Doctrinal Statements - Attributes of God
The Attributes of God
· Theology Proper: the study of God the Father. Of which the study of his attributes and his works are sub-disciplines.
· Attribute: “a quality or feature regarded as characteristic or inherent” (Concise Oxford English Dictionary); in regards to Theology, attribute refers to characteristics that are of his nature.
· God’s Greatness: concerning attributes of God that are considered nonmoral superlatives.
· God’s Goodness: concerning attributes of God that are considered moral
“If we are to know God at all, it is necessary that he reveal himself to us. . . The necessity for God to reveal himself to us also is seen in the fact that sinful people misinterpret the revelation about God found in nature. Those who ‘by their wickedness suppress the truth’ are those who ‘became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened . . . they exchanged the truth about God for a lie’ (Rom. 1:18, 21, 25,). Therefore, we need Scripture if we are to interpret natural revelation rightly . . . the Bible alone tells us how to understand the testimony about God from nature. Therefore, we depend on God’s active communication to us in Scripture for our true knowledge of God.” (Grudem, 149)
“Because God is infinite and we are finite or limited, we can never fully understand God. In this sense God is said to be incomprehensible, where the term incomprehensible is used with an older and less common sense, ‘unable to be fullyunderstood . . . [yet] we can know true things about God. (Grudem, 149-151)
“The attributes of God may be defined as ‘those distinguishing characteristics of the divine nature which are inseparable from the idea of God and which constitute the basis and ground for his various manifestations to his creatures.” (Enns, 193)
· I believe that God as revealed in the Old and New Testaments is a god that is knowable and yet unknowable. In other words, we can know only what God has revealed to us about himself and in that sense, he is knowable; and yet, God is not able to be known completely (Ps. 139:6, 17-18, 145:3; Job; Isa. 55:8-9; Rom. 11:33-34; 1 Cor. 2:10-11). I believe that everything that is necessary to know about God is readily available in Scripture and that while some attributes of God can be experienced through general revelation; special revelation in Scripture always supersedes general revelation (cf. Gal. 1:6-9).
· Because God is unknowable, we can never expect to understand every aspect of God even after much laborious study. I believe that someone who assumes that they know everything about God, reveals their foolishness and reveals their deceived minds (cf. Rom. 1:21-23). However, because God is knowable through what he has revealed in his word, anyone serious about knowing God can know him and should seek to organize that knowledge in a manner consistent with Scripture. While many attempts have been made to classify God’s attributes, in this statement of belief, I will utilize Millard Erickson’s systematic approach in defining God’s attributes.
· I believe in God’s attributes of greatness:
Spirituality: God is spirit (John 4:24) and not composed of physical, earthly material. Because he is spirit, he is not limited by the physical world. In an attempt to explain God’s actions and personality, the Bible does make use of anthropomorphic statements (Lev. 20:6; Num. 6:25; Ex. 7:5; Ps. 89:10, 34:15), but these should be understood as figurative statements meant to aid in understanding.
Personality: God is a personal God unlike the higher beings of some other religions in which their god is described as an impersonal being (cf. animism or Sikhism). Yahweh, is an individual being who has a will and chooses to have a relationship with his creation.
Life: God is frequently characterized as the living God throughout the Bible in contrast with other gods. His use of the self-given name I Am implies a living existence.
Infinity: in terms of being, God is infinite. This means that God has no bounds and is himself without limits.
Constancy: Scripture describes God as unchanging (e.g., Heb. 13:8). This unchanging attribute includes his being, his character, and his desires. In passages in which it appears that God changes (i.e., God repents or God changes his mind) it should be assumed as anthropomorphisms, new stages of God’s plan, or a change in human relationship towards God.
· I believe in God’s attributes of goodness:
Moral Purity—holiness, righteousness, and justice: God’s holiness is two-fold. He is completely unique and separate from creation. He is also completely separated from sinful desire (James 1:13), which further shows his uniqueness from creation. In relationship to other beings, God is always righteous and his actions accord with the law that he himself has placed. Finally, concerning moral purity, God is just. In accordance with his holy nature and due to his righteousness, God must act justly in regards to sin—to judge sin and to judge unrepentant sinners.
Integrity—genuineness, veracity, and faithfulness: The three attributes of God that relate to integrity involve the concept of being truthful or genuine. This means that God is a real God that is not constructed by the hands of man. God is veracious in that all that God says is as they really are. Veracity means that God can always be trusted because he is always truthful. His faithfulness simply means that God keeps his word and that which he promises will come to happen.
Love—benevolence, grace, mercy, and persistence: In God’s love for mankind, he shows a benevolent nature—he cares for the welfare of those that he loves. He seeks for the best of those that are his. The love and benevolence that God portrays is seen in his grace and his mercy or said differently, his grace and mercy reveal the love and benevolence he has for his people. And his love is shown in the persistent nature in which he pursues his people.
Key Passages for Consideration
· Psalm 145: “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable.”
· Romans 11:33-34: “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counsellor?”
Bibliography: Enns, 189-228; Erickson, 233-290; Grudem, 149-225; NDBT, NBD