Article 1: There is Only One God
We all believe in our hearts and confess with our mouths that there is a single and simple spiritual being, whom we call God -- eternal, incomprehensible, invisible, unchangeable, infinite, almighty; completely wise, just, and good, and the overflowing source of all good.
In the Sound of Music Julie Andrews sang "Let's start at the very beginning, a very good place to start". That is not only a good way to start a classic song from a musical, it is also a good way to start a Christian confession. There is no better place to start than with a statement on God and the basic essence of God. The Belgic Confession begins by stating that we believe with our hearts and confess with our mouths that there is a single and simple spiritual being, whom we call God. This is an important statement because it helps us to clearly understand what it is that we are talking about. The confession will dig deeply into who this God is but at the beginning of it all we know that there can only be one God.
This immediately helps us to see that we are not polytheistic and believe in multiple gods. It also makes it very clear that we are not atheistic. We believe that there is a God. This is without confusion but there is a word in there that might make us somewhat bewildered. It says that God is a simple, spiritual being. I think that most people would agree that the last thing that we would call God is simple. If anything, most people are concerned that their understanding of God is too simple. What does the confession mean when it says that God is a simple spiritual being? This does not mean that God is not complex or hard to understand. Instead, it means that God cannot be divided. He is also not all of his attributes put together. We don't believe that the formula love + grace + mercy + wrath + omnipotence + omnipresence + holiness + righteousness + power = God. God is all of those things but they come from his being a particular being with those attributes, not the other way around.
This is important because if we make God the sum of his attributes we end up with a God who is not personal. If God is merely those forces, he becomes more like the way in which pagan religions speak of God. As we will see further down in the Belgic Confession, God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He is a personal God and not a transcendent "force" that is out there some place. He is the God who is. As this article of the confession says he is eternal, incomprehensible, invisible, unchangeable, infinite, almighty, completely wise, just, and good, and the overflowing source of all that is good. Those things come from him. He is God and he is good.
This seems rather simple for us but this is truly an important distinction to have. I met someone once who taught her children to pray to the moon because to her, god was in the moon. This person claimed to be a Christian, but that is not the Christian view of the creator at all. The creation and the creator are separate. He holds all these things together but God is not the moon. He is not the trees.
We praise God because he is the one who made us and the one who holds all things together. The question that this logically turns to is then how do we know this. I have made quite a few bold statements about the nature of God. How do I know they are correct? Is this simply my opinion or is there a way in which we can know this God who is. Next time we will be looking at Article 2: The Means by Which We Know God.