God, the Creator

Where shall we begin in our study of that great system of revealed truth that the Bible contains? I think we ought to begin where the Bible begins, with God as the Creator and Ruler of the world.

There are many today who insist that we ought to begin at another place, with a consideration of the human life of Jesus. In fact these people often tell us that that is where we ought not only to begin but also to end.

All that we need to know about God, they tell us, is that God is like Jesus. We do not need to know how the universe came into being, they tell us, or whether there is a God who governs it in its course. These things belong to metaphysics, they say, not to religion. We are not interested, they say, in the question whether God is powerful, but only in conceiving of him as good.

Such is the view of those who use the phrase “the Christlike God.” That phrase, as it is commonly used, grates upon Christian ears. It grates upon the ears of those who believe not that God is like Jesus, but that Jesus himself is God.

Jesus certainly believed that God is the Creator and Ruler of the universe, and that belief belonged to the foundation of everything that he believed. Jesus held just that view of God which the persons of whom we have been speaking reject as being mere metaphysics. He put at the very foundation of his teaching and his life that divinely revealed metaphysic which is found in the first verse of Genesis. Everything that he did, with everything that he said, was based upon the great truth: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” God, according to Jesus, is the Creator and the absolute Ruler of the universe, bringing all things to pass in accordance with the counsel of his will.

To hold, then, that we can be indifferent to the question whether God is the Maker and Ruler of the world, is to treat Jesus himself with contempt, since it means that we reject what he himself put at the very foundation of his life and of his teaching.

But that view is not only derogatory to Jesus. It is also derogatory to God. What a low view of God it is to be sure when men say that they are not interested in the question whether he is powerful, whether he is the Creator or Ruler of the world, but are only interested in the question whether he is good!

If God is good only and not powerful, we are of all men most miserable. We had trusted him so implicitly; we had felt so safe in his everlasting arms. But now you tell us that our confidence was misplaced and that God really had no power to save his children when they call! Shall we believe you? Ah, no, my friends. Not if we are Christians.

But, people say, even if God is not thus all-powerful, even if we can no longer think of him as the sovereign Creator and Ruler of the world, even if we relegate these things to the realm of mere metaphysics, have we not at least something left? Have we not goodness left? Can we not find a higher and more disinterested worship—far higher, it would seem than that which Jesus practised—in the reverence for goodness stripped of the old vulgar trappings of power?

It sounds noble at first. But consider it for a moment and its glory turns to ashes and leaves us in despair. What is meant by a goodness that has no power? Is not goodness a mere abstraction except as it belongs to persons? As does not the very notion of a person involve the power to act? Goodness altogether divorced from power is therefore no goodness at all. The truth is that if you try to make God good only and not powerful, both God and goodness have been destroyed.

The Bible does indeed teach us that God is immanent in the world. He is not a God afar off. The devout reader of the Bible can say with Tennyson: “Closer is He than breathing, and nearer than hands and feet.”

But if God is thus immanent in the world, he is also transcendent. The world is dependent upon him, but he is not dependent upon the world. He has set bounds to the world, but the world has set no bounds to him. It is the work of his hands, but he is from eternity. “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.” Running all through the Bible is the awful separateness of God from the world. That is what the Bible calls the holiness of God. The Bible, unlike the pantheists, presents to us a holy God.

But the Bible also—and again unlike the pantheists—presents to us a personal God. The God of the Bible is not just another name for the universe itself, nor is he a name for a spiritual purpose supposed to run through the universe, or for any impersonal principle of goodness. It is clear that God is personal. He is not a force or a principle or a collective somewhat of which we are parts. He is a person, to whom we can say “thou,” a person who can, if he will, speak to us as a man speaketh to his friend, and who can, if he will, become to us a heavenly Father.

But what is needed first of all is that we shall stand in awe before his throne. We are living in an age when men have forgotten God. They have become engrossed in their own affairs. They have been puffed up in their pride. They have put God out of their thoughts. The result is that our boasted civilization is rushing rapidly to its fall.—J. G. M.

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