Answering the Question, What Is God Like?

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Question: What is God Like?

Answer: God is perfect in power, knowledge, and in His holy love.

Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit. (Psalm 147:5)

God is three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Three persons in one God. They are distinct in their personhood but united in their nature. Nature is maybe a bit of a hard word, so let me explain. Nature here means the “kind of thing” something is.

  • Ice cream’s nature is to be a frozen milk product.
  • A giraffe’s nature is to be a long-necked, even-toed ungulate mammal.
  • A triangle’s nature is to be a closed figure with three sides and three angles.

So what’s God’s nature? What kind of thing is God?

The best way to speak about God’s nature is to say that God is, in every way, a perfect kind of thing. God’s nature is whatever is best.

Saint Anselm, a medieval monk, described God as “supremely great.” God is so great, for Anselm, that He’s the greatest being we can imagine. It’s impossible to even think of a being greater than God. If we could think of something truly better than our definition of God, then we should change our definition so that God would be understood as that better thing.

This is what we mean when we say that God is “a perfect being.” We can’t think of anything better.

The idea of perfection is important because we are called not only to love God, but also to worship Him. Worship means to offer total devotion. And only a perfect being is truly worthy of worship. Though the Bible teaches that angels surpass us in power, we do not worship them.

Worshiping anything less than a perfect being is sinful. The Bible has a word for worshiping less-than-perfect things. It’s called idolatry. This is why the psalmist said, “For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the LORD made the heavens” (Psalm 96:5).

The true God can’t be a lesser deity with some powers. Zeus, for instance, from Greek mythology, had a lot of power. He could throw lightning bolts. But he didn’t create lightning. Zeus wasn’t even eternal. According to the mythological stories, Zeus had a father and came into being at a particular point in time.

The only God worthy of worship is perfectly powerful, wise, good, eternal, and is the Creator of anything that exists.

One of the ways that we know from Scripture that Jesus is the true God is that He is worshiped. After His resurrection, when Jesus met the women at the tomb, the Bible says that the women “came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him” (Matthew 28:9). Jesus is worthy of worship because He is the true God—the second person of the Trinity. And God is perfect.

Now, in order to understand perfection, we have a little bit of a problem. True perfection is hard to describe, because we’re not perfect. Imperfect people have a hard time knowing exactly what a perfect being would be like. It’s like trying to imagine how a person smarter than you would think.

So immediately we’re in trouble.

It’s a little bit like this. We can think of the idea of a perfect circle but when we try to draw one it’s very hard. We mess up. Likewise, we can imagine the idea of a perfect God even if we can’t actually describe all the things this perfect God would be like.

Fortunately the Bible helps us out by telling us some things about God’s perfection. Scripture tells us, among other things, that God’s perfection means that God is perfectly powerful (Luke 1:37), perfectly knowing (Matthew 6:8), and perfectly good (Matthew 5:48).

This means:

  • God can do anything
  • God knows everything
  • God will always do what is right

For us, this is really good news, because this means that we can fully trust God. He knows us completely and loves us perfectly. Nothing (except for us) can stop God from achieving the good plans He has for us.

If God wasn’t perfect in this way, we might not be able to fully trust Him.

If God had all the power, but wasn’t perfectly wise, He could be kind of destructive.

If God was perfectly smart, but wasn’t perfectly good, He might be kind of a villain.

If God was perfectly good, but didn’t know us or have the power to save us, He would be kind of useless.

Take this example. Imagine you have three superheroes:

  • Power Person
  • Genius Guy
  • Moral Man

Power Person can do anything, but he’s not very smart. So whenever he tries to help, he often does the wrong thing.

Genius Guy knows everything, but he isn’t fully good. So sometimes he helps, but sometimes he uses his brilliance for his own selfish ends.

Moral Man knows exactly what the right thing is to do, and he desires to do it, but he isn’t all-powerful or all-knowing. So even though he wants to help everybody, he can’t. He’s just a guy.

If you got in trouble, which of these three would you call?

It’s hard to say. None of them might be any help.

The good news is that God is Power Person, Genius Guy, and Moral Man all rolled into one. He has all the power, all the knowledge, and is perfectly good.

So we can always trust Him.

If you found this entry helpful, you’ll enjoy the illustrated, down to earth catechism called The Absolute Basics of the Christian Faith by Phil Tallon. It’s the perfect little study for: Confirmation classes; Newcomer classes; Families; New Christians. The Absolute Basics of the Christian Faith is a visual introduction to the core beliefs of the Christian faith. While it assumes no background knowledge of the scriptures or church teachings, this eight-week study is stocked with rich explanation and engaging videos that bring catechesis to life for people of all ages, backgrounds, and stops along their spiritual journey.

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Philip Tallon is an Assistant Professor of Theology at Houston Baptist University, where he is the chair of the Department of Apologetics, and a faculty member of the Honors College. He is the author of The Poetics of Evil:Toward an Aesthetic Theodicy and co-editor of The Philosophy of Sherlock Holmes (with David Baggett). He also has a new book coming out from Seedbed, The Absolute Basics of the Christian Faith. You can find him on Twitter: @philiptallon.

1 COMMENT

  1. Thank you so much for this simple but powerful explanation. I have a dear friend who’s a new Christian and she constantly asks challenging questions. This article is as helpful for me as it is for her!

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