Monday, November 27, 2023

Post #23 The Doctrine of God - P1 God's Attribute of Perfection And How It Sheds Light On Running, The Christian Walk, And Creation.



    In today's post, and the next, we will continue exploring the doctrine of God by noting His attribute of "Divine perfection". So what is Divine perfection? God as the most perfect being is, in-and- of-Himself, incapable of improvement. Put another way, God is completely complete. For now I'll leave that definition as it stands, since we will return to it and expand upon it in the next post. 

    We've noted in a previous post here that there are some attributes of God that we call "communicable" and "incommunicable". In some cases, there are attributes of God which can occupy both categories, meaning that in one respect something like God's "holiness" is shared or communicated to His people. Simultaneously, God's holiness is "incommunicable" or uniquely His own in its intensity and essence. 

    As I will show below, God's attribute of perfection appears to operate similarly. For instance, in one respect, the Bible urges believers to "be perfect as the Heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5:48), suggesting a relative form of perfection in the believer that is ever improving, becoming more and more what Christ had intended the Christian to be. Hebrews 12:15 reinforces this notion by urging Christians to pursue the Lord in sanctification, suggesting that perfection (not sinless perfection, but rather progress of improvement) in sanctification. We find then that "perfection" in this sense is a "communicable attribute". 

    Yet of course we find God's perfection to be an absolute, "incommunicable attribute". "Perfection" as an incommunicable attribute of God is alluded to by Jesus in Mark 10:18, wherein He states, "God alone is Good."  

    In this post, we will approach God's Perfection by first noting its "communicability", beginning in the realm of athletics, through the Christian life, and then noting what we see in the realm of creation. If there were not a communicable side to God's attribute of perfection, we would not know why it is so important in so many areas of knowledge and life. Indeed, as those bearing His image, something about the relative perfection we long for in this life gives us glimpses of the evidence we have the absolute, incommunicable perfection of God Himself. The incommuincable side of God's perfection is what we will focus upon in the next post, noting why it is worthy of our contemplation and pursuit in the Christian life. 

    As Moses wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Exodus 15:11 "Who is like You among the gods, O Lord? Who is like You, majestic in holiness, Awesome in praises, working wonders?"

Striving for perfection in one's pursuit of the Perfect One, Jesus Christ

    Perfection. Although unattainable in this life, yet is what one is to strive for in their Christian walk. Such a reality is of course what God is - Perfect. But let's develop what we mean by this truth by illustrating it. As a runner, I find myself ever striving for improvement. Racing reminds all participants that there are people faster and better than themselves. I've found this true whether running 5k's, 10k's, half-marathons, marathons, or ultra-marathons. Aging certainly reinforces this notion that there are indeed people faster and stronger than myself! The paradox of running is that in discovering how much better I could do, I find the drive to improve. 

    On a spiritual level, I find myself as a Christian ever needing improvement. The biblical term for Christian growth is "sanctification" (see 1 Thessalonians 4:3). As it pertains in the world of athletics, so it does in the Christian life. I always find other Christians that are further along in their faith or deeper in prayer-lives than myself. On a moral, spiritual, and physical level, I as a creature am being what is called "perfected". The use of "perfected" here refers to attainment of an intended design or ultimate goal. When designers test aircraft, they use windtunnels to "perfect" their designs before setting them aloft. Certainly, "perfection" in the moral sense can refer to absence of sin - a reality that is only attainable for the Christian upon death or in the rapture when Christ comes to retrieve His saints, dead and alive (see Hebrews 12:22-24; 1 John 3:1-3). 
    The sense of "perfection" we're emphasizing here has more to do with moral and spiritual conformity to "The Pattern" - the Lord Jesus Christ. This (hopefully) will aid us in our eventual contemplation upon God's "Divine Perfection" in the next post. 

    To understand growth in sanctification in this life, one must see the process as a progression, intermingled with fits and starts. I liken Christian growth in sanctification to an onward and upward slope with little jaggedy edges of ups-and-downs. Interspersed in our seasons of growth are those crisis moments where we decide to trust in God or in ourselves. 
    All Christians ought not to compare themselves to others, but to Christ Himself as their standard, their pattern (see Hebrews 12:1-2). As in the sport of running, recognizing that I strive for perfection, while knowing I won't attain it until I leave this world, paradoxically motivates me to strive all the more. As the late author A.W. Tozer once remarked:

"The paradox of faith is that all at once, when we think we have apprehended God, we are ever in pursuit of Him". 

Beginning to contemplate God's perfection by realizing that nothing compares to Him

    Anything else - whether animals, human beings, galaxies or angels - have room for improvement. We've already worked out this principle in the realm of athletics, as well as how it operates in Christian sanctification. The realm of creation itself stretches our minds to further prepare for contemplating and appreciating God as The Perfect Being. There are other comparable objects and beings that are better, bigger and brighter. Our Milky Way Galaxy, for instance, is physically immense. 

Image result for milky way galaxy

Astronomers tell us that on average, the Milky Way Galaxy is composed of over 100 billion stars and is 100 thousand light years across. Yet, the Andromeda Galaxy, lying some two-million light years distant, is twice as large and may contain over twice as many stars. The James Webb Telescope has discovered galaxies that are not only the most distant observed, but which are also in the same state of maturation and size as our own. While such discoveries are calling into question current theories of galactic evolution, origins, and even the proported age of the universe itself, the Biblical record of God having created all the stars, all at the same time, is yet again scientifically confirmed. Indeed, our universe is vast, yet there is a portion of the created realm greater than it.

    Angels are revealed in over 400 places in the Bible. Whether good or bad, they all exist in varying ranks. While stars and galaxies populate our physical universe in the millions, billions, and trillions, the numbers assigned to the angels advance into the hundreds of trillions (Revelation 5:11). Space does not permit referencing these ranks and powers of angels. Just as in the physical universe, all the angels, archangels, and other such beings are comparable to one another. Although we find good angels and their evil opposites more powerful and more swifter in their rankings, yet there are upper limits. The infinite gulf of being that persists between the lowliest amoeba and God is the same as between the mightiest archangel and God. In other words, His absolute perfection and all other creaturely relative perfection is incomparable.  

    All objects and beings are incomplete by themselves - capable of improvement. Strangely enough, whenever there is room for improvement, and when there is an ultimate standard against which all other standards fall short, we call such a condition "imperfect". Job 15:15 reminds us:

"Behold, He puts no trust in His holy ones, And the heavens are not pure in His sight." 

Our realtively short exercise of approaching God's perfection in its communicable form in creation should cause us to long for dwelling upon His incommunicable, absolute perfection.

Closing of today's post.

    The goal of today's post was to explore how God in someways has communicated or shared His attribute of perfection with His creation, since without it we would not know what such a standard is. The communicability of God's Divine perfection functions in sports, the Christian life, the physical universe, and the angelic realm. Truly, we come to appreciate the beauty of creation, the need for moral and spiritual improvement, and the natural drive to compete as a result of the Perfect Creator's Divine handiwork. God's attribute of perfection refracted through all His creatures points us back to Himself. 
    We also began to see too how God's attribute of perfection is "incommunicable", meaning that there is something about it that is unique to Himself. Clearly nothing compares to God. Isaiah raises a rhetorical question in Isaiah 40:18 that will sets us up for the next post 

"To whom then will you liken God? Or what likeness will you compare with Him?"

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