The Existence and Character of God
Bryan Vinson, Sr.
The writer of the Hebrew letter tells us that without faith it is impossible to please God, for he that cometh to Him must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him (Heb. 11:6). This is a dual demand made by God expressive of the required faith one must possess as touching Him. To simply entertain a vague and undefined conception of the Being of God apart from any well conceived and definitive convictions as to what sort of being He is will not meet the demands of the case. In addition to the persuasion that there is a Supreme Being, or Beings, there must be the identifying of Who and What constitutes Deity, and this involves a perception and! appreciation of the attributes which make up and constitute the character of such a one, or ones. But in order that this be the experience of man ehere must be afforded him that evidence or enlightening testimony which not only may but will competently establish and sustain the conception and conviction demanded of him by God. For God to arbitrarily make such a requisition without supplying that essential to rendering man capable of so believing would be capricious and cruel.
This is said on the assumption that there is a God and that he thus expects that of us, which this verse affirms. Such is the beginning point of our study of the question bearing on the Being and Qualities of God. A Revelation from God is not necessary to the conviction of an existence of some supreme being or beings. Creation affords incontestable proof of such an existence, and with that we are immediately concerned.
In speaking of the Gentiles Paul says, "Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them, for God hath shewed it to them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, his eternal power and divinity, so that they are without excuse, because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful, but became vain in their imaginations and their foolish heart was darkened" (Rom. 1:19-21). That which is affirmed' as bearing on their ignorance here, and as being without excuse, is that which could have been known and thus not knowing being inexcusable, is the being and power of deity. This is said to be invisible but being clearly seen by that which may be understood from' the facts of creation. The seeing here of the invisible is an intellectual seeing made possible through the avenue of that which may be seen and noted physically. The invisible things being the existence and power exerted by deity, by reason of the fact that power had to be present as cause for created matter to be an effect, and the exertion of such power pre-supposes the being of he who exerts the power. Furthermore, the magnitude and order of the universe, coupled with the existence of man as a creature, endowed with intellect, combines to force the conclusion as inevitable that "the hand that made them is Divine."
As an additional consideration there is the factor of a continuing interest being manifested by the Creator in His operation of natural force and matter. The reaction of the multitude of witnesses to the miracle wrought by Paul on the cripple from his mother's womb, at Lystra, was one, which evoked from him an interesting statement. They thought of him and Barnabas as gods who had come down to them in the likeness of men. Paul and Barnabas rent their clothes and, sprang! forth into the midst of the multitude avowing themselves to be but men of like passions as those whom they addressed. Their appeal was for them to turn from such vanities to the living God. "who made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and all that in them is; who in generations gone by suffered all the nations to walk in their own ways. And he left not himself without witness, in that he did good and gave you from heaven rains and fruitful seasons, filling your hearts with food and gladness" (Acts 14:8-17). In this God is identified as the living God', and as such he' not only is defined as Creator but as a God who continues doing--a Providential God. Hence, the dual testimony nature bears as touching both the existence and actions of God. The picture, however, is not complete as drawn by these two statements insofar as identifying the true character of God. True, he is affirmed as a benevolent God in this latter passage, but the same witness, the functions of natural law, also bear testimony of the visitation of destruction of men in their workings. Therefore, the God of Nature is neither known as to whether He is one or many, nor of His or Their purposes in creation and providence. They reflect design and thus imply purpose, but do not establish and identify the purpose as related to the ends sought by what Deity has done and does.
Without a definitive purpose being perceived and appreciated there can be no determination of the character, and qualities of character, of Deity. Therefore, we are driven to the imperative necessity of a Revelation from God. In a revelation from Him alone is there to be discovered, or discoverable, a knowledge of Him, which involves a perceiving of His character through the expressed communication of his designs and purposes concerning man. The very existence of man remains an unresolved enigma in the absence of such; hence, the vagaries that have been indulged in as touching the very origin of man. Man's origin is inseparably related to the reason for his existence, and the latter demands a making known by God of those reasons inasmuch as he made him. We can through observation and reflection be led to a recognition of the designs of nature through the order, the operation, and the relation of cause and effect in its operation. But when we further note the arrangements and functioning of the natural order as for man's good here, and then be brought to the tomb as the terminus of man's existence--then we are filled with a sensed' frustration regarding the whole matter. Why the creation o# this marvelous world with all its blessing for man if man is here today and ceases to be tomorrow? Can there be any reason for both its creation and operation as related to man's good, if man has no reason himself for existing? In other words, purpose and design must be related to an ultimate end or result, and if this is the only existence man has there is no real son for his being, and thus no reason for that which exists because of or with a view to man's existence. But we see design in nature, and hence on the above assumption we see design without reason or purpose, which is an absurdity.
