God can do anything! There’s nothing God cannot do! Well, technically, that’s not true. So writes Nick Tucker in his newly released book 12 Things God Cannot Do: and How They Can Help You Sleep At Night (The Good Book Company, 2022). So, what are some things God can’t do? And why is this good news for us? Tucker takes us through what you might call the photo-negative aspects of God’s character and abilities. Where traditional takes on the doctrine of God would focus on his unlimited knowledge, Tucker points us to the fact that God cannot learn. While traditional works point us to God’s immortality, Tucker shows us that God cannot suffer or die. Additionally, we read that God cannot be surprised, change his mind, be tempted, lie, or disown himself. We even get an entire chapter on the fact that God cannot be seen, which was a particularly enjoyable portion of the book for me as I recently published an entire book-length treatment of that very subject.
As you can see, these “inabilities” within God arise out of the very nature of who he is. He cannot be lonely because he is a Trinity. He cannot suffer or die because he is uncreated and eternal. He cannot bear to look upon evil because he is too pure. And so on. Throughout, he consistently refers back to God’s revelation of his name to Moses in Exodus 3:14, “I AM WHO I AM.” This verse serves as a sort of anchor for the book, and Tucker skillfully applies it to each of the things God cannot do. In this way, Tucker’s book is essentially a book about the doctrine of God, but with a fresh take. It is not simply yet another book rehearsing the attributes of God.
In what I found to be a brilliant addition to the book, Tucker includes four interludes, which all show us various ways in which, in the incarnation of Jesus, God did the very things he cannot do. Jesus made the invisible God visible. He learned, he grew, he improved. Jesus was tempted. He eventually became sin itself, and then suffered and died. In a book that could have been very predictable, these interludes were a wonderful surprise for me.
The only critique I might give is that in the chapter on ‘God Can’t Change His Mind,’ Tucker failed to refer to what I believe is the lynchpin for this doctrine: Jeremiah 18:6-10. I’ll leave it for you to go and read that text, but suffice it to say it would have strengthened the author’s case, especially considering how many Christians believe prayer changes the mind of God. However, I must also say that Tucker taught me a number of new things in that very same chapter.
In the middle of the book, Tucker gives us a window into his own heart and mind as he seeks to study and teach the doctrine of God. He writes, “we should remember that theology, if done in submission to divine revelation, is a profoundly counter-intuitive pursuit. We instinctively tend to measure God against ourselves, so as we encounter a God who is in many ways radically unlike us, we have to keep dismantling the mental images we keep assembling of what he might be like… When it comes to theology, if it’s not sometimes uncomfortable, you’re not doing it right.” (p. 94)
I would say he is exactly right. We must allow God to tell us who he is, rather than deciding who we want him to be. We must always beware the human tendency to try and reverse the process of creation and create a god in our own image. As we read his self-revelation (the Bible), we will often be confused or uncomfortable. But this is exactly what we should expect if we are studying a God that is utterly transcendent from all of his creation. And as we come to know this God more and more accurately, it should lead us to worship. That’s what Nick Tucker has done in this book. He shows us God in such a way that leads us to worship. And there could hardly be any higher or more worthy goal for a book than that. I give this book my highest recommendation for anyone who wants to know and worship God more deeply.
John Davis is the pastor of Columbia Christian Church in Columbia, KY. He is the author of God-Centered Christianity: The Bible’s Antidote for Self-Centered Religion and Seeing the Unseen God.
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