Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Nature and Work of God



A. Existence of God
            “Ultimately, this Most High God is mystery. Some aspects of the divine nature may not be revealed nor could they be comprehended by finite beings. Rather our understanding of God is based upon revelation given in a finite situation and in conditions that have meaning for us as finite beings. It is through God’s grace in self-revelation (especially through Jesus Christ and the Bible) that he can be known. Yet what God has revealed of himself is true to what he is and fully sufficient to know and to love him. We conclude that God, before any and all creation, existed as all-inclusive, self-sufficient and tri-personal as Holy Trinity” (Horrell). Although God is in fact mysterious, He allows us to see parts of Him that we can handle: “And He was transfigured before them; and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light” (NASB Mat. 17:2). Take a look especially at Exodus 33: “Then the Lord said [to Moses], “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen” (NIV Exo. 33:21-23; emphasis mine). Also, we see that God, in His existence, is above us in thought, possibly because we simply can’t handle the truth about Him. “’For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord.  ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts’” (NASB Isa. 55:8-9). In any event, by no means a last resort, we see through nature that there is a creator. “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse” (NIV Romans 1:20). We can see through nature that there is clearly design (which requires a designer). After seeing this logic, one may question things, such as their own existence or even be curious to know more about their creator, and conclude that it is time to seek (see Matthew 7:7).
B. Names and Attributes of God
            “Divine attributes are modes either of the relation or of the operation of divine essence. They are, consequently, an analytical and closer description of the essence” (Greenough, Shedd and Gomes 274). In other words, Divine attributes are a more clearly focused definition of the essence of God. In the two classes of divine attributes of God (passive relation of the essence or an active operation of it), there are sub-points such as omniscience, omnipotence, infinity, and several of these can be categorized under the same head of understanding, such as wisdom and omniscience (Ibid.). There are two degrees of divine attributes as well, Incommunicable and communicable.  Incommunicable attributes are those that belong to God exclusively, so that there is nothing resembling them in a created spirit. They admit no degrees, but are divine by their very nature. Such are self-existence, simplicity, infinity, eternity, immutability. The communicable attributes are those which are possessed in a finite degree, more or less, by men and angels” (Ibid. 275). Put in simpler terms, Incommunicable attributes are attributes only God can have, because he IS God.
            Let’s take a look at the divine incommunicable attribute “Infinity” just to get an idea of how to understand things, and set an example. In the book of Job, chapter eleven, there is a clear explanation to the infinity of God. “Can you fathom the mysteries of God? Can you probe the limits of the Almighty? They are higher than the heavens—what can you do? They are deeper than the depths of the grave—what can you know? Their measure is longer than the earth and wider than the sea” (NIV Job 11:7-9). All of these rhetorical questions point to an unending quest for one to completely know the mysteries of God. He only allows us to know what we do until He stops us from knowing. He volunteers only so much information, and even with that, it is basically unfathomable.
C. Triunity of God
            “The members of the Holy Trinity can be known and worshiped together as God, or known and worshiped individually as God” (Horrell). The Trinity; God the Son, God the Father, and God the Holy Spirit, are all one. I think the best example on Earth of the Trinity can be seen in marriage. “The two shall cleave together and become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24). Not that the trinity was ever separated before, but we, as humans, are limited in our earthly understanding and examples. So then, a man and a woman are two separate beings at first. They live separate, have different responsibilities, are surrounded by different things, they have different goals, different expectations for their futures, and they are ultimately pointed in two different directions.
            When these two hypothetical people marry however, things begin to change. To start, they are now living together, which takes getting used to because they are used to being independent, more concerned with themselves. They are starting to be surrounded by the same things because of the fact that they are living together. They are gaining responsibilities towards each other now. Their futures not only have the significant other in them, but their expectations are starting to become similar as well. Most of all, they aren’t pointing in such different directions anymore. The arrows of their lives are facing in the same general direction. Keep in mind that this isn’t a perfect example because humans aren’t perfect, and or are marriages.
