Wundervölker, Monstrosität und Hässlichkeit im Mittelalter (German Edition)

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This means that Adam was the representative head of all men, just as Christ is now the representative head of all those who are His. The elements of the covenant of works. A covenant is always a compact between two parties. In this case they are the triune God, the sovereign Lord of the universe, and Adam as the representative of the human race. Since these parties are very unequal, the covenant naturally partakes of the nature of an arrangement imposed on man.

The promise of the covenant was the promise of life in the highest sense, life raised above the possibility of death. This is what believers now receive through Christ, the last Adam. The condition was that of absolute obedience. The positive command not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was clearly a test of pure obedience. The penalty was death in the most inclusive sense of the word, physical, spiritual, and eternal.

This consists not only in the separation of body and soul, but more fundamentally in the separation of the soul from God. In all probability the tree of life was the only sacrament of this covenant,—if it was indeed a sacrament. It seems to have been appointed as a symbol and seal of life. The present validity of the covenant of works. Arminians hold that this covenant was wholly set aside. But this is not correct. The demand of perfect obedience still stands for those who do not accept the righteousness of Christ.

Gal Though they cannot meet the requirement, the condition stands. It holds no more, however, for those who are in Christ, since He met the demands of the law for them. It ceased to be a way of life, for as such it is powerless after the fall. How would you explain the passages which seem to imply that man consists of three elements, 1 Thess.

The Origin of Sin. The Bible teaches us that sin entered the world as the result of the transgression of Adam and Eve in paradise. Scripture clearly indicates that the serpent, who appears as the tempter in the story of the fall, was but an instrument of Satan, John ; Rom.

This eating was sinful simply because God had forbidden it. It clearly showed that man was not willing to subject his will unconditionally to the will of God, and comprised several elements. In the intellect it revealed itself as unbelief and pride, in the will as the desire to be like God, and in the affections an unholy satisfaction in eating of the forbidden fruit.

As a result of it man lost the image of God in the restricted sense, became guilty and utterly corrupt, and fell under the sway of death, Gen. The Essential Nature of Sin. It denotes a definite kind of evil, namely, a moral evil for which man is responsible and which brings him under a sentence of condemnation. It is lack of conformity to the law of God, and as such the opposite of that love which is required by the divine law. The Bible always contemplates it in relation to the law, Rom.

It is first of all guilt, making men liable to punishment, Rom. All men are guilty in Adam, and are therefore born with a corrupt nature. Job ; Jer. Sin has its seat in the heart of man, and from this center influences the intellect, the will, and the affections, in fact the whole man, and finds expression through the body. In distinction from the Roman Catholics we maintain that it does not consist in outward acts only, but includes evil thoughts, affections, and intents of the heart. This has been explained in three different ways.

Adam possessed the whole of this general human nature; and through his sin it became guilty and polluted. Naturally, every individual part of it shares this guilt and pollution. According to this view Adam stood in a twofold relation to his descendants: he was their natural head, and he was their representative as the head of the covenant.

When he sinned as their representative, this sin was also imputed to them, and as a result they are all born in a corrupt state. This is our Reformed view. His corruption is passed on to his descendants, and this makes them personally guilty. They are not corrupt because they are guilty in Adam, but guilty because they are corrupt. Original and Actual Sin. We distinguish between original and actual sin. All men are born in a sinful state and condition, which is called original sin, and is the root of all the actual sins that are committed.

This includes both guilt and pollution. Because he sinned as our representative, we are guilty in him. Moreover, we also inherit his pollution, and now have a positive disposition toward sin. Man is by nature totally depraved. This does not mean that every man is as bad as he can be, but that sin has corrupted every part of his nature and rendered him unable to do any spiritual good. He may still do many praiseworthy things in relation to his fellow-beings, but even his best works are radically defective, because they are not prompted by love to God nor done in obedience to God.

