Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Pieper, 1968. Chapter C8, “God’s Essence and Attributes (De essentia et attributis divinis)”

Chapter C8, “God’s Essence and Attributes (De essentia et attributis divinis)”

Pieper observes that God’s attributes are categorized in a number of ways. The arrangement is largely irrelevant, but the attributes are very important. Furthermore, we need to remember that God is one. In his essence he is one entity. The three persons of the Godhead have identical attributes which they always use together. Further, all the attributes work together. Yet we divide them to consider each individually. Pieper warns against our tendency to view God as a heap of attributes or to view one without the others. Those attempts always go awry.

Pieper divides the attributes of God into two categories. These are the quiescent attributes, which remain within God and not the world, and the operative attributes, which relate to this world. Sometimes we also see the former as “negative” in that they do not apply in the world, and “positive” in that they do apply in the world.

A) Negative Attributes
1) Unity of God - one in nature
2) Simplicity of God - not able to be classified by parts
3) Immutability - never changes in essence or attributes
4) Infinity - God is not limited by time or space
5) Omnipresence - always present and working everywhere
6)Eternity - God lasts forever and is outside of time

B) Positive Attributes
1) Life
2) Knowledge
3) Wisdom
4) Attributes of Will, such as holiness, justice, truth, etc.

Pieper discusses all these attributes in some detail during this lengthy chapter. He particularly discusses how the positive attributes do not appear identical in humans and in God. As always, his wealth of biblical references can well lead to further study.

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