He warned against defining God purely through abstract definitions — the usual listing of His attributes, e.g. omnipotent, omniscient, all-loving, etc. He was concerned that if this was the primary way we understood God, we risk making God an exhibit in a museum, and the attributes His labels. But God is no static abstraction. He is alive and acts in history. I thank my Pentecostal and charismatic friends for reminding me of God’s presence and power, but the lesson was first drilled into my heart by a German theologian in a Canadian seminary.
A number of implications arise from this understanding of God as a God who acts. One is that we get to know what kind of God He is by His actions. Talking about Jesus, Dr Bockmuehl said Jesus is from above but we know Him from below. In other words, Christ is part of the Trinity, He is from above, but it is His activity in history, His teachings and His actions, that let us know who He is and, therefore, who God is. The supreme act of revelation is of course His death on the Cross and His resurrection. And Israel was always exhorted to remember the Passover and God’s deliverance through the Red Sea. To take God seriously is to take His actions in history seriously.
I am very worried about some of the modern worship music. They either don’t take history seriously, focusing only on the singer’s subjective feelings about God, or they focus only on the personal histories of the composers; what God did in their lives. They are essentially ahistorical and deprive us of the bigger and more accurate picture of God revealed in salvation history and church history. They end up reductionistic and with a much smaller God.
And if our picture of God is smaller and essentially ahistorical, we end up with a weakened faith, not fully confident in what He will do in the present. If Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever, we know what kind of God He is and what He will do by meditating on what He has done in the past. So if we are praying for healing, for example, we know we are praying to a God who hears, who is concerned, who cares and who comes down to deliver. We know the verbs. Knowing He is that kind of God means we pray with confidence both in His deliverance and in how and when He delivers.
Read it all.