God - Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literaturefrom the same Saxon root as good, thus beautifully expressing the divine benignity as the leading attribute of the most general term for the Deity, and corresponding almost invariably to two Hebrew words, both from a common root (אוּל, au, to be strong). Hengstenberg, however, regards the simpler of these words (אֵל, El) as a primitive (Auth. of Pent. 1:251), while some consider the extended form (אֵֵלוֹהּ, Elo'dh) as derived from a different root (the obsolete אָלָהּ, found in Arabic = to worship). The corresponding Shemitic terms are: Arabic, Al or Allah (q.v.); Syriac, Ilo or Eloho; Samar. El or Chilah (= powerful; Castell, in Walton's Polyglot Bible, 6, s.v.); Phoenician El (ἠλ or ἰλ), as in En-el (῎Ενυλος, עינאל), Gag-el (Gagilus, גגאל), Ε᾿λοείμ (Sanchon.). SEE ALMIGHTY.
The only other Hebrew word generally employed in naming the Supreme Being is Jehovah, יְהוָֹה, which some (so Havernick, Historische-critsche Einleitung ins alte Testament, Berlin, 1839) propose to point יִהְוֶה, Jahveh, meaning "the Existing One," holding that Elohim is used merely to indicate the abundance and super-richness contained in the Divine Being. With such, therefore, Jehovah is not of the same origin as the heathen Jove, but of a strictly peculiar and Hebrew origin. Both names are used by Moses discriminately, in strict conformity with the theological idea he wished to express in the immediate context; and, pursuing the Pentateuch nearly line by line, it is astonisling to see that Moses never uses any of the names at mere random or arbitrarily, but is throughout consistent in the application of the respective terms. Elohim is the abstract expression for absolute Deity apart from the special notions of unity, holiness, substance, etc. It is more a philosophical than devotional term, and corresponds with our term Deity, in the same way as state or government is abstractly expressive of a king or monarch. Jehovah, however, seems to be the revealed Elohim, the Manifest, Only, Personal, and Holy Elohim: Elohim is the Creator, Jehovah the Redeemer, etc. SEE JEHOVAH.
The translators of the Eng. A.V. have invariably translated this last Hebrew word by " Lord," which is printed in those passages in small capitals in our common Bibles, but whenever the two words which they thus render occur together, Adonai-Jehovah, the latter is rendered "God," in order to prevent the repetition of " Lord." The Greek has θεός (either with or without the art.). Jerome and the Rabbins enumerate ten Heb. words as meaning God; but they relate rather to his attributes. SEE LORD.
I. Usage of the Hebrew terms properly rendered "God."
1. אֵל, El. This term is used in the most general way as a designation of Deity, whether of the true God or of the false gods, even the idols, of the heathen. In the latter reference it occurs Isa 44:10; Isa 44:15; Isa 45:20; Isa 46:6; and in the plur. אֵלַים, Elim', Exo 15:11; Dan 11:36; though in both these last instances it may be questioned whether the word is not used in the sense of mighty ones. To render the application of the term in this reference more specific, such epithets as אִחֵר, other, foreign (Exo 34:14), זָר, strange, hostile (Psa 81:10), נֵכָר, strange (Deu 32:12), are used. When used of the true God, אֵלis usually preceded by the article (הָאִל, Gen 31:13; Deu 7:9), or followed by such distinctive epithets as שִׁדִּי, Almighty (Exo 6:3); עוֹלָם, eternal (Gen 21:33; Isa 40:28); עִלְיוֹן, Supreme (Gen 14:18); חִי, living (Jos 3:10); גַּבּרֹ, mighty (Isa 9:5); or such qualifying adjuncts as כָּבוֹד, of glory (Psa 29:3); אֵֶמת, of truth (Psa 31:6); גְּמֻלוֹת, of retributions (Jer 51:56); בֵּיתאּאֵל, of Bethel (Gen 31:13). יַשְׂרָאֵל, of Israel (Gen 33:20); יְשֻׁרוּן(Deu 33:26). In poetry אֵל sometimes occurs as a sign of the superlative; as הִרִרֵיאּאֵל, hills of God, very high hills (Psa 36:7); אִרְזֵיאּאֵל, cedars of God (Psa 80:11). The phrase בְּנֵיאּאֵלַים. occurs Psa 29:1; Psa 89:7; and is supposed by some to refer to angels; but others take אלים here for אילים, and translate Sons of the mighty (see Rosenmuller, ad loc.). There is no instance of אֵלin the singular being used in the sense of mighty one or hero; for even if we retain that reading in Eze 31:11 (though thirty of Kennicott's codices have the reading איל, and the probability is that in those which present אל the י is implied), the rendering "God of the nations" may be accepted as conveying a strong but just description of the power of Nebuchadnezzar, and the submission rendered to him; compare 2Co 4:4. In proper names אל is often found sometimes in the first member of the compound word, e.g. אליה, Elijah; אלדד, Eldad, etc., and sometimes as the last member, e.g. שׁמואלSamuel; למואל, Lemuel; טבאל, Tabeel, etc. SEE EL.
2. אלֵוֹהִּ, Elo'ah, plur. אלֵהַים, Elohim'. The singular form occurs only in poetry, especially in Job, and in the later books, such as Daniel, Nehemiah, and Chronicles. It is used as well of idol deities as of the true God (Dan 11:37-38; Hab 1:11; Deu 32:15; Psalms 1:22; Hab 3:3, etc.); once in the former case with the addition of נֵכָר (Dan 11:39), and in the latter with that of יִעֲקֹב (Psa 114:7). The more common usage is that of the plural. This pervades all the books of the Old Test., from the earliest to the latest. Thus it is used principally of the true God, and in this case frequently with the article prefixed (Gen 5:22; Gen 6:9; Gen 6:11; Gen 17:18), as well as with such adjuncts as הִשָּׁמִיַם (Neh 1:4), or with the addition of וְהָאָרֶו ֹ (Gen 24:3); אָמֵן (Isa 65:16); צִדַּק (Psa 4:2); הִצִּבָּאוֹת (Amo 3:13), etc. When the relation of Israel to God is to be indicated, the phrases God of Israel, Jacob, Abraham are used (Eze 5:1; Psalm 20:2; 47:10, etc.); and in this case, as the term Elohim is equivalent in effect to Jehovah, it is often used interchangeably with that term; thus Moses, who is designated עֵבֶד יְהֹוָה, Ebed-Jehovah (Deu 34:5), is called in the same sense ע אלֵהַים, Ebed-Elohim (Dan 9:11); and the same object is designated indifferently רוּחִ יְהֹוָה, Ruach-Jehovah, and ר אלֵהַים, Ruach-Elohim (comp. Jdg 3:10, and Exo 31:3, etc.). Not unfrequently the two terms are combined (Lev 18:2; Lev 18:4, etc.; Lev 19:2, etc.; 2Sa 5:10; 1Ki 1:36; 1Ki 14:13; Psa 18:29, etc.). Most commonly, however, they are used distinctively, with respect, probably, to the difference between their primary meanings (see Hengstenberg, Auth. d. Pent. 1:181 sq.). In the Pentateuch this discriminative usage has given ground for certain hypotheses as to the composition of that work. SEE PENTATEUCH.
