With so many religions and "winds of doctrine" that surround us, it's crucial that we understand well who God is in order to prevent falling into doctrinal error. God can best be understood, not by his actions or his (apparent) emotions, but by His attributes as revealed to us in Scripture. One of the best books on this topic is The Attributes of God by A. W. Pink, who states, "The foundation of all true knowledge of God must be a clear mental apprehension of His perfections as revealed in Holy Scripture. An unknown God can neither be trusted, served, nor worshipped." Jesus said that those who worship God must worship Him in spirit and in truth. It's not enough to have a heart and desire to worship God; if we construct a God of our own ideas, opinion, and imagination, then we are merely worshipping a false god and are idolators.
In The Attributes of God, Pink systematically explains the essential characteristics of God, beginning with His incommunicable attributes (those that belong solely to God), and then moving on to His communicable attributes (those that He has extended to man). Each chapter defines one attribute of God, with a selection verses and examples from Scripture where the attribute is stated and illustrated, then explains why the attribute is important to understand and accept. The first seven chapters address the topics of:
- The Solitariness of God
- The Decrees of God
- The Knowledge of God
- The Foreknowledge of God
- The Supremacy of God
- The Sovereignty of God
- The Immutability of God
The next nine chapters address:
- The Holiness of God
- The Power of God
- The Faithfulness of God
- The Goodness of God
- The Patience of God
- The Grace of God
- The Mercy of God
- The Love of God
- The Wrath of God
Here are a few poignant excerpts from the book that stood out for me:
Regarding God's solitariness, independence, and self-sufficiency: "God was under no constraint, no obligation, no necessity to create. That He chose to do so was purely a sovereign act on His part, caused by nothing outside Himself, determined by nothing but His own mere good pleasure...God is no gainer even from our worship."
Regarding prayer: "There is no danger of the individual saint being overlooked amidst the multitude of supplicants who daily and hourly present their various petitions, for an infinite Mind is as capable of paying the same attention to millions as if only one individual were seeking its attention."
Regarding God's Knowledge: "Nothing has ever come to pass, or ever will, merely because God knew it. The cause of all things is the will of God...God's knowledge does not arise from things because they are or will be, but because He has ordained them to be."
Regarding the Supremacy of God: "A 'god' whose will is resisted, whose designs are frustrated, whose purpose is checkmated, possesses no title to Deity, and so far from being a fit object of worship , merits nothing but contempt."
Regarding God's Holiness: "Power is God's hand or arm, omniscience His eye, mercy His bowels, eternity His duration, but holiness is His beauty" (Puritan Stephen Charnock).
"God has often forgiven sinners, but He never forgives sin; and the sinner is only forgiven on the ground of Another having borne his punishment, for without shedding of blood is no remission" (Heb. 9:22).
Regarding the Goodness of God: "Gratitude is often withheld from our great Benefactor simply because His goodness is so constant and so abundant. It is lightly esteemed because it is exercised toward us in the common course of events. It is not felt because we daily experience it."
The book ends with a chapter on the Contemplation of God, in which Pink reviews the incomprehensibility, all-sufficiency, and supreme sovereignty of God. He reminds the reader of the importance and benefits of studying and thinking on God's perfections and character. In many ways God is incomprehensible, beyond our understanding. Pink comments, "When we turn our thoughts to God's eternity, His immateriality, His omnipresence, His almightiness, our minds are overwhelmed." And yet, in His goodness, God has chosen to reveal a glimpse of Himself to us in His Word, and it's every Christian's duty, and should be their desire and joy, to prayerfully and seriously study and learn all they can about this great God we claim to love and worship. Pink quotes Charles Spurgeon:
"Nothing will so enlarge the intellect, nothing so magnify the whole soul of man, as a devout, earnest, continued investigation of the great subject of the Deity...It is a subject so vast, that all our thoughts are lost in it immensity; so deep, that our pride is drowned in its infinity."
This is not an excuse to neglect our pursuit of the knowledge of God, but rather a truth that should keep us humble and cause us to depend on His Spirit to enlighten and instruct our minds, and to help us apply our knowledge of Him to our daily lives. As we take a closer, more in-depth look at God, we should by contrast examine ourselves. In this way we make practical application of who God is to our own character and life. The study of God takes time and effort, but is there any other subject more worthy of our attention?
I learned a trick of the trade during the process of writing many book reviews in Seminary - "If you love a book, check out the books from which that author is quoting." J. I. Packer's Knowing God led me to Pink's Attributes of God and I was not disappointed.
Pink writes, "The foundation of all true knowledge of God must be a clear mental apprehension of His perfections as revealed in Holy Scripture. An unknown God can neither be trusted, served, nor worshiped."
Pink describes several attributes of God (can any one book, other than the Bible itself, fully contain all that we can know of Him?). For the preacher, the Table of Contents and the Scripture Index can form a ready-reference starting point, with chapters which describe attributes such as the supremacy, sovereignty, immutability, power, faithfulness, goodness, patience, grace, mercy, love AND wrath of God.
I like that there is room for my notes in the margins and that the font size is large enough to read without having to double-up with my reading glasses. The print is clear and the pages are durable. While Pink does a good job of providing a good "one-stop shopping experience" with the topics he has chosen, this is not an academic book in the sense that there are footnotes/end notes or an interaction with the original Hebrew and Greek languages. This makes it an easy read for all levels of academia, and in my humble opinion, it is a "must have" for the shelves of anyone wanting to grow deeper in their understanding of how awesome our God truly is!