The Personal Absolute: Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 9

26. What do you believe when you say, “I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth”?
That the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who of nothing made heaven and earth with all that is in them,1 who likewise upholds, and governs them by His eternal counsel and providence,2 is for the sake of Christ, His Son, my God and my Father,3 in whom I so trust as to have no doubt that He will provide me with all things necessary for body and soul;4 and further, that whatever evil He sends upon me in this valley of tears, He will turn to my good;5 for He is able to do it, being Almighty God,6 and willing also, being a faithful Father.7
[1] Gen. 1:31; Ps. 33:6; *Col. 1:16; *Heb. 11:3. [2] Ps. 104:2–5; Matt. 10:30; Heb. 1:3; Ps. 115:3; *Acts 17:24–25. [3] Jn. 1:12; Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:5–7; Eph. 1:5; *Eph. 3:14–16; *Matt. 6:8. [4] Ps. 55:22; Matt. 6:25–26; Lk. 12:22–24; Ps. 90:1–2. [5] Rom. 8:28; *Acts 17:27–28. [6] Rom. 10:12. [7] Matt. 7:9–11; *Num. 23:19.

If you ask yourself the question, “Why does ‘A’ exist” where ‘A’ is any entity at all, probably the answer will be that some other entity ‘B’ brought it into existence or caused it somehow. If you then ask the same question about ‘B’, you come to ‘C’, and so forth. Eventually though, you will arrive at some entity for which the question “why does this entity exist?” will be answered with, “It just is.” Once you have reached that point, you have reached your absolute. There are really only two places you can stop this train of thought and arrive at your absolute—either at the impersonal universe or a personal God.

There are religions such as Judaism and Islam who posit the existence of a personal God who created the universe, but Christianity has something unique- the Trinity. With the Trinity, God’s personal nature and His desire for fellowship and communion is not accidental, but is part of His eternal nature. If your religion posits an absolute God who existed alone before anything else, then that God can exist perfectly well without anyone or anything else to fellowship with. The God of Islam or Judaism are to some degree personal, having arisen from the same tradition as Christianity, but their relational quality is accidental; they can exist perfectly well all by themselves, and therefore their communication or fellowship with the beings they created is not essential to who they are.

If your absolute is just the cosmos, then that is the ultimate impersonality. Blind laws of physics don’t care about anything. Justice, purpose, meaning, love, beauty or any other values are totally arbitrary, not any kind of real property of the universe. A person can choose to be a just and good person, or a cruel and deceptive person, but there’s no real benchmark to judge the superiority of one over the other. Only physical laws are absolute. The old pagan religions all fall into this category as well. They posit the existence of gods, but these gods were not eternal. They were part of the cosmos. They were born and could die. Only the cosmos was eternal in these systems, involved in an endless cycle of creation and destruction, and the gods were just part of this cycle.

But with the interpersonal relationship of the Trinity at the heart of the Godhead, Christianity’s Absolute is fully personal. Unlike the monistic gods of Islam and Judaism, communion lies right at the heart of who the Christian God is, One in Three. Heidelberg Catechism question 26 lays the implications of this out beautifully for us, showing that the One who created all things, the ultimate mover behind all that exists, the Absolute uncaused Cause, is for the sake of His eternal, perfect love for His Son Jesus Christ my heavenly Father. That absolute love, that fellowship at the heart of God Himself, therefore shapes my very existence and the whole way I view everything that happens in this life.

I can therefore say that nothing just “happens.” Everything that occurs in my life is part of His perfect and personal plan for me. His absolute Personality shapes every aspect of my existence. If I am united to Christ by faith, then the Father’s eternal love for the Son comes to inform every circumstance, every event, every joy and sorrow in my life. He is almighty, absolute in His power, and thus everything that happens in this life is under His control. But He is also my faithful Father, absolute in His love, and thus everything that happens is part of His good plan for my life.

The Bible tells me what that plan is, as well. It isn’t for me to be rich or healthy in this life. It isn’t for me to have a successful career, meaningful work, lots of friends or competent political rulers. We have no right to expect any of those things, for they are not promised to us.

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. (Rom 8:28-29 NKJ)”

He promised to make us like Christ, to conform us to His image, so that in that image we might enjoy the perfect bliss of fellowship with the Father for all eternity. Because He is a faithful Father, we know that the desire is there. And because He is the Absolute, the One whose nature determines all of the rest of reality, we know the power is there to make it happen. We can therefore learn to be confident and joyful in all our lives, even in times of suffering, knowing that truly all things work together for God’s perfect and benevolent purpose for His children.