In the earlier historical books, Jehovah is more frequently used than Elohim; in Job, Jehovah is more frequently used in the poetical, Eloah or Elohim in the prosaic portions; in the Psalms, sometimes the one, sometimes the other predominates, and this has been thought to afford some criterion by which to judge of the age of the psalm, the older psalms being those in which Elohim is used; in Proverbs we have chiefly Jehovah; in Ecclesiastes, Daniel, and Jonah almost exclusively Elohim, and in the other prophets chiefly Jehovah. Elohim is also used of idol deities or false gods, because these are worshipped as if they were God (Exo 19:20; Exo 32:31; Jos 24:20; Jer 2:11; Jon 1:5, etc.); and, like El, it is used as a superlative (Psa 68:16; Psa 65:10, etc.). Kings and judges, as the vicegerents of Deity, or as possessing a sort of repreasentative majesty, are sometimes called Elohim (Psa 82:1; Psa 82:6; Exo 21:6; Exo 22:8). Whether the term is used of angels may be made matter of question. This is the rendering given to אֵֹלהַים by the Sept.,Vulg., Targ., Syr., etc., in Gen 3:5; Psa 8:6; Psa 82:1; Psa 82:6; Psa 97:7; Psa 138:1; but in the majority of these instances there can be little doubt that the translators were swayed by were dogmatical considerations in adopting. that rendering; they preferred it because they avoided thus the strongly by anthropomorphic representation which a literal rendering would have preserved. In all these passages the proper signification of אלֹהַים may be retained, and in some of them, such as Gen 3:5; Psa 82:1; Psa 82:6, this seems imperatively required. In Psa 8:6 also the rendering "angels" seems excluded by the consideration that the subject of the writer is the grace of God to man in giving him dominion over the works of his hands, in which respect there can be no comparison between man and the angels, of whom nothng of this sort is affirmed. In Psa 97:7, the connection of the last clause with what precedes affords sufficient reason for our giving Elohim its proper rendering, as in the A.V. That the author of the epistle to the Hebrews should have adopted the Sept. rendering in citing these two passages (Heb 2:7; Heb 1:6), cannot be held as establishing that rendering, for, as his argument is not affected by it, he was under no call to depart from the rendering given in the version from which he quotes. But, though there be no clear evidence that Elohim is ever used in the sense of angels, it is sometimes used vaguely to describe unseen powers or superhemman beings that are not properly thought of as divine. Thus the witch of Endor saw "Elohim ascending out of the earth" (1Sa 28:13), meaning thereby some beings of. an unearthly, superhuman character. So also in Zec 12:8 it is said, "The house of David shall be as Elohim, as the angel of the Lord," where, as the transition from Elohim to the angel of the Lord is a minori ad majus, we must regard the former as a vague designation of supernatural powers. Hengstenberg would explain Psa 8:6 in accordance with this; but the legitimmicy of this may be doubted. SEE ELOHIM.
On the use or absence of the article with אֵֹלהַים see Quarry (Genesis, page 270 sq.), who, after an elaborate examination of the subject, sums up the results as the following: "The dispelling of the supposition that any essential difference existed, at least in the earlier books, between Elohim with and without the article — any difference at all, but such as the exigencies of each occasion with respect to sense or grammar would have made in the case of any common appellative; the illustration of the use of the article with particles and prepositions, elucidating many passages of Scripture, and explaining many seeming causes of perplexity; and the establishment of an important characteristic difference as regards the usage in the case of Elohim with or without the article, between the earlier and later books of the sacred canon." SEE ARTICLE (IN GRAMMAR).
II. The attributes ascribed to God by Moses are systematically enumerated in Exo 34:6-7, though we find is isolated passages in the Pentateuch and elsewhere additional properties specified, which bear more directly upon the dogmas and principles of religion, such as, e.g. that he is not the author of sin (Gen 1:31), although since the fall man is prone to sin (Gen 6:5; Gen 8:21, etc.). But, as it was the avowed design of Moses to teach the Jews the unity of God in opposition to the polytheism of the other nations with whom they were to come in contact, he dwelt particularly and most prominently on that point, which he hardly ever omitted when he had an opportunity of bringing forward the attributes of God (Deu 6:4; Deu 10:17; Deu 4:39; Deu 9:16, etc.; Num 16:22; Num 33:19, etc.; Exo 15:11; Exo 34:6-7, etc.).
In the prophets and other sacred writers of the Old Testament these attributes are still more fully developed and explained by the declarations that God is the first and the last (Isa 44:6); that he changes not (Hab 3:6); that the earth and heaven shall perish, but he shall endure (Psa 102:26) — a distinct allusion to the last doomsday — and that he is omnipresent (Pro 15:3; Job 34:22, etc.).
In the New Testament also we find the attributes of God systematically classified (Rev 5:12; Rev 7:12), while the peculiar tenets of Christianity embrace, if not a further, still a more developed idea, as presented by the apostles and the primitive teachers of the Church (compare Semisch's Justin Martyr, 2:151 sq., translated by J.E. Ryland, 1843).
The expression "to see God" (Job 19:26; Job 13:5; Isa 38:11) sometimes signifies merely to experience his help; but in the Old Testament Scriptures it more usually denotes the approach of death (Gen 32:30; Jdg 6:23; Jdg 13:22; Isa 6:5). SEE DEATH.
The term בֶּןאּאֵֹלהַים “son of God," applies to kings (Psalm 2:7; 82:6, 27). The usual notion of the ancients that the royal dignity was derived from God may here be traced to its source: hence the Homeric διογένης βασιλεύς. This notion, entertained by the Oriental nations with regard to kings, made the latter style themselves gods (Psa 82:6). Add. בְּנֵי אֵֹלהַים"sons of God," in the plural, implies inferior gods, angels (Gen 6:2; Job 1:6);also faithful adherents, worshippers of God (Deu 14:1; Psa 73:15; Pro 14:26). אַישׁ אֵֹלהַים "man of God," is sometimes applied to an angel (Jdg 13:6; Jdg 13:8), as also to a prophet (1Sa 2:27; 1Sa 9:6; 1Ki 13:1).
When, in the Middle Ages, scholastic theology began to speculate on the divines attributes as the basis of systematic and dogmatic Christianity, the Jews, it appears, did not wish to remain behind on that head, and, collecting a few passages from the Old Testament, and more especially from Isa 11:2, and 1Ch 29:11, where the divine attributes are more amply developed and enumerated, they strung them together in a sort of cabbalistic tree, but in reality representing a human figure. SEE CABBALA.
III. The Scriptures contain frequent notices of false gods as objects of idolatrous worship:
1. By the Hebrews. These were of two kinds:
a. Adoration of other beings than Jehovah, held as divine (Ehrlen, De diis et deab. Gentil. in S.S. memoratis, Argent. 1750; Leusden, De idolis V.T. in his Philolog. Hebr. mixt. page 291 sq.; Kalkar, Udsigt over den idolatr. Cultus som omtales i bibeln, Odense, 1838 sq.). Such false deities (which are generally identified with their images, Deu 4:28 sq.; Psa 115:4 sq.; Psa 135:15 sq.; 2Ma 2:2; comp. also עֲצָבַים, idols, in passages like 1Sa 31:9; Hos 4:17) are called אֵַלילַיםnothings (perhaps a play upon אֵֹלהַים), in the Jewish Church phraseology (Lev 19:4; Lev 26:1; comp. Hab 2:18), or חֲבָלַים, breaths, i.e., vanities (Jer 2:5; Jer 8:19; Jer 14:22), הִבְלֵי שׁ וְאutter vanities (Jon 2:9; comp. τὰ μάταια, Act 14:15), שַׁקּוּצַים, abominations (1Ki 11:5; Kings 23:13); derisively גַּלּוּלַים, logs (Eze 6:4; Eze 14:3); their sacred rites אָיֶן, frivolity (1Sa 15:23; Isa 66:3), and their whole worship harlotry (Ezekiel 23; compare זָנָה, and derivatives, in Winer, Simonis Lex. p. 286 sq.), in contrast with which Jehovah is called the true God (אֵֹלהַים חִיַּים, Jer 10:10 sq.; Dan 6:20; Dan 6:26 [compare מֵתַים, Psalm 116:28]; Act 14:15; 2Co 6:16), the God of Heaven (Jdt 5:7; compare Jer 10:11, etc.). Indeed idolatry was reprobated as a capital offense in the Mosaic law, under penalty of extirpation and destruction in the case of the whole people (Lev 19:4; Deu 6:15; Deu 8:19; Deu 11:16 sq.; Deu 28:15 sq.; Deu 30:17 sq.; Deu 31:16 sq.; comp. Jos 23:16; 1Ki 9:6 sq.), and stoning for individuals (Exo 22:20; Deu 17:2 sq.; comp. Deu 6:14 sq.; Deu 7:16; Deu 8:19; Deu 13:2 sq.; Exo 20:3; Exo 20:23); and the Israelites were admonished in their campaigns utterly to demolish idolatrous images (Exo 23:24; Exo 34:13; Deu 7:5; Deu 7:25; Deu 12:2 sq.; comp. 1Ch 14:12; 1Ma 10:84), and not to tolerate any heathen whatever in their land (Exo 23:33; Deu 20:17), and, furthermore, to shun all connection (even civil and political) with idolatrous nations (Exo 23:32; Exo 34:15 sq.; Deu 7:1 sq.). Even instigation to idolatry was liable to punishment by death (Deu 13:6 sq.). In spite, however, of these severe statutes, we find the Israelites, not only during the passage through the wilderness and the unsettled period of their polity (Num 25:2; Deu 13:13; Jos 24:23; comp. Amo 5:25 sq.), but also under the monarchy, sadly departing from the worship of Jehovah, and addicting themselves to the adoration of Phoenico-Philistine-Syrian and Arabico-Saboean (in the time of the Maccabees also to Graeco-Syrian) deities (see Gramberg, Religionsideen, 1:436), such as Baal, Ashtaroth, Moloch, Chemosh, Thammuz, etc., and connecting therewith soothsaying and sorcery (Deu 18:10 sq.; comp. Dale, De divinationib. idolol. V.T. in his work De origine et progr. idolol. page 363 sq.). See each of these names in its place.
