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God's attributes

God's attributes

Postby Bluegoat » 18 Jan 2009, 23:25

So, this is a spin-off from the thread "the nature of morality," about the nature of God's attributes. Are they identical to his being? Did he create his own attributes? Or some other explanation?

Here is where we started:
Now that is the (or rather a) scholastic position where all God's attributes are ontologically identical with each other and with his being though thought can differentiate between them. I have come to reject that in favour of the view which sees God's attributes as his activity and thus distinct from his being. It would be interesting to me to pursue a discussion of that and see how my view which is largely derived from the reformed philosophy of Roy Clouser checks out against the view you propose.


Here is the link to the article by Roy Clouser:
Clouser's shorter works can be found here: http://www.allofliferedeemed.co.uk/clouser.htm The essay that best explains Clouser's view is 'Is God Eternal'. The key section begins on page 8.
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Re: God's attributes

Postby mitchellmckain » 19 Jan 2009, 04:55

Bluegoat wrote:So, this is a spin-off from the thread "the nature of morality," about the nature of God's attributes. Are they identical to his being? Did he create his own attributes? Or some other explanation?


These questions don't make a great deal of sense to me. "Attributes" of God have more to do with our attempts to understand God than any kind of essential nature of God Himself, and so no I would not presume to say that any such attempt to understand is "identical to His being".

As for "creating His own attributes", besides the same objection as above, the only way I can even think of understanding such a thing would be more in terms of actions on the part of God. For example, in creating the universe and giving it a certain nature, He also creates a relationship between Himself and what He created. I suppose from a certain point of view this creation of a relationship between Himself and His creation can be described in that peculiar way (creating His own attributes), but it seems very misleading to me. I think that any authentic creation by God of something outside Himself, which God can and does do, is an act of self limitation, and as such should not be seen as His essential nature, for His real nature is the lack of limitation, which must include this ability to limit Himself as He chooses.
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Re: God's attributes

Postby Bluegoat » 19 Jan 2009, 13:21

mitchellmckain wrote:
Bluegoat wrote:So, this is a spin-off from the thread "the nature of morality," about the nature of God's attributes. Are they identical to his being? Did he create his own attributes? Or some other explanation?


These questions don't make a great deal of sense to me. "Attributes" of God have more to do with our attempts to understand God than any kind of essential nature of God Himself, and so no I would not presume to say that any such attempt to understand is "identical to His being".


Clouser is talking about the approach taken by St Thomas, Anselm, Boethius, etc. which I haven't outlined fully here. I guess I will have to do so but it will have to wait until this evening. All I would say is that it is not saying anything about "our attempts to understand" being identical to his being. How could it? Thomas may have been fat, but he wasn't stupid. The question of attributes is largely seperate from what those attributes might be. So if it is simpler, we could say, "Is Go's being identical to any attribute, say x, that he possesses. There are a number of ways to answer such as question, one of which is to say God has no attributes.

As for "creating His own attributes", besides the same objection as above, the only way I can even think of understanding such a thing would be more in terms of actions on the part of God. For example, in creating the universe and giving it a certain nature, He also creates a relationship between Himself and what He created. I suppose from a certain point of view this creation of a relationship between Himself and His creation can be described in that peculiar way (creating His own attributes), but it seems very misleading to me. I think that any authentic creation by God of something outside Himself, which God can and does do, is an act of self limitation, and as such should not be seen as His essential nature, for His real nature is the lack of limitation, which must include this ability to limit Himself as He chooses.


I suspect you are arguing along similar lines as in the essay mentioned above about the nature of God's being, although the details may be slightly different your sense seems similar to me. It seems to me your reasons for arriving at that position are not the same; I''m still thinking about the essay, but I would say he is trying to make a philosophical argument whereas your approach seems more mystical. I personally see a mystical approach a stronger reason to adopt that view of god's being than the ones Clouser is advocating. But I always find wading through symbolic logic tedious, so I may be misunderstanding him.
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Re: God's attributes

Postby mitchellmckain » 19 Jan 2009, 16:58

To be a bridge between the thinking of different people is to be a peacemaker and such our Lord has said, "shall be called sons of God."


