A week or so ago, Tony Jones issued a challenge to all progressive bloggers: write a blog post about who/what God is. Sounds simple enough, except for one little thing--God's way too big to describe with our limited language. Nevertheless, here is my attempt.
First, let me start by saying what God is NOT.
God does NOT look like the picture above.
God does NOT hate you, as some Seattle pastor might tell you.
God is NOT the kind of God you have to wind up on Sunday. (And yes, I stole that from a Jethro Tull song!)
God is NOT the kind of God you have to wear a mask around.
Now that we got all that out of the way, let's go back to Tony's original challenge. And I think Orthodox priest Father James Bernstein sums it up perfectly:
First of all: God is love—even before He creates; His love is not just an expression of His will towards creation, or simply an attribute, but rather God loves by nature—because of who He is. Love is intrinsic to His Unknowable Essence.
But how is it that One God, who is perfect and lacks nothing, can be love, when love necessitates a relation to another? The issue of whom God loves before the creation of the universe is resolved in Trinitarian Orthodoxy. God is understood to be not an absolute unity or monad, but a composite unity, a Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Each Person of the Blessed Trinity is fully divine and for eternity loves the other two. The Trinity is an eternal union of love, existing before the creation of the universe.
This understanding of what God’s love is differs from the predominant non-Orthodox Christian understanding, which tends to see love as a created attribute of God and not essential to His Being or essence. For the Orthodox biblical Christian, God’s love is uncreated. Love, more than any other quality—more than justice, mercy, knowledge, or power—uniquely communicates to us something essential of who God is.
So in other words, love isn't just another one of God's many attributes. God's primordial nature itself is love. And for some reason, a lot of evangelicals forget this. For many evangelicals, God's love comes second to God's holiness and sovereignty. Yes, believe that God is holy, but if God's holiness trumps God's love, then it isn't really love, is it? In order for God to be holy, God's primordial nature has to be love.
How's that, Tony?
(I should point out that I found Fr. Bernstein's quote from Tony's ebook A Better Atonement.)