The question of old to the point of "if a man died will he live again" arises essentially from such reflections, and the intuitive reasoning that he shall, rests thereon. But to assume that the creature shall have an everlasting existence without being founded on a recognition that he who made him is eternal would be the most unsubstantial sort of self provoked foolishness in thinking. So then we are led to the view that any rational concept of matter and spirit, with man constituted of both, entails a Divine Revelation to man as necessary to its formation and establishment. We can look up from nature to natures God, we, are told, but what we see is vague and elusive; by revelation we can look down from God, having received the things of his mind, and see reason and purpose in all nature, and
sublimely so in man's existence. The apostle in treating with the essential weakness and foolishness of human philosophy boldly affirms the inability of man with all his natural endowments discovering apart from revelation the things of God, which things involve the thoughts and therefore the purposes of the Almighty.
There must, however, be a harmony in God's purposes as originally formed with respect to man, and the continuing purpose' regarding him. The defection of man from the favor of his Creator through sin entailed a necessity of his recovery to the end that the ultimate and eternal design of God might be accomplished. An ignorance of God is a barrier to this attainment, and to bring man back to God through means of his being taught of Cod was and is the great purpose identified! With the interposition of the Son of God, whit being the word became flesh and dwelled among us. There is, we are told, one God, and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus. Hence, his mission was to reveal the Father to us, and in this revelation to make known his purposes concerning us. So that this be realized he must need have died as a propitiation for our sins, and this removing the barrier of sin along with the dispersing of ignorance, the two being inseparable companions in their ill-effect on us.
A study of the life and teaching of Jesus constitutes the clearest and most complete commentary on the mind of God extant. He came not to do his own will, but the will of him who sent him. Thus in the most impressive way there was exemplified the will of God toward man, a subjection to God so complete that in that instance entailed the death of his only begotten son. Every expression of the Divine Will is incorporated as essentially the mind and intention of God concerning man and his ultimate destiny. That is, God wills that man be and do that which he has revealed to the end that he may eternally be and do what God purposed for him. This being true, then, how can an indifference toward or a depreciated regard for this will ever result in the full realization and fruition of God's purpose for man? Herein lies the point where a solemn and serious consideration of the Word of God be exercised because this is but the revelation of his will, and his will is essentially related to the eternal purpose of God for mankind. The knowing of the being and designs of God, the perception and appreciation of his attributes and the responsive development of these qualities of goodness in our own character are essential to our, realization of the blessedness purposed for us.
God is essentially a Being of such superlative qualities and attributes of character as td render him the most lovable of all beings. We love him, we are told, because he first loved us; and' that which is reflected in his love for us attracts a reciprocal love for him. In turn, this love is the moving and guiding force in our seeking his pleasure, and this is sought and secured through obedience to his will. Therefore, if we love him we will keep his commandments, and; his commandments are not grievous because of the salutary and enobling influence they are designed' to exert on us. The goodness, mercy and grace of the Lord are but expressive of his benignant character, and are calculated to awaken in those who become acquainted with them an admiration and affection for him which leads to an ever-increasing desire to do all things that are pleasing in his sight. Truly does he exist, and as thus being he rewards all who diligently seek him. The triumphant and happy life is that one lived with the blessings of Divine acceptance accompanying it through all the vicissitudes of the earthly pilgrimage, and shall eventually be lived! In the immediate and everlasting presence of the all wise and benevolent Creator and Benefactor of our race.
Truth Magazine, VI: 1 pp.19-21