In other words, thanks for being such a bridge, Bluegoat.
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Re: God's attributes

Postby postodave » 19 Jan 2009, 22:09

No time for a comment so here is the letter of St. Basil I mentioned. I'll give you the full text:
Letter 234
ST. BASIL OF CAESAREA
To the same, in answer to another question.

Do you worship what you know or what you do not know? If I answer, I worship what I know, they immediately reply, What is the essence of the object of worship? Then, if I confess that I am ignorant of the essence, they turn on me again and say, So you worship you know not what. I answer that the word to know has many meanings. We say that we know the greatness of God, His power, His wisdom, His goodness, His providence over us, and the justness of His judgment; but not His very essence. The question is, therefore, only put for the sake of dispute. For he who denies that he knows the essence does not confess himself to be ignorant of God, because our idea of God is gathered from all the attributes which I have enumerated. But God, he says, is simple, and whatever attribute of Him you have reckoned as knowable is of His essence. But the absurdities involved in this sophism are innumerable. When all these high attributes have been enumerated, are they all names of one essence? And is there the same mutual force in His awfulness and His loving-kindness, His justice and His creative power, His providence and His foreknowledge, and His bestowal of rewards and punishments, His majesty and His providence? In mentioning any one of these do we declare His essence? If they say, yes, let them not ask if we know the essence of God, but let them enquire of us whether we know God to be awful, or just, or merciful. These we confess that we know. If they say that essence is something distinct, let them not put us in the wrong on the score of simplicity. For they confess themselves that there is a distinction between the essence and each one of the attributes enumerated. The operations are various, and the essence simple, but we say that we know our God from His operations, but do not undertake to approach near to His essence. His operations come down to us, but His essence remains beyond our reach.

2. But, it is replied, if you are ignorant of the essence, you are ignorant of Himself. Retort, If you say that you know His essence, you are ignorant of Himself. A man who has been bitten by a mad dog, and sees a dog in a dish, does not really see any more than is seen by people in good health; he is to be pitied because he thinks he sees what he does not see. Do not then admire him for his announcement, but pity him for his insanity. Recognise that the voice is the voice of mockers, when they say, if you are ignorant of the essence of God, you worship what you do not know. I do know that He exists; what His essence is, I look at as beyond intelligence. How then am I saved? Through faith. It is faith sufficient to know that God exists, without knowing what He is; and "He is a rewarder of them that seek Him." Hebrews 11:6 So knowledge of the divine essence involves perception of His incomprehensibility, and the object of our worship is not that of which we comprehend the essence, but of which we comprehend that the essence exists.

3. And the following counter question may also be put to them. "No man has seen God at any time, the Only-begotten which is in the bosom has declared him." John 1:18 What of the Father did the Only-begotten Son declare? His essence or His power? If His power, we know so much as He declared to us. If His essence, tell me where He said that His essence was the being unbegotten? When did Abraham worship? Was it not when he believed? And when did he believe? Was it not when he was called? Where in this place is there any testimony in Scripture to Abraham's comprehending? When did the disciples worship Him? Was it not when they saw creation subject to Him? It was from the obedience of sea and winds to Him that they recognised His Godhead. Therefore the knowledge came from the operations, and the worship from the knowledge. "Believest thou that I am able to do this?" "I believe, Lord;" and he worshipped Him. So worship follows faith, and faith is confirmed by power. But if you say that the believer also knows, he knows from what he believes; and vice versa he believes from what he knows. We know God from His power. We, therefore, believe in Him who is known, and we worship Him who is believed in.

It should be noted that the word here translated 'operations' is 'energia'. Hence in the Eastern Church these are referred to as God's energies and at least since Gregory Palamas are always regarded as uncreated.
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Re: God's attributes

Postby Bluegoat » 20 Jan 2009, 16:50

I said that I was going to try to present Aquinas' view of God's attributes. I have decided instead to try to present St. Anselm's. I am a lot more familiar with Anselm, and I can even take his stuff in the bath, unlike the Summa, which makes preparing this a lot easier :wink:

So Anselm tells us:


God is self- existent, that is he does not come into being from nothing, but rather has being through himself.

