God is eternally perfect in every way. He is the single standard by which we understand all things to be good and true.
God is immutable (unchanging over time), omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. All powerful, all knowing, and ever-present.
God’s omnipotence describes His immeasurable power. He can do anything and everything. But, what should we do with this information? Simple. We are being told to keep calm and leave everything to the ever-powerful God we serve. He is all-powerful and He is in control.
God’s omniscience should remind us of how His Will is absolute. God knows you. He knows what’s going to hurt you, makes you smile, encourages you, heals you, and makes you more like Jesus. Because you committed your life to Jesus as your Lord and Saviour, God the Father has sent the Holy Spirit to indwell your spirit. He has given you everything you need to live a Christian life under His Grace and blessings. For your part, you only need to believe in the Will of God and know the Holy Spirit will guide your every step as long as you say, Lord, not my will but your will be done today. Humans can only predict but, the Lord can leap through time and He knows what good He is going to bring you. All you need to do is rest in that knowledge. No one except your deeds can take that away from you.
God’s omnipresence or “all-present” refers to how God is everywhere. He is not a material that is confined within time and space. God controls time and space. Psalm 139 shows us that He knows what we are going to do before we even do it. Jeremiah 1:5 says that God knew us before we were even formed in the womb of our mothers. Aside from this, God already has a purpose for us before we were even born! This is possible because of God’s omnipresence. He has already seen the future while being in the past.
For Christians, because we have accepted Jesus Christ as Our Lord and Saviour we have received the special privilege of the Holy Spirit indwelling our Spirit. As Proverbs states our spirit is the lamp of the Lord. The lamp requires oil (Holy Spirit) to function as God intended man to function.
“The spirit of man is the lamp of the Lord, searching all his innermost parts.” Proverbs 20:27
Consider these words by Reformed theologian Herman Bavinck on the errors of a relationship-driven human-god economy. He writes, “The difference between the creator and the creatures hinges on the contrast between being and becoming” (Reformed Dogmatics, 2:156).
God is “being” (eternal, unchanging, perfect, all-knowing) and we are always “becoming” something else based on our experiences.
There is a problem with Mutual Theism: “it’s a relationship, not a religion” mentality. We must not forget that when we misrepresent and misunderstand the God of scripture, we make an idol. Our sinful, finite minds are naturally opposed to the holy and exclusive. It makes us uneasy. So, we will ease our consciences and in sin, make Him more like us. Outside of biblical Christianity, almost every religion presents divinity as attainable. But there is only one God that is truly transcendent, divine, and holy. This is the God of the bible. Unlike other gods, His actions are not removed from His being. Rather, His will, His being, His essence, and His actions are eternally the same within God.
One might counter that God’s actions/responses are not connected to His being or essence. He is not becoming something else when He responds with a temporal action. But, that draws out complications related to how Christians historically understand God’s ontology (study of God’s existence). Christians understand God to be absolute. He is self-sustaining. All wisdom and knowledge are complete and found in Him. More than that, God is the source of all knowledge. No one can know anything unless God has revealed it to them. To suggest that God can know or become something different (if even only for an instant) undermines what it means to be God. God does not change. He is not subject to mood swings; He is always God with perfect understanding, knowledge, and action in every situation.
Furthermore, we must not attempt to understand God through a lens of attributes or behavior, rather, we must understand these attributes through the lens of God. God is not made up of components – like the sum of many parts. He is not some complex mixture of love, wrath, grace, etc. He just is. He cannot become anything else because He has always been. For these reasons, we cannot separate God’s actions from His being. They’re unified; all in one. God just is and will forever be. His actions are always the perfect expressions of His being.
Most of us are just uninformed and unaware that their framework for understanding how we relate to the divine is substantially skewed. We have unknowingly adopted Theistic Mutualism (it’s a relationship, not a religion) as our theological framework.
We pray and petition because we desire other realities in our life. We want God to hear us, change His mind, and honor our requests. For reference, consider the following verses:
- Psalm 106:23: “Therefore he said he would destroy them had not Moses, his chosen one, stood in the breach before him, to turn away his wrath from destroying them.”
- Judges 2:18: “Whenever the Lord raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; for the Lord relented because of their groaning under those who oppressed and afflicted them.”
- Genesis 6:6: “And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart”
So how we do reconcile these emotionally-fueled responses from God with the fact that God is also immutable and impassable? The expressions from God we find in scripture are provided and written anthropomorphically. That is, they are written to give God human-like characteristics to help us better understand an aspect of God’s being or Law (the two can be separated). They are packaged in such a way that helps a finite being understand the behavior of an infinite one.
So, what’s so controversial? Well, the problem centers on how we understand the driving force of these responses from God. If it’s only us and prayer, then the economy of influence we have with God is not too dissimilar from that of the gods found within Greek Mythology. We possess the power to draw some alternate desired reality from God. God, the source of infinite power and knowledge, is ours to try and manipulate. Like Moses in the verse above, we act because we want to revise God’s position on a matter.
Peradventure, let’s pretend we think God to not be compassionate enough in a certain situation, but after intense prayer, fasting, and reasoning with God, He complies and divinely expresses the desired and proper compassion. Logically, this means the petitioner possesses some unique insight into the situation that God must not have. This person has enlightened God’s understanding and convinced Him that He ought to be more compassionate, given this and that. In this scenario, God is not immutable and certainly not omniscient. Instead, He is adapting and by way of outside influence, becoming a more enlightened version of Himself. Clearly, this is nonsense. God is eternally perfect in every way. He is the single standard by which we understand all things to be good and true. Yet, this is how many Christians practically carry out their relationship with God.
As an example, has there ever been a point in time when God did not hate sin? No, of course not – yet we find in scripture how God is enraged at sinful behavior. However, He didn’t start the day calmly and then become enraged once a sin was committed. No. His character and “being” has always hated that which is opposed to His righteousness. God is omniscient; He knows everything. He knew sin was going to happen. Nevertheless, scripture communicates God’s anger at sin to us in a way that is anthropomorphic and understandable. In fact, the only aspect of the human-divine “relationship” that is subject to change is how we apply these eternal truths in our lives.
We must not forget that God created everything, even time. While God is eternal, He engages with us in the temporal. He meets us where we are. Bavinck helps us again when he explains, “He [God] remains eternal and inhabits eternity, but uses time with a view to manifesting His eternal thoughts and perfections” (Reformed Dogmatics, 2:164). It is as Reformed theologian Scott Clark once stated, “The historic Reformed view is that all of God’s revelation is accommodated. That is how it must be in the nature of divine-human relations.” The story of salvation is full of examples of God making Himself known to His people. This was perfectly manifested in the incarnation.
The problematic and prevalent relationship-first model of Christianity fails to paint the correct picture of the economy between God and man. God is God and we are not. We must not project a human relationship model onto the divine; this is precisely why Evangelicals need to abandon the, “It’s a relationship, not a religion” mentality.
That being said, none of what I have said means that we can’t know God and interact with Him. We absolutely can! Jesus has made this possible. But we must pursue a relationship that is honest to His being. Christianity is a religion, and it is the only religion that offers a covenantal relationship with the only true and living God.
In closing, I recommend reading James Dolezal’s book All That is in God. He deals with this topic in much more detail and effectiveness. It’s not an easy read, but it is rich in doctrine and thought and worthy of your time.
Adapted from the article “Why Evangelicals Need to Stop Saying ‘It’s a Relationship, Not a Religion” October 15, 2018, by Jack Lee published by Patheos.