Monday, December 05, 2005

Does God manifest all of his attributes?

Jonathan Edwards argued that it is necessary that God manifest all of his attributes. Of course, in saying this, we do not mean to say that God manifests exhaustively all His glory to his creatures, as Edwards explains. But a complete manifestation of his glory means that all of his attributes must be manifested. He explains it in his sermon God's Sovereignty in the Salvation of Men:
It is agreeable to God's design in the creation of the universe to exercise every attribute, and thus to manifest the glory of each of them. God's design in the creation was to glorify himself, or to make a discovery of the essential glory of his nature. It was fit that infinite glory should shine forth; and it was God's original design to make a manifestation of his glory, as it is. Not that it was his design to manifest all his glory to the apprehension of creatures; for it is impossible that the minds of creatures should comprehend it. But it was his design to make a true manifestation of his glory, such as should represent every attribute. If God glorified one attribute, and not another, such manifestation of his glory would be defective; and the representation would not be complete. If all God's attributes are not manifested, the glory of none of them is manifested as it is: for the divine attributes reflect glory on one another. Thus if God's wisdom be manifested, and not his holiness, the glory of his wisdom would not be manifested as it is; for one part of the glory of the attribute of divine wisdom is, that it is holy wisdom. So if his holiness were manifested, and not his wisdom, the glory of his holiness would not be manifested as it is; for one thing which belongs to the glory of God's holiness is, that it is a wise holiness. So it is with respect to the attributes of mercy and justice. The glory of God's mercy does not appear as it is, unless it is manifested as a just mercy, or as a mercy consistent with justice. And so with respect to God's sovereignty, it reflects glory on all his other attributes. It is part of the glory of God's mercy, that it is sovereign mercy. So all the attributes of God reflect glory on one another. The glory of one attribute cannot be manifested, as it is, without the manifestation of another. One attribute is defective without another, and therefore the manifestation will be defective. Hence it was the will of God to manifest all his attributes.

8 Comments:

Blogger Doug said...

Ryan, maybe you can explain how God's Attributes of Justice and Judgement play out in the Fall of man and of Satan. Why did a Righteous, Holy, Omnipotent, Ominscient God allow Satan to fall, and then allow His Own creation to fall due to the sin of man?

I have this view (and maybe it is just my layman beliefs) that God, in His Perfect Will, knew Satan, and man would fall (obvious because of God's Omniscience). How can God demonstrate His Attributes of Righteous Justice, and Judgement to a perfect world? He cannot! Therefore, in God's Perfect Holy Will, He allowed Satan to fall to demonstrate these Attributes! Since God needs to show these Attributes to all of His Creation, He allowed man to fall to show these Attributes, as well!

Then comes God's Mercy, and Grace. God did not show these Attributes to Satan, and yet He shows them to man. If man were perfect, where then could God demonstrate the Attributes of Grace and Mercy? He cannot, and since God cannot fail, He must demonstrate them to someone! Therefore, God allowed man to fall that God could demonstrate to man His Attributes of Grace and Mercy.

I hope this is accurate. If not, feel free to either show me the error of my way, or help smooth out my beliefs!

BTW, nice color scheme! GO BUCKS!!! BEAT MICHIGAN!!!

12/05/2005 05:29:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

I think I would say that God could manifest his attributes (grace, justice, mercy, etc) with or without the Fall. He has, in his infintie wisdom, chosen to create Satan, this world we know, and us, mankind, to display His glory in a particular way. We may not completely understand his rationale, but we know that he has done all these things, knowing perfectly well in his sovereignty that the fall would happen. These things were not necessary for him to manifest his glory, for justice can still manifested even if there is no wrong doing. Mercy can still be on display, I would venture to speculate, even if there was no sin committed.

I appreciate your comments, Doug, but lay off the coffee . . . you and your exclamation points!

12/05/2005 10:51:00 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

Ryan, how would God, who is the just judge, give justice were there no need for it? And what need is there for mercy to be displayed if there is no sin to forgive? I'm not really clear on my own position, but trying to gain your opinion to get on more stable ground with this.

12/06/2005 12:17:00 AM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Here is the ground for my speculation God could show justice in that he would distribute gifts justly. He could also show justice by not punishing those who did not deserve to be punished. Justice is not simply the meting out of punishments, but upholding those who are innocent. Let us agree that mercy means not giving us what we do deserve. Perhaps this is a stretch, but I would consider God being merciful in creating mankind. We had no right to existence so that we could have the joy of praising His name.

