Simple Complexity
Friday of Pentecost 8
15 July 2016
In children's catechism we are accustomed to teaching that God has specific attributes, such as omniscience, omnipresence, goodness, love, graciousness, and others. Yet there is something misleading about this listing of "attributes" in God. God is none of these things and all of them par excellence. Indeed the Missouri Synod's catechism hints at this by pointing out that God is greater than any possible listing of "attributes." Such a listing of attributes has its purpose in teaching children, but such a list is not all there is to be said about the divine characteristics.
 
God is His attributes. He is love and greatness and holiness in such a way that He cannot be more or less of these things. They are not characteristics that come and go, like a man who is usually patient and kind, but who becomes waspish and argumentative when he is having a bad day. There are also characteristics that could compete with each other as though His power could conflict with His love, in the way that a human father might face an ethical dilemma between what he has the power to do and what love would dictate that he do. No such dilemma exists in God whose love and power are perfect, because He is perfect. Even God's perfection is not a thing which describes God. There is not "perfection" to which we could compare God and then judge him to be perfect. But perfection is God and God is perfection and this is true of whatever other things may be said about God (how we grope!). He is the standard by which all other things are to be judged.
 
Such attributes in God are not distinguishable except under the weakness of his self-revelation in which He reveals Himself to us in terms that we are capable of digesting. But in God there is a "simple complexity." All that He is is Himself. This is why we Christians will say that God is a Trinity. All that God is is what each person of the Trinity is. This simple complexity defies human reason to unravel it. And thus we have a God who is greater than our ability to understand Him. For a God greater than our minds we can be profoundly grateful! So while we do not have the capacity to unravel the simple complexity of God, God has the love to unravel the dark complexity of human wickedness by sending His Son born of Mary to bear our sins.
Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Augustine of Hippo

"God is truly called in manifold ways, great, good, wise, blessed, true, and whatever other thing seem to be said of Him not unworthily. But His greatness is the same as His wisdom. For He is not great by bulk, but by power. His goodness is the same as His wisdom and greatness, and His truth the same as all those things. In Him it is not one thing to be blessed, and another to be great, or wise, or true, or good, or in a word to be Himself.
 
"Neither, since He is a Trinity, is He therefore to be thought triple (triplex) otherwise the Father alone, or the Son alone, will be less than the Father and Son together. Although, indeed, it is hard to see how we can say, either the Father alone, or the Son alone; since both the Father is with the Son, and the Son with the Father, always and inseparably. Not that both are the Father, or both are the Son; but they are always one in relation to the other, and neither the one nor the other alone. But because we call even the Trinity itself God alone, although He is always with holy spirits and souls, but say that He only is God, because they are not also God with Him, so we call the Father the Father alone, not because He is separate from the Son, but because they are not both together the Father.
 
"Since, therefore, the Father alone, or the Son alone, or the Holy Spirit alone, is as great as is the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit together, in no manner is He to be called threefold. This is because bodies increase by union with themselves. For although he who is united to his wife is one body; yet it is a greater body than if it were that of the husband alone, or of the wife alone. But in spiritual things, when the lesser adheres to the greater, as the creature to the Creators the former becomes greater than it was, not the latter. For in those things which are not great by bulk, to be greater is to be better. And the spirit of any creature becomes better, when it joins to the Creator, than if it did not so join; and therefore also greater because better. 'He,' then, 'that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit' (1Co 6:17). But yet the Lord does not therefore become greater, although he who is joined to the Lord does so. In God Himself, therefore when the equal Son, or the Holy Spirit equal to the Father and the Son, is joined to the equal Father, God does not become greater than each of them severally; because that perfection cannot increase. But whether it be the Father, or the Son, or the Holy Spirit He is perfect, and God the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit is perfect. Therefore He is a Trinity rather than triple."

Augustine, On the Trinity, 6.7-8
Isaiah 55

 "Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David. Behold, I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples. Behold, you shall call a nation that you do not know, and a nation that did not know you shall run to you, because of the LORD your God, and of the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you. "Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
 
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. "For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. "For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall make a name for the LORD, an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off." (ESV)
Prayer
O Holy Trinity, You have revealed Yourself to us on the lips of the prophets and apostles that we might know You in the way that You desire. Your compassion for us leads us to know You as the God who knows us with affection and effect. Send Your Holy Spirit, the bond of love between the Father and the Son, to lead us into all truth, that we might worship You in humility and faithfulness until our life's end. Amen.
 
For all those whose marriages are rent by conflict, that husbands and wives would make their lives havens of love where the divine attributes are put into practice

For Addison Kist, who will be brought into the kingdom God's Son by holy baptism tomorrow, that she would be kept in the care of the good Shepherd

For the family of Reuben Braun, who will receive Christian funeral services tomorrow, that the community would be built up in the hope of eternal life
 
For all those who serve to protect us and the freedoms that we enjoy, including Chaplain Donald Ehrke (Maj. US Army), and all the men and women of our armed forces, that God would watch over them and guide them in all their ways
 
For all those who are finding a time of rest and repose, that both spirit and body might be rejuvenated
Art: Durer, Albrecht  The Adoration of the Trinity (1515) 
Memorial Lutheran Church
smurray@mlchouston.org
http://www.mlchouston.org
© Scott Murray 2016
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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