This post is part of a series of posts on the basics of systematic theology. Why do we need theology, and what are the essential truths to know about each doctrine? All the posts are archived under the category “Theology 101.”
What are the essential truths to know about an infinite God? What are is irreducible minimum about God? To know and worship God truly, we must acknowledge at least three truths about Him.
First, He is a triune God. He is one in essence and three in person and the three persons (they are not manifestations or modes) are distinct in relationships and equal in authority (1 Pt. 1:2). “There is only one and true God, but in the unity of the Godhead there are three co-eternal and coequal Persons, the same in substance but distinct in subsistence” (B. B. Warfield).
So, as has been illustrated elsewhere, the Father is not the Son and the Son is not the Holy Spirit, and yet the Father is in the Son and the Spirit is in the Father — all the members of the Trinity are in each other without being equal to the other members — and combined, the three distinct persons of the Trinity make up one God. Further, the three members of this Tri-unity have distinct functions and roles, yet all serve to glorify the others and none is any less God than the others.
We tend not to think too much of the Trinity, yet the Trinity is essential because it establishes the uniqueness and transcendence of God, establishes the deity of all the members of the Trinity (which is important because the deity of the Son and Spirit are sometimes denied), and because it is intrinsically connected to the gospel and our spiritual life. Fred Sanders has noted, “Christian salvation comes from the Trinity, happens through the Trinity, and brings us home to the Trinity.…The more we explore and understand the depths of God’s commitment to salvation, the more we have to come to grips with the triunity of the one God. The deeper we dig into the gospel, the deeper we go into the mystery of the Trinity.” [The Deep Things of God]
Secondly, we can only comprehend the character of God as we contemplate His attributes as they are revealed in Scripture. These attributes can be divided into two broad categories — communicable and incommunicable attributes — demonstrating both His transcendence and approachability. Here is a compilation of some of the most basic of His attributes:
Finally, because God is God, all life terminates on Him. Life is not about us; we’re not ultimate. He is. We live for Him, to please Him, and to glorify (reveal) Him (2 Cor. 5:9; 1 Cor. 8:6; 10:31). All life is therefore theocentric (God-centered) and not anthropocentric (man-centered).
“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.…For this reason the gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like. We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God. This is true not only of the individual Christian, but of the company of Christians that composes the Church. Always the most revealing thing about the Church is her idea of God, just as her most significant message is what she says about Him or leaves unsaid, for her silence is often more eloquent than her speech.” [Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy]