Abstraction,  God

A Picture of the gods

One of the ways to get a picture of God is to abstract from experience and maximize the property. For example, one might think something as good and therefore understand goodness. One might conclude that God is maximally good. Perhaps one might think of intelligence and conclude that God is maximally intelligent. And when one has built a collection of properties–maximal knowledge, strength, presence–one has a kind of theology of abstraction. God is a collection of abstracted properties of human experience.

I met a man who lived on the Potomac River. When the space shuttle, Discovery, flew by on a hot sunny day, the man rushed into his yard with his iphone. He hastily pointed the camera into the sky and took a picture. He showed me the picture. As a result of failing to switch the camera’s mode it was a picture of himself gazing into the sky.

This is how many attempt to build a picture of God; they refuse to allow that God has revealed himself in creation and in his word and, instead, they abstract from themselves a god or gods. If the starting point is self, then that is all the picture will show. But if the starting point is the self-revelation of God himself then the camera is pointing the right way. 

Assistant Professor of Philosophy and History of Ideas at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and The College at Southeastern.