The “True Meaning” of God:
Divinity Defined

This summer I’ll be teaching two rounds of PHL204: Philosophy of Religion.

The first question we address is (quite naturally):

Is there a God? 

In other words...
Should people believe in God? Is there “sufficient intellectual warrant (i.e., epistemic justification)” for faith?
Ironically, this is a question the Old and New Testaments ignore.

Scripture offers no defense for belief in God (or at least very little, especially in the way most philosophical systems address it).

All it offers is an assumption: “In the beginning, God…”

From that, the rest of God’s story--and with His, the world’s as well as our own--unfolds.

The second question, however, (which follows logically from the first) is a different matter altogether.

Who is God? 

Upon this, the entire Bible, and in particular Philippians 2:5-11, turns:
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who,
though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,
but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,
being born in the likeness of men.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.
Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. 
God, as N. T. Wright puts it in his commentary on Philippians, is (by his own self-defining nature and actions)...

The “God of self-giving love”:

Only when we grasp [the Greco-Roman view of “heroic leaders” like Alexander the Great and emperor Augustus] do we see just how deeply subversive, how utterly counter-cultural, was Paul’s gospel message concerning Jesus of Nazareth, whose resurrection had declared him to be Israel’s Messiah and the world’s true Lord.
[T]he eternal son of God, the one who became human in and as Jesus of Nazareth, regarded his equality with God as committing him to the course he took: of becoming human, of becoming Israel’s anointed representative of dying under the weight of the world’s evil.
This is what it meant to be equal with God.
As you look at the incarnate son of God dying on the cross the most powerful thought you should think is: this is the true meaning of who God is.
He is the God of self-giving love (101-103). 
So yes, God is sovereign.

Yes, He is powerful.

He is great. He is mighty. He is omnipotent. He is supreme.

And yes, three times over the angels declare in Isaiah 6:3, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts. The whole earth is full of his glory.”

But over and above both His sovereignty and His holiness (or perhaps we should say, “in, through, and as the perfect expression of” these attributes)... God is love.

This is the defining predicate--the grand substantive claim--not only of 1 John 4:8 but of God’s cumulative self-disclosure.

God is not, however, love in the abstract.

He is not merely emotional love nor psychological love.

God is not the “feeling” of love (though this is certainly part of that claim).

God is love in action. He is love personified and embodied

He is love incarnate: love with flesh, blood, and bones.

And even this--“the true meaning of who God is”--is not left up to our imaginations.

The true meaning of God--the true meaning of His love--is a crucified Jew, resurrected.

Here is sovereignty, power, greatness, might, omnipotence, supremacy, and holiness.

Here is divinity defined.

1 comment:

Michael Blankenship said...

Simple, to the point, and true. Jesus is the flesh and blood of love. Perfect.