There is No One Greater
“For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself…” (Heb 6:13).
When people make oaths, they “swear by something greater than themselves” (Heb 6:16). This is to lend gravity to the oath. Yet when God made His promise to Abraham, since He could swear by no one greater than Himself, “He swore by Himself.” This truth about God is, perhaps, one of the most misunderstood and least considered features of God’s nature. There is no one greater than God, and this fact about God should help us in trying to grasp a number of other issues.
The God of Scripture has all wisdom, knowledge, understanding, and power. He owns life and death, has the right to ultimate judgment, is the perfection of love, and He will always work in the greatest possible ways consistent with all of His characteristics. If we do not accept this, then we are not really talking about the God we read about in Scripture, but a lesser, caricatured version created in our own minds. One has the free will to deny God, but we should insist that people not straw-man God due to ignorance.
People often deny God on the grounds that He ought to be amenable to a standard higher than Himself. For example, people argue against God on the basis that He is guilty of committing genocide in the Old Testament. Since we all know that genocide is morally abhorrent, then we are accused of believing in a God who is immoral. This places God on a merely human level.
The objection fails because God is not amenable to anyone higher than Himself, for there can be none greater. There is no higher standard of what is good, just, or moral than Himself. The standard is not separate from Him (then determined by us), but rather He is the standard, and all judgment about what He does must start there. Otherwise, we are not really talking about God. It has been aptly said that we should not criticize what God does until we know what He knows.
God will always act consistently with the fact that He is all-knowing, all-wise, all-understanding, owns life and death, and so on. When God judges, He does so with the greatest possible wisdom, knowledge, understanding, and love. Humans are not capable of such divine extremes; God can do what we are not capable of thinking (Eph 3:20). It is, therefore, inappropriate to judge God by human ignorance and finite limitations.
To argue that God is guilty of immorality is to say that He has violated a standard greater than Himself and that He has acted in a way that does not incorporate the greatest wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. This means that the one making the complaint is assuming a superior stance to God by judging His actions, implying that there is a greater standard than God, and indicating that God cannot be acting in accordance with His omni-attributes. This not only straw-mans God, but is arrogant and presumptuous. One doing this is not actually talking about the biblical God anymore, but a self-created version.
Since there can be no one greater, then what God does will always be just. He will always know what is right, how to carry out His plans and purposes, and how to do so with all wisdom and understanding. Once we grant that there is none greater than God, then we must grant that He will be able to act in ways that is beyond our understanding (and that He does not have to explain Himself to us). We would have to grant that He knows what He is doing. Our lack of knowledge and understanding is not a mark against God at all, and we err significantly when we use our ignorance to try to argue against God. “I can’t understand why God would do this, so I’m not going to believe in Him” is essentially saying that my ignorance is sufficient reason to deny the God whose greatness supersedes anything we can possible think. In that case, ignorance becomes arrogance.
Yet what if we could possibly understand God completely? Then that, too, would become a reason why people deny Him. After all, why would we want to believe in a god who is no greater than we are? If He knows all and acts in ways we don’t understand, then we deny Him because we don’t understand. If He does not know all and is guilty of immorality because there is something greater than He is, then we will deny Him then, too (and in that case, we ought to because He would not really be God).
There is no greater standard of morality, goodness, and justice than God Himself. While people have the free will to reject God as He is described, mischaracterizing and caricaturing God as a path to denying Him does not bode well for an honest search for truth. We either accept God as He is or we reject Him as He is, but to make up our own version of God and then deny Him is thoroughly fallacious. There is no one greater than God, and anything less than that is not God at all.