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September 21st, 2007, 03:07 PM
BEQ2: Do you agree that righteousness is the foundation of God’s sovereignty
AMRA-BEQ2 - Ask Mr. Religion Responds:
No I do not, nor should anyone who understands the nature of God’s attributes. The attributes of God appear to be a primary source of the doctrinal errors of unsettled theism, whereby its proponents spend inordinate amounts of time attempting to redefine and prioritize God’s very nature.
Some preliminaries are required before we can fully discuss the nature of the attributes of God…
We cannot define God in the proper sense of the word, but only give a partial description. Indeed, it is impossible for man to have an exhaustive and perfect knowledge of God. To have such knowledge of God would be equivalent to fully comprehending Him. But although God is incomprehensible, we can know things about God, and this partial knowledge is real and adequate knowledge. When persons describe certain properties of God, based on God's self-revelation, they discern these properties from God’s revelation in one of three ways: univocally, analogically or equivocally:
1. univocally - the property of God means exactly the same thing in God or in man
2. equivocally - the property of God whose meaning is unknown to man
3. analogically - the property of God whose meaning is both similar and dissimilar to man
For example, when we acknowledge that God is a person, do we really mean God is a person in the same exact sense as we are? No. Or when we adopt Scripture by using male pronouns to refer to God, do we really believe that God is a man? No.
When God reveals Himself to us, He reveals Himself to us analogically. That is, in order to reveal Himself to us, God leverages the aspects that His created order reflects of Him, as its creator, especially humanity, so that we may know Him.
As discussions about the nature of God, especially those regarding His eternity, reveal, our language cannot exceed its own finitude. God uses human analogies to reveal Himself to us, taking hold of our hands, as it were, leading us to Himself. Just as God came down to man via the incarnation to save those who could not ascend to Him, God meets us in His Scriptures by descending down to our weakness: the finitude of our language when attempting to reveal the infinite.
God’s use of our language correctly describes God, but it does not univocally describe God. Unless we are willing to univocally assign to God all properties of human personhood, all our reasoning about God must be analogical. We know God is both similar and dissimilar to us. Naturally, we are analogous to God because, being made in God's likeness; we are similar and dissimilar to God. But, the analogy originates with God—He is the original and we are merely created images patterned after God’s likeness. Therefore, what we know of God can only be reasoned analogically.
Furthermore, those that would try to adopt the univocal approach to describing God invariably will tend towards rationalism. Persons uncomfortable with the analogical approach (e.g., proponents of open theism or budding philosophers) similarly hold to an autonomous view of knowledge. Such persons will decry, “How do we know if the analogies are fitting?” The underlying assumption of these persons seems to be that unless they can stand outside of the analogy and that to which it refers, they cannot determine its efficacy. These persons will conclude that if the property of, say, “good” or “righteous”, applied to both God and Abraham does not mean exactly the same thing (univocal), then only skepticism (equivocal) remains. For such persons, their autonomous epistemology requires either rationalism or irrationalism.
As stated above, I believe that everything that God has revealed of Himself to us has been revealed to us analogically. The analogical approach insists that, because the Scriptures are God speaking in human language, all analogies selected by God are proper whether or not we know the exact fit. We do not need something which we cannot possibly possess, namely, archetypal knowledge. Given that human knowledge is inherently ectypal, human knowledge is essentially analogical. God reserves univocal knowledge for Himself and His archetypal theology.
Does any of the above imply that the Christian God is not a personal God? Unsettled theists like to decry the so-called impersonal God of the Reformers. Again, this is another example of unsettled theism’s myopia and humanistic philosophy distorting the truth of the Scriptural revelation of God.
God has communicated knowledge of Himself to man. The Scriptures do not present an abstract concept of God, rather they always describe Him as the Living God, who enters into various relations with His creatures, relations which indicate several different attributes of God. From God’s communicable attributes we find God is a conscious, intelligent, free, and moral Being, a Being that is personal in the strongest sense of the word.
I offer several natural proofs for the personhood of God:
(1) Our personality requires a personal God for its explanation. We are not self-existent or eternal, but are finite, having beginnings and endings. To account for the whole of the effect, the assumed cause must be sufficient. Since we are personal products, the power originating us must also be personal. Else there is something in the effect superior to anything that is found in the cause; and this would be quite impossible.
(2) In general, the world bears witness to the personality of God. The world’s entire fabric reveals the clear traces of an infinite intelligence, of the deepest, highest and dearest emotions, and of an all-powerful Will. Therefore, we are constrained to mount from the world to its Maker as a Being of intelligence, sensibility, and will, that is, as a person.