He is a perfect unity, radically one and simple.

God is everything that it is better to be than not to be. Thus he can be said to have certain perfections, or attributes; wisdom, mercy, justice. etc. These perfections are not parts of God, as we can see from his unity. God's being is identical with himself, so he is his wisdom, his justice, and so on. His attributes are also identical with each other.

God does not suffer accidents, such as colour, that is, he has no attributes which are not necessary to his being. Everything he is he is fully, so it is not possible for him to have accidents. However, Anselm does allow for accidents of relation, which he says are not truly accidents. So we can say that God is greater than creation, without implying that creation is necessary to God. Anselm says that accidents of relation do not effect a change in essence or imply mutability. For example, although I could be described as a wife and mother, those descriptions do not imply mutability in my essence. I am still myself if those "accidents" change. (Perhaps this is why there is no marraige in heaven?)

Anselm makes an important note to all of this though; he maintains that God is ineffable. All of the perfections that we attribute to God do not really constitute God's essence. They are pointers which direct us to God's essence because of their likeness to him. But his essence is itself ineffable.

As far as our relation to God and his attributes Anselm says:

Creation is dependent on God and has its being through him. All things are created by the Supreme Being and live through it.

Creation came into existence from nothing. However, it did have a kind of existance prior to creation in the mind of the Creator, that is the ideas of created things existed in the mind of God. These ideas expressions are the reality, the sole and first cause of all creation.

The expression of the Supreme Being IS the Supreme Being (based on his unity.) This being supports, surpasses, permeates, and includes all things.

This expression (which he later identifies with the Word) is the reality of all things, while creation is a likeness of the reality. The Word is a "true and simple essence" but creation is "an imperfect imitation of that essence."


In his article, as I understand it, Clouser makes the following argument about this way of thinking about God's attributes:


God's attributes, being identical with his being, must, in their essence, be uncreated. So justice, for example, in it's true and perfect form, is uncreated. I assume the same would apply for being itself.

Creation also has some of these attributes, such as wisdom or justice, even if in a lesser fashion than God. So these aspects of creation must, in their essence, be uncreated.

God does not have "control" over his own attributes. He cannot make himself unjust or unwise. He is what he is. He is changeless, for to change from perfection would be to become less perfect.

(So far Anselm would agree entirely.)

Clouser then goes on to say "it does indeed seem to follow that God could not take on the form of existence of the creature.... it would be impossible for God to be temporal in any way."

Now, I think he is saying that this is so because taking on the form of the creature would mean that God would have to change, that God's attributes would have to change. So that if creation contains within itself something uncreated, these attributes of God, even in a lesser form, then the essence of God is subject to change. But I am not sure of my interpretation here, I think he is pretty unclear. But it seems to me that he is also touching on the incarnation, even if that is not his intention.

I think that I will leave this here for now, and look at the second part of Clouser's argument later; this is getting awfully long.
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Re: God's attributes

Postby postodave » 21 Jan 2009, 23:15

Mitch said:
These questions don't make a great deal of sense to me. "Attributes" of God have more to do with our attempts to understand God than any kind of essential nature of God Himself, and so no I would not presume to say that any such attempt to understand is "identical to His being"
.
According to Bavinck both St. Basil and Gregory of Nyssa both said the attributes differ from each other in thought. That is although God is simple these distinctions are not merely verbal but represent differing thoughts as we contemplate God. As you say Mitch that would seem to avoid identifying the attributes with the being - in the same way when he distinguishes between the essence and the actions he is not dividing the substance and imagining God spit in two; he just will not allow the fact that we know God's actions or the character of his activities imply that we know what he is in himself.

As for "creating His own attributes", besides the same objection as above, the only way I can even think of understanding such a thing would be more in terms of actions on the part of God. For example, in creating the universe and giving it a certain nature, He also creates a relationship between Himself and what He created. I suppose from a certain point of view this creation of a relationship between Himself and His creation can be described in that peculiar way (creating His own attributes), but it seems very misleading to me. I think that any authentic creation by God of something outside Himself, which God can and does do, is an act of self limitation, and as such should not be seen as His essential nature, for His real nature is the lack of limitation, which must include this ability to limit Himself as He chooses.

