Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Knowledge of the Holy

A.W. Tozer has a wonderful little book (slightly over 100 pages) entitled, The Knowledge of the Holy. The premise is that our view of God is far too small, which in turn inhibits our ability to experience the transforming power of the Spirit in our lives. My family attends a church that has a much higher view of God than most, but as I read this book, I find that we are sorely lacking as well. “The heaviest obligation lying upon the Christian Church today is to purify and elevate her concept of God until it is once more worthy of Him—and of her.”

The purpose of this post is to outline and summarize the attributes Tozer brings out about God, to include their definitions. An “attribute” is something God has revealed as being true about Himself. It isn’t a definition of Him, but rather is something intrinsic to His nature. We must also consider all of the attributes as one, with each attribute contributing to the others. You will note that most every one of these attributes deals with the concept of infinity, something of which finite man can scarcely conceive, yet it is still worth our efforts…for without the attempt, we can never know about our God. Tozer says we absolutely must break ourselves of the habit of thinking of the Creator as we think of His creatures. Please take some quiet time and muse and wrestle with the implications of each of these attributes. Look at how often we define God in a manner similar to that of a creature. Even better…get the book, and see some of the musing and implications Tozer comes up with.

God Incomprehensible- An infinite God is not comprehensible by man. Bits and pieces as He chooses to reveal, yes; otherwise He cannot be known. We tend to reduce Him to manageable terms, and the result is a God we can in some measure control…in other words, not God at all. I think of the things I teach about God. I can have confidence they are true and I can proclaim them confidently. However, this particular attribute opens my eyes to how easily I come to think I have God “figured out.” The only things I can “figure out” about God are those which He tells me, and even then it will only be partially since I as a finite being cannot begin to comprehend His infinitude.

God as the Holy Trinity- No matter how hard one tries or how many deep theological words he uses, this attribute cannot be satisfactorily explained, only believed as “truth for the heart.” Three, yet One. Separate, yet in total, perfect, complete unity. Perfect in love.

The Self-Existence of God- Origin can only apply to that which is created. That God was not created means He has no origin. He is “Someone Who was made by none.”

The Self-Sufficiency of God- God is what He is in Himself, and as such, He has no need. “Need” can only be referenced to a creature, and not to the Creator.

The Eternity of God- Since time came into being at the creation, God is outside of time. God is unaffected by the farthest reaches we can consider in both past and future. “God dwells in eternity, but time dwells in God.”

God’s Infinitude- This is something we cannot grasp, yet we must at least make the attempt for it will help us to come to grips with the other attributes. Infinitude can only belong to One, and it says God is measureless. Measuring is something we do as Creatures. The infinite cannot be measured, and when we try, we end up with something that isn’t God!

God’s Immutability- God never differs from Himself. He never grows or develops. Since He is already perfect, any change is impossible.

God’s Divine Omniscience- God possesses perfect knowledge and has no need to learn. It also means God has never learned and cannot learn.

The Wisdom of God- God’s understanding is infinite, and this infinite wisdom is the root of all truth. Among other things, it “…is the ability to devise perfect ends and to achieve those ends by the most perfect means.”

The Omnipotence of God- Because God is infinite and He is self-existent, He must have limitless power as well. This perfect, complete, limitless power must go hand-in-hand with the idea of sovereignty as well.

God’s Divine Transcendence- God is exalted far above the created universe. He is not just the highest in an ascending order of beings. He stands fully and completely apart.

God’s Omnipresence- “God is everywhere here, close to everything, next to everyone.” “In His infinitude He surrounds the finite creation and contains it.”

God’s Faithfulness- To be unfaithful is to change. Since God cannot change, He is absolutely faithful in all He does. He is perfectly consistent, with all He does in perfect agreement with all He is.

God’s Goodness- This is the attribute that disposes God to be “…kind, cordial, benevolent, and full of good will toward men.” It is this goodness that allows a distinction between kindness and cruelty and even between heaven and hell.

God’s Justice- Justice and righteousness are almost perfect synonyms in Scripture. Justice is the way God is. His acts are the perfect definition of justice. In no way should we ever attempt to think of God as conforming to an external, independent criterion.

God’s Mercy- This is “…an infinite and inexhaustible energy within the divine nature which disposes God to be actively compassionate.” Mercy is God’s goodness confronting human misery and guilt. Tozer also goes to great length to dispel the idea that God in the Old Testament is a God of justice whereas the God of the New Testament is a God of mercy. Remember…God is immutable!

God’s Grace- While similar to mercy, grace is God’s goodness directed toward man’s debt and demerit.

God’s Love- God is not literally “love” as is so often ascribed, but love is an essential attribute of God. It’s very difficult to actually define “love,” but we can describe how love manifests itself. Good will, friendly, giving freely to the object of its affection, self-sacrificial, taking pleasure in the object of its affection are examples of this manifestation.

God’s Holiness- “We cannot grasp the true meaning of the divine holiness by thinking of someone or something very pure and then raising the concept to the highest degree we are capable of. God’s holiness is not the best we know infinitely bettered.” God’s holiness is something “…unique, unapproachable, incomprehensible, and unattainable.” Holiness is who God is; He is the standard.

God’s Sovereignty- This is the absolute freedom of God to do that which He desires. Nothing can hinder, compel, or stop Him.

I know this resulted in a long post. I hope you will take the time along with me to ponder these attributes in a heart-felt attempt to know and thus love the God of our salvation more and more. I hope to place another couple of posts on this book, one involving some implications of furthering our understanding of God’s attributes and another summarizing Tozer’s final chapter wherein he “puts feet to the ideas” and challenges us to rise to the occasion of glorifying God more and more.

Giving thanks to my Lord, Who is far more than I could ever imagine…


Mrs. Meg Logan said...

Thank you, that was a wonderfully succinct explaination of the characteristics of God.

I especially enjoyed reading that the Lord is THE standard, we cannot take what we know and understand and "elevate it to the highest" form... God stands alone.

I think this is so often misunderstood and over looked. But it is what makes God worthy of our adoration and emulation. Because He IS.

Thanks for that refresher.

btw, i stopped by here after seeing your comment on MINtheGap.

Charley said...

Mrs. Logan,

Thank you for dropping by. This post was created in November of last 2006. I also had two follow-on posts that may you may also enjoy. You can access the final one HERE. From it, you can link to both of the other posts, including the one you already read.