God was all of these before he ever created man. Edwards' point is that God created the universe to display these attributes, and that he consequently displays all of them. Yet, if he had never created any being, and only existed as the Triune God, eteranlly as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, he would still have been a merciful, just, and gracious God.

Consider this from Augustine:

'For Augustine as a Christian, the one eternal Being or "substance" is God himself--the God whose name is "I am." Of this divine substance the essential marks are unity and changelessness, which are but negations of the creaturely character that belongs to all else that exists. Creaturely substance as such is not "simple" but composite, and subject to change because of its composite nature. Change, in a man, means the loss of some attribute, physical, mental, or moral, which he formerly possessed, but the loss of which does not involve his ceasing to be a man. Such attributes are called "accidental." God cannot change without ceasing to be God; of the substance of God is not compounded of parts, but is absolutely one or "simple." This dogma of the divine "simplicity" as the logical ground both of unity and changelessness is common to Augustine and Greek theology in general. It is expressed in the formula "God is what he has," and corresponds to the assertion of the medieval scholastics that in God essence and existence coincide. The being of God is not like the being of a man separate from any of his attributes: in technical terms, God can have no accidental attributes. And since God's being is absolutely "simple," there is no real difference between one divine attribute and another: God's power, God's wisdom, God's goodness, are one and the same thing.'

Burnaby, John. Augustine: Later Works. (Library of Christian Classics 8. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1955), 21.

12/06/2005 12:43:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

Then there is Righteous Judgement. How can one of God's Attributes be missed? He is the Judge, and Judgement is one of His Attributes. If no sin to be Judged, then how can God show this Attribute?

BTW, I am old school when I talk about God. I capitalize everything about Him, and His Character.

12/06/2005 07:56:00 AM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Judgment is not an attribute. It is an action that stems from God's justice. Justice is an attribute.

12/06/2005 09:26:00 AM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Doug, one thing I think we can say is that God in his sovereignty created the world in which we now live to manifest his glory in a particular way, a way in which his sovereign wisdom has gloriously displayed itself, despite the sin of man and of angels.

I am still thinking through the "mercy" point. Many people have a hard defining line between grace and mercy. I think we have to consider mercy, when speaking of the mercy of God, to be a general mercy, or what we would consider grace unmerited favor, as Paul seems to use it in Romans 9, and that that kind of mercy could certainly be manifested before the fall of man or angels. This "general mercy" or grace is the mercy that is the attribute of God. I am not sure, at this point at least, that we can say that God could manifest mercy before the fall in the sense that God could withhold what one deserves, for the term "deserve" demands some sort of previous action or state justly meriting some reaction (my previous example of granting existence is an instance of what we would call grace, not mercy). Now no creature can properly be said to deserve anything (until it sins and deserves God's wrath), therefore the narrower conception of mercy does not seem to apply at the moment of creation. If mercy is more broadly defined, however, as gracious favor (which I think it can and should be when we speak of God's attribute of mercy), God could certainly display that without the fall. Thus I am distinguishing between a broader conception of mercy and a narrower conception of mercy. I am considering mercy the attribute of God broadly as "unmerited favor or kindness", of which would include both "mercy" (withholding what we deserve), and "grace" (giving what we do not deserve).

God was free to act however he wanted to manifest his glory. He could have manifested it in creating a perfect world. He chose to do it be sovereignly creating the world in which we now exist, where he sovereignly chooses some to salvation and to harden others. What we do know is the world he created, and why he created it--to display his own glory.

12/06/2005 01:16:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

As I have contemplated this more, I am more convinced that mercy should be defined more generally.

First, we should consider mercy the attribute, not mercy the action. This as essential as the distinction I made between justice and judgment.

Moreover, eleos is defined in BDAG (though this is not the best way to go about this discussion, it helps substantiate some of my musings) as, "kindness or concern expressed for someone in need." That is mercy the action, but more imporantly, a more general approach to mercy. Consider the way "mercy" or "eleos" is used in Lk 1:58 or 2 Tim 1:16.

12/06/2005 10:46:00 PM  

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Immoderate: Does God manifest <i>all</i> of his attributes?

