God’s attributes can seem like suns we stare at. They’re so big and bright that we can’t look at them for more than a moment. Unfortunately, that also means we have a very hard time letting their light shine fully into the ordinary moments of our souls. In this post and many to follow, I am starting a new series on the nature of God, with an explicit focus on how the glorious attributes of God have everyday implications for our faith. My discussion partner throughout will be Vern Poythress and his wonderful book, The Mystery of the Trinity.
Absoluteness and Infinity
I’m choosing to start with two abstract attributes, ones that are so high above us that we can only see them when we squeeze our eyes closed to block out some of their eternal light: God’s absoluteness and infinity.
Let me back into this slowly. I’ll start with something concrete: ocean waves. As my family and I stood on the stormy shores of North Carolina in mid-October, I was hypnotized. The water rolled in on top of itself, singing its white-water song, leading bubbles towards the sand and then dragging them out again. I had just been reading The Mystery of the Trinity, and so I was thinking about the greatness of God reflected here. The ocean is vast to us. It’s wide and deep and terrifying. And yet it’s such a small part of all that God has made. It’s a speck on the landscape of God’s own greatness. And because God has made the whole world to reflect himself (Rom. 1:19), we see a glimmer of his greatness in the ocean horizon. As I stood on the shore, I thought, “Wow. God . . . you are HUGE!”
Yet, what exactly do we mean when we say that God is absolute and infinite? God’s absoluteness simply means that “he is independent of the world that he made. He always existed, while everything created had a beginning. Not only in its beginning but in its continuation, each created thing is dependent on him. God, by contrast, does not need anything from the world” (Poythress, The Mystery of the Trinity, p. 27). God stands happily on his own, independent and yet full of warmth, for God is three eternal persons in perpetual communion with one another.
God’s infinity means that he has no limitations, in time or space or knowledge or power. One of the ways in which we can focus on this is by pondering God’s limitless control. “The infinity of God is displayed in his unlimited capacity to pay attention to, direct, and account for every detail of every size” (Poythress, The Mystery of the Trinity, p. 35). Every ocean wave that drifted over the wind-swept sea, every curve and curl in every wave crest, every air bubble, every sand particle churning beneath the swells—all of it is under his eyes and beneath his hands. He’s aware of it all. He directs it all by the word of his power (Isaiah 55:11; Heb. 1:3). God has infinite control.
What Does It Mean for Us?
Now, how can such brilliant attributes as these bear on our personal life? They seem so abstract, don’t they? Here’s my suggestion: it’s captured in the word personalism. We’re so bent on viewing the world as a collection of stuff, of things. But that was never how God intended us to view the world. We were to see reflections of his personhood everywhere. The world isn’t just matter in motion; it’s God-made matter in God-directed motion. At the heart of reality as we know, including those rolling ocean waves, is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—three persons. The world is personal. We need to start there. And we need to constantly reject the common conception that the world around us “just exists.”
If we start there, then God’s absoluteness and infinity have a great bearing on our personal life. Take the ocean waves as an example. As I stood on the coastline, watching the waves crash and tumble, I didn’t sense the power of a recklessly wild world. I saw reflections of the God who is independent and in infinite control, wielding and shaping the water. God’s absoluteness and infinity were on display. As I looked out on the horizon, where the gray clouds met the sea-green water, I didn’t feel lost or small; I felt found and cared for. I felt amazed at God’s personhood. How could this God care for me so much that he would even send his Son, two thousand years ago, to save me? Who am I to house the grace of God, the gifts of an absolute and infinite wonder? My heart flooded with gratitude just as the waves flooded the shore. I was soaking up God’s sovereignty.
Are you feeling insignificant? Are you feeling worthless? Do you question your value to others and to God himself? Remember that the independent, infinite God chose you. He gave his Son in the person of Christ so that you might be welcomed into his holy family. You are now infinitely significant, infinitely worthy, infinitely valuable. And it’s not because of anything you’ve done. It’s all because of what God has done for you in Christ.
God’s absoluteness and infinity can be a wonderful encouragement when we’re filled with doubt on this side of paradise. God had no obligation to create, no obligation to reveal himself, and certainly no obligation to send his Son for our salvation. And yet he did. This absolute, infinite God did.
That is love unparalleled.
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