Some of God’s qualities are discussed here, as they must be kept in balance by His ability to act in time. So God can change His acts and attitude, even though His Being is unchangeable. He can change His emotional response towards us, ever though His being is changeless. He can act in time, ever though He Himself is timeless. He can be immanent in all things, ever though He transcends creation infinitely. God is able to do this because He is a divine Person. An impersonal force does not have ideas and cannot steer information. If God were a pantheistic force simply then He could never control Himself, let alone creation. For a force is always controlled by a higher power. For instance man has power over electricity, nuclear energy, and so on. An impersonal force is meaningless in itself. It receives its purpose from the power that controls it. If God were just a force then the future will be forever left to chance, and so there can be no hope for order, peace and perfection. Moreover if humans are persons, wouldn’t God be? He would still be able to communicate with us, and certainly love us.
God is absolutely perfect, creation was relatively perfect when God made it. The difference is that God is perfect to the infinite degree. Creation was made perfect, but there was room to grow, just as a baby could be called perfect, and at each stage afterwards in its development. God is infinite, creation is finite. God is unchangeable, creation changes. God is timeless, creation is temporal.
What does it mean, that God is infinite and creation finite? In order to understand God’s greatness, we must get a grip on the meaning of infinitude. It is certainly not simply an indefinite prolongation, elaboration or extrapolation of the properties of creatures or creation in general. Creation can be expressed in numbers. So there must be a smallest particle and a biggest star. There is no such thing as a really infinitesimal particle, or an infinite number of stars. Numbers are always definite. A specific number therefore can never be infinite. There is no such thing, then, as an infinite number. God, however, cannot be given a number. His strength, beauty and other qualities transcend all numbers. Ours are finite, and measurable for God. Infinitude actually is a poor concept for God. For it denotes endlessness. But God is not like a line. Yet Paul speaks of the length, breadth, and depth of Christ’s Love (Eph.3.18,19). We simply have no other way to talk about God. For we know nothing that is infinite but the imagined idea of an endless space as in a line, for example.
The matter however is not as simple as this. For the infinite creator can create something that is finite for Him, for He is absolutely infinite, but infinite for us! Our finite conscious minds will never totally grasp the relative infinity of creation. Creation is relatively infinite (relatively, because related to God it is finite, but related to us it is infinite), and as such it
is a worthy handiwork of the infinitive Creator. God’s absolute infinity transcends the relative infinity of creation infinitely. That one infinity transcends another is known from mathematics. The set of positive integers 0,1,2,3,… ∞ï is a smaller set than the one that includes both positive and negative integers ∞… -3,-2,-1,0,1,2,3,… ∞.
These considerations are important, for we can infer from them that creatures, even mighty angels, will never fully understand Creation, not even if it is studied for an eternity. For the relative infinity of creation always transcends the creature’s finite mind. This also means that we, humans, transcend our conscious minds with a relative infinity. Our conscious minds will never fully come to terms with ourselves as a creature. There are always deeper things to probe after. Then our mind will grow for all eternity, without reading a point at which it can say,” Now I understand creation and myself fully.”. And of course we will never be able to say that of the Almighty. Then eternity will never be boring, as we will never run out of material to praise God Himself for Himself and for His works.
That creation is relatively infinite can even be seen in an irrational number such as √18. Your mind can never hope to grasp an irrational number fully, yet God can! I personally wouldn’t call such numbers “irrational”, they are suprarational. For who can grasp their non terminating nonperiodic decimal and work with them perfectly!
The bible teaches that God is changeless. Mal. 3.6 says,”… I change not… ,”, James 1.17,”… with whom there is no change or shadow of turning… ,” Hebr. 13.8, “… Christ is yesterday and today the same, and forever… “. Philosophically this makes
sense as Thomas Aquinas adequately explained. According to him God is pure actuality. Now anything that changes passes from a potential state (in which change is possible) to a state of actuality (in which the change has been actualized). However in God there can be no potential state, for then He could not be fully God. Moreover anything that changes consists of something that changes and something that does not. The latter thing guarantees the continuation of the former, else there is no question of change but of annihilation and recreation. However God is not a composite being, as if He were the sum of His parts like a car. He is absolutely simple. Also anything that changes takes on something new. However God is absolutely perfect. For these reasons God is absolutely immutable. From this follows also that God is timeless. For anything that changes goes through a series of temporal states. For time is a concomitant of creation. God created time. Therefore He is timeless, or eternal. This is the meaning of Gen. 21.33,”… eternal God… ,” and Ps. 90.2,”… from eternity to eternity Thou art God.”.