If there is a difference between your view and Clouser's I think it would be that you think of God's revealed nature as one part of his infinite being which is made manifest. Thus you define God's infinity cataphatically as it seems Anselm does - as though there were an infinite number of properties God possesses but we can only know some of them. Basil and Clouser define God's infinity apophatically as lacking finitude. Thus Basil says aside from his relationship with creation God is entirely free of qualities.

I'm with you so far bluegoat:
But I am not sure of my interpretation here, I think he is pretty unclear. But it seems to me that he is also touching on the incarnation, even if that is not his intention

Clouser would see a similarity between the act of incarnation in Christ and God's assuming a created nature in relation to creation. I did put it to him by email once that he was saying God assumed a created nature when he became a man in Christ but that he also that he assumed a created nature from all eternity in order to relate to the cosmos. He agreed that I had understood him correctly. He likes to apply the line from the Athanasian creed 'One, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh, but by taking of that manhood into God.' to both, although in the second case it is not manhood but a created nature in a more general sense that is taken into God. Mitch I know you would understand the incarnation and the way God relates to his creation differently to this but in your thinking also there are parallels between the two relating to the idea of self limitation.
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Re: God's attributes

Postby mitchellmckain » 22 Jan 2009, 03:03

postodave wrote:According to Bavinck both St. Basil and Gregory of Nyssa both said the attributes differ from each other in thought. That is although God is simple these distinctions are not merely verbal but represent differing thoughts as we contemplate God. As you say Mitch that would seem to avoid identifying the attributes with the being - in the same way when he distinguishes between the essence and the actions he is not dividing the substance and imagining God spit in two; he just will not allow the fact that we know God's actions or the character of his activities imply that we know what he is in himself.

I suppose we are struggling with things we cannot understand too well (let alone describe with words, which are far too blunt an instrument). However, I certainly have no difficulty with a distinction between the essence of God and the actions of God. Creation is after all an action of God and Creation is not God or a part of Him. No I suspect that theologians have a difficulty with that distinction because they try to deny God's capacity for self-limitation.

Of course, creation has nothing that God lacks, and everything in creation has an origin (or an original, if you will), within God. Thus if creation were somehow "added to" or "absorbed by" God, God would be unchanged. Thus the self-limitaion which God imposes on Himself in the act of creation is certainly in regards to relationship rather than essence.


postodave wrote:If there is a difference between your view and Clouser's I think it would be that you think of God's revealed nature as one part of his infinite being which is made manifest. Thus you define God's infinity cataphatically as it seems Anselm does - as though there were an infinite number of properties God possesses but we can only know some of them. Basil and Clouser define God's infinity apophatically as lacking finitude. Thus Basil says aside from his relationship with creation God is entirely free of qualities.

Huh? I explained what I meant by infinite in reference to God - as lacking in limitation. Sounds apophatic to me. But I don't know this seems a little like an arbitrary distinction in this case. I mean to tell the truth, it seems that an overly apophatic theology/philosophy should be avoided. This is one of the problems with atheism -- being defined by what they do not believe in rather than what they do believe in. I would have the same criticism of deconstructive philosophy.

I would say in agreement with apophatic theology that God contains all things, but I really don't know what it would mean to say that God is "beyond all things" unless it means that God transcends the limitations of any finite thing with which we are familiar with. But in spite of these agreements, I think I must disagree with the very principle of an apophatic approach to theology. For apart from self-imposed limitations by His creation of the universe, attemptying to define God by a process of what God is not seems fundamentally flawed to me, for in principle there is nothing which God is not (though of course that like many statements about God is lible to be involved in logical contradictions which I see as connected to the inapplicability of things like the law of the excluded middle when it comes to statements about God).

