God is the triune Supreme Being, the sovereign Creator and Ruler of the universe, the principal Object of the Christian faith. “From the biblical viewpoint it is generally agreed that it is impossible to give a strict definition of the idea of God,” (Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, p. 501). This is because using finite language to define an infinite God quickly proves inadequate.
Attempts have been made, however, to give a definition for Who and What God is. Anselm said that God is “that than which nothing greater is conceivable” and that he is “the supreme Being.” Yet, this does not begin to encompass what God has revealed of himself in the Bible regarding his existence, nature, character, purposes, and most significantly in the person of Jesus Christ. The study of God is theology.
“I AM who I AM.” - Exodus 3:14
“The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us…” - Acts 17:24–27
The doctrine of the Trinity is a challenging and yet essential doctrineof Christianity. It is essential because it is fundamental to God’s revelation of Himself and effects our understanding of all other doctrines. It also distinguishes Christianity from all religions, adding to the exclusive message of the gospel that was found on the very lips of Jesus (John 8:24). Therefore, it becomes imperative to understand how there exists one God and yet three persons. Since the fourth-century (i.e., the Nicene Creed), the church has found the explanation of the Trinity helpful when understanding Scripture’s affirmation of ‘one God’ and ‘three distinct persons’ - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Existence of God
Throughout the history of Christianity various arguments have been proposed that seek to prove the existence of God on rational grounds. Some have been made in response to criticism, while others have been made to strengthen and even defend one’s faith. It is sometimes held, however, that the existence of God cannot be proven because it is more basic to human thought than any reasoning that could be used to prove it.
See main page: Arguments for the existence of God
Colin Gunton sheds light on the attributes of God when he says, “we are concerned, rather, first of all with who God is, not what we attribute to him… what we seek are not our attributions but the ways in which God is perfect,” . That is, we must be careful to not attribute something to God that he has not revealed about himself. Gunton concludes this idea by stating, “It is not a matter of what we attribute, but of what he reveals himselfto be,” (ibid., emphasis in original). This statement reminds those who approach the attributes of God to make sure that their conclusions are grounded in Scripture where God has revealed himself most clearly.
See main page: Revelation of God
God in history
From creation, the cross, and to the present, God has revealed himself in history and will continue to do so. In the beginning, God created the heavens and earth. Generations later he took Abraham and made a people for himself. God made them his own, and made covenants with them. Roughly two thousand years ago God revealed himself preeminently in Jesus Christ, “the image of the invisible God.” Jesus Christ is the culmination of the revelation of God, and His first coming is the turning point of history. He is still at work today through His Holy Spirit, preeminently as He works in His people to testify of Jesus Christ.
See main page: Redemptive history
Can we know God?
Scripture states that we will never be able to fully comprehend God and his ways (Isaiah 55:9; Job 11:7, 26:14, 37:5). However, the Bible still says that we canknow God (Jeremiah 9:23–24), and most clearly through Jesus Christ (John 17:3; I John 5:20, I John 2:13). So although we may never know everything about God, we can still comprehend what he has revealed to us through his creation, the Scriptures, and his Son.
See main page: Knowability of God
Character of God
To understand who God is or what he is like it is important to study his attributes and identity. In general, “attribute” can be understood as a quality or characteristic that makes a person who they are. In Scripture, God’s attributes are closely associated to His name (see below). All of God’s attributes are essential to who He is, making him special and uniquely worthy of worship. Yet, some attributes can be found or are imaged within humanity. To know the attributes of God is to know God as He has revealed Himself in Scripture.
Titles and names of God
In the Western world names do not hold the significance they did in the past. However, in biblical times, names carried a meaning. Names could commemorate historical events, and even signified a parent’s hope for their child. In the Bible we find that God has selected titles and names for Himself that reveal his nature and character to us in ways that we can understand.
See main page: Names of God
God’s relation to His creation
- John Frame, The Doctrine of God, A Theology of Lordship. P&R Publishing, 2002.
- Gerald Bray, The Doctrine of God, Contours of Christian Theology. IVP, 1993.
- Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: God and Creation, Vol. 2, Baker, 2004.
- John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 1: Chapters 10–13.
- J.I. Packer, Knowing God. IVP, 1993.
- Donald Bloesch, God the Almighty: Power, Wisdom, Holiness, Love, Christian Foundations. IVP, 2005.
- John Feinberg, No One Like Him: The Doctrine of God, Foundations of Evangelical Theology. Crossway, 2001.
- Bruce McCormack, ed. Engaging the Doctrine of God: Contemporary Protestant Perspectives. Baker, 2008.
- Bruce Ware, ed. Perspectives on the Doctrine of God: Four Views. B&H Academic, 2008.
- Veli-Matti Karkkainen, The Doctrine of God: A Global Introduction. Baker Academic, 2004.