Reflecting upon my recent post interacting with Eric Seibert’s recent volume Disturbing Divine Behavior: Troubling Old Testament Images of God, as well as a recurring theme on this blog (see HERE, HERE, and HERE), I was thinking . . . how would I describe God with one word? One adjective.
To be certain, ancient Israel has offered a host of adjectives to describe God. In Walter Brueggemann’s massive Theology of the Old Testament: Testimony, Dispute, Advocacy, he focuses upon the rhetoric of Israel’s utterance. For Brueggemann, these adjectives arise out of Israel’s verbal utterance of YHWH, and thus move from specificity to generality. So if “God delivers Judah from exile” (my example), then God is deliverer. But God is surely much more than that. God is . . . well, that depends on whom you ask.
So, do I suppose one word, one adjective can encompass all attributes (biblical ones, mind you) of God. Hardly. But I think it is an interesting question . . . in essence, boiled down to its bare basics, what is God?
My one word? In one of the posts to which I link above I used the word “paradox.” I think that is fitting, yet I remain unhappy with it in response to this question. I do, however, strongly feel it is on the mark. Other words obviously come to mind . . . deliverer, trickster, lover, destroyer . . .
If pressed (and if allowed to use a Hebrew word), I would say hesed. What one adjective do I think best describes God . . . covenantally-faithful. God is, if anything, concerned ultimately with the covenant, the promise, and this description I think rolls into it all the grace, judgment,trickery, love, blessing, etc. that I see typifying the paradoxical divine character in the biblical text.
So, what ONE WORD (in English is fine, or you can cheat like I did and do a Hebrew word that has a two-word English translation!), what single adjective do you think best describes God? Why?