More than 200 names for God are recorded in the Bible. All of them are important. Each of them reveals and affirms certain characteristics of God. While God is incomprehensible – we will never exhaust what there is to know about Him – He is nevertheless knowable. He has revealed himself to us. To know God is to recognize what He is like – and what He is not like. As J.I. Packer once said:
“Those who know God have great thoughts of God.”
So what is God like?
This is not an academic question. Though certainly there are some Academics in the news recently who may have been well served to have given a little more thought to the question before holding a press conference only to display syncretistic ignorance. But even in that instance the question is not merely academic. It is personal.
When asked: “What is the greatest commandment?”, Jesus unhesitatingly declared: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22.36-40; Deuteronomy 6.1-7) So let me ask a somewhat rhetorical question: “How can one love God if little to nothing is known about God? Further, even if it is possible to love a god one knows little about, (and I suspect that it may be possible,) how can we claim to be keeping the command to “Love God with all your mind” if we do not engage our minds to learn more and more about him?
Now let me be clear about something: If you are reading this post, and you feel you are less knowledgeable theologically than you think you ought to be, I am not trying to shame you. Truth is this: I am fairly theologically educated. If you have any knowledge of God at all, the difference between your little knowledge and my educated knowledge is so minimal when compared to what knowledge there is to be known about God, that any sense of haughtiness I might be inclined to project would be laughable, if such pomposity would not be so pathetic. My concern is not who knows more than who, but rather whether we know God, and whether, in keeping with the greatest command, we are engaging our minds to be continually growing in our knowledge of God.
If you have a desire to love the Lord with all your mind, let me offer a handful of suggested books about God with which to feed your mind. None of these are technical, but all are excellent. (To my mind, these are actually better than most of the technical theological books I have read.)
- Knowledge of the Holy by A.W.Tozer
- Attributes of God by A.W. Tozer
- Pleasures of God by John Piper
- The God I Don’t Understand by Christopher Wright
- Is God a Moral Monster?: Making Sense of the Old Testament God by Paul Copan
- The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul (Free Video Series)
- Singing God by Sam Storms (Watch Intro Video)
This list is far from exhaustive. There are many excellent books on this subject, and I welcome anyone who would like to add to this list to do so in the comment section. Sadly, there are many, many, bad books under this heading as well. Some of the better books I left off this list are Knowing God by J.I. Packer and Reason for God by Timothy Keller. While I enjoyed and highly commend both of these, the list above reflects a thorough introduction and/or reflection, yet easy reads. Keller’s is excellent for those asking the question: Is There a God? Packer’s would be on my list for next steps.
I will end with this: Earlier this year I heard a statement, attributed to John Piper (though I have been unable to confirm it is his), that stuck with me, resonates, and is appropriate to ponder:
“The mind provides kindling for the heart.”