I wonder... I am trying to puzzle out what you can possibly mean by this distinction of apophatic and cataphatic in regards to God infinitude... It almost sounds like you are saying that they are many possible infinite things and God is only one of them??? But I don't think that is true in the way that I am using the word "infinite" to mean without limitation, which would mean that there can be no sort of defining characteristic of God in that sense (doesn't that sound like Basil's apophatic theology?), since to define is always in some sense to limit and set apart. This is connected with why I said that a true act of creation by God would be an act of self limitation. If you cannot distinguish God from His creation, that would be pantheism, but such a distinction would be a limitation which God has imposed on Himself.
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Re: God's attributes

Postby postodave » 22 Jan 2009, 23:06

You are right Mitch these are obscure matters. I know I'm doing a lot of quoting here but I wonder if you are familiar with the most famous piece of apophatic theology of them all
We therefore maintain that the universal and transcendent Cause of all things is neither without being nor without life, nor without reason or intelligence; nor is it a body, nor has it form or shape, quality, quantity or weight; nor has it any localized, visible or tangible existence; it is not sensible or perceptible; nor is it subject to any disorder or inordination nor influenced by any earthly passion; neither is it rendered impotent through the effects of material causes and events; it needs no light; it suffers no change, corruption, division, privation or flux; none of these things can either be identified with or attributed unto it.

Again, ascending yet higher, we maintain that it is neither soul nor intellect; nor has it imagination, opinion reason or understanding; nor can it be expressed or conceived, since it is neither number nor order; nor greatness nor smallness; nor equality nor inequality; nor similarity nor dissimilarity; neither is it standing, nor moving, nor at rest; neither has it power nor is power, nor is light; neither does it live nor is it life; neither is it essence, nor eternity nor time; nor is it subject to intelligible contact; nor is it science nor truth, nor kingship nor wisdom; neither one nor oneness, nor godhead nor goodness; nor is it spirit according to our understanding, nor filiation, nor paternity; nor anything else known to us or to any other beings of the things that are or the things that are not; neither does anything that is know it as it is; nor does it know existing things according to existing knowledge; neither can the reason attain to it, nor name it, nor know it; neither is it darkness nor light, nor the false nor the true; nor can any affirmation or negation be applied to it, for although we may affirm or deny the things below it, we can neither affirm nor deny it, inasmuch as the all-perfect and unique Cause of all things transcends all affirmation, and the simple pre-eminence of Its absolute nature is outside of every negation- free from every limitation and beyond them all.
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Re: God's attributes

Postby mitchellmckain » 23 Jan 2009, 01:44

postodave wrote:You are right Mitch these are obscure matters. I know I'm doing a lot of quoting here but I wonder if you are familiar with the most famous piece of apophatic theology of them all

No. The but the author was easy to find thanks to google: Dionysius, an author of mystical theology.


Dionysius wrote:We therefore maintain that the universal and transcendent Cause of all things is neither without being nor without life, nor without reason or intelligence; nor is it a body, nor has it form or shape, quality, quantity or weight; nor has it any localized, visible or tangible existence; it is not sensible or perceptible; nor is it subject to any disorder or inordination nor influenced by any earthly passion; neither is it rendered impotent through the effects of material causes and events; it needs no light; it suffers no change, corruption, division, privation or flux; none of these things can either be identified with or attributed unto it.

Again, ascending yet higher, we maintain that it is neither soul nor intellect; nor has it imagination, opinion reason or understanding; nor can it be expressed or conceived, since it is neither number nor order; nor greatness nor smallness; nor equality nor inequality; nor similarity nor dissimilarity; neither is it standing, nor moving, nor at rest; neither has it power nor is power, nor is light; neither does it live nor is it life; neither is it essence, nor eternity nor time; nor is it subject to intelligible contact; nor is it science nor truth, nor kingship nor wisdom; neither one nor oneness, nor godhead nor goodness; nor is it spirit according to our understanding, nor filiation, nor paternity; nor anything else known to us or to any other beings of the things that are or the things that are not; neither does anything that is know it as it is; nor does it know existing things according to existing knowledge; neither can the reason attain to it, nor name it, nor know it; neither is it darkness nor light, nor the false nor the true; nor can any affirmation or negation be applied to it, for although we may affirm or deny the things below it, we can neither affirm nor deny it, inasmuch as the all-perfect and unique Cause of all things transcends all affirmation, and the simple pre-eminence of Its absolute nature is outside of every negation- free from every limitation and beyond them all.

