God’s Character: Why Doctrine Matters

God is a metaphysically and morally transcendent being. That is, he is ontologically distinct from his creation. God is morally, intellectually, volitionally, and emotionally unique.

Morally, God is good (2 Chron. 5:13; Ps. 34:8; 100:5; Jer. 33:11; Nah. 1:7- Mt. 19:17), just (2 Chron. 12:6; Jn. 5:30; 2 Thess. 1:6), merciful (Gen. 19:6; Ex. 34:6; Dan. 9:18; Lk. 6:36; Eph. 2:4), loving and compassionate (2 Kgs. 13:23; Ps. 25: 10; 62:12; 86:15; Rom. 9:15; Jm. 5: 11), and holy (Lev. 10:3; 11:44; Is. 6:3; 1 Pt. 1:15; Rev. 4:8). As a merciful God, he is tenderhearted toward those in need physically (Mt. 20:30-34) and spiritually (Rom. 11:30-32). In his mercy, God refrains from bestowing judgment, though it is deserved more often than not (Neh. 9:29-3 1; 1 Tim. 1:13-16), and instead conveys salvation and forgiveness (Ps. 51:1-2; Mic. 7:18-20; Eph. 2:4-5; Tit. 3:3-5).

Intellectually, God knows all things actual and possible (Ps. 139:1-4; 147:4-5; 1 Sam. 23:91-13; Jer. 38:17-18; Mt. 6:8; 11:21), possesses all wisdom (Job 12:13; Is. 28:29; Dan. 2:20; 28:20-21; Rom. 16:27; Rev. 7:12), and remains dependable and trustworthy because he cannot deceive himself, since he is truth and knows all truth. God is the ultimate Promise-keeper (Gen. 24:27; Jer. 32:40-41; Lam. 3:23; 1 Pt. 4:19; Josh. 23:14-15; 2 Cor. 1:20). As the omniscient God, he is never caught off guard by the irresponsible, sinful choices of humanity. The fact that he knows in advance what free moral agents will choose does not nullify genuine human freedom. Knowing all the possibilities available to humans, in addition to knowing which choice humans will make under certain circumstances, magnifies God’s seemingly limitless knowledge as humans move and act within the confines of God’s knowledge. Though he knows with a purpose, and his purposes are never made contingent upon anything, God’s enormous knowledge is beyond comprehension (Rom. 11:33-34).

Volitionally, God is self-determined and free with respect to anything outside his own being and purposes. In other words, God is free to be himself and nothing other than himself compels him to be or do anything. God does whatever pleases him (Job 23:13; Ps. 115:3; Pr. 21:1; Dan. 4:35). As a purely self-determined being, God is absolutely omnipotent. He is able to do whatever is in accordance with his perfect will and character. Nothing he purposes can be turned back (Gen. 18:14; Jer. 32:27), nor is he limited to doing only what the human mind can conceive (Mt. 19:26; Eph. 3:20). Though there are some things that are impossible for God, these are not to be considered limitations, but rather perfections of his character (2 Tim. 2:13 Tit. 1: 2; Heb. 6:18; Jm. 1: 13).

Furthermore, as the Almighty God, he is sovereign over all creation. He alone is the ultimate cause through whom all things occur. Though not directly responsible for evil in the world, God is behind evil indirectly. He permits the existence of evil as a means toward obtaining a universe where optimal conditions will someday exist for loving relationships to be freely and perfectly exchanged forever. Meanwhile, the sovereign God orchestrates every event in the universe so as to achieve this ultimate end (Is. 14:26-27).

Emotionally, God is an affective being who expresses love (1 Kgs. 8:23; Jn. 3:16), hates evil (Is. 61:8; Hos. 9:15; Mal. 1:3), is jealous (Ex. 20:5; Deut. 4:24; Josh. 24:19; Zech. 1:14), and enters into the suffering of his people (Is. 53:3; 63:9). That God is passionate does not entail him being capricious nor arbitrary. He is not apathetic toward his people, but is full of compassion (Ex. 3:7; Ps. 22:24). As a jealous God, he rightly desires that which is his own. His jealousy is born out of his love for his people and zeal for the realization of his covenant (Is. 9:7; 37:32).

It has been alleged that God’s love for and anger toward sinners is incongruent (e.g., Tillich, Kung). But, this is to misunderstand the nature of love. Love is patient, but it is not eternally tolerant, otherwise Hell would be empty. God is love, but he also divorced Israel because of her rebellion (1 Jn. 4:16; Jer. 3:8). It is not incongruous for God to offer every opportunity to enter into his love, only to find that those who persist in rejecting him are the cause of their own condemnation (see esp. Rom. 9:22).

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