The service rendered to foreign deities was very multiform (Mishna, Sanhedrinm, 7:6), but consisted principally of vows (Hos 9:10), incense (1Ki 11:8; 2Ki 22:17; 2Ki 23:5; Jer 1:16; Jer 7:9; Jer 11:12; Jer 13:15; Jer 32:29), bloodless (Jer 7:18) and bloody offerings (2Ki 5:17), including even human beings. SEE MOLOCH. The incense and offerings were presented on high places and hills (Isa 57:7; Jer 2:20; Jer 3:6; Jer 13:27; Hos 4:13; 1Ki 11:7; 2Ki 23:5; comp. Philostr. Apoll. 2:4; Spanheim, ad Callim. Del. 70; SEE HIGH PLACE ), on roofs. (Jer 19:13; Jer 32:29; Isa 65:3), under shady trees (1Ki 14:23; 2Ki 16:4; 2Ki 17:10; Hos 4:13; Isa 1:29; Jer 2:20; Jer 3:13; Jer 17:2; 2Ch 28:4; Eze 6:13; Eze 20:28; see Movers, Phönic. page 577 sq.), also in valleys (Jer 2:23; 2Ch 28:3) and gardens (Isa 1:29; Isa 65:3). SEE GROVE. The votaries of many of these deities made an offering of their own chastity to them, and illicit commingling of the sexes was a chief element of such cultus. SEE BAAL; SEE ASTARTE. Sitting upon graves formed also a part of idolatry, either as a propitiation to the manes or in necromancy (Isa 65:4). Lustration even was not wanting (Isa 66:17). The priestly castes of these idolatrous systems were numerous (1Ki 18:22; 2Ki 10:21) and in good station (Hos 10:5). One kind of them was called Kemarim (כַּמָרַים, Zep 1:4; 2Ki 23:5; a Syriac word, Gesen. Thes. page 693; Mishna, Megil. 4:9). SEE IDOLATRY.
b. The worship of Jehovah, under the form of any image whatever, was strictly forbidden (Exo 20:4; Deu 4:16; Deu 5:8; Deu 27:15; comp. Tacit. Hist. 5:5). Such symbols as the Golden Calf (q.v.) were borrowed from Egypt (Jos 24:14; Eze 20:7 sq.). See Ewald, Isr. Gesch. 2:109 sq.; Gerritsen, Cur Hebraei ante exil. Babyl. se ad idolorum et plurium deor. cultum valde promos ostenderint, in the Annal. Acad. Rheno-Traject. 1822-3, page 120 sq.; Michaelis, Mos. Recht, 5:98 sq.; Otho, Lex. Rabb. page 286 sq. SEE IMAGE.
2. Idolatry of non-Israelitish Nations. — See each in its place. This was frequently portrayed by the prophets in all its grossness (1Ki 18:27; comp. Deyling's Observ. 1:136 sq.), especially by exhibitions of the (mechanical) construction of these gods (images, Isa 2:8; Isa 2:20; Isa 44:10 sq.; Jer 10:3 sq.; Hos 13:2; Psa 115:4; Bar 6:3 sq.; Wis 13:11 sq.; Wis 15:7 sq.; compare Philo, 2:472; Horace, Sat. 1:81 sq. Arnob. 3:12; 6:13 sq.; Augustine, Civ. Dei. 6:10), and their powerlessness (Isa 41:29; Isa 42:17; Isa 46:1-2; Jer 2:28; compare Deu 4:28; Deu 28:36 Psa 115:5 sq.; Hab 2:18). The images of the gods (מִצֵּבוֹת) were sometimes cast (metallic, Jdg 17:4; Isa 2:20; Isa 40:19; Hos 13:2), נֶסֶךְ, מִסֵּכָה; sometimes carved (of wood, Isa 44:13; Jer 10:3; comp. Pliny, 12:2; 13:17; Pausan. 2:19, 3), פֶּסֶל, פְּסַילSEE DIANA, or even moulded of clay (Wis 15:8; Pliny distinguishes "lignea et fictilia simulacra," 34:16). They were fastened with chains, so as not to fall down or be carried away (Isa 41:7; Jer 10:4; comp. Pausan. 3:15, 5; 8:41, 4; Arnob. 6:13), and were usually overlaid with gold or silver, and were, besides, richly decked with apparel (Isa 2:20; Isa 30:22; Isa 31:7; Isa 40:19; Jer 10:4; Hos 8:4; Baruch 12:16; compare Dougtaei Analect. 2:179 sq.; Bahr, Symbol. 1:277 sq.). They were also painted with red (vermilion) color (Wis 13:14; compare Pliny, 33:7, 36; 35:12, 45; Virgil, Eclog. 6:22; 10:26 sq.; Plutarch, Quaest. Romans 98; Arnob. 6:10; Bahr, Symbol. 1:334). They were taken by armies with them into battle (2Sa 5:21; comp. Curtius, 8:14, 11; Polyamn. 7:4). Victors were accustomed to carry them about in triumph, in order to despoil the subject nations of their divinities (Isa 10:10; Isa 36:19; Isa 37:12), or to bind them to greater fidelity (Isa 46:1 sq.; Jer 48:7; Jer 49:3; Hos 10:5; Dan 11:8; compare Pausan. 8:46, 1; see Bochart, Hieroz. 1:372; Withof, Opusc. page 143 sq.). The weapons of slain enemies were hung as trophies in the temples of the gods (1Sa 31:10; Pausan. 1:13, 3; Xenoph. Anab. 5:3, 4; Euseb. Chron. Arm. 1:67). Soothsaying and sorcery ever stand in, connection with this cultus (Isa 19:3). SEE MARK IN THE FLESH.
IV. The Christian Doctrine of God. —
1. Source. — The Christian idea of God is derived from the Scriptures. The statement GOD IS GOD suffices for the wants of theology in itself, and is given as a complete proposition in the Scriptures (Exo 3:14; Isa 43:12). But the Scriptures afford many indications, not merely as to the character of God, but also as to his nature. The substance of these teachings may be summed up in the statements. God is a Spirit, God is Love, God is Lord. These statements include the idea of an immaterial, intelligent, and free personal Being, of perfect goodness, wisdom, and power, who made the universe and continues to support it, as well as to govern and direct it, by his providence. Dr. Adam Clarke gives the following general statement of the doctrine of the Great First Cause: "The eternal, independent, and self-existent Being; the Being whose purposes and actions spring from himself, without foreign motive or influence; he who is absolute in dominion; the most pure, the most simple, the most spiritual of all essences; infinitely benevolent, beneficent, true, and holy; the cause of all being, the upholder of all things; infinitely happy, because infinitely perfect; and eternally self-sufficient, needing nothing that he has made; illimitable in his immensity, inconceivable in his mode of existence, and indescribable in his essence; known fully only to himself, because an infinite mind can only be fully comprehended by itself. In a word, a Being who, from his infinite wisdom, can not err or be deceived, and, from his infinite goodness, can do nothing but what is eternally just, and right, and kind." The Christian doctrine of God, in its development, involves the idea of the Trinity: God the Fathar, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. SEE TRINITY.
