What do we mean when we say “God”?


This quarter we are going teaching on the Foundations of the Christian Life. We are using C. Michael Patton’s book, Now That I’m a Christian, as a guide (see review here). I also used Thomas Oden’s Classic Christianity as a reference.

This week we examined the topic of God and tackled the question: What do we mean when we say God?

A.W. Tozer (in Knowledge of the Holy) writes:

What is God like? If by that question we mean ‘What is God like in Himself?’ there is no answer. If we mean ‘What has God disclosed about Himself that the reverent reason can comprehend?’ there is, I believe, an answer both full and satisfying. For while the name of God is secret and His essential nature incomprehensible, He in condescending love has by revelation declared certain things to be true of Himself. These we call His attributes.

It would seem to be necessary … to define the word attribute …an attribute of God is whatever God has in any way revealed as being true of Himself. … If an attribute is something true of God, it is also something that we can conceive as being true of Him. God, being infinite, must possess attributes about which we can know. An attribute, as we can know it, is a mental concept, an intellectual response to God’s self-revelation.

but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me that I am the LORD – Jeremiah 9:24

In this class we primarily tackled the Essential attributes of God and how we can know them.

We come to know God by:

  • Examining His actions
    • Studying Creation (Rom 1:20)
    • Sending His Son reveals how much God loves people and wants them to be saved (John 3:16; 1 Tim 2:4)
  • Studying the statements made by Prophets
    • you cannot tolerate wrongdoing (Habakkuk 1:13)
    • I the Lord do not change (Malachi 3:6)
  • Examining the Life of Christ
    • Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father (John 12:45; 14:7-9)
    • The more clearly God is seen in Christ, the less ambiguously God is seen everywhere else. – Thomas Oden
  • Studying the Names of God
    • El-Roi (God who Sees) highlights God’s omnipresence and His care for us in troubles first used by Hagar in the wilderness (Gen 16:13)
    • Yahweh-Jirah (The Lord provides) highlights God’s care and provision for us first used by Abraham when a ram was provided as a substitute for Isaac (Gen 22:14)

Attached are the slides used in class for those that are interested (Foundations God)

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