Posted by: Jonathan Stepp | November 1, 2008

Describing God

What is God’s most important attribute? A lot of theology, especially as expressed in worship songs, seems to say that God’s holiness is his most important attribute.

If God’s holiness is his most important characteristic then it follows that the most important statement we can make about humanity is that we are not holy.

And therefore God must keep his distance from us until we get our act together. I believe this is the root of most of the legalism we experience in Christianity – people trying to “get holiness” and thus get close to God.

In contrast to all this, the gospel (John 1:1-2) tells us that relationship is God’s most important attribute.

When St. John set out to write the gospel he didn’t start by describing God’s holiness in legal or moral terms, he started by describing the relational heart of love that is God’s nature: the Father and the Son face to face with each other. He also began by describing the Son’s relationship to the whole creation and all humanity (John 1:2-4).

This is good news for us! If God’s most important attribute is holiness then we are left out. But since God’s relationship as Father, Son, and Spirit is the key thought that Jesus reveals to us about God, we realize that it is integral to God’s nature that he has reached out in Jesus and embraced us.

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