2. Connotation of the term God. — The word Θεός, God, taken to signify "an object of religious venersation," was formerly applied to the pretended deities of the heathen, and accordingly Δευς and Deus were employed by the promulgators of the Gospel when calling on the heathen to transfer their worship from their idols to Jehovah. But the word "God" has come to signify in Christian sense the Maker and Ruler of the world, and is absolutely and exclusively applied to him. There is "one God" in the Christian sense, and there can be but one. "It is not meant merely that we believe this as a fact, but that it is moreover implied in the very meaning we attach to the word. And this is a distinction which should always be carefully attended to. The word 'Mohamedan' means nothing more or less than a believer in Mohammed, though the Christian regards Mohammed as having been in fact an impostor, and the Mohammedans regard him as a true prophet; but neither of these is implied (or connoted) by the word 'Mohammedan' when used by a Christian. On the contrary, thee word 'God' does imply what has been above stated, as is evident from this: that any one who should deny that there exists any such being as a Maker and Governor of the world, would be considered by Christians not only as in error, but as an Atheist — as holding that there is no God (while whoever should affirm the existence of more than one God would be held to be an idolater); and this not the less though he should admit the existence of some being superior to man, such as the fairies, demons, nixes, etc., which are still feared lay the vulgar in almost all parts of Christendom; the genii of the Eastern nations, and the gods and goddesses of the ancient heathens, which were all of this description. None of them was accounted the 'Creator,' and the births of most of them are recorded in their mythology; and altogether the notions entertained of time seem to have been very nears the same as the vulgar superstitions still prevailing in most parts of Europe relative to the fairies, etc., these being doubtless no other than the ancient heathen deities of those parts, the belief in their existence and dread of their power having survived the introduction of Christianity, though the title of 'gods' has been dropped, as well as the words 'sacrifice' and 'worship' in reference to the offerings, invocations, and other tokens of reverence with which they are still in several places honored. It appears, therefore, that as the ancient heathens denounced the early Christians as Atheists for contemning the heathen deities, so they may be considered as being, in the Christian sense of the word, themselves Atheists (as indeed they are called in Eph 2:12), and that consequently the word 'God,' in the Christian sense sand in the heathen must be regarded as having two meanings. Wide, therefore, of the truth is the notion conveyed in Pope's 'Universal Prayer,' the Pantheism, as it is called, of the ancient heathen philosophers and the Brahmins of the present day, who applied the word God to a supposed soul of the universe:
"'Mens agitat molem, et toto se coampore miscet,'
a spirit pervading all things (but not an agent or a person), and of which the souls of man and brutes are portions. In the Book of Revelation, 'Jehovah, the self-existent and all-perfect Being, with the world which he created and which he is ever ruling, alone meets our view. Though intimately present with all his works, he is yet entirely distinct from them. In him we live, and move, and have our being. He is infinitely nigh to us and he is intimately present with us, while we remain infinitely distant from his all-perfect and incommunicable essence'" (Eden).
3. Can God be known? — The Scriptures declare that God is invisible (Exo 33:20; Joh 1:18; 1Jn 4:12; 1Ti 6:16, etc.) and unsearchable (Job 11:7; Job 37:23). But the very existence of the idea of God, and even the use of the name God, with its connotation as given above, imply, not indeed that it is possible for man to comprehend God, but that it is not impossible to know God. And so the Scriptures make it man's duty to become "acquainted with God" (1Ch 28:9; Jer 9:24; 2Pe 1:2; Joh 17:3, etc.). Even Atheists are bound to explain the res in intellectu manifested in the thought and language of men. To deny absolutely that God can be known is to deny that he exists; and, on the other hand, the proof, or even the admission that God exists, implies that it can not be absolutely unknown what or how he is: the knowledge of his existence implies as a necessary condition some knowledge of the mode of his existence, i.e. his power, wisdom, justice, etc. The passages cited above, declaring that God is invisible, etc., are not to be tortured to favor the idea that the human mind is absolutely incapable of knowing God. On the contrary, their purpose is to vindicate the claims of revelation as the source of knowledge of God. The Scriptures teach that God is made known him Christ (1) by his works (Rom 1:20; Psa 19:1-2); (2) through his Son, which is, in part, his essence. True, God revealed his "glory" to Moses (Exo 33:18-23), but the manifestation was given through a medium, or, rather, reflection, making "the goodness" of God to "pasbefore" Moses. Not sight, but faith, is the condition and means of our knowledge of God in this life (2Co 5:7). God, then, can be known, but only so far as he gives the knowledge of himself, and so far as the capacity of man can reach. Johannes Damascenus said truly, "It is not possible to know God altogether; neither is it altogether impossible to know God." To see him with the bodily eyes would be fatal to a sinful creature (see citations above). But there is a dead "knowledge of God" (Rom 1:21; Jam 2:19); and, in contrast with it, there is a living knowledge of God, which includes a spiritual seeing of the invisible, the privilege of all who are in vital union with God through faith is his Son (Heb 11:27).
Science trusts to the functions and laws of the human mind as its instruments for the discovery of truth. But to know the truth, and to recognize the ground and object of phenomena in their connection and unity, is a process which leads invariably to the knowledge of the original and perfect Being; for every science which recognizes truth and goodness in the world, in nature and in reason, recognises therewith a power of wisdom and goodness. But as we cannot recognize such a power abstractly, in recognizing it at all we recognize the eternal God (Suabedissen, Metaphysik, 1836, page 143). Yet as man, by science, can know the works of God only very imperfectly and incompletely, criticism and skepticism are alwvays the companions of science , and she can be, at best, only the pioneer of true religious knowledge, or its servant. For the true religious knowledge of God is not founded upon science, but upon life — the life of communion with God. In the religious life the consciousness of God is before and apart from all reflection, all speculation; the souls, in its rapid dialectics, under the pressure of religious needs, has no need of syllogism to prove the existence of God. So Tertullian declares (in his Testimonium Animae) that even the common heathen mind, a part from philosophy, reached a truer knowledge of God and of divine things than the heathen mythology and philosophy could teach. Even the Platonic philosophy taught that the longing of the soul for the truth and beauty of goodness leads to a renunciation of the outward and visible in behalf of an apprehension of the spiritual and real. Spiritual Christianity transforms this teaching into a higher one, viz. that the longing of the soul for God, the search for God in Christ, is always rewarded, and that the "pure in heart" see God with the spiritual eyes of faith. Luther's doctrine that God may be taught, named, and apprehended in Christ, and in Christ alone, is quite in harmony with the early theology of the Church (e.g. Clement of Alexandria, Stromata, 2).
Not that a mere intellectual faith in Christ brings this knowledge of God. With the conversion of the soul begins its new, spiritual capacity to receive and apprehend God; and as the soul is emptied of self and purged from sin by the Holy Spirit, it grows in knowledge of God, in light and love, until the "life of God" becomes the "life of the soul." Dr. Nevin (Reply to Dorner, 1869) has the following striking passage as to the specifically Christian conception of God: "There is a sense in which the absolute being of God, as related immediately and directly to our created being, must be considered the necessary ground of our knowing him and coming into union with him in the way of religion. The whole possibility of religion for us starts in the God-consciousness, or direct sense of Deity, which is as much a part of our original nature as the sense we have of the world around us or of our own existence. It is not put into us by any outward evidence or argument. It authenticates and necessitates itself as a fundamental fact in our life; and in doing this it certifies, to the same extent, the truth of the object on which it is exercised. Or, rather, we must say, the truth of the object on which it is exercised, which is the Divine Being, or the existence of the Absolute, certifies itself, makes itself sure in and through the consciousness into which it enters. In this sense, the idea of God comes before Christianity, as it comes before religion in every other form. But who will say that this general idea of God can be for us, therefore, the actual root of Christianity, so that any among us, starting with that alone, could ever by means of it come to a full construction of what God is for true Christian faith? It lies at the ground of pantheism, dualism, polytheism, deism, and all false religions, no less than at the ground of Christianity. For the distinctive knowledge of Christianity, then, we need some other specific principle or root. which, however it may be comprehended in the general principle of all religion, must be regarded at the same time nevertheless as the ground and beginning, exclusively and entirely, of religion under this its highest and only absolutely complete form. Where, now, is that principle to be found? Where does the whole world of Christianity, the new creation of the Gospel (life, power, doctrine, and all), take its rise and start? Where do we come to the source of its perennial revelation, the ground of its indestructible life? Where, save in the presence of the Word Incarnate, the glorious Person of him who is the Root and the Offspring of David, the bright and morning Star — the faithful and true Witness, the BEGINNING of the creation of God!"