Monday, December 05, 2005

Does God manifest all of his attributes?

Jonathan Edwards argued that it is necessary that God manifest all of his attributes. Of course, in saying this, we do not mean to say that God manifests exhaustively all His glory to his creatures, as Edwards explains. But a complete manifestation of his glory means that all of his attributes must be manifested. He explains it in his sermon God's Sovereignty in the Salvation of Men:
It is agreeable to God's design in the creation of the universe to exercise every attribute, and thus to manifest the glory of each of them. God's design in the creation was to glorify himself, or to make a discovery of the essential glory of his nature. It was fit that infinite glory should shine forth; and it was God's original design to make a manifestation of his glory, as it is. Not that it was his design to manifest all his glory to the apprehension of creatures; for it is impossible that the minds of creatures should comprehend it. But it was his design to make a true manifestation of his glory, such as should represent every attribute. If God glorified one attribute, and not another, such manifestation of his glory would be defective; and the representation would not be complete. If all God's attributes are not manifested, the glory of none of them is manifested as it is: for the divine attributes reflect glory on one another. Thus if God's wisdom be manifested, and not his holiness, the glory of his wisdom would not be manifested as it is; for one part of the glory of the attribute of divine wisdom is, that it is holy wisdom. So if his holiness were manifested, and not his wisdom, the glory of his holiness would not be manifested as it is; for one thing which belongs to the glory of God's holiness is, that it is a wise holiness. So it is with respect to the attributes of mercy and justice. The glory of God's mercy does not appear as it is, unless it is manifested as a just mercy, or as a mercy consistent with justice. And so with respect to God's sovereignty, it reflects glory on all his other attributes. It is part of the glory of God's mercy, that it is sovereign mercy. So all the attributes of God reflect glory on one another. The glory of one attribute cannot be manifested, as it is, without the manifestation of another. One attribute is defective without another, and therefore the manifestation will be defective. Hence it was the will of God to manifest all his attributes.

8 Comments:

Blogger Doug said...

Ryan, maybe you can explain how God's Attributes of Justice and Judgement play out in the Fall of man and of Satan. Why did a Righteous, Holy, Omnipotent, Ominscient God allow Satan to fall, and then allow His Own creation to fall due to the sin of man?

I have this view (and maybe it is just my layman beliefs) that God, in His Perfect Will, knew Satan, and man would fall (obvious because of God's Omniscience). How can God demonstrate His Attributes of Righteous Justice, and Judgement to a perfect world? He cannot! Therefore, in God's Perfect Holy Will, He allowed Satan to fall to demonstrate these Attributes! Since God needs to show these Attributes to all of His Creation, He allowed man to fall to show these Attributes, as well!

Then comes God's Mercy, and Grace. God did not show these Attributes to Satan, and yet He shows them to man. If man were perfect, where then could God demonstrate the Attributes of Grace and Mercy? He cannot, and since God cannot fail, He must demonstrate them to someone! Therefore, God allowed man to fall that God could demonstrate to man His Attributes of Grace and Mercy.

I hope this is accurate. If not, feel free to either show me the error of my way, or help smooth out my beliefs!

BTW, nice color scheme! GO BUCKS!!! BEAT MICHIGAN!!!

12/05/2005 05:29:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

I think I would say that God could manifest his attributes (grace, justice, mercy, etc) with or without the Fall. He has, in his infintie wisdom, chosen to create Satan, this world we know, and us, mankind, to display His glory in a particular way. We may not completely understand his rationale, but we know that he has done all these things, knowing perfectly well in his sovereignty that the fall would happen. These things were not necessary for him to manifest his glory, for justice can still manifested even if there is no wrong doing. Mercy can still be on display, I would venture to speculate, even if there was no sin committed.

I appreciate your comments, Doug, but lay off the coffee . . . you and your exclamation points!

12/05/2005 10:51:00 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

Ryan, how would God, who is the just judge, give justice were there no need for it? And what need is there for mercy to be displayed if there is no sin to forgive? I'm not really clear on my own position, but trying to gain your opinion to get on more stable ground with this.

