God Is Not Like You—And That’s a Good Thing

Jen Wilkin’s New Book on the Incommunicable Attributes of God

The spirit of the age insists the individual isn’t only the measure of all things but also has the right to create herself in the image of whatever feels unique, timely, or radical. So Jen Wilkin’s new book None Like Him: 10 Ways God Is Different From Us provides an oasis of retreat.

 

Wilkin’s latest offering, which focuses on God’s “incommunicable” attributes (those not shared with us), stands out from its contemporaries in several ways. Recalling A. W. Tozer’s The Knowledge of the Holy (which she references more than once), she uses a systematic approach, whereas many today might have chosen a more biblical-theological one. And while the introduction (on Proverbs 31:30) and the conclusion (on Psalm 139) are both geared toward a female audience, the ten chapters in between would apply to both genders, broadly speaking.

But the most valuable gift None Like Him offers is Wilkin’s stark contrast between each unique divine attribute and our desire to get that attribute. In other words, she reveals a foil for God in the idolatrous human heart. This combination of theology (the study of God) and hamartiology (the study of sin) makes None Like Him not only a worthy read but also a strategic one for anyone wishing to expand her view of God while examining the condition of her own heart.

God’s Limitlessness

Wilkin—speaker, writer, and teacher of women’s Bible studies—begins by focusing on God’s infiniteness, assuming that an enlarged vision of God will bring clarity to our self-understanding. Because she notes that every attribute of God is limitless in extent, Wilkin sets the stage for introducing other divine properties (eternality, self-existence, omniscience, and so on) as boundless, in contrast to human limitations.

“It was not enough to bear his image within the limits of human existence,” she writes. “No, only becoming like him would do” (23). Instead of trusting and worshiping God for his attributes, in our sin we want to hawk them. So rather than pursuing his moral attributes Scripture enjoins (wisdom, justice, mercy, faithfulness, goodness, truthfulness), we seek his limitless power, knowledge, and authority.

Wilkin’s insights into how humans attempt to assume limitlessness, rather than embrace God’s infinitude with humble trust, are worth the price of the book. The chapter on self-sufficiency is especially poignant:

None Like Him: 10 Ways God is Different from Us (and Why That's a Good Thing)
Jen Wilkin
Crossway. 176 pages. $12.99.

If God needed anything outside of himself, he would be controlled by that need. . . . But we humans are remarkably needy, a reality we are eager to conquer or conceal.

Wilkin lists several ways Christians live as though we don’t need God (prayerlessness, forgetfulness of what he’s done, anger in trial, lack of conviction for sin) or need Christian community (avoidance of authentic relationships in the church, lack of vulnerability, lack of accountability, lack of humility, exhaustion).

The chapter on God’s omniscience is equally indicting. Wilkin discusses the effect of information overload, which reduces our attention spans while increasing our indecisiveness, creating callousness where there should be empathy and yielding increased anxiety, listlessness, and sleeplessness:

We believe that if we have access to limitless information we will have more peace of mind. But has our information gluttony done anything to relieve our anxieties and increase our certainty? . . . Take away our connectivity and we find that our anxieties lurk right beneath the surface. (110)

Gospel-Grounded, Awe-Inspiring 

Wilkin’s habit of ending each chapter with the reassurance of gospel grace keeps the reader from hopelessness. We should not feel insecure or threatened that only God can have these limitless qualities we long to share. Christians can take comfort that the boundlessness of his power, creativity, changelessness, knowledge, and authority are at work on behalf of all those trusting in Christ for salvation.

In the chapter on God’s sovereignty, some Reformed thinkers may take issue with the terminology (for example, the ambiguous term “free will”) Wilkin uses to describe human moral agency and responsibility and its interaction with God’s sovereignty. These few paragraphs compose a small part of the chapter, and the focus of the chapter remains on God’s complete control over good, evil, and human affairs. “Whether earthly rulers exercise their authority for good or for evil, ultimately God is in control,” she writes. “Control lies at the heart of what we must understand when we speak of the sovereignty of God” (137).

Other readers may feel that the book is heavy on prophetic conviction, and light on comfort and encouragement. Wilkin’s stated intent is the opposite of many Christian female authors and speakers today, as she mentions in her conclusion:

Our primary problem as Christian women is not that we lack self-worth, not that we lack a sense of significance. It’s that we lack awe. . . . Awe helps us worry less about self-worth by turning our eyes first toward God, then toward others. It also helps establish our self-worth in the best possible way: we understand both our insignificance within creation and our significance to our Creator. (148–49)

Even Psalm 139, which we often assume is about the wonder of humanity, is actually a reflection of the limitless attributes of God, as Wilkin examines in detail.

Wilkin’s hallmark of theology applied will enrich readers who are not afraid to face their own limitations and who desire to rest in God’s incommunicable attributes. Women’s Bible study groups, ministry leaders, and small groups could all profit from discussion over this material. It is fresh and will awaken spiritually sensitive readers to a renewed sense of humility and awe at their Creator.

There’s none like him.


Editors’ note: Don’t miss our upcoming National Women’s Conference, June 16 to 18 in Indianapolis. Jen Wilkin will teach from 1 Peter 1:13-2:3 on “Living Resurrection Life.” Spaces are filling up fast, so register now.

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