Summary: Even before man knew of God the Son, the Father was described in terms of human characteristics. The reason for this is obvious, for there is no alternative if man is going to have any intelligent concept of the nature of God.
A young boy afraid of the dark called for his mother to come upstairs to his
bedroom to be with him. She came and sought to comfort him by telling him
God was there with him, and so he didn't have to be afraid. He was all right
for a while, but then he called her again. When she came up he offered this
proposition: "Why don't you stay up here with God while I go down stairs
with daddy?" The child was simply expressing the natural desire for a
tangible companion. The philosopher may feel at home with some abstract
concept, but most people are like the child, and their desire is for something
Philosophy is concerned about God's nature and will, but it has never had
much appeal to the vast majority of people. It is abstract and talks about God
as the Ground of being and the Fundamental Force of the Universe. Most people
need a concept of God that can be embodied in some kind of a mental
image. This is why the Bible is filled with what is called anthropomorphism.
That is a big word that simply means the picturing of God in the form of a
man, and with characteristics of a man. God became a man in Christ, and
Jesus said that when we see him we see the Father, and so our image of God is
very manlike. Our highest revelation of God is in the man Christ Jesus. In
Jesus God is a man.
Even before man knew of God the Son, the Father was described in terms of
human characteristics. The reason for this is obvious, for there is no
alternative if man is going to have any intelligent concept of the nature of God.
If anthropomorphic terms were not used to describe God He would be so
abstract as to be almost meaningless, and He would certainly not be thought of
in a way that would be of much comfort. God is infinite spirit, and all His
attributes are so infinitely superior to ours that we cannot conceive of God at
all in His essence. Our knowledge of God has to be on the level of the finite.
This means we must be aware that even our highest concepts of God are fall
short of what He really is. God has had to descend to the level of our finite
minds in order to be known by us at all.
If you want to communicate with a dog you do so with meat and bones
and scratching behind the ears. These are hardly the highest expressions of
man's nature, or of his love, but these kinds of things alone can be understood
by the dogs intelligence. You would get nowhere in communicating with a dog
by mathematics, art, or a lecture on biology. These are above the dog's
capacity, and so rather than get no response at all you stoop to the dog's level
and speak his language. This is what God has done with man. He has
revealed himself in man-like ways, and with man-like characteristics. The
result is that many young people form the concept in their minds of God as an
old man of great wisdom with a long white beard. Mature believer know this
is not so, but as C. S. Lewis has said, it is better that God be seen this way than
as a mere abstraction, which is even more false to reality. He wrote, "What
soul ever perished for believing that God the Father really has a beard?"
It is essential to think of God in human terms, and it is harmless as long as
recognize them as necessary symbols to represent God, but not necessarily
what He actually is. The Greeks fell into this danger and had their gods on the
same level with men, and this included all of their limitations and immoralities
as well. Most pagan peoples have done this, and so they have a very poor concept
of God. Any god who is too man-like is a partaker in man's evils.
God rebuked this in Ps. 50:21, "You thought that I was one like yourself. But
now I rebuke you, and lay the charge before you." We must use the benefits of
anthropomorphism, for the Bible uses them, but we must also avoid its
dangers lest we make God in man's image. God made man in His image, and
so it is reasonable to assume that God is man-like in many ways. But we need
to avoid any idea that God is like man in his fallen nature.
God has always been in heaven speaking the words that formed all or
reality, but then we come to Gen. 3:8 and all of a sudden we see God walking