Once again for this blog, I want to have the disclaimer be clear. What I say is not meant to be extensive. If anything, I am wanting to tickle your appetite. I want you to get your feet wet and go swimming deeper into the ocean yourself. I suspect many of you could be like me and you like something you hold in your hand and what you read online is a supplement as it were to that. At this point, I have no books published that I can point to for your further consideration. That could change in the future, and I have been encouraged to go that way and it is something I think about,
Yesterday, I discussed the “That” of God, and today, I’d like to discuss the “What”. Some of you might be wondering what the difference is between what and who. Let us suppose you described me in “what” terminology only. What would that include? It would include male, weight, height, body type, age, race, and other physical characteristics. What can tell you what someone can see if they see me walking down the street generally.
If we get to the who, it is clear that the who does not change the what of my existence, but it gives you something deeper into my existence. The who will include things like “Loves philosophy and apologetics, tries to watch a Smallville every night, particularly shy around many people and not a socialite, loves the intellectual domain, willing to challenge someone at a game of Super Smash Brothers Brawl, etc.”
Nothing changed with the what of my existence. Notice there are also better potentials for relationship if you know more about me. Let us suppose you are reading this blog and your only contact with me is through the internet. You could know me well. Suppose you talked with me there. You will know me better. Suppose though that you saw me in person. You’ll see sides of me that you can’t see through a computer. My parents know me in one way and they know me well. We all know though that our relationship with our parents is also different than that with our friends and so I could say my roommate, who is my closest friend as I’ve said, could very well know me better in some ways than they do.
Tonight though, we’re going to go into the what and this will include ideas that come from the doctrine of God. Largely, I’m wanting to jump off from Aquinas’s first argument with God as a being of pure actuality. What do I mean by that? Actuality is what something is. Potentially is what something could be. I am, in actuality, sitting. I have the potential to stand. I have just stood up, and now, I am sitting down again. (When you have a steel rod on your spine and your keyboard isn’t even waist high, typing hunched down is not pleasant.) Thus, I actualized a potential to become standing and then actualized potential again to sit. At this point, I again have the potential to stand, though I certainly choose not to at this point.
God is a being of pure actuality. He cannot change in any way. He cannot make progress or degress. If he had potential, then he would need an explanation just as much as the universe does. While Anselm may not have been right on the Ontological Argument, I believe he was accurate in that God is the greatest possible being that can be conceived.
Note also that each of these doctrines of God could be a blog post in itself.
Aquinas started with simplicity. A lot of people are really stunned when I tell them that I believe God is simple. “But God is so hard to understand and he’s so awesome! How can you say he’s simple?” Please note when I say simple, I am not speaking of simple in relation to the human understanding of him. None of us can say we comprehend the nature of God. As has been said, we are fleas sitting on the back of an elephant.
Simplicity means simply that God and his attributes are not separate things. God is what he has. He does not have truth but is truth. These are attributes that do not exist external to him. They are him. There is not this thing called goodness and this thing called goodness is conjoined to God. Instead, the case is that God is goodness.
If God is pure actuality, then that would mean also that what he is, he is infinitely and/or completely. He cannot be more good. He cannot be more powerful. He cannot be more knowledgable or wise or loving, etc. Also important is to consider that with the nature of God, God is the only being whose very nature is to exist necessarily. If the Christian God is, and I believe he is of course, he is necessarily. (And there is a fine difference between that and the Ontological Argument.)
Let us also consider power. By power, it is meant that God can do all that can be done by power. I am not going to dare assert that God can make a square circle. A lot of you might be wondering about the classic question “Can God make a rock so big he can’t lift it?” The best answer I have ever heard on this came from Dr. Gary Habermas.
It’s that simple. The question is involving a logical contradiction.
What about omniscience? I take this to mean that God knows all true propositions. For my open theist friends, this also includes future propositions. God knows, for instance, who is going to win the election on November 4th. He knows it just as well as I know the fact that I am typing on my keyboard at this moment. He knows it all from an eternal now.
This brings us to God’s eternity. It means that God can act in time, but God is by nature outside of time. He does not grow old. He does not change. What God is doing, he is eternally doing. He is at this moment creating the world, bringing about the flood, destroying Sodom and Gomorrah, judging the world, and blessing the saints in their after-death. We experience these things temporally, but God is doing them all at once. Were he not, he would be temporal.
I also brought up his immutability, meaning that he cannot change. This follows since he has no potential. What God is, he always is. Personally, this is one of my favorite concepts I think of when I think of God. It makes me realize that with all the hectic nonsense I often have going on in my life, at the end of the day when I pray, which becomes a more exciting time as things go along, I realize that there is a foundation of all things that I can always rely on.
Of course, I would have to speak of the love of God in that God is eternally loving. When we get to the who of God, this will be explained in a far more in-depth way. Some of you are probably already thinking ahead and realizing just how that is going to be and what makes Christian theism unique in that. For now, it will simply suffice to say that God loves all that corresponds to his moral nature. I theorize, and again this is just theorizing at this point, that something is able to experience the love of God to the degree that they correspond to him morally.
While it’s not often mentioned, I would like to mention the beauty of God. For many believers, and I should think it would be the case for all, one of the great desires of the after-death is to look into the face of Christ, to see him who is the image of the invisible God, and behold the great beauty that is inherent in his person. Beauty captivates many of us today and I sometimes find myself amazed when I think that with all the beauty I see here, it all is practically hideous in comparison to the source of its beauty.
God is also a God of justice, which is something that is not liked to hear by many of our skeptical friends today. We often want a God who will come and heal us when we are sick and take care of the problems in our life, but we don’t like it when God comes and judges the sin that we have in our lives. A lot of people don’t really like a God who acts like one. God is just though and just as much as he loves that which corresponds to his nature, he must judge that which directly contradicts his moral nature as well.
With all of this, we have a good idea of what God is. Who is God though? What is he like? For that, we will have to look at how he has revealed himself and especially in the person of Christ. That is for our next installment.