Hoyt H. Houchen
Much has been written on the person of Christ, but surprisingly, little has been expounded on the person of God the Father. This may be due in part to the fact that theologians are generally agreed upon the person of God the Father. More controversy exists with regard to the person of Christ. A study of the person of God the Father deserves our careful attention, not only because we need to be informed as to His person, but that we may be able to serve Him more acceptably.
God is more than an immovable force. In contrast to paganism and modern pantheism, God is a personality. He is not a mere inanimate object, nor an abstract idea. He is the one in whom we live, move and have our being (Acts 17:28). Several considerations support the proposition that God is a personal being.
Desire Of Man To Worship
The desire upon the part of man to worship is innate. A universal longing of magi to render homage to a higher being than himself is evident. When the ancient Egyptians worshiped the sun, they were expressing their desire for a superior object. When the mother throws her infant into the "sacred" Ganges river, she is reaching out for something to worship. When the Indian speaks of "happy hunting grounds," he is expressing his desire for something higher. It has been said that there were more gods and goddesses in Athens, Greece than there were men.
Paul addressed the Athenians: "Ye men of Athens, in all things I perceive that ye are very religious. For as I passed along, and observed the objects of your worship, I found an altar with this inscription, TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. What therefore ye worship in ignorance, this I set forth unto you" (Acts 17:22,23). The altar "to an unknown God" expressed their searching for an object of worship. There is within man that desire to worship something or someone higher than himself.
The Visible More Plausible To Man
Man is prone to worship the visible rather than the invisible. The visible being more tangible than the invisible, this inclination is clearly illustrated by the idols of paganism which depict resemblances of human beings as animals.
But the idea of an impersonal god is not confined to paganism. Organic evolution rules out the existence of a personal God. The god of organic evolution is not a personal being, but rather an impersonal force to which mind and matter respond. The creation of mind and matter by an omniscient and omnipotent person is denied and is substituted by the idea of a slow, evolutionary process involving millions of years. But no evidence for this view has been found in the fields of geology, paleontology, biology, zoology or in any other field of science. There is far more evidence to support the first fact stated in the Bible: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" (Gen. 1:1), than the hypotheses of organic evolution.
Even ancient Israel occasionally expressed a desire to worship the visible. Shortly after her departure from Egypt, she demanded of Aaron, "Up, make us gods" and he made a golden calf (perhaps the image of a bull). The people worshiped it and sacrificed to it (Ex. 32:1-8). Later Israel wanted a human king, not the invisible divine King (1 Sam. 8:4-8). Still later, Jeroboam I (c. 930-909 B.C.) led a revolt against Rehoboam, king of Judah, taking ten tribes with him to the north. He made two calves of gold and said to the people: "It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And he set the one in Bethel, and the other in Dan" (1 Kgs. 12:28,29). Other examples of Israel's idolatry are mentioned in the Old Testament (2 Kgs. 17:9-12; Ezek. 6:6; 20:31; etc.). Israel's idolatry, and other sins were the reasons for her being led into captivity.
The Testimony Of The Universe
The magnitude, scope and orderly arrangement of the universe testifies to a superior intellect. The precision which makes possible the accurate movements of our universe demands by reason that only intelligence can account for its origin and existence. As there are laws which govern life upon the earth, so there are laws which govern the universe. The astronomer, for instance, is able with mathematical precision to predict the exact time when there will be an eclipse of the moon or some other planetary object. Men are able with the same accuracy to determine the times for the low and high tides of the ocean. When there is a law there must be a lawgiver. There must be a supreme intelligence and the Bible declares it to be God, an intelligent personal being (Gen. 1:1; Psa. 19:1).
The Make-Up Of Man Testifies
The very make-up of man is staggering to the human imagination. The Psalmist declared: "I will give thanks unto thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made" (Psa. 139:14). The functions of the human being, the composite system of intelligence and a biological organism is sufficient within itself to reflect the wondrous hands of the most proficient designer. The workings and potentials of the human mind are probably less known than what has been learned about space. The multiple colors and the intricate design of the beautiful butterfly reflect the astounding art of the master artist. Only a superior personal creator, an intelligent being, can be the plausible explanation for the origin of life, mind and matter.
