I remember it well - it was around the time I was converted, 1974 - J. I. Packer’s best-selling Christian book, Knowing God, had recently come onto the market. I read that book with great intensity, unable to put it down. In the pages of that book, I was presented with my God in whom I had recently placed my trust and hope. I was confronted with great thoughts, grand thoughts, glorious thoughts, about the God I had now entered into a personal relationship with. With the aid of Packer’s book, the Bible came alive with the majesty of God for who He is.
Last year, 2020, J. I. Packer went to be with the Lord. Fortunately for the Christian world we still have the legacy of that wonderful book that was fixed, centred and grounded in the doctrine of God. Over those 40 or more years I have noticed a shift in the focus given by the Christian public to the doctrine of God. Sadly, Packer himself in a lecture (given a couple of years ago) stated that, ‘Contemporary talk about God is confused.’ He was referring to the Evangelical Church at large. He called it a ‘crisis of neglect’.
Although there is much truth to Packer’s observation there is a revival amongst some Christian writers on the importance of the doctrine of God. One aspect critical to a right understanding of God is that of God’s Simplicity. Essentially that means that God IS and is not composed of parts. Berkhof explains it this way - ‘It means that God is not composite and is not susceptible to division in any sense of the word.’ God’s essence and attributes cannot be divided. God is equally and simultaneously all that He is. None of God’s attributes can be divided into some kind of scale of importance. God is equally Justice as He is Love – and the same goes for all His attributes. This ensures that we don’t fall into the contemporary trap of pitting one attribute over another, for example saying God’s essence is firstly and primarily Love over and above His other attributes. The Simplicity of God teaches us that God in His essence is equally all His attributes – thus God is Truth, God is Just, God is Holy, God is Infinite, God is Love, and on it goes. These ‘attributes’ are not added qualities they are who God IS.
With knowledge of the Simplicity of God we can have a greater understanding and appreciation of the other aspects of the doctrine of God. It helps us conceive of the Uniqueness of God. The distance between God the Creator and all of His Creation is infinite. God is truly the One and Only (see John 1:18 ESV). It enables us to have some kind of inkling of what is meant when God says, ‘I AM that I AM’ (Exodus 3:6 ESV) and ‘The LORD our God, the LORD is One’ (Deut. 6:4 ESV).
Working alongside the Simplicity of God is the Aseity of God. This basically means that God is Self- Existent and Self-Sufficient. Again, this highlights the infinite gulf between God the Creator and Creation. All of creation is dependent on God, whereas God is Self –Sustaining and does not need His creation as He is Perfect. We are left to marvel at God’s Grace in entering into relationship with humans who through faith in the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, are adopted as the children of God, (John 1: 12-13).
According to the Bible we are called to meditate on the Lord our God (Psalm 63: 6). It is easy to dwell on God’s wonderful works but we need to dwell on who God IS. Starting with the Simplicity and the Aseity of God we can see the glorious connection there is with all the other attributes of God – His Eternity, Sovereignty, Immutability, Wisdom, Holiness, Goodness, Infinity, Omnipotence, Omniscience, Omnipresence, Incomprehensibility, Righteousness, Justice, Grace, Love, Mercy, Compassion, Truth, Wrath, Transcendence and Immanence. Additionally, they also help us have a better understanding of the doctrine of the Trinity.
Good theology leads to doxology. A right understanding of who God IS leads to praise, wonder and worship. This is exhibited in Isaiah 40 where it says, ‘To whom then will you liken God, or what likeness compare with him? . . . To whom then will you compare me, that I should be like him? Says the Holy One . . . Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.’ (Isa. 40: 18, 25, 28 ESV)
Packer in a lecture on the doctrine of God concluded that a right appreciation and meditation on the doctrine of God generates ‘a passionate heart of praise’. May we see a growing revival of the centrality of Biblical Theism which has been a foundation and focus of the Christian Church across the ages.
‘One of the top 50 books that have shaped evangelicals (Christianity Today, 2006) Platinum Book Award, Evangelical Christian Publishing Association. For over 40 years, J. I. Packer's classic has been an important tool to help Christians around the world discover the wonder, the glory and the joy of knowing God. In 2006, Christianity Today voted this title one of the top 50 books that have shaped evangelicals.’ http://www.librarything.com/work/10738/reviews/119175875
 See, Leyland Riken,” J. I. Packer, ‘Knowing God’ Author, Dies at 93”, Christianity Today, July 17, 2020: https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2020/july/j-i-packer-died-evangelical-theologian-knowing-god.html
 J. I. Packer, Lecture on the Attribute of God 1, 2018 : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iXyWo8yKOVQ
 See James E. Dolezal, All That Is In God: Evangelical theology & the Challenge of Classical Christian Theism, (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2017); Matthew Barrett, None Greater: The Undomesticated Attributes of God, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 2019); Joseph Minich & Onsi A. Kamel (eds.), The Lord is One: Reclaiming Divine Simplicity, (Leesburg, Virginia: The Davenant Press, 2019)
 Packer, Lecture on the Attributes of God, 2018: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iXyWo8yKOVQ
About the author
Rev Dr Damon Adams is currently Senior Lecturer in Theology, Biblical Studies and Church History at Alphacrucis College, Hobart Campus, Tasmania. Additionally, Damon is presently the History Subject Coordinator at Alphacrucis.