But Religion has had her errors and excesses as well as Science. As the latter seeks in its pride, by purely intellectual effort, to apprehend the absolute, so the former has at certain periods allowed mysticism to take the place of the simple revealed truth as to the life of God in the soul, and, in the spirit of the Oriental theosophy, has called the "redeemed soul but a drop in the ocean of God", SEE MYSTICISM. The orthodox Christian doctrine keeps the golden mean between these extremes. It asserts, and has asserted from the beginning, that a real and objective knowledge of God comes only from God's revelation, and that only κατὰ τὸἐφικτόν, pro virili (Arist. De Mund.), according to the best capacity of man. It teaches not only that God is "incomprehensible," but also that every step taken in the true knowledge of God by the soul makes his "incomprehensibility" more obvious. It does not pretend that the scriptural doctrine of one God in three persons is perfectly within the scope of the human intellect to comprehend as well as to apprehend; but all Church history shows that a genuine and even scientific knowledge of God has been better maintained with the doctrine of the Trinity than without it. When the Arians attacked the Nicene doctrine of the Trinity on the ground that it transcended human reason, the orthodox replied that it was easier to know God by receiving the doctrine of the Trinity than by rejecting it. Naked monotheism, whether in Judaism, Islamism, or elsewhere, has always ended in bald pantheism (q.v.), while on the other hand the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, though stigmatized by infidel and rationalistic opponents as Tritheism, has, from the beginning, preserved in the Church the idea of God as the eternal, spiritual, and personal Being, and has kept up, also, a pure and spiritual worship of the Great Supreme. See Ritter, Ueber die Erkenntniss Gottes in der Welt, 1836; Nitzsch, Syst. d. Christlichen Lehre, § 7, 60-80; Nitzsch, in Herzog's Real-Encyklop. s.v. Gott.
V. Substance and Mode of the Scripture Teaching. — In the Scriptures no attempt is made to prove the existence of a God. The error of men consisted not in denying a God, but in admitting too many; and one great object of the Bible is to demonstrate that there is but one. No metaphysical arguments, however, are employed in it for this purpose. The proof rests on facts recorded in the history of the Jews, from which it appears that they were always victorious and prosperous so long as they served the only living and true God, Jehovah (the name by which the Almighty made himself known to them), and uniformly unsuccessful when they revolted from him to serve other gods. What argument could be so effectual to convince them that there was no god in all the earth but the God of Israel? The sovereignty and universal providence of the Lord Jehovah are proved by predictions delivered by the Jewish prophets, pointing out the fate of nations and of empires, specifying distinctly their rise, the duration of their power, and the causes of their decline; thus demonstrating that one God ruled among the nations, and made them the unconscious instruments of promoting the purposes of his will. In the same manner, none of the attributes of God are demonstrated in Scripture by reasoning: they are simply affirmed and illustrated by facts; and instead of a regular deduction of doctrines and conclusions from a few admitted principles, we are left to gather them from the recorded feelings and devotional expressions of persons whose hearts were influenced by the fear of God. These circumstances point out a marked singularity in the Scriptures, considered as a repository of religious doctrines. The writers, generally speaking, do not reason, but exhort and remonstrate; they do not attempt to fetter the judgment by the subtleties of argument, but to rouse the feelings by an appeal to palpable facts. This is exactly what might have been expected from teachers acting under a divine commission, and armed with undeniable facts to enforce their admonitions. The sacred writers furnish u with information on the existence and the character of God
(1) from the names by which he is designated; (2) from the actions ascribed to him; and (3) from the attributes with which he is invested.
"1. The names of God as recorded in Scripture convey at once ideas of overwhelming greatness and glory, mingled with that awful mysteriousness with which, to all finite minds, and especially to the minds of mortals, the divine essence and mode of existence must ever be invested. Though ONE, he is אֵֹלהַים, ELOHIM, GODS, persons adorable. He is יְהוָֹה, JEHOVAH, self-existing; אֵל, EL, the Mighty, Almighty; שׁדּי, SHADDAI, omnipotent, all-sufficient; אֲדֹנָי, ADONAI, Lord, Ruler, Judge. These are among the adorable appellatives of God which are scattered throughout the, revelation that he has been pleased to make of himself. But on one occasion he was pleased more particularly to declare his name, that is, such of the qualities and attributes of the divine nature as mortals are the most interested in knowing, and to unfold not only his natural, but also those of his moral attributes by which his conduct towards his creatures is regulated: 'And the Lord passed by and proclaimed, The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and upon the children's children unto the third and fourth generation' (Exodus 34). This is the most ample and particular description of the character of God, as given by himself in the Old Testament" (Watson). The name "which is above every name" (Php 2:9), is the name JESUS (Col 3:17). The name in Exo 3:14 is peculiar in denoting God as the "God who reveals himself." The declaration "I am that I am," or "I will be that I will be," does not so much include a predicate of God as a declaration of the eternal being of God, as revealing himself and his kingdom in time; it involves not merely the sense of existence (to which it is limited by the Septuaguint version ὁ ὤν), but also the idea of the continual self-revealing of God, and thus unifies, so to speak, all the successive steps and epochs of revelation. HE is "the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, which is, and which was, and which is to come — the Almighty" (Rev 1:8). The name Jehovah was too holy to be uttered, and others were substituted for it by the Jews; the fearful penalty for blaspheming it was death (Lev 24:16; see Clarke's note ad loc.). In the names Father and Redeemer (Isa 63:16), new elements of the character of the self- revealing Jehovah are set forth; he shows himself as the God of grace and love to his people who turn unto him. — Watson, Institutes, part 2, 100:1; Nitzsch, in Herzog's Real-Encyklop. s.v. Gott; Hengstensberg, Die Gottesnamen des Pentateuch; Knapp, Theology (Wood's ed. page 84) Lange, On Genesis, Introd. § 7.
2. Actions. — "The second means by which the Scriptures convey to us the knowledge of God is by the actions which they ascribe to him. They contain, indeed, the important record of his dealings with men in every age which is comprehended within the limit of the sacred history, and by prophetic declaration they also exhibit the principles on which he will govern the world to the end of the so that the whole course of the divine administration may be considered as exhibiting a singularly illustrative comment upon those attributes of his nature which, in their abstract form, are contained in such declarations as those which have been just quoted.
(1.) The first act ascribed to God is that of creation. By this were manifested: his eternity and self-existence, as he who creates must be before all creatures, and he who gives being to others can himself derive it from none; his almighty power, shown both in the act of creation and in the number and vastness of the objects so produced; his wisdom, in their arrangement and in their fitness to their respective ends; and his goodness, as the whole tended to the happiness of sentient beings. The foundations of his natural and moral government are also made manifest by his creative acts. In what he made out of nothing he had an absolute right and prerogative; it awaited his ordering, and was completely at his disposal; so that to alter or destroy his own work, and to prescribe the laws by which the intelligent and rational part of his creatures should be governed, are rights which none can question. Thus, on the one hand, his character of Lord or Governor is established, and, on the other, our duty of lowly homage and absolute obedience.
