Apt Description of God
Chris Reese from Cloud of Witnesses featured a concise and excellent quote that perfectly describes the nature of God, as cited by Dallas Willard:
God is “the eternal, independent, and self-existent Being; the Being whose purposes and actions spring from Himself, without foreign motive or influence; he who is absolute in dominion; the most pure, the most simple, the most spiritual of all essences; infinitely perfect; and eternally self-sufficient, needing nothing that he has made; illimitable in his immensity, inconceivable in his mode of existence, and indescribable in his essence; known fully only by himself, because an infinite mind can only be fully comprehended by itself. In a word, a Being who, from his infinite wisdom, cannot err or be deceived, and from his infinite goodness, can do nothing but what is eternally just, and right, and kind.” [Adam Clarke in Cyclopaedia, vol. 3 (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1894), 903-4, quoted by Dallas Willard in Knowing Christ Today, chapter 4, n. 1.]
Let’s break take a look at just a few of these descriptors.
Purposes and actions spring from himself, without foreign motive or influence. I’ve posted on this before, and was accused of “the Humpty Dumpty Defense,” that is, changing the definition of words to suit my purpose. However, we also see in this quote that God can only act in a way that is eternally just, right, and kind. My point was that our understanding of those terms are rooted in the behavior and ontology of God, and I believe Clark is making the same point.
Absolute in dominion. The Westminster Confession of Faith describes God’s eternal decree thus:
God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established. (III.1)
In his decree, he has included and purposed the free will of his creatures. Our will isn’t so free, actually–it’s a creaturely will that is premised in God’s own sovereignty. We can’t butt heads with God and win. If he wants A and I want B, regardless of my actions or choices, A will happen.
Our will begins this life enslaved to sin, and God frees us by knowing Christ. A salvation premised entirely upon God’s grace, and not anything we’ve done (or will do, see paragraph III.2 of the WCF) and activated by our faith in the promise.
Most pure, simple, most spiritual of all essences. This is where well-known atheist Richard Dawkins jumps the shark in The God Delusion. Dr. Dawkins assumes that God is just like the creatures he created; that he has a material existence and form, and thus must have come to be either by a Creator of the Creator (thus God is merely an intermediary god), or by natural evolutionary processes (as Dr. Dawkins assumes all life came into being).
But this is not so. God is eternal, which means nothing came before him, nor will anything come after him. This automatically destroys the need for a “cause,” as a cause is only something necessary for a contingent being such as our own selves. A cause is meaningless to an eternal being. Further, the doctrine of divine simplicity clearly states that God has no matter or component parts; he is essentially a disembodied mind.
As we read previously, God is “eternal, independent, and self-existing.”
Eternally self-sufficient, needing nothing he has made. Paul’s letter to the Colossians tells us that everything was made by and for Jesus Christ (1:16). Solely for the glory of God; he made not because he needed to, but because he wished to make his divine attributes seen to a worthy group of creatures. Though we are not worthy in any sense, he has not given up and moved on. He is merciful to us, and we thank him for that. Let’s take a peek at Scott Rachui’s three part post on the deity of Christ: part 1 | part 2 | part 3.
That’s just a few of the many adjectives that Clarke used. Truly, there is no greater conceivable being than God, and studying his nature and his dealings with humanity in the Bible will profit us as humans. To repeat: there is no greater study than the person and nature of God, and the best revelation of that nature is found in his Son, Jesus.