The Nature of God
Who God Is
How To Read Genesis 1-3
Does God exist? And what kind of God is he? Is he a God who can create the world, in the way that Genesis 1 describes? Is he the kind of God who could fashion the first woman from the rib of Adam, as Genesis 2:21–22 describes? Is he the kind of God who can speak in an audible voice from the top of Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:9–20:22; Deuteronomy 5:2–22)? Is he the kind of God who can multiple five loaves and two fish, so that they feed five thousand men (John 6)?
Most of elite culture in the modern Western world does not believe in a God like that. Rather, the culture is deeply influenced by philosophical materialism, which says that matter is the ultimate constituent of the world. If some kind of a god exists, he is not involved in the world in the way that the Bible describes. He is not a God who speaks or who works miracles.
In addition, some people are influenced by New Age mysticism. They believe in various kinds of spiritual influence. But their “god,” if they call it that, is an aspect of nature.
The issue of God is monumentally important. If God is not a God such as the Bible describes, then either the Bible is a lie or it has to be radically reinterpreted. And that is what people do. Much of the academic study of the Bible at major universities of the world takes place under the assumption that the way we read the Bible must harmonize with modern ideas about the world. Hence, this academic study corrupts the Bible. And then this corruption travels out into general culture.
But in fact, God exists — the same God that the Bible describes. Therefore, the elite people in Western culture are walking in the dark about God. It is the culture, not the Bible, that has to be radically reinterpreted. Genesis 1–3 is one text — a crucial text — that shows the massive difference between the Bible’s view of God and common modern Western views.
The first point, then, is that when we read the Bible, we need to reckon with who God is. (Part 2 tomorrow)
Taken from an article from the works of Vern Poythress, author and professor of New Testament interpretation at Westminster Theological Seminary. His most recent books include Knowing and the Trinity: How Perspectives in Human Knowledge Imitate the Trinity (P&R Publishing, 2018) and The Mystery of the Trinity: A Trinitarian Approach to the Attributes of God (P&R Publishing, 2020). He has degrees from Westminster, Cambridge, Harvard, and Caltech.