Man is more than a biological organism with an intellect. The Bible teaches that man was made in the image or likeness of God (Gen. 1:26,27). This nature of man was created (Heb. bara). The other nature was formed (Heb. yatsar) of the dust of the ground (Gen. 2:7). God is spirit (Jn. 4:24) and since man was made in the likeness of God, it is this aspect in which man is like God – he is a spiritual being. He was created in the spiritual image of God. It is to the spiritual nature of man that God appeals in His divine revelation (Jn. 3:5,6; Rom. 12:1; etc.). Our physical bodies result from the natural laws of procreation; they are born of parents; God is the Father of our spirits (Heb. 12:9). As a result of the new birth (a spiritual birth), man "is renewed unto knowledge after the image of him that created him" (Col. 3:10). The physical body is that feature that is peculiar to man. Jesus was "made in the likeness of men" (Phil. 2:7) when He became incarnate, became flesh (Jn. 1:14). Man, then is not only physical, that which characterizes him as man; but he is also spiritual, that which is like God. The spirit of man departs from the body at death (Jas. 2:26). It is the part of man that is immortal as God his Creator is immortal. God is eternal, He has no beginning or end. Man's spirit began its existence at birth and is eternal; it will always exist somewhere. As the spirit of man is more than an abstract idea or an inanimate object, God the giver of man's spirit must by a reasonable faith be accepted as a person.
God Reveals Himself
The gods of men have been conceived of as persons, represented by material images; but persons cannot be known unless they reveal themselves. God our Creator has revealed Himself through His word, thus we are able to learn about God. God speaks. He spoke to Abraham directly while he was living in Ur, beyond the Euphrates. God commanded Abraham to leave his home and go into a land which God would show him. Abraham believed God and obeyed. Through God's word and Abraham's faithful response to it, Abraham began to know God. God spoke to him on subsequent occasions, and Abraham became known as "the friend of God" (Jas. 2:23). God addressed Moses directly. Moses learned His name, something about His character and nature. God spoke through prophets, on one occasion through a dumb ass, and on another occasion by handwriting on the wall. He now speaks to us through His Son, Jesus Christ (Heb. 1:1,2). God authenticates that He is a person by addressing man through His written word. He does not speak directly to men today as He did in times past. We learn of God through divine revelation. It should be noted that when men seek to find God solely through the avenues of nature, they inevitably become idolaters. Nature only testifies in behalf of the one true God whom His word has revealed. Observation of nature results in a recognition of a supreme intelligence as to its cause. The Bible reveals who that intelligence is – GOD.
Through the avenue of prayer we address God. The expressions of praise, gratitude and petitions are evidences that the God whom we worship and serve is a personal being.
God Contrasted With Idols
A marked contrast is drawn between God and men's idols. This distinction is seen and described in such Scriptures as Isaiah 44:9-17. Idolaters pray to a god that cannot hear, that cannot see, that cannot speak. The foolishness and futility of worshiping a dumb idol is obvious.
In order that man may be more able to visualize God as the invisible person that He is, the Bible abounds in anthropomorphisms (characteristics of man attributed to God). This is seen in such passages as Isaiah 59:1,2 and 1 Peter 3:12 where God is said to have a hand, ears, eyes and a face. Anthropopathisms (human feelings ascribed to God) are also found in the Bible – such as rejoicing, sorrow and anger (Lk. 15:7; Deut. 9:19; Hos. 11:9; etc.). Though invisible, these attributes attest to His personality. God is omniscient. He knows all that man thinks (Heb. 4:13).
In contrast to polytheism, there is but one God. "I am Jehovah, and there is none else; besides me there is no God" (Isa. 45:5). The one God who reveals Himself in the Bible is the first person in the Godhead, God the Father. He is an invisible, immortal personality. We rejoice that we, His children can praise Him, extol His matchless name, petition Him, and serve Him from the heart.