12/06/2005 12:17:00 AM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Here is the ground for my speculation God could show justice in that he would distribute gifts justly. He could also show justice by not punishing those who did not deserve to be punished. Justice is not simply the meting out of punishments, but upholding those who are innocent. Let us agree that mercy means not giving us what we do deserve. Perhaps this is a stretch, but I would consider God being merciful in creating mankind. We had no right to existence so that we could have the joy of praising His name.

God was all of these before he ever created man. Edwards' point is that God created the universe to display these attributes, and that he consequently displays all of them. Yet, if he had never created any being, and only existed as the Triune God, eteranlly as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, he would still have been a merciful, just, and gracious God.

Consider this from Augustine:

'For Augustine as a Christian, the one eternal Being or "substance" is God himself--the God whose name is "I am." Of this divine substance the essential marks are unity and changelessness, which are but negations of the creaturely character that belongs to all else that exists. Creaturely substance as such is not "simple" but composite, and subject to change because of its composite nature. Change, in a man, means the loss of some attribute, physical, mental, or moral, which he formerly possessed, but the loss of which does not involve his ceasing to be a man. Such attributes are called "accidental." God cannot change without ceasing to be God; of the substance of God is not compounded of parts, but is absolutely one or "simple." This dogma of the divine "simplicity" as the logical ground both of unity and changelessness is common to Augustine and Greek theology in general. It is expressed in the formula "God is what he has," and corresponds to the assertion of the medieval scholastics that in God essence and existence coincide. The being of God is not like the being of a man separate from any of his attributes: in technical terms, God can have no accidental attributes. And since God's being is absolutely "simple," there is no real difference between one divine attribute and another: God's power, God's wisdom, God's goodness, are one and the same thing.'

Burnaby, John. Augustine: Later Works. (Library of Christian Classics 8. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1955), 21.

12/06/2005 12:43:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

Then there is Righteous Judgement. How can one of God's Attributes be missed? He is the Judge, and Judgement is one of His Attributes. If no sin to be Judged, then how can God show this Attribute?

BTW, I am old school when I talk about God. I capitalize everything about Him, and His Character.

12/06/2005 07:56:00 AM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Judgment is not an attribute. It is an action that stems from God's justice. Justice is an attribute.

12/06/2005 09:26:00 AM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Doug, one thing I think we can say is that God in his sovereignty created the world in which we now live to manifest his glory in a particular way, a way in which his sovereign wisdom has gloriously displayed itself, despite the sin of man and of angels.

I am still thinking through the "mercy" point. Many people have a hard defining line between grace and mercy. I think we have to consider mercy, when speaking of the mercy of God, to be a general mercy, or what we would consider grace unmerited favor, as Paul seems to use it in Romans 9, and that that kind of mercy could certainly be manifested before the fall of man or angels. This "general mercy" or grace is the mercy that is the attribute of God. I am not sure, at this point at least, that we can say that God could manifest mercy before the fall in the sense that God could withhold what one deserves, for the term "deserve" demands some sort of previous action or state justly meriting some reaction (my previous example of granting existence is an instance of what we would call grace, not mercy). Now no creature can properly be said to deserve anything (until it sins and deserves God's wrath), therefore the narrower conception of mercy does not seem to apply at the moment of creation. If mercy is more broadly defined, however, as gracious favor (which I think it can and should be when we speak of God's attribute of mercy), God could certainly display that without the fall. Thus I am distinguishing between a broader conception of mercy and a narrower conception of mercy. I am considering mercy the attribute of God broadly as "unmerited favor or kindness", of which would include both "mercy" (withholding what we deserve), and "grace" (giving what we do not deserve).

God was free to act however he wanted to manifest his glory. He could have manifested it in creating a perfect world. He chose to do it be sovereignly creating the world in which we now exist, where he sovereignly chooses some to salvation and to harden others. What we do know is the world he created, and why he created it--to display his own glory.

12/06/2005 01:16:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

As I have contemplated this more, I am more convinced that mercy should be defined more generally.

First, we should consider mercy the attribute, not mercy the action. This as essential as the distinction I made between justice and judgment.

Moreover, eleos is defined in BDAG (though this is not the best way to go about this discussion, it helps substantiate some of my musings) as, "kindness or concern expressed for someone in need." That is mercy the action, but more imporantly, a more general approach to mercy. Consider the way "mercy" or "eleos" is used in Lk 1:58 or 2 Tim 1:16.

12/06/2005 10:46:00 PM  

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