An important question when embarking on a study of Theology proper (the name given to the branch of theology that focuses solely on God, himself) is Why study theology? Of course the lengthy quote by Charles Spurgeon given in the last article offers an answer, but J. I. Packer summarizes the reason very simply when he says, “The world becomes a strange, mad, painful place, and life in it a disappointing and unpleasant business, for those who do not know about God. Disregard the study of God, and you sentence yourself to stumble and blunder through life blindfolded, as it were, with no sense of direction and no understanding of what surrounds you. This way you can waste your life and lose your soul.” The prospect of stumbling through life as though blindfolded is not appealing, yet it is a very real danger for those are ignorant of the nature and person of God. Therefore, it is time well-spent getting to know about God.
Before we can begin to learn about God, however, we must determine the foundational principles which will guide our investigation. Packer offers 5 basic truths which form the basis for his study in Knowing God:
God has spoken to man in the Bible which is his word.
God rules as Lord and King over all the world.
God saves believers through the Lord Jesus Christ.
God is Triune in both his person and his work.
Godliness is seeing and living life in light of God’s word.
Obviously, some might question these presuppositions, but such questions are outside the purpose and scope of this book. Packer is not writing a defense of the Christian faith for skeptics, but a study on the person and work of God for believers, and these foundational truths are essential to the Christian faith.
As we set out to discover what God is like, we will consider the question as it relates to three distinct aspects of his character and nature. First, we will evaluate the Godhead of God, that is, the qualities which set him apart from human beings. He is the Creator, and we are mere creatures, so we must recognize those things which separate us from him. Second, we will evaluate the powers of God, that is, his omnipotence, omnipresence, and his omniscience. And third, we will evaluate the perfections of God, his attributes which are displayed through his words and actions. This includes things such as his holiness, love, righteousness, faithfulness, goodness, truthfulness, and justice.
Packer rightly warns us that this study should not be undertaken solely for the purpose of increasing our base of knowledge, for that will only lead to selfish pride. Instead, he suggests that, “Our aim in studying the Godhead must be to know God himself better….that we turn each truth that we learn about God into matter for meditation before God, leading to prayer and praise to God.” Let us seek, then, to know God as he has revealed himself to us through the pages of inspired Scripture.