(3) Man’s moral and religious nature points to the personality of God. Man’s moral nature imposes a sense of obligation to do that which is right, and this necessarily implies the existence of a Supreme Lawgiver. Man’s religious nature provokes him to seek personal communion with some Higher Being; and all the components and activities of religion demand a personal God as their object and final end. The fact is that things such as penitence, faith and obedience, fellowship and love, loyalty in service and sacrifice, trust in life and death, are meaningless unless they find their appropriate object in a personal God.
Yet while the above considerations are true and have some value as testimonies, they are not the proofs upon which theology rests in its doctrine of the personality of God. For these matters theology turns for proof to God's self-revelation in the Scriptures.
The word “person” is never applied to God in the Scriptures, yet there are words, such as the Hebrew panim and the Greek prosopon, that come very close to expressing the idea. At the same time the Scriptures testify to the personality of God in several ways. The presence of God, described in the Old and New Testament, is clearly a personal presence. The anthropomorphic and anthropopathic representations of God, while being interpreted so as not to eliminate the pure spirituality and holiness of God, could hardly be justifiably used, except on the assumption that the Being to whom they apply is a real person, with personal attributes, even though being without human limitations.
In the Scriptures God is represented as a personal God, with whom we can and may converse, whom we can trust, who sustains us in our trials, and fills our hearts with the joy of deliverance and victory. And, lastly, the highest revelation of God to which the Scriptures testify is a personal revelation. Christ reveals the Father in such a perfect way that He could say to Philip,"He who hath seen me hath seen the Father," (John 14:9).
Therefore, so one should doubt that the Christian God is a personal God, having a personality, but only in the sense as I have described herein. But what of God’s attributes? We must begin with a simple assertion:
God’s attributes are qualities that inhere in the being of God.
It is erroneous to state that all of God’s attributes flow from His righteousness. As inferred immediately above, every positive attribute of God inheres in all positive attributes of God. When discussing how God can be righteous, loving, omnipotent, etc., we must be careful to avoid separating the divine essence and the divine attributes. We must also guard against false conceptions of the relation in which these attributes stand with each other.
Unsettled theism would have us believe that unless God acts then God is not this or that, e.g., loving or just. Yet, when we consider the simplicity of God (that He is without constituent parts), we find that God and His attributes are a unified wholeness. God’s attributes are not so many parts that comprise the composition of God, as God is not composed of different parts (as are His creatures). Nor can God’s attributes be thought as something that is added to God’s being, for God is eternally perfect.
Then how do God’s attributes relate to God?
Firstly, God's attributes certainly are not related to God’s essence as differentiators or major genus, as every other entity is, since God is the sole member of His genus or class. “Besides me there is no other.” We think of a chair as being a piece of furniture (major genus) with seat, four legs, and a back (differentiators from other kinds of furniture). Yet, God cannot be described in this manner.
Secondly, the attributes of God cannot be considered symbolical representations, such as a crown is symbolic of a king. For in this case, the crown only represents the king, and the king is wholly other than a crown. On the other hand, the attributes of God are like Him. Indeed, they are more like Him because they are identical with His being.
God’s attributes do not hide what and who God is, but rather they reveal Him. God’s attributes are what God is, in some meaningful way. God’s attributes are identical with His essence. Indeed, God’s attributes are not hypostases, as in polytheism or medieval Jewish speculation. God’s attributes are not independent archetypes of beauty, love, and the like, as in Platonism. God’s attributes are not emanations out of God, as in Gnosticism.
When the Scriptures say God is righteous, it means that righteousness is an aspect of God’s being, God seen from a particular aspect/perspective—all of God in that aspect/perspective—and so on for every Scriptural statement about God. When the Scriptures say that God is righteous it means all of God—God in every respect—is righteous. As another example, when speaking of the powers of God we must understand that power is not about choices per se, power is about ability, capacity, authority, and right. It bears repeating: every positive attribute of God inheres in all positive attributes of God.
In summary, when discussing how God can be righteous, loving, omnipotent, etc., we must be careful to avoid separating the divine essence and the divine attributes. We must also guard against false conceptions of the relation in which these attributes stand with each other. This is the most egregious error of unsettled theism. God’s attributes are very real determinations of His Divine Being, that is, qualities that inhere in the being of God. God’s perfections are God Himself as He has revealed Himself to mankind. God’s attributes are not parts composing the Divine Essence. The whole essence is in each attribute, and the attribute in the essence. We should not conceive of the divine essence as existing by itself, and prior to the attributes. God is not essence and attributes, but in attributes. Indeed, knowledge of the attributes carries with it knowledge of the essence.
Last edited by Ask Mr. Religion; December 21st, 2007 at 12:07 AM.