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The Attributes of God Devotional - God is Anthropomorphic


This is the last of God’s attributes in our teaching series, and it’s a good one to end on.  If we’ve learned anything throughout this series, it is that God is unique and there is none like him (Jer. 10:6).  He is infinite, majestic, sovereign, holy, and indeed, wholly other.  He is completely beyond our comprehension.  

How can it be that we, as finite creatures, could know anything about such a being?  The only way we can know God is because he has made himself known.  He has revealed himself to us generally in nature, and more specifically in his Word.  To do this, Calvin writes in his Institutes, “He must descend far beneath his loftiness.”

Calvin likens it to a nurse prattling or lisping with an infant.  Like a grown adult saying, “goo-goo-ga-ga” to a baby.  “Such forms of speaking do not so much express clearly what God is like as to accommodate the knowledge of him to our slight capacity.”  Through a great condescension, a great accommodation, God drops down to our level and communicates to us in a way and a language we understand.  If he did not, we would not be able to understand him at all.  

Bavinck writes, “If God were to speak to us in a divine language, not a creature would understand him.  But what spells out his grace is the fact that from the moment of creation God stoops down to his creatures, speaking and appearing to them in human fashion.”

That is why Scripture is replete with God revealing himself in human terms; that is, through anthropomorphisms.

There was a sect founded by a man named Audius in fourth-century AD Mesopotamia that taught that God has a human form.  Their argument was that since man is made in God’s image, God must have a body – he must be a corporeal God with hands, eyes, feet, and so on.  This argument was buttressed with the many passages of Scripture ascribing such bodily parts to God.  While this error was shut down by many of the early church fathers, it still pops up today, believe it or not, in the teachings of some Pentecostals such as Benny Hinn and Kenneth Copeland.

We know that Scripture is clear that God is a spirit, so what are we to make of the passages describing God’s mighty hand and outstretched arm, his all-perceiving eyes, his walking on legs, and so on?  Scripture is also clear that God is immutable, so what are we to make of the passages stating that God repented, changed his mind, became angry, or had regret?  

These are all anthropomorphisms – God communicating to us in human terms for our sake so that we might understand.  But we can go much further and say, as Bavinck writes, Scripture “does not just contain a few scattered anthropomorphisms but is anthropomorphic through and through.”  All of God’s dealing with us is a stooping down to our level.  We behold this most of all in his sending his Son, taking upon himself human form, to redeem a fallen creation.

God is anthropomorphic.  He condescends to us not only that we may understand him through his Word, but that we might have true salvation through the Word incarnate – the Word who was with God, the Word who was God.

Consider the text of Horatio Bonar’s hymn, “O Love of God, How Strong and True,” describing God’s ever-increasing revelation of himself to us:

O wide embracing love!
We read you in the sky above,
We read you in the earth below,
In seas that swell, and streams that flow.

We read you best in him who came
To bear for us the cross of shame;
Sent by the Father from on high,
Our life to live our death to die.

We read your power to bless and save,
Even in the darkness of the grave;
Still more in resurrection light
We read the fulness of your might.