Thursday, November 20, 2008

Thoughts on Who/What God is

These thoughts below are from a professor at Covenant Theological Seminary. I have been praying through and thinking about how the Bible uses anthropomorphisms to describe who God is and theomorphisms to describe who we are. The link to the classes lecture's is below these blurbs from his lecture on "God and Gender Language".

“God is not all things to all people. He is who He is, and He demands that we deal with Him as He is. That is not a terribly provocative statement, because it is also true of me. I am who I am and I demand that you deal with me as I am, and so do you. You see, persons are not plastic; persons are not negotiable. Any person who has been married for a very short time knows that. At some point you find that you cannot turn that other person into the ideal person you would like him to be. You are going to have to live with him just as he is…God’s identity is not about us. God’s identity is about Him.”

“We should not use the Word of God to serve our biases. One of the very purposes for His Word is to adjust our biases, crush our biases, and replace our biases with its bias. Remember that we have talked about this before: the biblical God will and should offend us. He calls every human self-absolutization a lie.”

“One might point to the inherent difficulties of language, and here I want to return to our discussion about metaphors and our discussion about transcendence. Many people will say that it is impossible to describe God in human language. It is commonly asserted that the biblical language describing God is analogical in character. Remember, an analogy says, “This is like that.” But analogical language presupposes a degree of equivocation, a degree of dissimilarity. An analogy says, “This is like that,” but it is also saying, “This is not that.” That is an important distinction. While these two things might share some attributes, they are not the same. Thus it is suggested that mere human language cannot do justice to the infinite. The reality of God’s transcendence means that any attempt to describe God will be, at best, a vague approximation of God’s own reality. When we fail to recognize this, we inevitably fall into the idolatry of what is called “Biblicism.” Thus, when the Bible tells us that God is a King or a Judge or a Father, these descriptions are to be understood as metaphors rather than as actual depictions of who and what God is. And since metaphor only approximates correspondence or establishes a purely semantic or functional correspondence, these declarations are not to be taken too literally. Some theologians say that if metaphors are really imperfect ways of talking about things, we can help our analogies with other analogies, or we can trade off analogies. If God is not actually a King or a Father, but is only somehow king-like or father-like, we might want to use other analogies of our own making. God is mother-like as well. But this entire line of discussion, I think, is faulty, and it is faulty because it is based upon the view of God’s transcendence which is intentionally meant to cast doubt upon Scripture’s ability to speak truthfully and meaningfully about God. If I could summarize the argument, I would put it this way: the infinite cannot be captured in the finite, and therefore all language about God is equivocal. That may be true to a point, but it is also false, and it is false at least to the extent that it is true. Is that what we find when we go to the Bible? No. We do not find a deity who is vaguely judge-like. We do not find a God who merely approximates some characteristics of kingship. We do not find a God who is said to be fatherly in some contexts, as if God is none of those things, but only appears to be something like them. What is a king? A king is a person who exercises dominion over subjects or a realm. God does the things a king does. God is an actual king. What is a judge? A judge is a person who makes critical decisions about guilt and innocence. God does the things a judge does. God is an actual judge. What is a father? A father is a person who gives life to another and then cares for, protects, nourishes, directs, and exercises authority over that other person in a familial context. God does those things. God is Father. He does not merely appear to be or appear to do these things. Scripture’s proclamation of God as King, Judge, and Father are not metaphors. They are actual declarations. Now to be sure, God transcends those declarations. Even God’s fatherhood infinitely transcends our idea of fatherhood. The point of biblical language is that God is always more than what is written about Him, not less.”

Michael Williams
God & His Word class, Lecture 24
Covenant Theological Seminary

© Summer 2006, Michael Williams & Covenant Theological Seminary

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