at the same time the Creator, the Perfect Example, and the Transcender of personhood: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

–Mike Mason

A Relational God

The Trinity is the origin of human relationships. This is the essence of our being made in God’s image. ‘God is love’ because He has always had someone to love – the Persons of the Godhead. He did not need us, but He wanted a bigger family to share His happiness with. The loving inter-action and inter-dependence of Father, Son and Spirit from all eternity, means that society and fellowship began before angels or men existed. We reflect the perfect matrix of the Trinity in our relating well together . . . At the root of all present-day oppressive dictatorships, divided or monochrome societies, devaluation of certain individuals and the inability to cultivate loving community, is a denial of the Trinity. The Trinity models an image of mutuality, reciprocity and a totally shared life.

–Greg Haslam

The Trinitarian Dance

The theologians in the early church tried to describe this wonderful reality that we call Trinity. If any of you have ever been to a Greek wedding, you may have seen their distinctive way of dancing . . . It’s called perichoresis. There are not two dancers, but at least three. They start to go in circles, weaving in and out in this very beautiful pattern of motion. They start to go faster and faster and faster, all the while staying in perfect rhythm and in sync with each other. Eventually, they are dancing so quickly (yet so effortlessly) that as you look at them, it just becomes a blur. Their individual identities are part of a larger dance.

The early church fathers and mothers looked at that dance (perichoresis) and said, “That’s what the Trinity is like.” It’s a harmonious set of relationship in which there is mutual giving and receiving. This relationship is called love, and it’s what the Trinity is all about. The perichoresis is the dance of love.

–Jonathan Marlowe

The matrix of everything

The Triune God lives in an incomparable celebration of eternal joy. The Father, Son and Spirit have a rich and overflowing life with or without us. They did not decide to create us for their benefit, but for ours—because that is how God lives. That is how God LOVES!

The Father lives for the Son and the Son lives for the Father, and they share all things together in the Spirit. Not self centered, but other centered. Totally other centered—because that is the essential meaning of “God is love.” And this is what “Trinity” is all about. The Three-in-One God is a fountain of blessing and joy and goodness that spills over, that gives and gives and gives. This is who our Creator is, and this is why he creates.

C. S. Lewis pointed out: “We were made, not primarily that we may love God (though we were made for that too), but that God may love us.”

In so doing, He brings glory to His Name, which means—displaying the wonders of his grace. This is God’s highest glory—his goodness, love and grace. What an awesome and astounding God he is! This overflowing love is what prompted him to create—and to redeem. He is intent upon bringing others into the Triune celebration of eternal joy.

–Jurgen Schulz

Love involves more than one

That God is somehow plurality-in-oneness, that is, intrinsically relational, is the logical necessity of the statement “God is love”.

–Bruxy Cavey

It’s been going on forever

All sorts of people are fond of repeating the Christian statement that ‘God is love.’ But they seem not to notice that the words ‘God is love’ have no real meaning unless God contains at least two Persons. Love is something that one person has for another person. If God was a single person, then before the world was made, He was not love. Of course, what these people mean when they say that God is love is often something quite different: they really mean ‘Love is God.’ They really mean that our feelings of love, however and wherever they arise, and whatever results they produce, are to be treated with great respect. Perhaps they are: but that is something quite different from what Christians mean by the statement ‘God is love.’ They believe that the living, dynamic activity of love has been going on in God forever and has created everything else.

–C. S. Lewis

The Trinity, just a doctrine?

God is not some isolated cosmic bean counter “out there” keeping tabs on us in preparation for Judgment Day, nor is he three Gods with very different ideas about how to deal with humanity. The God of the Bible is one God who is three divine Persons, in perfect unity and accord, who love each other in perfect love and dwell in indescribable joy, and who created us for the express purpose of sharing that life with them through our adoption into Christ, who is eternally the beloved of his Father.

That’s why the doctrine of the Trinity matters. If we don’t understand God the way he reveals himself in the Bible, then we wind up with all kinds of messed up, funky and scary ideas about who God is and what he might be cooking up to do to us some day.

–Mike Feazell

Not a maths problem

The trinity is not a maths problem.  The trinity is the good news that God is love…

So, to find the pulse of the universe (if you want to tap into the heart beat of reality) what do you find?  You find fierce, passionate, determined, life-giving love that flows between the Generous Father, His Beloved Son and the Life-Giving Spirit.

The life of these Persons, the relationships which they share IS the source of all true beauty, joy, goodness, holiness and love. To belong to this God, to participate in this circle of divine friendship is the goal of all existence, it is the meaning of life.

–Glen Scrivener

Relationship is the very essence

The message held in the mystery of the Trinity is that God is not a monistic singleton God, but rather a Three-in-One of Whom loving relationship is the very essence, for He shares Himself even in the depths of His Own Being. For although He is the one and only Lord, He could not possibly exist alone, even prior to the creation, because God is love and love presupposes a relationship, a plurality (at least) of persons. Without this plurality there could be no love. The very idea of sharing could never have existed, and therefore the creation itself, that monumental act in which the Creator undertook to share Himself with creatures would never have taken place.

–Mike Mason

Live gladly

The greatest honor we can give
to God is to live gladly because
of the knowledge of his love.

–Julian of Norwich (1342-1416)

Published in: on 03/23/2012 at 8:37  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

Love’s mystery

“Perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18).

Love should cast out terror, but it should not cast out awe. True love includes awe. This is one of the great secrets of sex and marriage that our age has tragically forgotten: awe at the mystery that sex is. Science has not explained away this mystery, nor has psychology. No true mystery is ever explained away. Sex, death, love, evil, beauty life, the soul, God—these remain forever infinite mysteries that we can never exhaust and should not want to. They are like the ocean, for us to swim in, not like a glass of water for us to drink and drain dry.

God is love, And love is not “luv.” Luv is nice; love is not nice. Love is a fire, a hurricane, an earthquake, a volcano, a bolt of lightning. Love is what banged out the big bang in the beginning, and love is what went to hell for us on the cross…

Perfect love casts out fear, but unless we begin with fear, we cannot progress to perfect love. Fear is the caterpillar, love is the butterfly.

–Peter Kreeft

As if there were no others

An infinite God can give all of Himself to each of His children. He does not distribute Himself that each may have a part, but to each one He gives all of Himself as fully as if there were no others.

–A.W. Tozer

Right thoughts about God

How easy we find it to think of God as hard, austere, severe, unable to be pleased and fierce, which are the very worst characteristics of men and therefore most hated by God (Rom. 1:31; 2 Tim. 3:3). How easily Satan deceives us! Was it not his purpose from the beginning to inject such thoughts of God into our hearts? Assure yourself, then, that there is nothing more acceptable to the Father than for us to keep our hearts filled with him as the eternal source of all that rich grace which flows out to sinners in the blood of Jesus.

–John Owen (1616-1683)

%d bloggers like this: