Rhetorical questions for reflection....
- Are there some things that are right for God to do, but wrong for us to do?
- Hell is sometimes portrayed as “separation from God”, or the “absence of God”. If this is true, how can God be truly omnipresent?
- If you sin against God today, when will it stop bringing sorrow to God’s heart?
- Does God ever change His mind? (i.e., Gen 6:6) If so, how can He then be said to be unchanging?
- Does God ever forget anything? (i.e., Heb 8:12 and Jer 31-34). The Bible says that God will “remember our sins no more” (Isa 43:25). If so, how can God be truly omniscient (all-knowing)?
- The Bible clearly presents God as a “jealous” God (Ex 20:5). Yet, it also lists jealousy as an act of the sinful nature (Gal 5:19-20). Rather than wrong, or even just acceptable, why is it “right” that God is a jealous God?
- How can a God of infinite love condemn people to eternal punishment in Hell?
- The Bible presents God as all-knowing (He knows everything past, present and future). It also presents God as all-powerful and as infinitely “good”. Since God knows about such tragedies in advance as rape, murder, child abuse, etc. - and yet they still happen ..... what does this say about God? That He is not really all-knowing? That He is not really all-powerful. That He is not really “all-good”?
- If God knows everything in advance that we will do, how can our actions be “free”?
- If God is omnipotent (“all-powerful” with the power to do anything) - - - Can he will Himself out of existence? Can He sin? If not, then how can He be truly all-powerful?
At the same time, many (most?) tend to slip into the opposite error of generalizing their concept of God. As one theologian (Millard Erickson) puts it, “Our inquiry into the nature of God, then, should be neither a speculative pressing beyond what God has revealed nor a mystical leap toward a hazy, undefined something.” Ultimately, we can know God only as He has revealed Himself to us. While His revelation is consistent with God’s full nature and is accurate, it is not an exhaustive revelation. We do not, nor can we totally understand or know comprehensively that which God has revealed of Himself to us - there is and always will be an element of mystery regarding God.
Characteristics of the attributes of God:
- They are those qualities which make God what/whom He is. They are not the acts He performs (creating, guiding, preserving, revealing, redeeming, etc.)
- They are attributes or qualities of the entire Godhead (the Triune God). They are not the distinctive characteristics (properties) of each person in the Trinity.
- They are attributes are permanent qualities. They are intrinsic, neither gained nor lost, and are essential and inherent dimensions of His nature.
- They are objective qualities of God independent of perception. They have no relationship to one’s response or perception of Him.
- They are inseparable from God’s being or essence; they constitute His very being. (When we say, “God is love”, we are describing His very nature, not merely describing an aspect of His being.)
(1st) The separation of communicable and incommunicable attributes
- communicable - at least a partial counterpart is found in His human creations: i.e., love [infinite in God] is found partially in man; omnipotence (infinite) in God, while man has a degree of power
- incommunicable - unique qualities with no counterpart in man - i.e., omnipresent ...... man incapable of existing everywhere simultaneously; eternal ...... since man was created, can never be eternal by definition
- immanent - qualities remaining within God’s own nature (i.e., spiritually)
- emanant - qualities which go out from God and operate outside His nature, affecting the creation (i.e., mercy)
- absolute - qualities God has always possessed independently of His creation (i.e., infinity)
- relative - manifested through God’s relationship to other objects/subjects (i.e., benevolence)
- natural - nonmoral characteristics (i.e, knowledge, power)
- moral - those attributes which in the human context relate to concepts of right vs. wrong (i.e., holiness, mercy, love