In her very first post at Out of the Ordinary, Rebecca talked about how theology makes her heart sing. When I knew that she would be writing a book about the doctrine of God, I hoped that the sentiments she shared in that initial post would find their way into her book. And they did. In the conclusion, she exhorts the reader: "Theology should always result in doxology; the study of God should always lead to praise." Her very last question to the reader is: "Have you begun to sing?"
Becky's purpose in this book is to introduce the reader to God: "Most of all, it is my desire that each reader catch a glimpse of His glory. As you read and consider God's nature and His work, I hope you will see how glorious and delight him"
God is so magnificent, so glorious, and so infinite that as finite creatures, we cannot begin to understand everything about him. However, in this book, we are encouraged to seek the understanding God promises to give should we make the effort. To know God is to know ourselves. It is the beginning of worship:
Unless we know God as He is, we cannot see ourselves as we are. And as painful as it is to see an accurate picture of ourselves, it is also necessary for true worship. True worship comes from a heart that sees how glorious He is, and understands its own unworthiness.Each chapter explains a different facet of God's character, ending with a prayer. Each chapter also includes a number of questions for thought and further study. I really enjoyed the questions. I could see them generating some deep conversation among a group of people studying together. This would be a great book for group study.
Scripture is the basis for this exploration of God, but Becky does not hesitate to use other resources, such as creeds, systematic theologies, and writings of scholars. The end of the book has a very good selection of resources for further reading, and they are accessible resources. Once the reader has given a glimpse of the greatness and scope of the study of God, she (or he!) will want to look further. I love it when authors give book suggestions.
The first chapter discusses the need to know God, the second on his triune nature. The third chapter emphasizes how God is not like us, followed by chapters on his wisdom and power, his holiness, his goodness, his creative power, sustaining power, and saving power. Becky explains things thoroughly and with clarity. The truths build upon each other. She is not afraid to use theological terms, and when she does, she explains them, giving the reader a vocabulary for this subject. I don't think anyone should be afraid to use theological terminology. All subjects we study, whether cooking, science, or economics have terms which give us a language to understand and explain. Theology has a language as well, and I was glad to see Becky introduce the reader to it.
Many of the principles in the book are illustrated through Becky's own experiences learning about God through the regular events of life. I was especially grateful for her wisdom and maturity; the kind one can only get through time and experience. We need more women like Becky speaking out; women who have raised their children to adulthood; who are grandmothers, and who have had the time to see the difference it makes to know who God is. And her illustrations are ones that both men and women can enjoy. Though this book's subtitle is "The Doctrine of God for Every Woman," it is a book men would find very readable. This is not a book for women alone, but a book by a woman for everyone. Everyone who is called "Christian" needs to understand God's character.
One of the things I found most helpful was the principle of God's aseity:
Aseity comes from the Latin a se, which means 'from or by oneself.' To say God is a se means He exists from himself. Nothing caused Him to exist, but He exists uncaused, 'by the necessity of His own Being.' In other words, God depends on nothing outside of Himself for His existence - and he can't not exist.This is such a crucial truth to understand. That God is from himself means that he is not affected by external factors. His love is not affected by outside circumstances, because his love comes from himself. God's wisdom is not going to change over time because it comes from himself, and nothing from the outside can diminish it. God's power is from himself, and nothing can reduce that power. This is complete contradiction to humans who are tossed and turned by all manner of external factors. This is not only comforting, but convicting. This eliminates any tendency to see God as simply a bigger version of ourselves. I really believe that as Christians we need to know just how great God is, and how small we are.
Does theology make your heart sing? Do you find yourself so awed and amazed by God that you cannot resist the desire to praise him? If not, why not? Do you know him? If you don't feel you know him well, this book should inspire you to start seeking. Though the book is not yet released in North America, you can pre-order it here at Amazon.com or Amazon.ca. If you just don't want to wait (I didn't!), you can order it from The Book Depository.