I am now on a four-day weekend from school, otherwise known as J-Term Break. I just finished Historic Christian Belief, which was basically as systematic theology class, and it was one of my favorite, if not my favorite, classes at Taylor thusfar. As a Bible major, I love that Taylor students are required to take theology classes, and this was definitely a valuable one. My professor, Dr. Joseph Pak, did a wonderful job explaining historical views on a number of theological topics ranging from creation to discerning between genuine and false believers. My mind words in a very systematic, organizational way, and this class definitely played into my strengths, and I really enjoyed learning why I believe what I believe as a result.
One of my favorite parts of Historic was the lecture on the attributes of God, which is more technically called, “theology proper.” This lecture was toward the beginning of the semester, but I thought I would share a few thoughts from that lecture that came into my mind.
Reformed theology, the strand of theology in which I believe I fit best, has historically categorized God’s attributes in two basic ways: his communicable and incommunicable attributes. Communicable attributes of God are those that are able to be attained by humans, or were, “communicated” by us being created in his image, if that makes sense (I think I’ve got that right). Incommunicable attributes of God are those that are not able to be attained by humans, and are not “communicated” through our image-bearing in creation. In learning about these different attributes and the two categories, I came up with this theory. This theory is most likely not a new one by any means, but I thought I’d share it with you because I think it has some legitimacy to it. This blog post will not be as good as I’d hoped as I do not have the list of God’s attributes with me, but I will explain as many as I can remember.
The following is a short list of God’s incommunicable attributes (this is by no means exhaustive, because God’s attributes, like the fruit of the Spirit, can sometimes be a bit drawn out, so it is a concise list for the sake of this theory):
– Independence (needs no sustaining force)
– Immutability (doesn’t change)
– Infinity (has no limitations)
– Eternal (is not bound by time)
– Sovereign (ruler over all)
Like I said, this is not an exhaustive list by any means, but these attributes are enough to make my point.
We idolize ourselves all the time–at least I do, maybe you are all more sanctified than I, however. We try in so many ways, though we would never admit to it, to make ourselves God. We worship ourselves, however subconsciously, and attempt to de-throne God in our times of deepest need or struggle. We try to be God all the time.
My theory is this, “When we are caught, by ourselves or others, making idols of ourselves, our idolatry can almost always be rooted in the wrongful pursuit of God’s incommunicable attributes in exchange for the righteous pursuit of his communicable attributes.”
Here is a list of God’s communicable attributes (again, not comprehensive):
What we do, as blasphemous, disobedient, fallen human beings, is pursue exactly what we did in the garden of eden–an office of deity we’re not fit to hold. In the garden, Adam and Eve were tempted with the possibility of being like God, knowing good and evil, and to this day, sinful humans cannot keep themselves from disobediently trying to make themselves God in ways they were never meant to be.
We try to be independent–this pursuit is magnified in American individualistic culture. We try to sustain ourselves and defy the anonymously-uttered truth that, “Christians are not meant to be islands” (that may not be anonymous, I just don’t know who originally said it). We do this because we think we can, because we think we hold the rest of the incommunicable attributes of God.
We try to be immutable. This one was harder for me to grasp, but I think I have a bit of a handle on how this manifests itself in our culture. Do you take growing easily? Is there ever a time when you’re like, “Man, I love that God is breaking me of this impatience issue I have right now!” No. Rarely, at best. We don’t like being changed, we don’t like being molded. It hurts. Why does it hurt? It hurts because deep down in our heart we’re clinging on to the lie that we are inherently good beings that do not need to be altered and that our individualism and uniqueness matters most. What we don’t remember often enough is that we’re inherently sinful and inherently disobedient and need a Savior. Because we forget our depravity, we don’t think we need to change, we attempt to be immutable.
We try to be infinite. This one is pretty self-explanatory I think. How often do you think you’re Superman or Wonderwoman? We think we can do it all. We’re Americans, we’re tough, don’t be a pansy, be in control of your entire life. Our finiteness is no excuse for irresponsibility. But if you ever wonder why you don’t pray enough, look no further than your desire to be and belief that you are infinite.
We try to be eternal. This one is one of the most prevalent I see because it manifests itself in one major way: worry. Have you ever worried about something? Of course you have. You know why you worried? Because you aren’t in control of the future and you wish you were so that things could work out exactly how you want them to. If you could exist in the future and twist future-history to fit into your plans, you would in a heartbeat. The world tells you this is OK, the Bible tells you this is idolatrous and sinful. Another way the idolatrous pursuit of this attribute manifests itself is through regret. Prolonged regret about past action is a result of your sinful desire to play God, exist in eternity, and change your past action. Stop trying to be God, learn from and grow in your past failures.
Finally, we try to be sovereign. The wrongful pursuit of this attribute, in my mind, is sort of like the pretty little bow that wraps all of this idolatry up together. We think we are sovereign, and we try to be sovereign, because we think all of the previous attributes can be said of us, thus making us all-powerful. Our desire and attempts to be sovereign over our entire lives is the ultimate manifestation of our sinful desires to play God in various ways in our lives.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, may we obediently pursue the communicable attributes of God, those most clearly seen in the fruit of the Spirit. We need not be concerned with pursuing the heavenly incommunicable attributes of God when we can’t even perfect our pursuit of the simpler attributes of our Father in heaven. Pray this week that you may grow in one of the communicable attributes listed above, and that God would present you with opportunities to grow in that attribute of him. Mine is love.
I know this was a rather theologically deep post, and I thank you if you have stuck with it this far.
Also, I have a bunch of Scripture to back up the various attributes of God if you would like those, but to be honest, I’m not posting them because I need to get to bed. But please please ask me if you’d like to see some Scripture to back up those attributes.
Pursue God’s communicable attributes so that you may become more like him without making an idol of yourself.