Thomas Magers is the pastor of Tiplersville Baptist Church in Tiplersville, MS and is a student at NOBTS.
Physics is the study of the physical world. In studying the physical sciences, a student learns about the law of conservation. The law of conservation applies to many different areas. Some of the areas are energy, momentum, mass, and electrical charge. The law about conservation of mass posits that matter cannot be created or destroyed. For instance, burned wood is not destroyed completely; it has gone through a process of change resulting in ash and gasses.
Another such law is conservation of energy. Again, the basic premise is that energy cannot be created nor destroyed. It can change forms, for example, from chemical to electrical or kinetic to chemical. For instance, the flow of water, kinetic energy, turns turbines that produce electrical energy by use of magnetic fields. The energy is not created; it has been changed from one form to another.
How then does this apply to Christians? Why is this topic given here on a website that addresses Christian thought?
The idea of conservation is something that many Christians believe but do not realize. Augustine, the famed theologian of years gone by, wrote, “Let every good and true Christian understand that wherever truth may be found, it belongs to his Master.” From this phrase, the colloquial phrase, “all truth is God’s truth” originates. Ultimately, we, as Augustine noted, believe in the conservation of certain attributes. In this case, it is truth. If someone says a true and trustworthy statement, we realize that the particular truth originated with God for He is Creator.
Another area in which a Christian holds to the idea of conservation law is love. The Bible affirms clearly, “God is love” (1 John 4:8). This means that all love is God’s love. A person cannot know love truly, unless they know God. Some may think they know love without God, but it is a skewed image of the real thing. I realize now that I cannot love my wife or children fully unless I know the love of God.
The theological astute among us realize that this discussion is about the communicable attributes of God. The terms communicable and incommunicable refer to God’s attributes that He shares (communicable) and the attributes He does not share (incommunicable). These terms are widely used, however, some theologians do not use these terms. For instance, Millard Erickson prefers “Attributes of Greatness” and “Attributes of Goodness.” The lists of communicable attributes vary greatly according to the theologian you read. Two outstanding theologians in Baptist life are Millard Erickson and Wayne Grudem. Erickson lists 10 attributes that God shares with people. While, Grudem lists 20 attributes of God that He shares with people to some extent.
For this pastor and student, I find it interesting to study God’s communicable attributes in Scripture. In the book of Ruth, the faithful love of God is front and center. The faithful love of God, known in the Old Testament as chesed, is seen from the beginning of the book to the end. In the first chapter, Ruth shows Naomi chesed by abandoning her own people and land to follow Naomi. In Chapter four, God’s chesed is displayed through the genealogy of David. Ultimately, faithful love is shown throughout the whole book. Ruth was faithful to Naomi. Boaz was faithful to Elimelech (even though he was dead) and his family. Naomi was faithful to Ruth. Ruth was faithful to Naomi. Boaz was faithful to Ruth. Ultimately, God’s faithfulness is seen. He is the originator of faithful love (chesed), the people of Ruth or the medium of that faithful love, and it continued through David ultimately to Jesus.
How does the narrative of Ruth, communicable attributes, and conservation law apply to us? In my opinion, we are the “hands and feet” of Christ in our world. “We love because He (God) first loved us” (1 John 4:19). We are faithful because He was, and is, faithful. Therefore, we, by the power of the Holy Spirit, stay in step with the Holy Spirit and allow ourselves to be the medium for God’s glory to shine.
Obviously, this does not apply to the sovereign God. He created from nothing (Gen. 1:1; 21; 27).
Augustine, On Christian Doctrine II.18.28, Georgetown University Online, http://www9.georgetown.edu/faculty/jod/augustine/ddc2.html (accessed March 19, 2014).
Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 3d. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2013), 238.
Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 186.