“What does it mean to be biblical when we speak about God?” Kevin J. Vanhoozer begins with in his foreword. “I had learned that there was no easy way around the challenge of the plurality of interpretations, where everyone, or at least every denomination, finds in the Bible what they think is right in their own eyes.”
This is one of the reasons why I had picked up this book next. I was reading reviews and noted that the author Packer understood this specific problem and faced up to it. He challenged the idea of knowing about God vs. knowing God. Some of us are doctrinally sound – we know about salvation, sanctification, justification, resurrection, and we are also able to know if a certain teaching is false. We know about God through Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. But do we really know God?
“A little knowledge of God is worth more than a great deal of knowledge about Him.”
At several points in the book, I have cried, being reminded that God knows me, before being born, I was already set apart. God knows his sheep and Jesus laid down his life for his sheep. “I am graven on the palm of his hands. I am never out of his mind.” Indeed there is unspeakable comfort – and I knew that with this knowledge, my life will be transformed.
The book sets out some of God’s attributes – the incarnate status of the Son of God, the importance of the Holy Spirit, the immutability, majesty, wisdom of God, the absolute truth in His Word, among others.
There are also a lot of chapters which are thought-provoking, and pose challenges to the readers, and my favourites were on the wrath of God, which made me realise that, indeed, nobody stands under the wrath of God except those who have chosen to do so; and on the six common pitfalls on why we misunderstand God’s guidance.
Overall I think this is a great read for all Christians. It is simple, practical and basic, but it creates such a thirst for more of God so that we would keep coming to Him in His Word.
I have highlighted so much in this book, but some of my favourite quotes are:
Doctrine and discipleship fit hand in glove: doing without doctrine is blind, doctrine without doing is dead.Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Foreword
As it would be cruel to an Amazonian tribesman to fly him to London, put him down without explanation in Trafalgar Square and leave him, as one who knew nothing of English or England, to fend for himself, so we are cruel to ourselves if we try to live in this world without knowing about the God whose world it is and who runs it.Chapter 1, The Study of God
To be preoccupied with getting theological knowledge as an end in itself, to approach Bible study with no higher a motive than a desire to know all the answers, is the direct route to a state of self-satisfied self-deception. We need to guard our hearts against such attitude, and pray to be kept from it… There can be no spiritual health without doctrinal knowledge; but it is equally true that there can be no spiritual health with it, if it is sought for the wrong purpose and valued by the wrong standard. In this way, doctrinal study really can become a danger to spiritual life, and we today, no less than the Corinthians of old, need to be on our guard here.Chapter 1, The Study of God
What makes life worthwhile is having a big enough objective, something which catches our imagination and lays hold of our allegiance; and this the Christian has in a way that no other person has. For what higher, more exalted, and more compelling goal can there be than to know God?Chapter 3, Knowing and Be Known
When we read our Bibles, therefore, we need to remember that God still stands behind all the promises, and demands, and statements of purpose, and words of warning, that are there addressed to New Testament believers. These are not relics of a bygone age, but an eternally valid revelation of the mind of God toward his people in all generations, so long as this world lasts.Chapter 7, God Unchanging
For the substance of Christianity is faith in the forgiveness of sins through the redeeming work of Christ on the cross.Chapter 16, Goodness and Severity
It is God’s prerogative to give good things, things we have need of, and if in our unwisdom we ask for things that do not come under these headings, God, like any good parent, reserves the right to say, ‘No, not that; it wouldn’t be good for you – but have this instead.”Chapter 19, Sons of God
When we walk along a clear road feeling fine, and someone takes our arm to help us, as likely as not we shall impatiently shake him off; but when we are caught in rough country in the dark, with a storm getting up and our strength spent, and someone takes our arm to help us, we shall thankfully lean on him. And God wants us to feel that our way through life is rough and perplexing, so that we may learn thankfully to lean on him. Therefore he takes steps to drive us out of self-confidence to trust in himself – in the classical scriptural phrase for the secret of the godly life, to “wait on the Lord.”Chapter 21, These Inward Trials
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