Imagine an audio equalizer as an analogy for comparing humans to God. This tool—sometimes referred to as a “soundboard” or “audio mixer”—has physical sliders that move between a minimum and maximum value. Now imagine this equalizer has dozens of columns lined up, each with its own slider that ranges from zero to 10. Each column represents a different personal attribute like patience or love.
I hope you have imagined something close to what I’ve described. If not, the rest of what I am about to say will likely be confusing. The main point I’ll be trying to make is that humans have some variable number in specific attributes, but God is the standard for all attributes. For example, people might have patience, but God is patience.
Before I develop this idea further, let me briefly explain what I mean by “God”. After all, I don’t want anyone to say, “Okay. God is patience. But impatience is an attribute, too, so God must be impatience as well as patience!” No, not at all. For this exercise, I’m going to say that God is the “Maximally Great Being” where maximal greatness is defined by omniscience, omnipotence and moral perfection.
The Maximally Great Being?
If you are like me five days ago, you are probably wondering where this idea of a “Maximally Great Being” came from. But, wait, it gets even more confusing! St Anselm of Canterbury defined God as “that than which nothing greater can be thought.” Oh. Because that’s how people talked back then, I guess. It took me a few tries to get “that than which” out of my mouth with any clarity.
Anselm formulated what is called the ontological argument for God’s existence. I’m not going into that further here other than to say that other philosophers—including Alvin Plantinga—have developed a modal version of the ontological argument that gets into the verbiage of the Maximally Great Being. The philosophers have done the heavy lifting that will allow me to get back on point.
God, then, only has good attributes like patience, love, justice, wisdom, holiness, goodness and truth. In my analogy, his attribute sliders are all maxed out at 10 and will never change. We mere mortals, however, change a lot. Do we have a “spiritual equalizer” that tracks with our attributes as the sliders move between zero and 10?
It’s not even that we only have one slider that goes between the maximum of patience and the minimum of impatience. Patience and impatience are in separate columns on the equalizer. You could have somebody with 10 patience when dealing with children but 10 impatience when dealing with adults.
We all know people who never get angry and don’t seem to have any hate in them. Don’t you just hate those people! I am only kidding. If I wasn’t kidding, couldn’t you just imagine me sliding up to the maximum in my jealousy column for saying that?
The people we never see get angry might always be at zero in their hate column. So it might seem that they don’t even have a hate column. The reason that they do is that all people have the potential to hate. This often depends on who and what they encounter in life, and how they are influenced by those encounters.
We have within us the capacity for great acts of good and great acts of evil. We display the good fruit of the spirit or the rotten fruit of the flesh. Is there anything in between? We try to be as good as we can but we will never reach God’s perfection in any category. God knows this, and that’s why he sent Jesus into the world—to be perfect for us.
Are you a “pride 7” kind of person?
I’m not suggesting anyone take this idea of a “spiritual equalizer” to apply to their friends or neighbors. I can see it now. People will say things like:
- “I’m guessing you’re a ‘pride 7’ kind of person.”
- “You’re a ‘courage 1’ kind of person, aren’t you?”
- “Honey, you’re at 9 anger right now. Could you bring it down to a 3?”
I have to admit it might be kind of fun to see the quizzical looks on people’s faces when they are spoken to in that way. But that’s only until they punch those people in the nose after they catch on! No, I think it better that we apply this idea internally…
What does God think about our attributes?
Genesis 1:27 says “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (ESV) Because God is spirit, the word “image” in this verse indicates that God created humans with the same spiritual attributes that he has.
God as the “Maximally Great Being” is omnipotent, omniscient and the greatest good. If God’s very nature is the standard of goodness and includes all the maximized good attributes I mentioned earlier, isn’t this worth thinking about?
If we are truly made in the image of God, shouldn’t we be constantly comparing ourselves to God to see just how far from the standard we are? And if we find that we are indeed far from his standard, won’t this remind us why we should put our trust in Jesus Christ?
Does thinking of this “spiritual equalizer” make us more aware of our shortcomings? For me, it is helpful to know that even though there are times I have a 10 in my anger column, the slider doesn’t have to be stuck there. It is not meant to be stuck there. If it was, I might not realize that I have a problem for which God has the solution—himself.