This total depravity and inability is denied by Pelagians, Arminians, and Modernists, but is clearly taught in Scripture, Jer. They are the sins which the individual performs in distinction from his inherited nature and inclination. While original sin is one, actual sins are manifold. They may be sins of the inner life, such as pride, envy, hatred, sensual lusts, and evil desires; or sins of the outer life, such as deceit, theft, murder, adultery, and so on. Among these there is one unpardonable sin, namely, the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, after which a change of heart is impossible, and for which it is not necessary to pray, Matt.

The Universality of Sin. Scripture and experience both teach us that sin is universal. Even the Pelagians do not deny this, though they ascribe it to external conditions, such as a bad environment, evil examples, and a wrong kind of education. There are passages in which the Bible directly asserts the universality of sin, such as 1 Kings ; Ps. Moreover, it teaches that man is sinful from birth, so that this cannot be considered as the result of imitation, Job ; Ps.

Even infants are considered sinful, for they are subject to death, which is the penalty for sin, Rom. All men are by nature under condemnation, and therefore need the redemption which is in Christ Jesus. Children are never made an exception to this rule. John , 5; Eph. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.

Can you give some other scriptural names for sin? Job ; ; Ps. If so, what? For the sake of clearness we distinguish between the covenant of redemption and the covenant of grace. The two are so closely related that they can be and sometimes are, considered as one. The former is the eternal foundation of the latter. The Covenant of Redemption. It is a covenant between the Father, representing the Trinity, and the Son as the representative of the elect.

The scriptural basis for it. Christ speaks of promises made to Him be-for He came into the world, and repeatedly refers to a commission which He received from the Father, John , 43; —40; — He is evidently a covenant head, Rom. In Ps. The Son in the covenant of redemption. Christ is not only the Head but also the Surety of the covenant of redemption, Heb. A surety is one who takes upon himself the legal obligations of another. Christ took the place of the sinner, to bear the penalty of sin and to meet the demands of the law for His people. By so doing He became the last Adam, a life-giving spirit, 1 Cor.

For Christ this covenant was a covenant of works, in which He met the requirements of the original covenant, but for us it is the eternal foundation of the covenant of grace. Its benefits are limited to the elect. They only obtain the redemption and inherit the glory which Christ merited for sinners. Requirements and promises in the covenant of redemption.

The Covenant of Grace. On the basis of the covenant of redemption God established the covenant of grace. Several particulars call for consideration here. But this knowledge cannot be obtained by a priori methods, but only in an a posteriori manner through the attributes, which he regards as real determinations of the nature of God. They convey to us at least some knowledge of what God is, but especially of what He is in relation to us.

In dealing with our knowledge of the Being of God we must certainly avoid the position of Cousin, rather rare in the history of philosophy, that God even in the depths of His Being is not at all incomprehensible but essentially intelligible; but we must also steer clear of the agnosticism of Hamilton and Mansel, according to which we can have no knowledge whatsoever of the Being of God. We cannot comprehend God, cannot have an absolute and exhaustive knowledge of Him, but we can undoubtedly have a relative or partial knowledge of the Divine Being.

It is perfectly true that this knowledge of God is possible only, because He has placed Himself in certain relations to His moral creatures and has revealed Himself to them, and that even this knowledge is humanly conditioned; but it is nevertheless real and true knowledge, and is at least a partial knowledge of the absolute nature of God. There is a difference between an absolute knowledge, and a relative or partial knowledge of an absolute being. It will not do at all to say that man knows only the relations in which God stands to His creatures.

It would not even be possible to have a proper conception of these relations without knowing something of both God and man. To say that we can know nothing of the Being of God, but can know only relations, is equivalent to saying that we cannot know Him at all and cannot make Him the object of our religion. But we can at least know Him in so far as He reveals Himself in His relation to us. The question, therefore, is not as to the possibility of a knowledge of God in the unfathomableness of His being, but is: Can we know God as He enters into relations with the world and with ourselves?

God has entered into relations with us in His revelations of Himself, and supremely in Jesus Christ; and we Christians humbly claim that through this Self-revelation we do know God to be the true God, and have real acquaintance with His character and will. Neither is it correct to say that this knowledge which we have of God is only a relative knowledge. It is in part a knowledge of the absolute nature of God as well. From the simplicity of God it follows that God and His attributes are one.