(2.) Providence. — Agreeably to this, as soon as man was created he was placed under a rule of conduct. Obedience was to be followed with the continuance of the divine favor; transgression, with death. The event called forth new manifestations of the character of God. His tender mercy, in the compassion showed to the fallen pair; his justice, in forgiving them only in the view of a satisfaction to be hereafter offered to his justice by an innocent representative of the sinning race; his love to that race, in giving his own Son to become this Redeemer, and in the fullness of time to die for the sins of the whole world; and his holiness, in connecting with this provision for the pardon of man the means of restoring him to a sinless state, and to the obliterated image of God in which he had been created. Exemplifications of the divine mercy are traced from age to age in his establishing his own worship among men, and remitting the punishment of individual and national offenses in answer to prayer offered from penitent hearts, and in dependence upon the typified or actually offered universal sacrifice; of his condescension, in stooping to the cases of individuals, in his dispensations both of providence and grace, by showing respect to the poor and humble, and principally by thee incarnation of God in the form of a servant, admitting even into familiar and friendly intercourse with himself, and then entering into heaven to be their patron and advocate until they should be received into the sauce glory, 'and so be forever with the Lord;' of his strictly righteous government, in the destruction of the old world, the cities of the plain, the nations of Canaan, and all ancient states, upon their 'filling up the measure of their iniquities,' and, to show that 'he will by no means clear the guilty,' in the numerous and severe punishments inflicted even upon the chosen seed of Abraham because of their transgressions; of his long-suffering, in frequent warnings, delays, and corrective judgments inflicted upon individuals and nations before sentence of utter excision and destruction; of faithfulness and truth, in the fulfillment of promises, often many ages after they were given, as in the promises to Abraham respecting the possession of the land of Canaan by his seed, and in all the 'promises made to the fathers' respecting the advent, vicarious death, and illustrious offices of the 'Christ,' the Savior of the world; of his immutability, in the constant and unchanging laws and principles of his government, which remain to this day precisely the same in every thing universal as when first promulgated, and have been the rule of his conduct in all places as well as through all time; of his prescience of future events, manifested by the predictions of Scripture; and of the depth and stability of his counsel, as illustrated in that plan and purpose of bringing back a revolted world to obedience and felicity which we find steadily kept in view in the scriptural history of the acts of God in former ages — which is still the end towards which all his dispensations bend, however wide and mysterious their sweep, and which they will finally accomplish, as we learn from the prophetic history of the future contained in the Old and New Testaments. Thus the course of divine operation in the world has from age to age been a manifestation on the divine character, continually receiving new and stronger illustrations until the completion of the Christian revelation by the ministry of Christ and his inspired followers, and still placing itself in brighter light and more impressive aspects as the scheme of human redemption runs on to its consummation. From all the acts of God as recorded in the Scriptures we are taught that he alone is God; that he is present every where to sustain and govern all things; that his wisdom is infinite, his counsel settled, and his power irresistible; that he is holy, just, and good — the Lord and the Judge, but the Father and the Friend, of Man 1:3.
Nature and Attributes. — "More at large do we learn what God is from the declarations of the inspired writings. As to his substance, that 'God is a Spirit.' As to his duration, that 'from everlasting to everlasting he is God;' 'the King, eternal, immortal, invisible.' That, after all the manifestations he has made of himself, he is, from the infinite perfection and glory of his nature, incomprehensible: 'Lo, these are but parts of his ways, and how little a portion is heard of him!' 'Touching the Almighty, we cannot find him out.' That he is unchangeable: 'The Father of Lights, with whom there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.' That 'he is the fountain of life,' and the only independent Being in the universe: 'Who only hath immortality.' That every other being, however exalted, has its existence from him: 'For by him were all things created which are in heaven and in earth, whether they are visible or invisible.' That the existence of every thing is upheld by him, no creature being for a moment independent of his support: 'By him all things consist;' 'upholding all things by the word of his power.' That he is omnipresent: 'Do not I fill heaven and earth with my presence? saith the Lord.' That he is omniscient: 'All things are naked and open before the eyes of him with whom we have to do.' That he is the absolute Lord and Owner of all things: 'The heavens, even the heaven of heavens, are thine, and all the parts of then;' 'The earth is thine, and the fullness thereof, the world and them that dwell therein;' 'He doeth according to his will in the armies of heaven and among the inhabitants 'of the earth.' That his providence extends to the minutest objects: 'The hairs of your head are all numbered;' 'Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.' That he is a Being of unspotted purity and perfect rectitude: 'Holy, holy, holy Lord God of hosts!' 'A God of truth, and in whom there is no iniquity;' 'Of purer eyes than to behold iniquity.' That he is just in the administration of his government: 'Shall not the Judge of the whole earth do right?' 'Clouds and darkness are round about him; judgment and justice are the habitation of his throne.' That his wisdom is unsearchable: 'O the depth of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!' And, finally, that he is good and merciful: 'Thou art good, and thy mercy endureth forever;' 'His tender mercy is over all his works;' 'God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ;' 'God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them;' 'God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.' SEE ATTRIBUTES; also VI below. "Under these deeply awful but consolatory views do the Scriptures present to us the supreme object of our worship and trust; and they dwell upon each of the above particulars with inimitable sublimity and beauty of language, and with an inexhaustible variety of illustration. Nor can we compare these views of the divine nature with the conceptions of the most enlightened of pagans without feeling how much reason we have for everlasting gratitude that a revelation so explicit and so comprehensive should have been made to us on a subject which only a revelation from God himself could have made known. It is thus that Christian philosophers, even when they do not use the language of the Scriptures, are able to speak on this great and mysterious doctrine in language so clear and with conceptions so noble; in a manner, too, so equable, so different from the sages of antiquity, who, if at any time they approach the truth when speaking of the divine nature, never fail to mingle with it some essentially erroneous or groveling conception. 'By the word GOD,' says Dr. Barrow, 'we mean a Being of infinite wisdom, goodness, and power, the Creator and the Governor of all things, to whom the great attributes of eternity and independency, omniscience and immensity, perfect holiness and purity, perfect justice and veracity, complete happiness, glorious majesty, and supreme right of dominion belong, and to whom the highest veneration and most profound submission and obedience are due' (Barrow, On the Creed). ‘Our notion of Deity,' says Bishop Pearson, 'doth expressly signify a Being or Nature of infinite perfection; and the infinite perfection of a being or nature consists in this, that it be absolutely and essentially necessary, an actual being of itself, and potential or causative of all beings beside itself; independent from any other, upon which all things else depend, and by which all things else are governed' (Pearson, On the Creed). 'God is a Being,' says Lawson, 'and not any kind of being, but a substance which is the foundation of other beings; and not only a substance, but perfect. Yet many beings are perfect in their kind, yet limited and finite; but God is absolutely, fully, and every way infinitely perfect, and therefore above spirits, above angels, who are perfect comparatively. God's infinite perfection includes all the attributes, even the most excellent. It excludes all dependency, borrowed existence, composition, corruption, mortality, contingency, ignorance, unrighteousness, weakness, misery, and all imperfections whatever. It includes necessity of being, independency, perfect unity, simplicity, immensity, eternity, immortality; the most perfect life, knowledge, wisdom, integrity, power, glory, bliss, and all these in the highest degree. We can not pierce into the secrets of this eternal Being. Our reason comprehends but little of him, and when it can proceed no farther faith comes in, and we believe far more than we can understand; and this our belief is not contrary to reason, but reason itself dictates unto us that we must believe far more of God than it can inform us of (Lawson, Theo-Politica). To these we may add an admirable passage from Sir Isaac Newton, 'The word GOD frequently signifies Lord, but every lord is not God: it is the dominion of a spiritual Being or Lord that constitutes God; true dominion, true God; supreme, the Supreme; feigned, the false god. From such true dominion it follows that the true God is living, intelligent, and powerful, and from his other perfections that he is supreme, or supremely perfect; he is eternal and infinite, omnipotent and omniscient; that is, he endures from eternity to eternity, and is present from infinity to infinity. He governs all things that exist, and knows all things that are to be known; he is not eternity or infinity, but eternal and infinite; he is not duration or space, but he endures and is present — he endures always and is present everywhere; he is omnipresent, not only virtually, but also substantially, for power without substance can not subsist. All things are contained and move in him, but without any mutual passion; he suffers nothing from the motions of bodies, nor do they undergo any resistance from his omnipresence. It is confessed that God exists necessarily, and by the same necessity he exists always and every where: hence also he must be perfectly similar, all eye, all ear, all arm, all the power of perceiving, understanding, and acting; but after a manner not at all corporeal, after a manner not like that of men, after a manner wholly to us unknown. He is destitute of all body and all bodily shape, and therefore can not be seen, heard, or touched, nor ought he to be worshipped under the representation of anything corporeal. We have ideas of the attributes of God, but do not know the substance of even anything; we see only the figures and colors of bodies, hear only sounds, touch only the outward surfaces, smell only odors, and taste tastes, and do not, cannot, by any sense or reflex act, know their inward substances, and much less can we have any notion of the substance of God. We know him by his properties and attributes.'" — Newton, Principia, 2:311, ed. 1803; Watson, Instit. part 2, 100:1.
