Primer 08

Introducing Primer 08

The latest edition of our theological resource Primer arrived in the warehouse of The Good Book Company this week. We asked editor David Shaw to give us a preview of what we can expect to find inside.

Our theme in Primer 08 is God himself. We plan to marvel at who he is. As his people, it ought to be the most natural and wonderful thing to do. And yet there are some challenges to wrestle with:

First, there is so much to say! For that reason, we have decided to give two issues of Primer to the doctrine of God. In this issue we will be looking at some of the traditional attributes of God. In the next issue we’ll be thinking about the three persons of God – the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – who share those attributes.

Second, we are constantly in danger of getting God wrong. It is so easy to think God must be something like me multiplied by infinity; always working from what we know as creatures and scaling it up to God. And yet God is the uncreated Creator of all things and is not like us in so many precious ways.

For centuries, though, Christians have been wrestling with what it means to think of God as one who does not change (Malachi 3:6), and whose life is not derived from anything or anyone else (John 5:26). The church has learnt to speak about the aseity of God, and the simplicity of God to capture these ideas, but they are not often how we speak about God today.

This brings us to the third challenge. Many of us have been taught that God is sovereign, and that the one God exists in three persons: Father, Son, and Spirit, but we haven’t always paid much attention to what we mean by “God,” and how Christians in the past have reflected on these things.

The Classical Doctrine of God

That’s why we’ve designed this issue of Primer to be an introduction to what’s known as the “classical doctrine of God” – the mainstream Christian understanding of God.

We begin by addressing some of the FAQ’s about the classical doctrine of God: isn’t the Bible more interested in teaching us about what God has done than who he is? Even if it is interested in that, has the church got it right? Graham Shearer guides us through those questions, helping us to see that a commitment to Scripture as God’s word has important implications for how we think about God.

Next, we introduce three of the major but less well-known classical attributes of God.

  • Gerald Bray gives us an introduction to God’s aseity.
  • Nick Tucker guides us through our historical excerpt from Anselm, and introduces us to God’s simplicity.
  • And then Chris Stead helps us understand why Christians for centuries have spoken about God existing without passions and why that could be very good news indeed.

Importantly, Chris applies this traditional doctrine of God to pastoral life and the final two articles continue in that vein.

  • Sam Bostock talks us through his recent sermons on Exodus, showing how a grasp of theology nourishes Bible reading and teaching.
  • And finally, Matt Lillicrap reflects on the difference our doctrine of God makes in the highs and lows of ministry.

I hope it goes without saying that this is not the final word on the doctrine of God! But I do hope that these articles help us to engage afresh with Scripture and to appreciate centuries of Christian reflection. Look out for additional resources at and for issue 09 on the Trinity in November 2019.

Get your copy of Primer 08

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