The attributes cannot be considered as so many parts that enter into the composition of God, for God is not, like men, composed of different parts. Neither can they be regarded as something added to the Being of God, though the name, derived from ad and tribuere , might seem to point in that direction, for no addition was ever made to the Being of God, who is eternally perfect. The Scholastics stressed the fact that God is all that He has. He has life, light, wisdom, love, righteousness, and it may be said on the basis of Scripture that He is life, light, wisdom, love, and righteousness.

Some of them even went so far as to say that each attribute is identical with every other attribute, and that there are no logical distinctions in God. This is a very dangerous extreme. While it may be said that there is an interpenetration of the attributes in God, and that they form a harmonious whole, we are moving in the direction of Pantheism, when we rule out all distinctions in God, and say that His self-existence is His infinity, His knowing is His willing, His love is His righteousness, and vice versa.

It was characteristic of the Nominalists that they obliterated all real distinctions in God. They were afraid that by assuming real distinctions in Him, corresponding to the attributes ascribed to God, they would endanger the unity and simplicity of God, and were therefore motivated by a laudable purpose. According to them the perfections of the Divine Being exist only in our thoughts, without any corresponding reality in the Divine Being.

The Realists, on the other hand, asserted the reality of the divine perfections. They realized that the theory of the Nominalists, consistently carried out, would lead in the direction of a pantheistic denial of a personal God, and therefore considered it of the utmost importance to maintain the objective reality of the attributes in God. At the same time they sought to safeguard the unity and simplicity of God by maintaining that the whole essence is in each attribute: God is All in all, All in each. Thomas Aquinas had the same purpose in mind, when he asserted that the attributes do not reveal what God is in Himself, in the depths of His Being, but only what He is in relation to His creatures.

Naturally, we should guard against separating the divine essence and the divine attributes or perfections, and also against a false conception of the relation in which they stand to each other. The attributes are real determinations of the Divine Being or, in other words, qualities that inhere in the Being of God. It would be a mistake to conceive of the essence of God as existing by itself and prior to the attributes, and of the attributes as additive and accidental characteristics of the Divine Being.

They are essential qualities of God, which inhere in His very Being and are co-existent with it. These qualities cannot be altered without altering the essential Being of God. And since they are essential qualities, each one of them reveals to us some aspect of the Being of God. How do the philosophical views of the essential Being of God generally differ from the theological views? How about the tendency to find the essence of God in the absolute, in love, or in personality? Why is it impossible for man to comprehend God? Does Calvin differ from them on this point?

Did Luther share the Nominalist views of Occam, by whom he was influenced in other respects? How did the Reformers, in distinction from the Scholastics, consider the problem of the existence of God? Could we have any knowledge of God, if He were pure attributeless being? What erroneous views of the attributes should be avoided? What is the proper view? View of God and the World , pp. This usage is due to the fact that in oriental thought a name was never regarded as a mere vocable, but as an expression of the nature of the thing designated.

To know the name of a person was to have power over him, and the names of the various gods were used in incantations to exercise power over them. In the most general sense of the word, then, the name of God is His self-revelation. It is a designation of Him, not as He exists in the depths of His divine Being, but as He reveals Himself especially in His relations to man.

For us the one general name of God is split up into many names, expressive of the many-sided Being of God. It is only because God has revealed Himself in His name nomen editum , that we can now designate Him by that name in various forms nomina indita. The names of God are not of human invention, but of divine origin, though they are all borrowed from human language, and derived from human and earthly relations.

They are anthropomorphic and mark a condescending approach of God to man. The names of God constitute a difficulty for human thought. God is the Incomprehensible One , infinitely exalted above all that is temporal; but in His names He descends to all that is finite and becomes like unto man. On the one hand we cannot name Him, and on the other hand He has many names.

How can this be explained? On what grounds are these names applied to the infinite and incomprehensible God?

They are given by God Himself with the assurance that they contain in a measure a revelation of the Divine Being. This was made possible by the fact that the world and all its relations is and was meant to be a revelation of God. Because the Incomprehensible One revealed Himself in His creatures, it is possible for man to name Him after the fashion of a creature.

