07 September, 2016

FAQ – The Being, Nature, and Attributes of God





Q. 1. From a study of the term goodness in Scripture, we see that goodness is closely related to other attributes of God such as grace, mercy, love, longsuffering, goodness, and the like. These ethical virtues of God stand related to each other. Therefore, because all men are the objects of God’s goodness, all men are also the objects of God’s grace, love, mercy, goodness, etc.”

The argument is, of course, correct formally. Because God’s attributes are one in Him, they are to be treated together. God’s grace is surely inseparably connected to and a part of His love, kindness, goodness, mercy, longsuffering, etc. If anyone of them is common to all men, they are all common. If one is particular, however, they all are particular.

… [However, when you survey the Scriptures for these terms,] in every case they are attributes which are shown only to the elect. There is a prima facie case to be made for the truth that always God is particular in His grace and mercy, His love and favor. The argument consists of two lines of thought.

The first is this. If all these attributes are indeed inseparably related to grace, and if grace in Scripture is something shown only to the elect, then it follows that these other attributes as well are shown only to those chosen in Christ from eternity.

The second line of thought goes like this. God’s attributes are never mere characteristics of God. They are living, powerful, working attributes. They are the virtues of the living God who does all things. If, e.g., grace is itself the power whereby we are saved, so also is this true of love and goodness. We love God because He first loved us. We are good because God is good to us. We are called to be kind towards one another because God is kind to us. God’s attitude is never merely attitude, powerless to accomplish what it is in Him. When God is gracious to a man, that grace permeates man’s being and makes him gracious. God’s mercy is more than an attitude of pity and longing to deliver. It is a mighty power that rescues us from our own hell and makes us blessed. It is a serious injustice to God to make His attributes mere attitudes such as our attributes are. (Prof. Herman C. Hanko, “Protestant Reformed Theological Journal,” April 1993)

##################################################

Q. 2. “Is God to be thought of as ‘necessary’ or ‘free’ in the exercise of His attributes?”

God is not essence and attributes, as though His attributes were something outside of His real self that could be freely controlled. Rather God is essence in attributes (hence the teaching of I John 4:8, 16). God, then, is to be thought of as necessary rather than free in the exercise of His attributes, and a change in the exercise of a particular attribute implies therefore a corresponding change in God Himself. It is therefore not valid to say that, because God is sovereign, He can begin to love whom He wants, when He wants, and for how long He wants. This makes God guilty of purely arbitrary indifference rather than rational self-determination. Also, it should be noted that the doctrine of the immutability of God regards not only His eternal Being (and therefore His attributes) but also the purposeful exercise of His Being in the world of space and time. (British Reformed Journal, Issue 9 [Jan – Mar 1995], p. 22.)

##################################################

Q. 3. “What is the main objection to the idea that God loves all men?”

Negatively, the theory that God loves all men is, of course, in plain contradiction to the teaching of the Scripture (e.g., Ps. 5:5; 11:5; Mal. 1:3; Rom. 9:13). Positively, the Scriptures confirm that God loves only His people. An example of this can be seen in the doctrine of election. Why are some chosen to life and some not? Simply because God only loved some, and thus only chose some. Thus “foreknowledge” in Romans 8:29 is equivalent to “forelove” and is the ground of our predestination to glorification. This loving choice of God involves two elementsaetiology (the study of original causes) and teleology (the study of purposeful ends). The cause of our election and salvation is found in the love of God to us. But this electing love also shapes our final destiny and end both as far as this life is concerned (Eph. 2:10) and ultimately in that which is to come (Rom. 8:29). (British Reformed Journal, Issue 9 [Jan – Mar 1995], p. 22.)

##################################################

Q. 4.If God's attitude never changes, and that He either eternally loves or hates somebody, then this must be true also in the case of angels. But, what about the reprobate angels? Was there not a time in their existence when they were holy? Did God hate them even at that time? If yes, how it is possible for God to hate somebody who did not commit any sin?