However the qualities of God’s Being must be kept in balance by His ability to change His acts, and to do them in time. It is not God’s mood that changes, as if God has moods like we do, but He can change His relation, or attitude to us. So it says in Gen. 6.6, “And Jihweh regretted that He had made man upon the earth, and it grieved Him at heart.” What we have here is a metaphor to denote a shift in a relation between God and man. For God, who is omniscient, foreknew this anyway. So He did not regret as having an afterthought.
God then is pure actuality living in a timeless, eternal now. All things of the past, present and future are fully transparent for Him. Yet God is capable of relative, changeable and finite acts in time. So the creation of the garden of Eden is an act of a relative infinity of love, in comparison with the absolutely infinite love manifested on the cross. God’s acts can change, for the time of grace is different from the time of Moses’ law and the new heaven and earth of revelation is different from the present. God’s acts are usually, relatively infinite, whereas He is invariably absolutely infinite. These two sides of the truth must be kept in balance. Let us see what happens when people start tampering with them. And they do that, as said before, because of a false feeling of tension, which true faith does not feel. It is because the proud mind wants to force an explanation that rationalizes the mystery of God, and His works away.
So in the deism of Isaac Newton time and space are absolute. The universe is some kind of absolute mechanism that does not deviate from its course fixed by God. The result of such a belief is that everything in the universe is considered to be determined by absolute laws. Miracles and indeed any measure of freedom are impossible here. It is a mark of deism to overaccentuate the rational character of the universe, to the point of making it as absolute as God. However deism is not just Isaac Newton’s unitarian rationalism, but deism is really any kind of overaccentuation of matter, also Einstein’s. So the notion of substance in Roman catholic scholasticism is really deism, for it accords a certain independence to matter.
At any rate modern science, even though it still bestows a certain deistic independence on the universe, has unnerved the mechanistic view of Newton. Einstein’s relativity theory and modern physics teach differently. So modern physics has shown that the life of radium atoms cannot be explained by any known physical mechanism, electricity, magnetism or any of the other forces. There is no explanation why one radium atom lives longer than the other. Then, black holes (stars that cave in under their own gravity, and become so dense that not even light can escape) present a horizon event where the laws of time and matter seem to end.
If God really created the world as an absolute mechanism then the conclusion is unescapable that humans are just machines determined by its fixed laws. To escape this tension one might claim that the universe is eternal. However if matter is eternal, and God does not exist, then we land from the frying pan into the fire. Our emotions would be nothing but nonsensical chemical reactions.
Where deism elevates the universe, there pantheism degrades God. So at the other side of the scales there is panentheism (everything is in God). Panentheism is really a form of relativistic pantheism (God as the principle power that penetrates the relative universe). According to this philosophy God is bipolar. One side of Him is actual, eternal, changeless, and absolute, the other side is potential, temporal, changeable, and relative. However this would make God and creation look like siamese twins. God however is absolutely separate from creation. Creation is fully dependent on God, not one with Him, or one side of Him. If God were bipolar then one side of His Being would be creaturely. But if God is not infinite, perfect and so on, but partially finite, imperfect, changeable, subject to time, and not at all omnipotent, then how could He be fully in control? Such a God is tied down with one hand behind His back. Moreover the idea of a bipolar God both immutable and mutable, defies all logic. It is nonsense, and irrational emotionalism. For how could A=1 be simultaneously A≠1? Panentheist scornfully label the God of traditional monotheism as static, and therefor unable to interact with creation, or unable to create in the first place. However God is not static, but dynamic. Panentheism turns Him into a finite, imperfect, uncompleted, shackled cripple. However who but a totally free being can hold any hope for us?
To escape this tension one might conclude that God is simply the same as the world. We have already seen into what kind of a vortex this leads us. For He would be part of evil. One may as well become a polytheist. Indeed panentheism also makes God part of evil, for an imperfect God cannot create a perfect world, not even a relatively perfect world.
Also here on both sides of the scales we are led into the same convergence of madness. The vicious circles are obvious, as well as their virtuous solution. The more we understand, the greater the harmony between God’s absolute Being and His relative acts in time.
On the extrinsic side of deism and atheism (rationalism and materialism), Creation is lifted up towards God. On the intrinsic side of pantheism and polytheism (mysticism and occultism) God is dragged down. The paradoxical identity of both sides is that Creation is deified; in the first case by making the world like God, in the second case by making God like the world.
It should be clear then that the idea of God’s absoluteness be maintained, as well as the notion of His acting in time. He that created all things, even time, can communicate with temporal beings. For if we start tinkering with God or with Creation then we will end up losing both. We must remain satisfied that this is simply too great a mystery to fathom.