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In order to make Himself known to man, God had to condescend to the level of man, to accommodate Himself to the limited and finite human consciousness, and to speak in human language. If the naming of God with anthropomorphic names involves a limitation of God, as some say, then this must be true to an even greater degree of the revelation of God in creation. Then the world does not reveal, but rather conceals, God; then man is not related to God, but simply forms an antithesis to Him; and then we are shut up to a hopeless agnosticism.

From what was said about the name of God in general it follows that we can include under the names of God not only the appellatives by which He is indicated as an independent personal Being and by which He is addressed, but also the attributes of God; and then not merely the attributes of the Divine Being in general, but also those that qualify the separate Persons of the Trinity.

Bavinck bases his division of the names of God on that broad conception of them, and distinguishes between nomina propria proper names , nomina essentialia essential names, or attributes , and nomina personalia personal names, as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In the present chapter we limit ourselves to the discussion of the first class. The name seldom occurs in the singular, except in poetry. The plural is to be regarded as intensive, and therefore serves to indicate a fulness of power.

It is found especially in poetry. These names are not yet nomina propria in the strict sense of the word, for they are also used of idols, Ps. This name is related in meaning to the preceding ones. In earlier times it was the usual name by which the people of Israel addressed God. Later on it was largely supplanted by the name Jehovah Yahweh. All the names so far mentioned describe God as the high and exalted One, the transcendent God. The following names point to the fact that this exalted Being condescended to enter into relations with His creatures.

The name Shaddai is derived from shadad, to be powerful, and points to God as possessing all power in heaven and on earth. Others, however, derive it from shad , lord. While it stresses the greatness of God, it does not represent Him as an object of fear and terror, but as a source of blessing and comfort. It is the name with which God appeared unto Abraham, the father of the faithful, Ex. It is especially in the name Yahweh , which gradually supplanted earlier names, that God reveals Himself as the God of grace.

It has always been regarded as the most sacred and the most distinctive name of God, the incommunicable name. The Jews had a superstitious dread of using it, since they read Lev. The real derivation of the name and its original pronunciation and meaning are more or less lost in obscurity. The Pentateuch connects the name with the Hebrew verb hayah , to be, Ex.

On the strength of that passage we may assume that the name is in all probability derived from an archaic form of that verb, namely, hawah. As far as the form is concerned, it may be regarded as a third person imperfect qal or hiphil. Most likely, however, it is the former. The meaning is explained in Ex.

Yet it is not so much the unchangeableness of His essential Being that is in view, as the unchangeableness of His relation to His people. It stresses the covenant faithfulness of God, is His proper name par excellence , Ex. The exclusive character of the name appears from the fact that it never occurs in the plural or with a suffix. Abbreviated forms of it, found especially in composite names, are Yah and Yahu. The name Yahweh is often strengthened by the addition of tsebhaoth.

Origen and Jerome regard this as an apposition, because Yahweh does not admit of a construct state. But this interpretation is not sufficiently warranted and hardly yields an intelligible sense. It is rather hard to determine to what the word tsebhaoth refers. There are especially three opinions:. The armies of Israel. But the correctness of this view may well be doubted. Most of the passages quoted to support this idea do not prove the point; only three of them contain a semblance of proof, namely, I Sam. While the plural tsebhaoth is used for the hosts of the people of Israel, the army is regularly indicated by the singular.

This militates against the notion, inherent in this view, that in the name under consideration the term refers to the army of Israel. And if the meaning of the name changed, what caused the change? The stars. But in speaking of the host of heaven Scripture always uses the singular, and never the plural. Moreover, while the stars are called the host of heaven, they are never designated the host of God. The angels. This interpretation deserves preference.

The name Yahweh tsebhaoth is often found in connections in which angels are mentioned: I Sam. The angels are repeatedly represented as a host that surrounds the throne of God, Gen. It is true that in this case also the singular is generally used, but this is no serious objection, since the Bible also indicates that there were several divisions of angels, Gen.

