God is the central theme of this room. The word “theology” literally means “study of God.” Yet, as most everyone knows, there is a very wide spectrum of beliefs about God in our world. As a result, there are a lot of different “theologies.” Many of the hundreds of books in this room discuss the classic world religions and a number of other ones as well. I think it’s important to know what other people believe.
But what is it about the God presented in Christianity that particularly attracts me, especially in comparison to the beliefs of other worldviews? A major consideration for me is that the God to which Christianity points is far beyond us, among us, and potentially within us. God cannot be reduced to anything physical or even to the entire physical universe. He is distinct from it and ultimately responsible for it. He is a “transcendent” Being—meaning that He is beyond us or above us.
One perspective really emphasizes the transcendence of God. It is called “Deism,” a word that comes from a Latin word that means God. The best-known Deists go back to the 18th century and were especially prominent in early American history. Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson are two notable examples. Many are not aware that Jefferson, who was the main author of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, had his own version of the New Testament Gospels called The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth. He included the moral teachings of Jesus, but he made no mention of any miracles of Jesus. The last chapter in Jefferson’s “Bible” is on the crucifixion and burial of Jesus; there is nothing about a resurrection of Jesus. This is not surprising, because Deists typically believe that a transcendent God created the universe, but then has no involvement with it. God doesn’t do miracles, and God doesn’t come to earth as the Son of God. As a result, Deism proposes a transcendent God, but it’s a God who is just “out there.” There’s no point praying to such a God. He won’t respond in any way.
On the other hand, Christianity not only has a transcendent God, it emphasizes that God became flesh and dwelt among us. That’s the idea of the “incarnation”—God in flesh. The Son of God was called “Immanuel,” which means “God with us” (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:18-24). God is not just “out there” in some distant inaccessible realm; God chose to come to earth to let us see Him. Jesus said, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). Jesus was the Word who “with God” and who “was God”—the One who “became flesh and made His dwelling among us” (John 1:1-2,14). And it was because of God’s love that Jesus came. The so-called “golden text” of the Bible puts it this way: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). (Some people only see “John 3:16” on signs at big football games on TV. I’ve sometimes wondered how they get those well-selected seats between the goalposts. Nevertheless, I’m sure that the sponsors want people to look it up and read its message.)
Christianity teaches that God is above us and among us, but the Spirit of God can also dwell within us. We can receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38) who gives us hope (Romans 5:5); who gives us life (Romans 8:10); who gives us assurance that we are God’s children who have the privilege of calling God our intimate Father (Romans 8:14-16; Ephesians 1:13-14). This Spirit intercedes for us to God (Romans 8:26-27) and He is God’s guarantee that God’s promises will be fulfilled for us (2 Corinthians 1:21-22).
For me, not just any God will do. But I find this kind of a God amazingly appealing! He is all-powerful; yet He is personal. He is not only the Lord of creation; He is the ultimate champion of love. He is not only the Sovereign ruler of the world; He is the Savior of the world. He is not only Deity; in Jesus, He died for me. And that’s where it gets really personal.
That kind of a God is worthy of my devotion. As I lounge in this room of theology, I discover greater conviction about how great and how good God is, and I have greater satisfaction in knowing who I am and why I exist.