I was often guided by my intuition, a kind of problem-solving method best describe by the phrase “AH-HA, now I see it.” I was often able to see the answer without consciously thinking through the problem. Of course, I had to go back to the beginning, reason through my answer and provide that line of reasoning to get credit for the problem on an exam.
The “AH-HA method” guided me through many problems and exercises. It guides me through many decisions I make today as a manager and consultant. Of course, I have to go back to data and facts derived from observation to make my case. I must still justify my actions to others. Does this mean the “AH-HA method” is inferior? Yes, it does. Decisions should be made based on facts. We must explain the real world as we find it. But don’t tell me intuition has no place. Thousands of problems over the course of an undergraduate and a graduate degree in engineering tell me otherwise.
I freely admit that my initial solution to the question of God’s existence was fully intuitive. I just knew, from a big-picture assessment, that the Christian concept of God and salvation explained my world. The concept itself was convincing.
Of course, in a period of self-doubt and insecurity at about age 18, I reasoned through the problem. It was pure “AH-HA method” to being with, but I found many reasons to believe “AH-HA” solution was accurate.
I want to give you an overview of this concept of God that lead me to say “AH-HA.” The best short definition of God’s attributes, the things we can know about His being, is given by a quote from the Westminster Shorter Catechism:
God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom,
power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.
God is a Spirit. His very being is not physical or tied to a physical component. His being is not divided. Any of His attributes can describe any other of them. His being can’t be split up into parts. Louis Berkhof puts it like this, “…He is not composed of various parts, such as the body and soul in man, and for that very reason is not subject to division.”
God is infinite. He is not limited by anything: not His physical universe, not His knowledge, not His location, not His situation (as if He were powerless over something). He can do anything He wants.
Is there anything God cannot do? Yes. He cannot do anything that He does not chose to do, and there are some things He will never chose. He will not lie, fail to be just, do something unrighteous, or do anything else inconsistent with who He is. His promises can be counted on.
God is eternal, or unlimited by time. He has always been there. He never came into being in any sense, and He never will come to be any other way that He is now. To go back to Berkhof, “For Him there is only an eternal present, and no past or future.”
God is unchangeable. His being cannot change. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He has always been Who He is and never will be different. To quote Arthur W. Pink: “God is perpetually the same: subject to no change in His being, attributes, or determinations.”
The part about God not changing His determinations bothers some people. How then can it be said in the Bible that God “repents?” God will not change His reactions, so His reactions will be consistent with His own attributes. He chooses to react in a certain way toward another being when that being changes. He will forgive the repentant. He will turn His anger against the unrepentant. He does not choose to be either loving or just; He is both as appropriate. The changes are in us, not in Him. God is a being we can relate to.
Since these things are true about God, everything else about Him will be governed by these facts. God’s “being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth” are all “infinite, eternal, and unchangeable.”
God is not limited with respect to knowledge. He knows everything that has happened, everything that will happen, everything that might happen but will not, and everything that could have happened but did not. His knowledge means He will never be surprised by the problems we face, and that he knows the ultimate solutions to those problems. He knows how to communicate with creatures like us.
God is not limited with respect to His power. He can do anything He wants. Nothing or no one can stop Him. The standard way to say this is “God can do all His holy will.” Nothing can stop His wrath against sins. Nothing can stop His mercy and grace.
God is holy. R. C. Sproul uses the old children’s table blessing for this: “God is great. God is good. Let us thank him for this food.” God’s holiness is His greatness and His goodness. He is different from anyone or anything else. God is also good in and of Himself. He always does the right thing. “Good” in a particular situation is determined by what He would do in that situation. He is most worthy of worship.
God is just. He cannot do anything that is unjust to another. He cannot wrong someone. He must see that justice is done, and the ultimate judge of every sin or transgression of His moral law. He is the only perfect judge of all people, everywhere. This explains my conscience. God in His wisdom has placed within me an intuitive conviction that certain things are wrong. This leaves me with a problem.
God is good. There is another aspect to this. God shows mercy. He is gracious to His creatures. The just God who requires a penalty for sin provides the payment for that sin in the Person and work of Jesus Christ. This gives a solution for the real guilt I feel, not just a solution to guilt feelings, but actual guilt for actual sins. There is mercy and grace in the face of justice and punishment for sin.
God is truth. He always tells the truth when the truth is due. He reveals Himself in His creation and in His revelation in the Bible. He reveals His will to me in His Word, the Bible, and the creation. I can count on the promise of salvation He makes.
By intuition, this idea of God can convincingly explain the world we live in. I’ll give arguments to back up this idea in future posts based on philosophy and history. Human reason, even though affected by sin, is capable of understanding truth, making philosophical arguments in favor of certain attributes valid. The historical arguments will be based on the person and work of Jesus Christ, the only teacher and example worth following. Only His teaching establishes all of these attributes.
This post is another example of why this blog is name “Fear and Trembling.” It is very easy for a layman like me to make mistakes in discussion of God’s attributes. I fear God and I tremble before Him as I write this.
My next post in this series will discuss what God has done in His creation.
[1/6/11: Please see the other posts in this series for clarification of this post. The "argument from intuition" was never intended to be a stand-alone argument.]