Moreover, this interpretation is in harmony with the meaning of the name, which has no martial flavor, but is expressive of the glory of God as King, Deut. Jehovah of hosts, then, is God as the King of glory, who is surrounded by angelic hosts, who rules heaven and earth in the interest of His people, and who receives glory from all His creatures. More generally, however, Theos is found with a genitive of possession, such as mou , sou , hemon , humon , because in Christ God may be regarded as the God of all and of each one of His children.

The national idea of the Old Testament has made place for the individual in religion. This name does not have exactly the same connotation as Yahweh , but designates God as the Mighty One, the Lord, the Possessor, the Ruler who has legal power and authority. It is used not only of God, but also of Christ.

But this is hardly correct. The name Father is used of the Godhead even in heathen religions. In such cases the name is expressive of the special theocratic relation in which God stands to Israel. In the general sense of originator or creator it is used in the following New Testament passages: I Cor. In all other places it serves to express either the special relation in which the first Person of the Trinity stands to Christ, as the Son of God either in a metaphysical or a mediatorial sense, or the ethical relation in which God stands to all believers as His spiritual children.

Naturally, in so far as some of the attributes are communicable, the absolute character of the proprium is weakened, for to that extent some of the attributes are not proper to God in the absolute sense of the word. But even this term contains the suggestion of a distinction between the essence or nature of God and that which is proper to it. By so doing we a follow the usage of the Bible, which uses the term arete , rendered virtues or excellencies , in I Pet.

His virtues are not added to His Being, but His Being is the pleroma of His virtues and reveals itself in them. They may be defined as the perfections which are predicated of the Divine Being in Scripture , or are visibly exercised by Him in His works of creation , providence , and redemption. The Scholastics in their attempt to construct a system of natural theology posited three ways in which to determine the attributes of God, which they designated as the via causalitatis , via negationis , and via eminentiae. By the way of causality we rise from the effects which we see in the world round about us to the idea of a first Cause, from the contemplation of creation, to the idea of an almighty Creator, and from the observation of the moral government of the world, to the idea of a powerful and wise Ruler.

By way of negation we remove from our idea of God all the imperfections seen in His creatures, as inconsistent with the idea of a Perfect Being, and ascribe to Him the opposite perfection. In reliance on that principle we speak of God as independent, infinite, incorporeal, immense, immortal, and incomprehensible. And finally, by way of eminence we ascribe to God in the most eminent manner the relative perfections which we discover in man, according to the principle that what exists in an effect, pre-exists in its cause, and even in the most absolute sense in God as the most perfect Being.

This method may appeal to some, because it proceeds from the known to the unknown, but is not the proper method of dogmatic theology. It takes its startingpoint in man, and concludes from what it finds in man to what is found in God. And in so far as it does this it makes man the measure of God. This is certainly not a theological method of procedure. Moreover, it bases its knowledge of God on human conclusions rather than on the self-revelation of God in His divine Word.

And yet this is the only adequate source of the knowledge of God. While that method might be followed in a so-called natural theology, it does not fit in a theology of revelation. The same may be said of the methods suggested by modern representatives of experimental theology. We may begin with our intuitions of the reality of God, those unreasoned certitudes which are firmly rooted in immediate experience.

One of these is that the Object of our religious dependence is absolutely sufficient for our imperative needs. The practically necessary postulate is that God is absolutely sufficient and absolutely dependable with reference to the religious needs of man. On that basis man can build up his doctrine of the attributes of God.

And, finally, it is also possible to follow a more pragmatic method, which rests on the principle that we can learn to a certain extent what things and persons are, beyond what they are immediately perceived to be, by observing what they do. Macintosh finds it necessary to make use of all three methods.

Ritschl wants us to start with the idea that God is love, and would have us ask what is involved in this most characteristic thought of God. Since love is personal, it implies the personality of God, and thus affords us a principle for the interpretation of the world and of the life of man. The thought that God is love also carries with it the conviction that He can achieve His purpose of love, that is, that His will is supremely effective in the world. This yields the idea of an almighty Creator. In a somewhat similar vein Dr. All these methods take their startingpoint in human experience rather than in the Word of God.