Let us now discuss briefly God’s omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence. These three must be balanced by His transcendence and immanence (the former of which is too much stressed in deism, the latter in pantheism ). The following trick question seems to refute these divine qualities. “Can God make a stone so big that He cannot lift it up anymore!?” Whether you answer in the affirmative or in the negative, in both cases it seems that God is not omnipotent. Yet the right answer is —–no! God who has created the entire universe with all his gravitational harmony, within and between the galaxies, cannot make a stone so big that He is unable to lift it up! It is because all His powers are infinite. The power to craete is absolutely infinite, as well as the power to move. Thus no matter how great the stone or planet, God can always move it. This question then is unmasked by seeing that all God’s powers are equally infinite. The one is not greater than the other. It is a pity to see unbelievers use such sophistry to refute God, who with one word could fill the entire infinity of space with solid matter! Then indeed no movement would be possible anymore. But then, God’s omnipotence does not depend on such a hypothetical case.
The reason that God’s powers of performing, knowing and presence are balanced by His transcendence and immanence, is the same as the balance of His absolute Being, divine qualities and His usually relative, finite, and changeable acts. If you overaccentuate God’s transcendence, as in deism, then God cannot be perfectly immanent. In pantheism it is the other way around. In both cases His omnipotence is belittled.
God’s omnipotence is also balanced by the following pair. God can do everything that is like Him, and nothing that is unlike Him. So there are deists that define God’s omnipotence as His capability to do anything that is within the limits of His power. But His power is limited. However such a God is an unresponsable daredevil, a mad gambler that hopes the throw of his dice will break the jackpot. To escape this dilemma others have defined God’s omnipotence as the power to do anything He wants, and to want only what He is capable of. But in that case God is just a human. The vicious circles on this side are obvious. They all turn around God’s being capable of all that is like him. The lack lies in who God is, and what is like Him.
On the other side of the balance there is the pantheistic notion that God is capable of all things that are absolutely possible, However evil is also absolutely possible. But if God is capable of evil then He is schizophrenic. Certain mysticists actually believed that God even created evil in order to purify their souls or spirits; or at least this is what their belief implies, for God sent their spirits into the evil material world in order to long back all the more for the heavenly bliss. At any rate there have been sects that believed that God created both good and evil. This is really pantheism. Worse is the definition that omnipotence is the capacity to make absolutely all things possible. It would not only make sin possible in God, but also it would mean that God could create beings that are clones of Himself. certain gnostics more or less believed this. This clearly is a form of polytheism.
The best definition therefore is that God is capable of everything that is like Him, and of nothing that is unlike Him. What is like Him includes all His divine qualities, what is unlike Him includes anything that is sinful.
As to God’s omniscience and omnipresence, they must be, as said, balanced by His transcendence and immanence. In certain forms of deism God is so transcendent that He does not know, or care about tiny humans on planet earth. In certain types of pantheism God is so immanent that He knows everything that is going on, but He cannot transcend infinitely above it. So He cannot freely consider all future possibilities, let alone steer them.
In deism God only wants to know what He can know, and He can only know what He wants to know. You and I are types of this kind of God! In certain types of polytheism, as well as certain types of pantheism, God, or the gods know the “mysterious” behind-the-scenes link between good and evil. Good and evil here are dualistic principles part of God’s or the gods’ nature.
There is a great mystery in all this. For if God knows all things then one might conclude that all eternity has been determined Bible makes clear that humans and angels have their own responsibility, which is really fully their own. Therefore God does not determine our course as if we were robots. God’s omniscience does not derive from determinism, but from His spiritual Being that lives in a timeless now. He does not just foreknow all things. He really knows them as it were at a single glance. God’s eternal now is of a spiritual nature. This is all a great mystery indeed!
Let us now take a closer look at God’s transcendence and immanence. In deism God is mainly transcendent, that is, He is in His own place. Jehovah’s witnesses believe this also, by the way. However if God is mainly or only transcendent then how can He hear our prayers or read our thoughts? Such a God is clearly limited in His power. In atheism god is nowhere, or “God’ is simply the physical-mathematical law that explains all other laws.
In pantheism God is in all things, or is all things. This clearly makes Him schizophrenic. For He would also be in, or be part of somebody’s fatal cancer. In polytheism there is not one God, but two, three or many, who are everywhere.
The truth however, is that God is in all things by His power, in that all things are subject to it; by His presence in that all things are transparent for Him; and by His divine Being in that all the things are upheld by Him constantly. (See respectively Hebr.2.8, 4.13, 1.3). This is God’s immanence. His transcendence means that He thrones infinitely above Creation. If these two sides are not held in perfect balance, then nothing makes sense. The two sides are not complementary, that would make God a dualism; they are two sides of the same Being, and that makes Him a duality. It is a mystery faith is glad to be content with!