Ah... I see. Well really! Calling this apophatic is a little misleading. The only reason the second does not contradict the first is the distinction between "has" and "is". And I don't think this is such a negative approach at all to say that God cannot be limited to any of these things which God has by saying that God is one of these things rather than simply having them. In fact I don't even see anything terribly mystical in this first part. Of course it is essence of mysticism when it reaches the part about God being beyond intellibible contact, anything known, attainable by reason and transcending affirmation. And to this degree I am also a mystic in my theological outlook and have been for a very long time.

For example, we know that God is spirit, but by this we do not mean that these words are equivalent such that whatever is spirit is also God, but we do certainly mean that God is wholly a spiritual being, and this is in fact equivalent to much of what is said in the first paragraph: "nor is it a body, nor has it form or shape, quality, quantity or weight; nor has it any localized, visible or tangible existence; it is not sensible or perceptible; nor is it subject to any disorder or inordination nor influenced by any earthly passion; neither is it rendered impotent through the effects of material causes and events; it needs no light; it suffers no change, corruption, division, privation or flux". At least I would take that to be the extent of its meaning for I would oppose, for example, the idea that God is immutable: I would see that as a limitation -- that God is incapable of change and by consequence incapable of anything at all.

Whether God is "alive" is a more difficult question because of the difficulties in defining life itself, for which there are several possibilities. Much of these definition are in terms of needs and limitations which God clearly transcends and yet at the same time God is capable of them if He chooses to be. There is the kind of life for which God created the physical universe as a womb, and God is not alive in that sense by its very definition, for that includes an independence from God. And yet clearly God is nevertheless capable of this sort of life for He did in fact become a human being to participate in it. The life of the spirit is perhaps a more difficult question. We have eternal life in a relationship with God and it is a matter of finite beings realizing an infinite potentiality. And so again in that sense it is difficult to see that this is applicable to God, and yet as an essential participant in this process of life, God can hardly be divorced from it. This sort of life definitely flows from God and as a result it seems quite odd to suggest that God does not partake of this sort of life.
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Re: God's attributes

Postby Bluegoat » 23 Jan 2009, 18:04

I think for me, my thoughts on the idea of all God's attributes being created really comes down to; what is the nature of the relationship between undefinable God and his created attributes? I have what seems like rather a grab-bag of thoughts, although I believe they are all coming to the same place.


If there is a difference between your view and Clouser's I think it would be that you think of God's revealed nature as one part of his infinite being which is made manifest. Thus you define God's infinity cataphatically as it seems Anselm does - as though there were an infinite number of properties God possesses but we can only know some of them. Basil and Clouser define God's infinity apophatically as lacking finitude. Thus Basil says aside from his relationship with creation God is entirely free of qualities.


I think Anselm is going farther than you seem to allow for here. He isn't only saying that we can only know some of God's attributes, but that even those we know are only a shadow of what really exists in God. So, the mode of God's existance is beyond what we can know. On the other hand, he is quite clear that our knowledge of God, in so far as it exists, has a kind of truth to it.

Clouser would see a similarity between the act of incarnation in Christ and God's assuming a created nature in relation to creation.


Now to me it seems that they are really the same issue, if you believe in the incarnation. They are the answer to the question, how can a perfect God be related to an imperfect creation, or a creation that is less than he is. To characterize the relationship between God and creation only in abstract terms (say in terms of the Word) is to really miss the point; God must have a way of relating fundamentally to creation, there must be a place for God and creation, spirit and matter, to "touch." I think it is impossible for us to explain creation without something like the incarnation. So, I would be interested in exploring more how Clouser's views on God's attributes would affect our understanding of the Word made Flesh.

. However, I certainly have no difficulty with a distinction between the essence of God and the actions of God. Creation is after all an action of God and Creation is not God or a part of Him.