They deliberately ignore the clear self-revelation of God in Scripture and exalt the idea of the human discovery of God. Their very method compels them to drag God down to the level of man, to stress His immanence at the expense of His transcendence, and to make Him continuous with the world. And as the final result of their philosophy we have a God made in the image of man. All that the facts require is that the power should be other and larger than our conscious selves. Anything larger will do, if it only be large enough to trust for the next step.

It need not be infinite, it need not be solitary. It might conceivably even be only a larger and more godlike self, of which the present self would then be the mutilated expression, and the universe might conceivably be a collection of such selves, of different degree and inclusiveness, with no absolute unity realized in it at all. Baillie, Our Knowledge of God , p. It is true that we can acquire some knowledge of the greatness and power, the wisdom and goodness of God through the study of nature, but for an adequate conception of even these attributes it will be necessary to turn to the Word of God.

In the theology of revelation we seek to learn from the Word of God which are the attributes of the Divine Being. Man does not elicit knowledge from God as he does from other objects of study, but God conveys knowledge of Himself to man, a knowledge which man can only accept and appropriate.

For the appropriation and understanding of this revealed knowledge it is, of course, of the greatest importance that man is created in the image of God, and therefore finds helpful analogies in his own life.

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In distinction from the a priori method of the Scholastics, who deduced the attributes from the idea of a perfect Being, this method may be called a posteriori , since it takes its startingpoint, not in an abstract perfect Being, but in the fulness of the divine self-revelation, and in the light of this seeks to know the Divine Being. Suggested Divisions of the Attributes. The question of the classification of the divine attributes has engaged the attention of theologians for a long time. Several classifications have been suggested, most of which distinguish two general classes. These classes are designated by different names and represent different points of view, but are substantially the same in the various classifications.

The following are the most important of these:. Some speak of natural and moral attributes. The former, such as self-existence, simplicity, infinity, etc. The latter, as truth, goodness, mercy, justice, holiness, etc.

Doctrine of Man Part 15: Original Sin

The objection to this classification is that the so-called moral attributes are just as truly natural i. Dabney prefers this division, but admits, in view of the objection raised, that the terms are not felicitous. He would rather speak of moral and non-moral attributes. Others distinguish between absolute and relative attributes.

The former belong to the essence of God as considered in itself, while the latter belong to the divine essence considered in relation to His creation. The one class includes such attributes as self-existence, immensity, eternity; and the other, such attributes as omnipresence and omniscience. This division seems to proceed on the assumption that we can have some knowledge of God as He is in Himself, entirely apart from the relations in which He stands to His creatures. But this is not so, and therefore, properly speaking, all the perfections of God are relative, indicating what He is in relation to the world.

Strong evidently does not recognize the objection, and gives preference to this division.


Still others divide the divine perfections into immanent or intransitive and emanent or transitive attributes. Strong combines this division with the preceding one, when he speaks of absolute or immanent and relative or transitive attributes. The former are those which do not go forth and operate outside of the divine essence, but remain immanent, such as immensity, simplicity, eternity, etc. But if some of the divine attributes are purely immanent, all knowledge of them would seem to be excluded.

Smith remarks that every one of them must be both immanent and transeunt. The most common distinction is that between incommunicable and communicable attributes. The former are those to which there is nothing analogous in the creature, as aseity, simplicity, immensity, etc. This distinction found no favor with the Lutherans, but has always been rather popular in Reformed circles, and is found in such representative works as those of the Leyden Professors,[ Synopsis Purioris Theologiae.

It was felt from the very beginning, however, that the distinction was untenable without further qualification, since from one point of view every attribute may be called communicable. None of the divine perfections are communicable in the infinite perfection in which they exist in God, and at the same time there are faint traces in man even of the so-called incommunicable attributes of God.

Among more recent Reformed theologians there is a tendency to discard this distinction in favor of some other divisions. Dick, Shedd, and Vos retain the old division. Kuyper expresses himself as dissatisfied with it, and yet reproduces it in his virtutes per antithesin and virtutes per synthesin ; and Bavinck, after following another order in the first edition of his Dogmatics, returns to it in the second edition. Honig prefers to follow the division given by Bavinck in his first edition. And, finally, the Hodges, H. Smith, and Thornwell follow a division suggested by the Westminster Catechism.

