The Attributes of God

The Attributes of God

There is some evangelical buzz right now about a new biography of the late Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade (Bill Bright and Campus Crusade for Christ: The Renewal of Evangelicalism in Postwar America by John G. Turner). There is a helpful review of the book at the Christianity Today website.

I plan to read the biography. In my younger days I was somewhat critical of Bill Bright’s views on various subjects, but in his last years we got to know each other and formed a friendship. There was a time when Bill seemed to pride himself on having dropped out of Fuller Seminary, but in our conversations he expressed much admiration for Fuller, and for the cause of theological education as such. He was proud of his son Zach, now a PCUSA minister, who during his days as a Fuller student had been a leader of the student Peace and Justice Committee.

Bill and I talked by phone several times during his last months, and there was one comment he made to me that I wish I had asked him to expand upon. “If I had to do it all over again,” he said, “I would downplay the Four Spiritual Laws and place a strong emphasis on the attributes of God.”

That remark signaled a growing awareness on his part of the need for theological depth.  And his specific example of the importance of good theology rings especially true for me. Several years ago I had a conversation with a pastor who had become somewhat sceptical of the relevance of seminary study.  He had come to feel strongly about the kind of practical training for ministry that takes place exclusively in the local congregation. His case in point was the youth minister of his staff. “This guy is terrific,” he exulted. “He has only two years of junior college, but he really doesn’t need any more formal education. The kids love him and he is done a great job of ministry.”

I ended that conversation of friendly terms, assuring him that we were there for him if he ever felt the need for using our school as a resource. A year later he followed up with a phone call. He wondered if I could recommend a good book for him on the attributes of God. It turns out that the youth minister had come to him with some theological questions. Some of the young people in the church had been talking about spiritual matters with their Mormon friends, and the kids were a bit confused about how their own church’s views stacked up against LDS teachings.

I recommended the relevant chapter in Louis Berkhof’s Systematic Theology, and the pastor expressed appreciation for the counsel. Thinking back now on Bill Bright’s comment about the divine attributes, I wish I could also have directed him to the founder of Campus Crusade for some solid theological guidance!


  1. […] Mouw, President of Fuller Theological Seminary, has a good post on his blog about a conversation he had with Bill Bright and some thoughts on the need for theological […]

    Pingback by Richard Mouw, Bill Bright, and the Attributes of God | Going to Seminary — August 14, 2008 @ 1:09 pm

  2. Berkhof’s Systematic Theology is great. I wish it had been assigned in my classes at Fuller.

    Comment by Don Lowe — August 18, 2008 @ 11:28 am

  3. It is an encouraging post. I am in my final stages of my doctoral stuies at the Free Universtiy of Amsterdam and your post gives me hope and confirms the fact that I am not a loonatic. My chosen topic was The Identity of God, biblical theological and modern notions of God. During my research it has become clear how needed it is to talk about God. Not about other side issues but about the heart of theology, God. I guess that if a generation of ministry leaders,pastors etc. learn to talk about God (and not about church and the emergence of it) we have a solid future to look forward. Thanks again fo you post.

    Comment by C.S. Bene — August 21, 2008 @ 2:30 am

  4. I liked Bill Bright’s “4 Spiritual Laws”, but as a pastor of young adults I soon became aware of the fact that it’s “basic-ness” needed to be undergirded by sound theological teaching. I think a lot of congregations run from the word “theology” because they think it’s hard to understand or it’s only for the “smart” Christian people and they’ll never attain the knowledge others have. People have not been taught to think critically.

    We just finished a small study on salvation where we studied (in-depth mind you)terms such as election, regeneration, condemnation, justification, propitiation, and the like. It was an eye-opener to them and really brought a new appreciation for what Jesus had done and made them feel more sensitive for Christian service.

    Great blog Mr. President! See you this fall!

    Rev. Dan A. Thomas, Jr.
    First year Fuller Student (MDiv)
    African-American Church Studies

    Comment by Dan — August 27, 2008 @ 10:55 am