The Doctrine Of God by Herman Bavinck
I encountered Bavinck in the spring semester of my first year at seminary (January 1990). As the saying goes, I was “blown away”! This is the Table of Contents from this book: God’s Incomprehensibility, God’s Knowability, God’s Names, God’s Incommunicable Attributes, God’s Communicable Attributes, The Holy Trinity, and God’s Counsel. Bavinck taught polemical theology, that is, he compared and contrasted other worldviews with the biblical understanding of deity. He also provided much historical information about the development of the doctrine of God. This statement was especially intriguing:
The Bible never attempts to prove the existence of God but assumes this; and it presupposes all along that man has an ineradicable idea of that existence, and that he has a certain knowledge of the being of God: an idea and a knowledge which are not the result of man’s own study and research, but of the fact that God on his part has revealed himself both in an ordinary and in an extraordinary manner, has manifested himself in nature and in history, in prophecy and miracle. Accordingly, the knowledge of God is never presented as a doubtful manner.
The Proslogion by Anselm
Anselm (died in 1109) was a monk in England who wrote a famous demonstration of God’s existence (Proslogion). Anselm assumed that it is possible for faith to gain understanding, as God illumines the mind. He prayed, “Well then, Lord, You who give understanding to faith, grant me that I may understand, as much as You see fit, that You exist as we believe You to be.” Later on in his document, he testified with joy, “I give thanks . . . since what I believed before through Your free gift I now understand through Your illumination . . .” Anselm taught me the necessity and beauty of intellectual piety in all thinking, especially about God. Here is how he prayed about his intellectual project:
What shall he do, O most exalted Lord? What shall Your servant do, anguished out of love for You and cast far away from Your face? . . . Indeed, I was made for seeing You; but not yet have I done that for which I was made. O the unhappy fate of man when he lost that for which he was made! O that hard and ominous fall!
Teach me to seek You, and reveal Yourself to me as I seek; for unless You teach [me] I cannot seek You, and unless You reveal Yourself I cannot find You.
O Lord, I do not attempt to gain access to Your loftiness, because I do not at all consider my intellect to be equal to this [task]. But I yearn to understand some measure of Your truth, which my heart believes and loves. For I do not seek to understand in order to believe, but I believe in order to understand.
Heaven―A World Of Love by Jonathan Edwards
In 1997, my first wife, Karen, was diagnosed with cancer. It was a terrible shock and disruption in every way. Later, in 2002, she died. During her time of illness, I thought a lot about heaven. I studied the Bible and read several books. In the last chapter of Charity and Its Fruits by Edwards I found a beautiful description of heaven called “Heaven―A World of Love.” The heaven he describes is worth dying for. Here is an excerpt where he links heaven and Eden with everlasting love:
And all this in the garden of God―in the paradise of love, where everything is filled with love, and everything conspires to promote and kindle it, and keep up its flame, and nothing ever interrupts it, but everything has been fitted by an all-wise God for its full enjoyment under the greatest advantages forever!
Future Grace by John Piper
For my birthday in 1997, Karen gave me this book. This was shortly before she was diagnosed. She wrote on the cover, “But he gives more grace” from James 4:6. Piper writes, “At the heart of this book is the conviction that that the promises of future grace are the keys to Christ-like Christian living.” That reality―and experience― became very real as we soon confronted illness, decline, and death. It was also sustaining knowledge in the twenty years since, as I have relocated to another culture and embraced new aspirations. This is a meaningful quote from book:
Future faith in grace produces love not only by what it pushes of out the heart, but also by the strong desires it brings to the heart. Faith has an insatiable appetite for experiencing as much of God’s grace as possible.