|Frank Wright, Ph.D.
President & CEO
What is God? How would you like to take up pen and ink today to provide an answer to that profound question? How long would it take you?
Well that was the task of the Westminster Assembly when it gathered to compose the Shorter Catechism of the Westminster Confession of Faith in 1644.
Based on historical accounts, we know that, as the Assembly convened to consider the question: What is God?, each member freely acknowledged his unworthiness to even attempt an answer to such a profound question. As one historian put it: “All shrunk from the too sacred task in awestruck, reverential fear.”
Hetherington’s History of the Westminster Assembly of Divines tells us how this eminent group of theologians chose to move forward. As an expression of their deep humility and sense of inadequacy, they resolved that the youngest of their number should attempt a draft answer to the great question.
The young theologian modestly declined, but under the urging of the others, he reluctantly agreed. Yet in agreeing to undertake this awesome responsibility, this youngest member of the distinguished Assembly urged that they first unite with him in prayer for divine enlightenment.
As he stood in their midst, he began to pray:
O’ God, thou art a spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in thy being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.
When he concluded his prayer, someone wrote down the first sentence. His prayer was then read, discussed, and adopted. Nearly four centuries later, it remains the answer to the fourth question of the Shorter Catechism of the Westminster Confession of Faith.
This singular statement encapsulates much of what the Scriptures teach about the Person and character of the Most High God. It describes both His communicable and incommunicable attributes. And it remains a source of great comfort to us.
The Lord of the Universe is infinite and measureless, as is His wisdom, His power, His holiness, His justice, His goodness, and His truth. He is the eternal, unchangeable, and Ever-Living One.
And He has purposed that we should know Him. Yet in our fallenness, we could not even begin to know Him apart from His gracious revelation of Himself. That revelation, ordained before the foundation of the world, began with creation and expanded like a great beam of light that spreads wider and wider as it proceeds from its source.
Throughout history, God has progressively revealed Himself to us through:
1. The light of creation (Psalm 19:1; Romans 1:20)
2. The light of conscience (2 Corinthians 4:2; Hebrews 10:22)
3. The light of His Word (Psalm 119:105 & 169; John 17:17)
4. The light of Christ (John 2:11; Romans 1:17; 2 Timothy 1:10)
5. The light of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 11:25; Matthew 16:17; Luke 2:26).
The Apostle John began his gospel with these words:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it (emphasis added).
Later in his gospel, John records these words of Jesus: And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John17:3).
Our high and holy calling is to know God who is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth. In Him we live and move and have our being.