No conceivable greater being

There is no conceivable greater being than the God of the Bible.

Who could be greater than one who made everything? Who could be more creative than the God who created everything in all its beautiful complexity, its united diversity? The multicolours, the music, the maths of the heavens and the earth. He is the inventor of space and time. Matter and energy. And just for the record he is not created himself. He has always existed. You just can’t top that. There is no creator of God that can out do him in creative power.

And he is good. Oh so good. The good. Something is good or bad only in relation to God’s perfect goodness. His goodness means he will come against evil in fierce unrelenting, unending, rejection and destruction. No injustice will remain forever. He will right every wrong. His goodness is such that evil will be eternally punished in and consigned to the rubbish dump. His goodness is such that he will withdraw from evil finally and forever. No one is as good as God because he is the definition and ground of goodness. All other being’s goodness is judged against God’s inherent and perfect goodness. There is no conceivable being “gooder” than God!

Yet he is loving. How so? When the world he created rebelled against him, in his goodness he could have crushed it and wiped it out. Yet in Jesus he became a man and took the penalty that we deserved. He gave up his life to death on cross. I cannot imagine a more loving action can you? A being perfectly good, enduring a tortured death, so that those who have don evil, are evil, could be forgiven, recreated, reformed, redeemed, reinstated, and received into his family.

And now let’s talk about the trinity. God is three persons, but so united, that there is an indivisible unity among them. A characteristic of this unity is that each is not one third God, but fully God. You see one you see the other. You have one you have the others. I ask you, can you conceive of a greater being than a triune God? A god who exists not in perfect solitude, but in an eternal loving united relationship? A god in whom there is authority, submission, conversation, giving and receiving, love and being loved, family, and yes a large dose of mystery.

And yet he unites us with himself. The people of God, the church, the bride, will be united with God. Distinctions preserved, but unity engendered. My brain lacks the ability to draw this out eloquently but here is a being who is himself perfect and self-sufficient, needing nothing, who chooses out of love and grace to reach out to and include another. For their benefit. Adding to and being united to three in one.

A being who I can fathom out and describe fully is one necessarily limited by my own understanding. For there to be no greater conceivable being God must, to a certain degree at least, be partially inconceivable himself. As my understanding grows, and I perceive a little more about him I realise that he is greater than I had previously thought. The more time I spend with God, the more my conception of him grows and I realise that yes, there is a being greater than the one I had conceived of before. It is the same God, but my understanding of him has increased.

But (noise of a needle head being scraped across a record), actually perhaps I can conceive of a greater God.

1) Would not a God who did not bring judgement to people in the way that he does in the OT be better? The flood, the destruction of the Canaanites etc.

2) Would not a God who allowed or permitted a lot less evil (or none) be better?

3) Would not a God who saved more people (or everybody) be greater than a God who saves less?

These are hard and real questions for me.

But all of these are really questions of degrees. Less judgement or none, less evil permitted, or none, more people saved or all. I find it helpful to look first at the extremes, the boundaries of these questions and then try to tackle them in the degrees.

Would a God who did not judge anybody in this life be greater than a God who judged individuals and nations as he did in the OT? No, I think there should be tangible real expressions of God’s judgement in this age. If heaven was completely silent as people did evil and then suddenly turned up in judgement, then I think we have a lesser god not a greater one. The question is, therefore, how much or how little judgement should be expressed in this life by a maximally great God. I’m not sure I am in a position to be able to know that. There are several factors in play. The more his judgement comes and the more decisive it is, the greater his goodness and justice is seen to be. So taken in isolation perhaps there should be more? Why do we want less? Perhaps it’s our sense of compassion for others, or our own personal guilt and need for forgiveness, or our lack of understanding of what perfect goodness really is. Is it at least possible that the amount of judgement we see is the sweet spot?

The question about how much evil God allows is similar. Should God allow no evil at all? Is that even possible? Perhaps he could incinerate someone just before they did something wrong. Or perhaps he could restrict their thinking so that they would never conceive of doing something wrong. Would such a God be a greater God? It seems to me a maximally great God would allow people the possibility of genuine choice, and offer to pay whatever price was necessary for that himself.

Looking at it from another angle. Lets argue from what we know. The world is the way it is. That is a fact. Given therefore the world is as it is, what is the greatest conceivable God? Given there is in the world some degree of evil, some degree of justice and judgement, could there be a greater God than the Christian one? The Christian God both reveals his judgement and yet at the same time holds back its fullness. The Christian God loves us so much that he is prepared to pay a great personal price to deal with our sin, and bring forth in us a new creation free from the destructive effects of evil.

Here is the key I think. A God who made a perfect world that stayed perfect and continued on forever perfect would not look as great as a God who was prepared, out of love, to sacrifice himself for the good of sinners. If the world was perfect I think I could imagine a God greater than the one I saw. A God who cared so much for me that he was not just prepared to speak me into existence, but incarnate and die in my place for my sin. There is no conceivable God greater than the one revealed in the person of Jesus.

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