What is the chief end of man?
Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.
What is God?
God is a spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth.
If you have ever read the Westminster Shorter Catechism, you, no doubt, are familiar with these two questions, and their answers. Indeed, they are the 1st and 4th questions of that document, respectively.
Great. So, as mankind, our job is to glorify and enjoy this eternal, unchangeable, infinite, spirit that calls Himself God.
‘Unchangeable’ is pretty straightforward: it is immutable, permanent, unyielding, unwavering, unalterable, and unfaltering. ‘Spirit’ is also a relatively simple concept to understand: noncorporeal, ethereal, invisible. But what does ‘infinite’ mean? What does ‘eternal’ mean?
Eternal, quite simply means having no end point in time. And likewise, infinite means that there are no boundaries upon its existence. There is no measurable height, length, width, depth, or breadth. But, as creatures who exist in both time and space, the concept of eternality and infinity are difficult – at best – to understand: we, by definition, are finite. According to the Bible, men’s souls will exist onward into eternity, but as an individual human, we have a definite start point. The Bible also states that God existed before time (from eternity past) and will exist forever (to eternity future).
The God that Christians worship, then, has no boundaries upon His existence, in time or space. And, if He has no boundaries in time or space, then certainly He could have no boundaries upon His power or abilities.
As good, and wonderful, and awesome, and amazing as all that is, humans can’t understand it. I don’t claim to have some higher understanding of God’s infiniteness or His eternality than can be gained from His Holy Word. But I think that I might have a helpful construct in forming a [limited] understanding of His most unfathomable attributes.
Infinity is a concept that has many useful applications in our world and our minds. For example, from grade-school geometry, you recall that rays have a start point, but no end point. Lines, likewise, have no start or end. However, they have no start or end in only one dimension. “Lines”, as such, by definition cannot exist in two dimensions. Basic geometrical figures, such as triangles, quadrilaterals, hexagons, circles, etc may all exist in two dimensions, but a line, per se, cannot. The math adage pops to mind: “two points define a line; three points define a plane”.
A plane is an object which has a set up defining points, most typically represented by three X,Y,Z coordinates sets. And once those three points have been defined, the plane extends across all points in “straight lines” away from those points.
However, again by definition, a plane cannot exist in three dimensions: it has no “bottom” (or “top”). So, though like the line it is infinite, it can’t exist in the world in which we live: we live in a polydimensional world. This life is made up of height, depth, width, length, and time. We can comprehend the infinite natures of planes and lines because we exist in a dimension above them.
Perhaps some of you have read the book Flatland. In it, Edwin Abbott follows the life and times of a square that lives in a land wherein there is no height. Everything is just flat – there are lengths and widths, but no height. As the tale wends its way through, a sphere appears in Flatland, and whisks the square off to see Lineland and Pointland, and then takes him higher into the world of three dimensions wherein the sphere resides. As established earlier, a square can’t exist in three dimensions. Of course, a sphere can’t exist, as such, in 2 dimensions. A sphere has a center point as defined by an X,Y,Z coordinate, and a radius: a way of establishing how far away from that center point, in all directions, the sphere extends. So, when the sphere appears in Flatland, he is visible as a constantly morphing circle, based on how much of himself he has “dipped” into the land.
We see in shadows. The shadow of a three-dimensional object is two-dimensional. If you don’t believe me, go stand in front of a light near a wall: your shadow has no depth: it’s flat. It has width and height, but no depth. (If it did, you would be able to grab it and move it, as it would exist in “our” dimensions.) The shadow of a two-dimensional object is a line or line segment – it has one dimension: length. Likewise, the shadow of a line is a point. It has no dimensions: just a point.
Because we exist in three dimensions, we can see the inards of two-dimensional objects. In Flatland, when the sphere descends into the square’s realm, he claims to be able to see the square’s “guts”. And when the square is raised from Flatland into the sphere’s world, he can now see the guts and inards of all of the inhabitant of his home world or Flatland.
In Flatland, you can touch and manipulate other two dimensional objects, because you are a two-dimensional “person”. This is rational since we can touch and manipulate other three-dimensional objects in our lives. But near the end of the book there is an interesting line of reasoning exposed by the square that the sphere has chosen to enlighten: certainly, if there is Pointland, and there is Lineland, and Flatland, and the world in which the sphere lives, must there not be a land in which you could “see the inards” of spheres, because you would exist in a higher dimension. And, carrying that logic to its reasonable conclusion, there is a land of five dimensions, six, seven, all the way through the Nth dimension.
Perhaps God is infinite to us, and to all who interact with Him, because He exists above the dimensions we can experience. If a planar projection is the shadow of a three-dimensional object, could it be that we, as three-dimensional objects, are projections or shadows of the fourth dimension in which we exist, that of time? And perhaps, since God created time for us, He exists in a realm above that of time. Certainly, if He has existed – eternally – since before time began, and will continue to exists eternally into the future, He can’t be bound by time (which would be irrational since He made it: you can’t really be bound by something you create).
I propose that God can exist in infinitely many directions, with infinite power in each of those directions, and perfect control in each of those directions precisely because he is above time – he is outside of our existence, looking-in and down upon us as we do upon those geometric representations we call shapes and lines and points.