For your interest and information I would like to add a few things to this section on God and Creation. Certain fantasts have plaid with the idea of going back in time. Could God undo the past? Since He is omnipotent I suppose He could. The universe lives by His grace, and therefore He could simply annihilate all things or undo them partially. In the Bible even a case is recorded of the sun going backwards. However even though time and space are relative things, the time order has an absolute character, because the order of temporal events are subjects to God’s will, which is absolute. Clearly God cannot undo Himself, He would make a mockery both of Himself and of us. This does not make the universe absolute, as in deism, but the relative universe is upheld by an absolute Being. Perhaps one could say that the universe is indirectly absolute. Therefore the idea of a time machine is the height of folly. It is an insult to both God and man. For the Work of Christ on the Cross is an absolute event, it can never be undone. The idea of a time machine would contradict that, at least in part.
John Kepler, the well known scientist, claimed that geometry is eternal, that it existed from all eternity, before creation, in God’s mind. In this way one could idolize mathematics, logic, language, ethics and so on. For instance one could say:
“Unlike matter the laws of mathematics were never created. They are part of God’s mind and He uses them to regulate the universe, and indeed used them to create it. Mathematics therefore is divine. Although we cannot say that God is mathematics, as Scripture says that He is love, we might say, with all caution and reverence, that mathematics is part of God. For 1+1+1=3 must have been true from all eternity not just since Creation. Mathematic in eternity past was one of the basic carriers of God’s thoughts. On them was drawn up that grand edition——the universe!”
It is true that all things, and indeed all future eternity, has been in God’s mind from all eternity. Humanly speaking this is foreknowledge (A poor concept as I explained already). Thus also mathematics has been in God’s mind from all eternity.
However if mathematics (or geometry or any other thing ), is part of God’s eternal mind, then God does not transcend mathematics. Math, however is part of Creation. It could be said, perhaps, to transcend matter, which it seems to govern. If math is part of God, then God becomes again the sum of His qualities. If math is divine, like God’s love, then God is math. But this is all madness.
The hidden motivation behind all this is that humans want to have something as tangible as possible in order to worship it. If geometry is eternal and divine then John Kepler can lay his hands on it, cherish and hold it. However the divine is infinitely transcendent above all things.
The desire to worship some things tangible or intangible, is really the desire to worship oneself. For both matter and abstract things are part of ourselves. John Kepler unconsciously wanted to feel divine. This is behind all the corrupted beliefs. Newton’s absolute universe makes him as rational as God. Marx’s materialism makes him as free as God. Plato’s pantheism makes him as mysterious as God. And the occultist’s polytheism makes him as magical as the gods. What a tragic parody, what a melodramatic play, and also what a silly comedy we humans stage in this sublunar vale of tears! Knowledge leads to sorrow indeed…
Aristotle, the well known Greek philosopher, thought that matter is eternal. This kind of dualism however clearly is God dishonoring. Only God is eternal. How could something impersonal and lifeless as matter be eternal? Moreover if this were true then God is not uniquely God, that is existing in solitary greatness. Matter would be an equal principle, divine and self-existing. This is really ditheism. If there are two Gods from all eternity, fully existing in themselves, then how can there ever be full harmony in the universe? Because of this belief, moreover, ancient philosophers came to regard matter as something degrading and worthless, something evil. “Soma sema, “they said, “The body is a tomb. ” However matter is a glorious creation of God.
Tertullian, one of the Church’s first great thinkers, thought that God is a form of very fine matter, as already mentioned. He adopted his view from the Stoic pantheists. However how can matter create more matter? Matter is something that “simply” is there, it cannot produce more matter. For matter in itself has no life.
What about pantheists that believed that matter is one of the lowest emanations of God, reason, the logos, being the highest? Just like a spider produces a web, so God produced the world. This means that the world was hidden in God. Matter however is something visible, it cannot at all exist in an invisible state. If the universe is an evolution, not a Creation, then it somehow existed in God as part of Him. This again makes God the sum of His parts, and it implies that the universe is divine. We have already seen that this makes God the author of evil.
There are further many other forms of deism, pantheism, atheism and polytheism, as well as dualistic cross philosophies of these. Scholars have come up with terms like acosmism, pantheism (matter is an illusion, only spiritual ideas exist), absolutistic pantheism (the world is absolute, God relative) relativistic pantheism (vice versa), immanentistic and hylozoistic pantheism. But all these scholarly analyses go beyond the scope of this essay. The most important thing is that we have caught the gist and marrow of these things from their theological perspective.[ad_2]