However, the classification of the attributes under two main heads, as found in the distinction under consideration, is really inherent in all the other divisions, so that they are all subject to the objection that they apparently divide the Being of God into two parts, that first God as He is in Himself, God as the absolute Being, is discussed, and then God as He is related to His creatures, God as a personal Being.

It may be said that such a treatment does not result in a unitary and harmonious conception of the divine attributes. This difficulty may be obviated, however, by having it clearly understood that the two classes of attributes named are not strictly co-ordinate, but that the attributes belonging to the first class qualify all those belonging to the second class, so that it can be said that God is one, absolute, unchangeable and infinite in His knowledge and wisdom, His goodness and love, His grace and mercy, His righteousness and holiness.

If we bear this in mind, and also remember that none of the attributes of God are incommunicable in the sense that there is no trace of them in man, and that none of them are communicable in the sense that they are found in man as they are found in God, we see no reason why we should depart from the old division which has become so familiar in Reformed theology. For practical reasons it seems more desirable to retain it.

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What objection is there to the conception of the attributes as parts of God or as additions to the Divine Being? What faulty conceptions of the attributes were current in the Middle Ages? Did the Scholastics in their search for the attributes follow an a priori or an a posteriori , a deductive or an inductive method?

Why is their method inherently foreign to the theology of revelation? What classifications of the attributes were suggested in addition to those mentioned in the text? Why is it virtually out of the question to give a faultless division? What division is suggested by the Westminster Catechism? It has been quite common in theology to speak of God as the absolute Being. But that is not necessarily so. In fact the usual conception of the Absolute renders it impossible to equate it with the God of the Bible and of Christian theology.

This fundamental thought was worked out in various ways, so that the Absolute was regarded as that which is free from all conditions the Unconditioned or Self-Existent , from all relations the Unrelated , from all imperfections the Perfect , or free from all phenomenal differences or distinctions, such as matter and spirit, being and attributes, subject and object, appearance and reality the Real, or Ultimate Reality.

The answer to the question, whether the Absolute of philosophy can be identified with the God of theology, depends on the conception one has of the Absolute.

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If Spinoza conceives of the Absolute as the one Self-subsistent Being of which all particular things are but transient modes, thus identifying God and the world, we cannot share his view of this Absolute as God. When Hegel views the Absolute as the unity of thought and being, as the totality of all things, which includes all relations, and in which all the discords of the present are resolved in perfect unity, we again find it impossible to follow him in regarding this Absolute as God.

And when Bradley says that his Absolute is related to nothing, and that there cannot be any practical relation between it and the finite will, we agree with him that his Absolute cannot be the God of the Christian religion, for this God does enter into relations with finite creatures. Bradley cannot conceive of the God of religion as other than a finite God. But when the Absolute is defined as the First Cause of all existing things, or as the ultimate ground of all reality, or as the one self-existent Being, it can be considered as identical with the God of theology.

He is the Infinite One, who does not exist in any necessary relations, because He is self-sufficient, but at the same time can freely enter into various relations with His creation as a whole and with His creatures. While the incommunicable attributes emphasize the absolute Being of God, the communicable attributes stress the fact that He enters into various relations with His creatures. In the present chapter the following perfections of God come into consideration. God is self-existent, that is, He has the ground of His existence in Himself.

This idea is sometimes expressed by saying that He is causa sui His own cause , but this expression is hardly accurate, since God is the uncaused, who exists by the necessity of His own Being, and therefore necessarily. Man, on the other hand, does not exist necessarily, and has the cause of his existence outside of himself. It may be said that there is a faint trace of this perfection in the creature, but this can only mean that the creature, though absolutely dependent, yet has its own distinct existence.

But, of course, this falls far short of being self-existent. This attribute of God is generally recognized, and is implied in heathen religions and in the Absolute of philosophy. When the Absolute is conceived of as the self-existent and as the ultimate ground of all things, which voluntarily enters into various relations with other beings, it can be identified with the God of theology.

