God the eternal Father is the Creator, Source, Sustainer, and Sovereign of all creation. He is just and holy, merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. The qualities and powers exhibited in the Son and the Holy Spirit are also revelations of the Father. (Gen. 1:1; Rev. 4:11; 1 Cor. 15:28; John 3:16; 1 John 4:8; 1 Tim. 1:17; Ex. 34:6, 7; John 14:9.)
I see that I stirred up a little discussion about the metaphors for the Trinity. Now we actually get to the Father: our infinite ruling progenitor. Or that’s what I get by trying to summarize the first sentence. One can see, perhaps, why questions of women’s ordination or origins are so hot in Adventism. As a creating father with ultimate power, our official definition of God defines us too.
It is interesting that the second sentence also defines God, but in lowercase. First, He is Potent, and second, God is good. I know that this overly simplifies things, but the first reads like a favorites list for conservatives while the second seems more liberal. Again, there are exceptions, for instance I like the inclusion of Source and while it is a textual reference, I’m not sure what “slow to anger” helps us understand. Is God simmering?
Since the question of the monarchical metaphors got a few folks riled up, let’s lean in to that. God is defined as Sovereign. The reader might notice the Sovereign frontispiece from Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan at the top of this post. In Richard Rice’s contribution to The Openness of God: A Biblical Challenge to the Traditional Understanding of God, he does a helpful job comparing the sovereign view of God with the dynamic open view of God. He defines the later as “love is the most important quality that we attribute to God, and love is more than care and commitment; it involved being sensitive and responsive as well” (15). In this fundamental belief God is not Love, even though 1 John 4:8 is included. While steadfast love gets at the idea, defining God as Love, as the Bible does carries much more impact. As Rice states: “Love is what it means to be God.”
But I’m fine with “sovereign” metaphors if we actually act like we believe it. It seems that the current theological questions that vex us so much are ultimately God’s domain to sort out. I find that most young Adventists are more resonate with language that involves Openness understandings of God. But it seems that those who prefer Sovereign or cosmic monarch metaphors would show they trust in this overarching divine control by not being as worried about sorting out sheep and goats in God’s realm.
As recorded in Acts 8, the Sanhedrin was debating what to do with a few with new thinking—Saint Peter and other apostles. They were teaching heterodoxy in their community. Some wanted to expel them. Others called for their death. The widely respected Rabbi Gamaliel is recorded as saying: “if it be of men, it will come to naught, but if it be of God, ye will not be able to overthrow it; lest perhaps ye be found even to fight against God.” That seems to be the logical approach for those who believe in the Sovereign view of God. This is particularly true given the other attributes assigned to God in this belief. As Creator, it is really God’s business to sort out the questions that exist in nature and scripture regarding the story of origins on earth.
In his 1990 book The God Who Commands: A Study in Divine Command Ethics, Richard Mouw, president of Fulller Theological Seminary, asks a very essential question. “When you think about obeying God, which member of the Trinity do you view yourself relating to primarily?” One could also ask the following, when you think of love, which member of the Trinity do you find yourself relating to primarily?