It may be objected, “How can God hate a being that is at that time upright and perfect?” To which we reply, “How can God love a sinner who is at that time a sinner?” Or alternatively, “How can God love a being whom He knows (and has in fact decreed and purposed) will become the devil?” The answer is as follows: First, God’s love and hatred are sovereignly determined within Himself and not dependent on anything in the creature (Rom. 9:11-13). Second, God is not bound by time, and therefore “sees” the devil, even in his original upright state, according to what the devil in God’s decree of predestination would become, even as He sees the elect not only as in Christ by election, but as what we become in time—righteous by the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. (Dr. Manuel Kuhs, British Reformed Journal, Issue 59)

##################################################

Q. 5. “If they who are the objects of God’s redeeming love can also in some sense of the word be regarded as the objects of His wrath, why should it be impossible that they who are the objects of His wrath should also in some sense share His divine favour?”

[The] wrath and curse which God has declared against the reprobate [is sometimes equted] with that of His fatherly displeasure under which the elect may fall by their sins, having made this equation, they then assume that because God loves the elect and exercises His fatherly displeasure concerning them when they fall into sin, that He must also love the reprobate. In other words, if God can be said to exercise both love and wrath toward the elect, He must also have a love for the reprobate.

… Let us now investigate the fallacy of this reasoning.

In the first place it must be stated that there are not two kinds of wrath in God concerning sin, one for the elect, and one for the reprobate. The text of Romans 1:18, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men,” is true both of the elect and reprobate. There is nevertheless a total difference between God’s disposition towards the elect and reprobate. While God’s anger is perfect, and this emotion is expressed in God’s disposition toward elect and reprobate, that disposition is conditioned absolutely by the factors of God’s electing, predestinating love and Christ’s death.

On the death of Christ rests the judicial removal of the wrath of God against the elect for their sins. Since the atonement has reference to particular sins and not sins in general, it is not a reservoir or storehouse of forgiveness. It therefore creates no difficulty to hold that God has expressed His displeasure against His people for their sins. This is clearly the position of Scripture as seen in the following quotation from Calvin’s Institutes, book 3, chapter 4, section 32:

David says, “O Lord, rebuke me not in thine anger, neither chasten me in thine hot displeasure” (Ps. 6:1). There is nothing inconsistent with this in its being repeatedly said, that the Lord is angry with His saints when He chastens them for their sins (Ps. 38:7). In like manner, in Isaiah: “In that day thou shalt say, O Lord, I will praise thee though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away, and thou comfortest me” (Isa. 12:1). Likewise in Habakkuk, “In wrath remember mercy” (Hab. 3:2), and Micah, “I will bear the indignation of the Lord because I have sinned against him” (Mic. 7:9).

Two things determine the disposition of God toward the elect. Firstly, He has chosen and loved them out of His mere good pleasure from all eternity, and secondly, He has sent His only Son into the world that He, through His own perfect righteousness and death, would reconcile them unto Himself.

Two things determine God’s disposition toward the reprobate. One: the fact of His wrath against all unrighteousness and ungodliness of men; and two: the fact that He has by an act of His will ordained them to be the objects of His everlasting displeasure and wrath. Though they may taste of the temporal blessings which God bestows upon them in their earthly life, they are, as the Scripture teaches, given the Gospel for the reason as Calvin comments on Isaiah 6:9-10. “He directs his voice to them, but it is that they may turn a deaf ear; he kindles a light, but it is that they may become more stupid; he employs a remedy, but it is that they may not be cured.” From this it should be clear that God’s disposition toward the reprobate is such that they have no part whatever in the purposes of God in the free offer of the Gospel except for the greater hardening of their hearts.