VI. Dogmatical Treatment of the Doctrine of God. —
1. The exposition of the doctrine of GOD is the province of Theology proper, as distinguished from Anthropology, Soteriotogy, etc. SEE THEOLOGY. The doctrine is set forth by writers on systematic theology according to their views of the relations of the subject to the other branches, but in general it constitutes the first topic treated, and is divided very much as follows:
2. Division. —
I. The NATURE OF GOD:
1. As the original and unoriginated personal Being: (a) One; (b) self- existent; (c) infinite.
2. As the original Word and Will: (a) Creator; (b) preserver; (c) governor of the world.
3. As the original Spirit: (a) Essential Spirit; (b) origin of all moral and spiritual laws and existences. And hence,
II, the TRINITY of three persons in the one Godhead: Father, Son, Holy Ghost. SEE MONOTHEISM; SEE TRINITY.
III. The ATTRIBUTES of God. These are not parts of the divine essence, but conceptions of the idea of God in his relations to the world and to human thought (Suabedissen, page 150). Perfectiones Dei, qaue essentiam divinam nostro concipiendi modo per se consequuntunr, et de Deo paronymice praedicantur (Hollaz, page 234). So Aquinas: "The name of God does not express the divine essence as it is, as the name of man expresses is its signification the essence of man as it is; that is to say, by signifying the definition which declares the essence" (Summa, part 1, q. 13, art. 1). The ground of this distinction was the conviction that finite things cannot indicate the nature of the infinite God otherwise than by imperfect analogies. The attributes of God must be represented to our minds, so far as they can be represented at all, under the similitude of the corresponding attributes of man. Yet we cannot conceive them as existing in God in the same manner as they exist in man. In man they are many, in God they must be one. In man they are related to and limit each other; in God there can be no relation and sea limitation. In man they exist only as capacities at times carried into action; in God, who is purus actus, there can be no distinction between faculty and operation. Hence the divine attributes may properly be called mysterious; for, though we believe in their coexistence, we are unable to conceive the manner of their co-existence" (Quarterly Review, July 1864, art. 3). There have been many divisions of the attributes of God. The scholastic theology set forth the attributes in three ways: 1. by causality (via causalitatis), in which all the perfections we observe in creation, and especially in man, are necessarily to be attributed to their Creator;
2. by negation (via negationis), under which the imperfections of created beings are kept out of the conception of God;
3. by analogy or eminence (via analogiae, via eminentiae), by which the highest degree of all known perfections is attributed to God.
Accordingly, the attributes of God were classed en negative and positive, the negative being such as remove from him whatever is imperfect in creatures — such are infinity, immutability, immortality, etc; while the positive assert some perfection in God which is in and of himself, and which in the creatures, in any measure, is from him. This distinction is now mostly discarded. Among modern writers, Dr. Samuel Clarke sums up the attributes as ultimately referrible to these three leading ones: omnipotence, omniscience, and perfect goodness. Others distinguish them into absolute and relative: absolute are such as belong to the essence of God, as Jehovah, Jah, etc.; relative ones are such as may be ascribed to him in time, with relation to his creatures, ass creator, governor, preserver, redeemer, etc. Others, again, divide them into conmmunicable and incommunicable attributes. The communicable are those which can be imparted to the creature, as goodness, holiness, wisdom, etc.; the incommunicable are such as cannot be so imparted, as independence, immutability, immensity, and eternity. Another division makes one class of natural attributes, e.g. eternity, immensity, etc., and another of moral, e.g. holiness, goodness, etc. The later German theologians attempt more scientific discriminations; e.g. Böhme (Lehre v.d. Göttl. Eigenschaften, 1821; last ed. Altenurg, 1842) distinguishes the attributes is to those which refer to the world in general, and those which refer to the moral world in particular. Schleiermacher makes two classes:
(1.) attributes which refer to the universal sense of dependence on God, viz. omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence;
(2.) attributes which refer to the Christian sense of redemption and of dependence on God, viz. holiness, justice, wisdom, love.
Pelt (Theolog. Encycl. § 74) classes them as
(1.) attributes of God as absolute cause (a.) in himself — eternal, infinite, self-sufficient; (b) in relation to the world — omnipotent, omnipresent;
(2.) attributes of God as the original and self-revealing will — good, holy, just, benevolent, etc. Rothe's scheme of the attributes is thus set forth by Babut in the Bulletin of the Revue Christienne (1868, No. 3, Juillet):
I. Absolute or immanent Attributes:
1. self-sufficiency of God as a pure and absolute Being; 2. majesty; the divine will; 3. blessedness.
II. Relative Attributes, implied in God's relation to the universe; the love of God is the source of creation and being, While the essence of God is expressed in infinity, immensity, immutability. The personality of God is manifested to the world in goodness, wrath, grace; the intelligence of God in omniscience, holiness, truth. The will of God is manifested in omnipotence, justice, faithfulness; and the divine nature is manifested in the one attribute of omnipotence. See Bates, Harmony of the Divine Attributes; Charnock, Existence and Attributes of God (Lond. 1845, 8vo last edit.); Elwert, in Tüb. Zeitschrift, 1830; Blasche, göttl. Eigenschaften (Erfurdt, 1831); Andreae, De Attrib. Divin., etc. (Lugdun. 1824); Bruch, Lehre v. d. göttl. Eigenschaften (Hamb. 1842); Moll, De justo attributorum Dei discrimine (Hal. 1855); Shedd, History of Doctrine, 1:240; Hase, Evang. Dogmatik, § 102 sq., s and writers on systematic theology generally. SEE CREATION; SEE TRINITY; SEE PROVIDENCE.
VII. History of the Doctrine of God. — The history of the argument for the being of God will be found under NATURAL THEOLOGY. We treat here briefly the history of the doctrine of the nature and attributes of God. The first office of Christianity was to vindicate the spirituality of God against the material and anthropomorphic ideas of paganism, and even of corrupted Judaism. The proposition "God is a Spirit" was therefore a fundamental one; yet at an early period anthropomorphic ideas were developed in the Church. Melito, bishop of Sardis, in his treatise Περὶ ἐνσωμάτου θεοῦ (Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. 4:26), taught a corporeal representation of God. Tertullian (adv. Praxeam, 100:7) declares Deum corpus esse, etsi Spiritus est; nihil enim incorporale nissi quod non est; and thus plainly shows that he could not distinguish reality from corporeity, even in God. The Anthropomorphites took the phrase "image of God" in a material sense, and taught that God is man per eminentiam.
(2.) The second error was Dualism (q.v.), brought in by the Gnostic distinction between the supreme God and the Desmiurge. SEE GNOSTICISM.