            In any event, like the marriage example, the Trinity is united. We can see in the citation above, each member of the Trinity, AND the Trinity itself, is worthy of worship because in a way, they are both definitions of “God.” All three members of the trinity are called “God” in the Bible (see John 20:28; Acts 5:3-4; and obviously, Genesis 1:1. If you don’t like that one for some reason, see John 1:1). Unlike humans, or their imperfect examples of marriage, the members of the Trinity are never in disagreement in the entire context of the Bible or history.
D. The Decrees of God
            The decrees of God are created things that have an eternal purpose, and have always been in His plan. “He knows everything from everlasting to everlasting and at each instant, and there is no more than everything. He knew before it came to pass that Christ would be crucified upon Calvary. When that event occurred, it made no change in his knowledge. He was no better informed than he was before. He was no more certain of the crucifixion after the event than he was before it, because he had decreed that it should take place. He could not have foreknown that it would take place, unless he had predetermined that it should” (Greenough, Shedd and Gomes 285; emphasis mine). This citation allows us to see more clearly the definition of God’s decrees. The fact that Jesus DID, in fact, die on the cross, was allowed by God long before it happened. The decrees of God are predetermined events that may seem either positive or negative in nature. “God can will a change in the affairs of men—such as the abrogation of the levitical (sic) priesthood and ceremonial—and yet his own will remain immutable, because he had from eternity willed and decreed the change” (Greenough, Shedd and Gomes 285).
E. God’s Creation
            The creation of God is one of His decrees. “God creates all things from eternity by one act of power, as he knows all things from eternity by one act of knowledge and as he decrees all things from eternity by one act of will” (Greenough, Shedd and Gomes 281). Because we know that the creation is one of God’s decrees, that allows us to understand that the creation was always meant to be. Therefore there has always been a purpose to every reaction caused by the action. “God’s energy as the cause of the creation is one and succession less, like his decree; the creation itself, as the effect of this eternal cause, is a successive series. The cause is one; the effect is many. The cause is eternal; the effect is temporal” (Ibid.).
F. God’s Providence
            “The manifestations of divine power are seen in providence, by which what has been created is preserved, and controlled: “Upholding all things by the word of his power” (Heb. 1:3). [See also; Colossians 1:17: “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together” (NIV).] The omnipotence of God exerted in the act of creation is denominated potentia absoluta.  In this instance, there is no use made of anything that is in existence. It is the operation of the first cause alone. Divine omnipotence exerted in providence is called potentia ordinata. In this instance, there is use made of existing things. God in providence employs the constitution and laws of nature which he created for this very purpose. The first cause uses second causes previously originated ex nihilo. God causes the warmth of the atmosphere by the rays of the sun, and not by an exertion of absolute omnipotence” Greenough, Shedd and Gomes 290; emphasis mine). In other words, Providence is how God cares for His creation. A clock must be built, hung, and wound before someone can use it for practical purposes. Providence is the hypothetical winding of the creation. Providence is the never-ending winding, so to speak.
In Conclusion
            Studying the revelation, nature and work of God are most assuredly ways to better understand one’s relationship with Him, and understand how He operated in the past, operates in the present and  how He will operate in the future of not only the world, but also in one’s life, which to Him, is bigger than the world.

Written by Nace Howell through the grace of the Lord
Works Cited
            New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995).
            William Greenough Thayer Shedd and Alan W. Gomes, Dogmatic Theology, 3rd ed. (Phillipsburg, N.J.: P & R Pub., 2003).
            The Holy Bible: New International Version, electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996, c1984).
            Paul P. Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology (Chicago, Ill.: Moody Press, 1997, c1989).
            J. Scott Horrell: In The Name Of The Father, Son And Holy Spirit: Constructing A Trinitarian Worldview (http://bible.org/article/name-father-son-and-holy-spirit-constructing-trinitarian-worldview)

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