Yes, I can see this making sense. Although I would have said that creation was caused by God's willing it, and would tend to think of God's action being the willing. And God's will would be part of God, though creation wouldn't be.

Which leads me to the question: is God's will a quality that would impinge upon his "being free of qualities?" If we say God's attributes are created, and that God in himself is truly free of qualities, can we say that this undefined God wills and knows what he creates? (I think to will it he would have to know it, although perhaps Basil would have an argument with that.) If not, what kind of relationship is left between God and his attributes? How can he create even attributes for himself without willing it? How can he remain unlimited if willing is part of his essence?

It reminds me a lot of Proclus, Plotinus. et al, and I must say that makes me rather uncomfortable. (Pseudo-Dionysus makes me feel much the same way, though I haven't read much of him.) I find I keep thinking of God's attributes, which include the Trinity, as a hypostases.We have the real, "ineffable and unlimited" God, who we can't know or have much of a relationship with. Then there is the "secondary, limited God" the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, who tells us about itself, who loves us, who we see face to face one day if we are lucky enough. It doesn''t seem to me that we are made to ever really meet Clouser's God.


I wonder if this division between God and his attributes is just a repetition of what has already been described in the idea of the Trinity?

I think I am very interested in this:

neither does anything that is know it as it is; nor does it know existing things according to existing knowledge


It seems to me that Boethius addresses the question of how creation participates in the divine perfections; doesn't he say that creation possesses the perfections according to its own nature - but that those natures are taken up into the divine nature? I shall have to have a look.

Slightly OT and I am sure you guys have discussed this before - but I am very curious to know what your own backgrounds in philosophy/theology are, if you are willing to share.
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Re: God's attributes

Postby mitchellmckain » 23 Jan 2009, 23:45

Bluegoat wrote:
mitchellmckain wrote: However, I certainly have no difficulty with a distinction between the essence of God and the actions of God. Creation is after all an action of God and Creation is not God or a part of Him.


Yes, I can see this making sense. Although I would have said that creation was caused by God's willing it, and would tend to think of God's action being the willing. And God's will would be part of God, though creation wouldn't be.

Yes that is a popular way of thinking among Christians but I certainly reject this and consider this to be a part of what I would call magical Christianity. I don't believe in a magical version of creation ex-nihilo. What God creates does not come into existence out of nothing but out of God's understanding, ingenuity, and energy. Creation was "ex-nihilo" in the sense that before creation there was only God and in the action of creation there was nothing of God that was depleted. But I would say that Creation is quite literally an action of God and thus has its its being in the energy which He exerted in His action of creation, just as it has its form from the knowledge with which He shaped it, for the purpose which He intended.

I consider the magical version of creation ex-nihilo to in fact be logically indistinguishable from Panentheism, because the only kind of "willing into existence" out of nothing is the sort of creation that happens in dreams. That requires no knowledge or understanding because dreams don't even have to be consistent or make sense in any way because they are not real. But more importantly, a dream is not a seperately existing thing but merely a part of the mind of the dreamer, so they have no energy or being of their own but are merely a form of the energy within the dreamer himself. But this idea of creation being a part of God is Panentheism. I come to the same conclusion concerning this popular idea that God supports creation so that without that support it would cease to exist. That too is not an authentic creation but the kind of creation that we have in dreaming for when the dreamer stop dreaming, all the worlds and creations in the dream cease to exist.




Bluegoat wrote:I wonder if this division between God and his attributes is just a repetition of what has already been described in the idea of the Trinity?

I certainly do not thinks so. The doctrine of the Trinity is that God is three PERSONS, not three essenses or three beings or three modes or three gods or three incarnations or three aspects or three parts or three attributes or....three whatever, but three PERSONS.
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Re: God's attributes

Postby Bluegoat » 24 Jan 2009, 00:33

Yes that is a popular way of thinking among Christians but I certainly reject this and consider this to be a part of what I would call magical Christianity. I don't believe in a magical version of creation ex-nihilo. What God creates does not come into existence out of nothing but out of God's understanding, ingenuity, and energy. Creation was "ex-nihilo" in the sense that before creation there was only God and in the action of creation there was nothing of God that was depleted. But I would say that Creation is quite literally an action of God and thus has its its being in the energy which He exerted in His action of creation, just as it has its form from the knowledge with which He shaped it, for the purpose which He intended.