(3.) Opposed to both these was the philosophical mode of conceiving God, including the idea of immateriality, proved negatively, e.g. Minucius Felix: Hic nec videri potest — visu clarior est; nec comprehendi potest — tactu purior est; nec aestimari — sensibus major est: infinitus, immensus, et soli sibi tantus quantus est notus. "The Alexandrians opposed all crude anthropopathisms, but they were not successful in correctly separating the real and the sensuous view, and hence were led into a subtilizing of the divine attributes. Clement attributes all errors in the apprehension of the Old Testament to the sensuous and liberal mode of understanding it, which led men to represent, after human fashion, the nature of God, who is exalted above all human passions. The prophets could represent God to us not as he is, but only as we sensuous men can understand it (Strom. page 391). Origen also sees in the Old Testament a condescension of God to the weakness of man. In fact, there is no wrath in God, but he must appear as if wrathful to the bad, on account of the sufferings which their own evil conduct entails upon them (Hom. 18, in Jerem.). The Alexandrians disputed the self-subsistence of God's primitive justice, and merged it in the idea of a δικαιοσύνη σωτήριος, a disciplining reformatory love." Augustine speaks of God as the ipsa incommutabilis veritas... illud solum quod non tantum non mutatur, verum etiam mutari non potest, etc. But he declares that no complete definition of God can be given: Deus ineffabilis est: facilius dicimus quod Deus non sit, quam quid sit (Comm. in Psalms 85). In the period of the Arian controversy, all questions as to the nature of God were bound up with the discussion of the Trinity (q.v.); and it the period from Gregory I to the scholastic age (11th century), with that of the doctrines of the Holy Spirit and the Person of Christ. SEE CHRISTOLOGY. In the scholastic period Anselm supposed an analogy (before used by Augustine) between the divine mind and the human. "We cannot know," he says, "the supreme Being in himself, but only after a certain analogy with created beings, therefore most of all with the rational spirit. The more this spirit enters into itself and observes itself, the more will it succeed in raising itself to the knowledge of the absolute Spirit. The human spirit is a mirror in which we may see the image of that which we do not directly behold. The supreme Spirit presupposes his own existence, knows himself; the Word begotten from himself is one with his own essence.
Thus the supreme Being expressed himself. As everything which is produced by human art was before in the idea of the formative spirit, and as this idea remains even when the work perishes, and is, in this respect, one with the art of the formative spirit itself, so it is not another, but the same word by which God knows himself and all creatures. In the divine Word creatures have a higher being than in themselves; the ideal being rests in the divine thoughts. The relation of the Son to the Father is something elevated above all language. The expression generation is best suited to represent the relation, but yet it is symbolical. Further, as God knows himself, he loves himself; his love to himself presupposes his being and knowing. This is also denoted by the procession of the Holy Spirit from both; all three pass completely into one another, and thus constitute the unity of the Supreme Being" (Monologium, 100:64). The view of God taught by Scotus Erigena — In deo immutabiliter et essentialiter sunt omnia — led, in the hands of David of Dinanto and Amalrich of Bena, to a pantheistic theory, which was opposed by Aquinas and the later schoolmen, especially by Albertus Magnus. As to the attributes of God; the principal discussions of the scholastic period related to his omnipotence and omnipresence. The confessions of faith of the Reformation period generally agree as to the doctrine of the nature, attributes, and works of God: the discussions that have arisen in the bosom of Protestantism on this subject refer chiefly to the doctrines of the Trinity (q.v.) and predestination (q.v.).
The later theories of the philosophical period, on the sceptical side, are those of Idealism, Materialism, and Pantheism (see the several heads). Some later Christian writers, in opposing the extremes of German Rationalism, have denied the possibility of any scientific knowledge of God. Mansell (Limits of Religious Thought, Bampton Lectures for 1859) maintains that only a regulative (as distinguished from a speculative) knowledge of God is possible. "To conceive," says he, "the Deity as he is, we must conceive him as first cause, as absolute, and as infinite. But do not these three conceptions imply contradiction to each other, when viewed in conjunction, as attributes of one and the same being? A cause cannot, as such, be absolute: the absolute cannot, as such, be a cause. How can the infinite become that which it was not from the first?" Mr. Mansell here pushes his opposition to the use of reason too far; and finding the words "absolute" and "infinite" used in transcendental senses by the Germans, he adopts those senses, and reasons as if no other definitions were possible. For criticisms of his work, see London Review, July 1860, page 390 sq.; Young, The Province of Reason (London, 1860); McCosh, Method of the Divine Government (Edinb. 1859, 6th edit.). The Christian conception of God over against the modern speculative idea is well set forth in the following passage: "The problem in regard to God is simply this: The human mind is compelled to think a unity or synthesis of all things. But how is this to be thought? Are we to think it inside nature, or outside and above it? Here it is that the Christian idea breaks off from the speculative. The Christian, realizing his own personality, feeling intensely that he himself in his inmost being is numerically different from and above nature, is compelled to think of the divine as in like manner supernatural. Having attained to this stage, the next question that arises is, How are we to image forth the divine Being? and the answer is, not surely by the lowest kind of natural existence, but by the highest. The human personality itself, not the immutabilities of the material world, which are lower in the scale of being, must be the image which shall shadow forth the divine Being. That which comprehends all things must, at least, equal in perfection the highest of these things. Thus the human personality becomes in the Christian system the image and likeness of God. God may, indeed, be far higher than man — so high that to call him a person may be as inadequate as to call the human soul a power. But, at least, we are sure of this, that whatever he is in himself, all that we mean by personality is comprehended in him. Just as man is a power and something more, so God is a person and perhaps something more. There is an indestructible belief in man, that all the pure feelings of the soul find a response in the infinite Author of all things. Under the impress of this universal conviction, men fall on their knees and worship. Such is the pure Christian idea, and it involves this consequence, that each individual soul stands in a special and personal relation to the infinite Author of all.
There is an eye which is ever over us; a fatherly heat which yearns for us. There is One whose wisdom never fails, who is ever about our path and about our bed, and provides for us in all things. In like manner as he is all this to us, so we in turn are his children; we are responsible to him as to a father, and must be judged by him. Intellectually, too, the same Christian idea involves this consequence — that it is a grander and worthier conception of his providence to think him as dealing with and disciplining individual souls, than as contriving and arranging a world of dead laws. The one reveals heart and soul, the grandeur of personality and kingly might; the other, if taken by itself, only ingenuity, not necessarily personality at all. The speculative idea of God is the antithesis of this. It, too, recognizes a central unity; but, looking away from the world of mind and soul, it concentrates its attention on the world of matter. It takes the laws of the material world as the image of the divine. God is revealed in the evolutions of nature. His attributes consequently are such as these: perfect wisdom, infinite power, absolute invariability of purpose. He has neither heart nor soul, nor even consciousness, as we understand it. He is impersonal, and can have no personal relation to us. He has neither knowledge nor care of the individual, but acts purely by general law. We need not, however, pursue the consequences, which are sufficiently apparent. It will be enough if we point out their bearing on practical life. Here are two opposing systems which hold a very different language to the human soul. The one says in the fine language of St. Augustine, O homo, agnosce dignitatem tuam; the other, O man, rejoice in thy degradation. The one dignifies and ennobles the soul, and, supplying it with a lofty ideal and immortal hopes, raises it from the depth of selfishness; the other degrades it to the level of the brute, and, depriving it alike of hope and fear, bids it snatch what enjoyment it can from the passing hour. That lofty conception of God, which has done no much for modern Europe, is purely the creation of Christianity. Were this latter taken away, it would instantly collapse, and there would only remain, for the upper classes, hopeless, selfish atheism; for the lower, degrading superstition" (Christian Remembrancer, July 1866, art. 13). On the history of the doctrine OF GOD in general, see a series of able articles by Ritschl, ins the Jahrbücher. deutsche Theologie, volumes 10, 13. — Neander, History of Dogmas, pages 102, 285, 485, 460; Beck, Dogmengeschichte, pages 104-138; Hagenbach, Dogmengeschichte; Hase, Evangelische Dogmatik, pages 93-111; Meiners, Hist. doct. de vero deo (Lemgo, 1780, 8vo); Perrone, Praelect. Theol. 1:296-500; Gieseler, Dogmengeschichte, pages 107, 299, 486; Guericke, Christliche Symbolik, § 34; Storr and Flatt, Biblical Theol. Book 2, part 1; Knapp, Theology, § 83-85; Rothe, Ethick, 1; Weisse, Die Idee der Gottheit (1833); Ritter, Ueber d. Erkenntniss Gottes in d. Welt (1836); Sengler, Die Idee Gottes (1848-1852); Späth, Gott u. d. Welt (1867). SEE PANTHEISM; SEE PROVIDENCE.
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