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 The Principles of Theology - Article 1

by W.H.Griffith Thomas


<< 2. The Nature Of God


3. The Attributes Of God

By an attribute is to be understood “any conception which is necessary to the explicit idea of God; any distinctive conception which cannot be resolved into any other”.[39] The Article describes God as “of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness.”

1. “Infinite power” (immensæ potentiæ). This, which may be called physical, means power adequate to all possible requirements. There is no sphere higher than His (Psa. 135:6; Rev. 1:8). By this idea of omnipotence we are not to think of anything that is contradictory of any other Divine attribute, or as ruling out the conception of self-limitation such as is involved in the creation and redemption of man. The Latin, “immensæ”, referring to infinity, may be compared with the similar phrase in the Athanasian Creed, “Immensus Pater”.

2. “Infinite wisdom” (immensæ sapientiæ). This is the intellectual aspect expressed by the word “omniscience”. It implies that nothing can escape the Divine knowledge (Psa. 139:2,3,6; 145:7). He is “the only wise God” (1 Tim. 1:17).

3. “Infinite goodness” (immensæ bonitatis). This is the ethical attribute and emphasises the Divine benevolence and beneficence.

It is, of course, in the moral attributes of God that natural religion is most defective. The Old Testament revelation is mainly concerned with the Holiness of God (Isa. 6:3),[40] and the New Testament with the Divine Love (1 John 4:8). So we may say that the characteristic revelation of God in the Bible is that of Holy Love.[41] The reason why the statement of the Divine character is incomplete is probably due to the fact that the main object of the Article is to affirm the doctrine of the Trinity. For this reason it names no other moral attribute than goodness. At this point it is therefore fitting to introduce the special teaching of St. John in reference to the Divine character:
(a) God is Spirit (John 4:24). This refers to God in Himself, and perhaps may be spoken of as the metaphysical aspect.
(b) God is Light (1 John 1:5). This refers to God mainly in relation to creation, and may perhaps be described as the moral aspect.
(c) God is Love (1 John 4:8, 16). This refers to God in relation to man and redemption, and may be regarded as His personal aspect.

Of these, the first speaks of God as He is in Himself; the second seems to refer largely to inanimate beings; while the third is concerned with creatures capable of making a response. It is essential to take care that in our conception of God physical and metaphysical elements are not permitted to predominate over the ethical elements, lest belief in a Divine Incarnation becomes difficult and almost impossible. It has often been pointed out that in the New Testament God is not defined as “Being”, or “Infinity”, or as “Substance”, but by predicates that involve ethical ideas and ideals, Spirit, Light, and Love, ideals that appeal to the intellect, the will, and the heart, and all pointing to the possibility of God Himself becoming incarnate in human nature. And, as we shall see, Divine Revelation tells us that He has actually entered into human life in the Person of Jesus Christ in Whom all the fullness of the Godhead permanently dwells.


>> 4. The Manifestation Of God In Nature



[39] H. B. Smith, Systematic Theology, p. 12; see also W. Adams Brown, ut supra, p. 100 ff.

[40] George Adam Smith, Isaiah, Vol. 2.

[41] See Forsyth, The Holy Father and the Living Christ, passim.

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The Principles of Theology

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>> 39 Articles Issues pages

>> Griffith-Thomas biography

Article 1

>> Introduction to Article 1

>> 1 - Existence of God

>> 2 - Nature of God

>> 3 - Attributes of God

>> 4 - Manifestation of God in Nature

>> 5 - Revelation of God in Christ

>> The History of the Doctrine

>> Issues page on Article 1

Content of The Principles

>> Index

>> Preface by J I Packer

>> Introduction

>> 1 - Trinity

>> 2 - Christ

>> 3 - Descent into Hell

>> 4 - Resurrection

>> 5 - Holy Spirit

>> 6 - Holy Scripture

>> 7 - The Old Testament

>> 8 - The Three Creeds

>> 9 - Of Original or Birth Sin

>> 10 - Of Free Will

>> 11 - Of the Justifcation of Man


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