I'm interested in what you mean by energy? When I think of energy I think of it as being a kind of matter, so I would never think of God as having energy in that way. It seems very mechanistic to me?


Bluegoat wrote:I wonder if this division between God and his attributes is just a repetition of what has already been described in the idea of the Trinity?

I certainly do not thinks so. The doctrine of the Trinity is that God is three PERSONS, not three essenses or three beings or three modes or three gods or three incarnations or three aspects or three parts or three attributes or....three whatever, but three PERSONS.


Yes, I wasn't quite comparing them in that way. More that the doctrine of the Trinity allows for God to connect with creation in a way that previous conceptions of God didn't seem able to manage - it was always a problem, for example, for the neoplatonists. It seems to me that the idea of God creating his own attributes as a way to allow for a god who can really be a creator is trying to accomplish the same thing (which has already been accomplished through the doctrine of the Trinity.)
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Re: God's attributes

Postby mitchellmckain » 24 Jan 2009, 11:11

Bluegoat wrote:I'm interested in what you mean by energy? When I think of energy I think of it as being a kind of matter, so I would never think of God as having energy in that way. It seems very mechanistic to me?

Matter is a physical form of energy. What does it mean to be physical? It is physical because it is part of the mathematical structure of space-time that God has created and which science calls the universe. But this mathematical struture did not always exist and thus it has a non-physical origin. Likewise physical forms of energy are not the only forms of energy, for there are spiritual forms of energy and not being a part of this mathematical structure of space-time, they not only lack this quantitative characteristic of physical energy but they have a form and nature which does not derive from some mathematical whole, whose mathematical equations govern the behavior of all of its parts. This is what gives physical forms of energy their mechanistic chararacteristic. Spiritual forms of energy are what they are by their own nature and are not subject to any mathematical laws in the way that physical forms of energy are. Only the physcial universe as a whole is what it is by the form and nature that God gave it in creation, but everything in it (all the physical forms of energy) are just a part of the whole and bound by the laws of its mathematical structure.

The Eastern Orthodox speak of the energy of God a great deal but I cannot say that they mean anything similar to what I mean by this word, for I really do not understand their usage.
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Re: God's attributes

Postby Bluegoat » 25 Jan 2009, 12:51

mitchellmckain wrote:
Bluegoat wrote:I'm interested in what you mean by energy? When I think of energy I think of it as being a kind of matter, so I would never think of God as having energy in that way. It seems very mechanistic to me?

Matter is a physical form of energy. What does it mean to be physical? It is physical because it is part of the mathematical structure of space-time that God has created and which science calls the universe. But this mathematical struture did not always exist and thus it has a non-physical origin. Likewise physical forms of energy are not the only forms of energy, for there are spiritual forms of energy and not being a part of this mathematical structure of space-time, they not only lack this quantitative characteristic of physical energy but they have a form and nature which does not derive from some mathematical whole, whose mathematical equations govern the behavior of all of its parts. This is what gives physical forms of energy their mechanistic chararacteristic. Spiritual forms of energy are what they are by their own nature and are not subject to any mathematical laws in the way that physical forms of energy are. Only the physcial universe as a whole is what it is by the form and nature that God gave it in creation, but everything in it (all the physical forms of energy) are just a part of the whole and bound by the laws of its mathematical structure.

The Eastern Orthodox speak of the energy of God a great deal but I cannot say that they mean anything similar to what I mean by this word, for I really do not understand their usage.


What you are saying reminds me of where St Paul talks about the way we will have our bodies in Heaven; they will be physical, but transformed.

I wonder if there might be another word that would fit well to describe your idea. I am especially hesitant over the word energy because I have talked to many people, Christian and otherwise, who think God is energy, literally, because they can't imagine something immaterial. New age books tend to reinforce that kind of thinking.

I don't know much about what the Orthodox mean either, though postodave seemed to allude to it in his post on Basil.
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