As the self-existent God, He is not only independent in Himself, but also causes everything to depend on Him. This self-existence of God finds expression in the name Jehovah. It is only as the self-existent and independent One that God can give the assurance that He will remain eternally the same in relation to His people. The Immutability of God is a necessary concomitant of His aseity. It is that perfection of God by which He is devoid of all change, not only in His Being, but also in His perfections, and in His purposes and promises.

In virtue of this attribute He is exalted above all becoming, and is free from all accession or diminution and from all growth or decay in His Being or perfections. His knowledge and plans, His moral principles and volitions remain forever the same. Even reason teaches us that no change is possible in God, since a change is either for better or for worse. But in God, as the absolute Perfection, improvement and deterioration are both equally impossible. This immutability of God is clearly taught in such passages of Scripture as Ex. At the same time there are many passages of Scripture which seem to ascribe change to God.

Did not He who dwelleth in eternity pass on to the creation of the world, become incarnate in Christ, and in the Holy Spirit take up His abode in the Church? Is He not represented as revealing and hiding Himself, as coming and going, as repenting and changing His intention, and as dealing differently with man before and after conversion? The objection here implied is based to a certain extent on misunderstanding. The divine immutability should not be understood as implying immobility , as if there were no movement in God. It is even customary in theology to speak of God as actus purus , a God who is always in action.

The Bible teaches us that God enters into manifold relations with man and, as it were, lives their life with them. There is change round about Him, change in the relations of men to Him, but there is no change in His Being, His attributes, His purpose, His motives of action, or His promises. The purpose to create was eternal with Him, and there was no change in Him when this purpose was realized by a single eternal act of His will. The incarnation brought no change in the Being or perfections of God, nor in His purpose, for it was His eternal good pleasure to send the Son of His love into the world.

And if Scripture speaks of His repenting, changing His intention, and altering His relation to sinners when they repent, we should remember that this is only an anthropopathic way of speaking. It is important to maintain the immutability of God over against the Pelagian and Arminian doctrine that God is subject to change, not indeed in His Being, but in His knowledge and will, so that His decisions are to a great extent dependent on the actions of man; over against the pantheistic notion that God is an eternal becoming rather than an absolute Being, and that the unconscious Absolute is gradually developing into conscious personality in man; and over against the present tendency of some to speak of a finite, struggling, and gradually growing God.

The infinity of God is that perfection of God by which He is free from all limitations. In ascribing it to God we deny that there are or can be any limitations to the divine Being or attributes. It implies that He is in no way limited by the universe, by this time-space world, or confined to the universe.

It does not involve His identity with the sum-total of existing things, nor does it exclude the co-existence of derived and finite things, to which He bears relation. The infinity of God must be conceived as intensive rather than extensive, and should not be confused with boundless extension, as if God were spread out through the entire universe, one part being here and another there, for God has no body and therefore no extension.

Neither should it be regarded as a merely negative concept, though it is perfectly true that we cannot form a positive idea of it. It is a reality in God fully comprehended only by Him. This is the infinity of the Divine Being considered in itself. It should not be understood in a quantitative, but in a qualitative sense; it qualifies all the communicable attributes of God. Infinite power is not an absolute quantum, but an exhaustless potency of power; and infinite holiness is not a boundless quantum of holiness, but a holiness which is, qualitatively free from all limitation or defect.

The same may be said of infinite knowledge and wisdom, and of infinite love and righteousness. Says Dr. Upon further reflection, however, it is evident that these doctrines are equally important. A proper understanding of sin is necessary for a proper understanding of salvation. All of these doctrines are intertwined. Hoekema taught systematic theology at Calvin Theological Seminary from until his retirement in This book is a good Reformed overview of the biblical teaching on the nature of man and sin.

Berkouwer deals in depth with the doctrine of the image of God and the corruption brought into the world by sin. This book is not for the faint of heart. It is technical and deep. This popular level book by the founder of Westminster Seminary includes a number of addresses on issues such as predestination, man, and sin. Machen is not as well known among contemporary readers as he should be. Thomas Boston was a minister in the Church in Scotland. John W. John Piper and Wayne Grudem, eds.