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Book Review by Bill Muehlenberg
Bill Muehlenberg operates the website CultureWatch, devoted to exploring the major cultural, social and political issues of the day.
This book review was originally posted on the CultureWatch website.
This new volume on the attributes of God is well worth getting:
There is no greater topic to read about, think about, meditate upon, and luxuriate in, than the person and nature of God. While entire libraries already exist on this subject, they barely even begin to scratch the surface. How could they? Our infinite, perfect and majestic God will always be beyond full human comprehension.
There are dozens of good, relatively recent books available on the nature and attributes of God. One thinks of works such as A. W. Pink’s The Attributes of God or Sam Storms’ The Grandeur of God or J. I. Packer’s Knowing God or R. C. Sproul’s Enjoying God to name but a few.
And as Pink says in his book, “How vastly different is the God of Scripture from the ‘god’ of the average pulpit!” So it is imperative that we get the God question right, and that we properly – that is, biblically – understand his attributes. This new volume by Lawson helps us to do just that.
In nearly 300 pages he goes through the key attributes of God and reminds us that the knowledge of God is the most important thing there is. Lawson has written numerous books on this and related subjects over the years, from the Puritan and Reformed perspective.
In his preface he mentions his first encounter with the attributes of God when he read Thomas Watson’s A Body of Divinity while a seminarian. Says Lawson: “There was more of God in the table of contents alone than there was in many contemporary Christian books I had seen.”
He sets the stage by echoing the words of Tozer: “The most important aspect of who we are is what comes into our minds when we think of God.” (Tozer had put it this way: “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”)
Lawson continues: “The trajectory of our lives is directed by our understanding of God. Moreover, our eternal destiny hinges on our relationship to Him and who we believe He is. If we are to live as He intends us to live, we must know who He is and what He is like.”
So we have here a presentation of some twenty of these attributes, including his glory, love, goodness, holiness, sovereignty, omnipotence, grace and righteousness. While he discusses each in turn, there is almost as much Scripture being quoted as there is description and explanation. So this is a fully biblically based study.
Consider the wrath of God. There is some debate amongst theologians as to whether this is an actual attribute of God. Some think it is temporal in that before man and sin existed, God had nothing over which to exercise wrath. But if it is not a direct attribute of God, it surely is still part of God’s other attributes (his holiness, etc.).
Lawson says this about divine wrath: “The holiness of God demands that he be against sin. Divine wrath is the necessary response of His moral purity toward whoever and whatever breaks His law. God is flawless, without any moral defect, and He must be full of holy wrath towards all sin. He cannot be indifferent toward any iniquity.”
But of course all of the attributes of God must be seen together, with none pitted against another. So we also have things like God’s graciousness: “The Bible teaches that he is good and gracious, kind and caring. . . . His heart is a perpetual fountain of goodness, flowing like a swelling river that overruns its banks. We are literally deluged with the kindness of God, immersed with His benevolence. An ocean of divine benevolence is being lavished upon us from His throne of grace. God is the Source of all good things, and He delights in bestowing good gifts upon His creation.”
God’s mercy must also be kept in mind. Says Lawson: “The very nature of God is to rescue those who are perishing. Though He is under no obligation to intervene, the heart of God yearns to save those who are in great spiritual peril. He delights to deliver those whose souls are in grave danger of eternal destruction. The extraordinary riches of His grace are most clearly demonstrated in His saving acts, to recapture those who are in danger of suffering under His wrath. This is the unfathomable greatness of the saving grace of God.”
And he says this about God’s love: it is one of the more misunderstood attributes, with many having just a sentimental and mushy notion of divine love. But it is far more than that. Nonetheless, God certainly has affection. He writes:
“The love of God is more than the volitional choice of His will in sovereign election. It also includes the burning passion that he feels for His people. God is not a stoic sovereign only making rational decisions that are devoid of any affections. The love of God runs much deeper than merely making cold, cerebral choices toward His elect.”
This book begins and ends at a look at the life of Moses and how he wanted to know God better, and how he had asked God to show him his glory (Exodus 33-34). God did honour that request. The result was that this “self-disclosure by God led Moses to greater worship of Him.”
Continues Lawson: “A greater knowledge of God should have the same effect in our own lives. The deeper we grow to know God, the higher should be our praise for Him.” Yes quite so. We need to know God more. We need to know more about his attributes.
This book will nicely help us in that important quest.