[Proponents of common grace] have in effect adopted the so called ‘law of opposites,’ which assumes that there is a love-hate relationship in God concerning the same object. Their notion, that because God has in some sense expressed a wrath against the elect, He must also love the reprobate because He loves the elect, is entirely gratuitous. It is without warrant in any part of the Scripture and constitutes an addition thereto. There is no equation in any sense whatever between God’s disposition of wrath toward the reprobate and that of His fatherly disposition toward the elect. Since the wrath of God in the case of the latter is entirely conditioned by God’s eternal electing love and Christ's death, it can never be said, in any sense, that any are loved outside of Christ. (Universalism and the Reformed Churches: A Defense of Calvin’s Calvinism [EPCA])

##################################################

Q. 6. “A seeming dilemma: Either deny that grace is an attribute of God, Or, deny that ‘saving’ grace is the only form of grace”

For an outline of this argument, along with a response to it, see the following link:


##################################################

Q. 7. “Do the elect ever occur as sinners?”

My brief answer would be that they do. Nevertheless, from eternity they occur as sinners in Christ Jesus, as the objects of God’s free grace. (Rev. Herman Hoeksema, Protestant Reformed Theological Journal, vol. 2, no. 1, Dec. 1968)

##################################################

Q. 8. “If God cannot love sinners, because His love is holy, righteous and just, and He cannot even look upon iniquity, then how does He love His chosen people, who themselves have fallen into iniquity and misery in Adam?

The answer is that the Most High loves us in Christ alone. Only in Christ are we elected, redeemed, regenerated, called, justified, adopted, sanctified, preserved and glorified. Only in Christ can, and does, God love us with that perfect bond of divine love. In Christ we even share (in a creaturely way) in the eternal and blessed love of the holy Trinity! No wonder the apostle exclaims that nothing is “able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:39)! This is the absolutely indestructible and unbreakable love of the almighty and gracious God for His covenant people, sealed in the blood of Jesus. (Rev. Angus Stewart, “God is Love”)

##################################################

Q. 9. “Surely we have no right to say that God cannot both love and hate a man at one and the same time. After all, God's mind is infinite, and therefore He is perfectly capable of loving and hating the same person. Such a concept is simply one of the many mysteries we must humbly accept.”

That is simply a contradiction. Such a view is a denial of the attribute of God’s simplicity. The doctrine of God’s simplicity means that God is one and undivided in His Being. Although we speak of and distinguish individual attributes of God, it is nevertheless true that his attributes are all one in Him. Hence, God’s simplicity means God always acts consistently with His nature; God is always in harmony with Himself; there is no tension in the Being of God. The very thought is utter blasphemy. He is the one, perfectly blessed, incomparable God, unto whom be glory forever. Even in human relationships do we not regard consistency as a virtue? That we do is a reflection of the eternal and self-existent Jehovah, who as the I AM THAT I AM simply is. Jehovah God is never anything other than what He is. Hence, to will opposite things … is impossible for God, as Job declares, “He is in one mind, and who can turn him?” (Job 23:13). God’s will is God and so His will is one and undivided; you obviously cannot say this about one who wills both A and not A at the same time: God is not the great schizophrenic! (Philip Rainey, “Calvinism Cast Out: The Reformed Presbyterian Church of Ireland and the Free Offer of the Gospel”)

##################################################

Q. 10. “Is there not a natural propensity or disposition in God whereby He, in His infinite goodness, is inclined to desire the happiness of all men, that they might be delivered from misery, and be brought unto Himself?”

That God hath any natural or necessary inclination, by his goodness, or any other property, to do good to us, or any of his creatures, we do deny. Everything that concerns us is an act of his free will and good pleasure, and not a natural, necessary act of his Deity, as shall be declared.” (John Owen, “Works,” vol. 10, p. 227)

##################################################

Q. 11. “Do we not see key phrases in Scripture such as ‘Oh that …,’ ‘If only …,’ etc. (e.g. Deut. 5:29, 32:29, Ps. 81:13, and Isa. 48:18)? Does not this Divine employment of optatives (phrases expressing a ‘wish/longing’) express a desire on the part of God for that which never comes to pass?”

[These] can only be understood covenantally, as God speaking after the manner of men in order to act in accord with the covenant relationship He bears to His people. Moreover, according to the Scripture’s own testimony, these expressions of desire are not made of no effect, but do come to pass in the elect, their proper point of reference. (Rev. Matthew Winzer, “Murray on the Free Offer,” in The Blue Banner, vol. 9, no. 10-12)


                                                                                                                  









No comments:

Post a Comment