"Every attribute of God is identical with His essence?"

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Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
What is the Biblical evidence of the phrase, "Every attribute of God is identical with His essence?"

I have heard it said a lot, but never proven from Scripture. Where is this doctrine derived from (except reason)?

Many list wrath/hate and mercy as part of God's communicable attributes but these all stem from God's holiness and goodness. By saying "Every attribute of God is identical with His essence" we are making wrath and hatred as part of his essence, rather than mere holiness which is more basic.

But God only exercises wrath and hatred towards His creation whereas God's holiness has existed for eternity past.

Wrath is not identical to His essence, but comes about due to Creation, but many scholars list wrath as an attribute of God. There was a time when God did not exercise wrath(though God was always holy). If there was no time in which God did not exercise wrath towards pre-created sinners, then this makes Creation mandatory for God in order so that God might exercise His wrath. But God was free to create or not to create.

Any help?
 

Gforce9

Puritan Board Junior
Dr. Sinclair Ferguson made a great statement on this along these lines; that strictly speaking, wrath is not an attribute of God. For something to be an attribute of God, it has to be something exercised before all worlds. Rather, wrath is the intersection of God's just judgment (His justice and righteousness) with unrighteousness (rebellion). Only then was wrath displayed.

I don't recall which Q&A this came from (Q&A 2 or 3), but I commend every lecture in this series as gold worth mining, especially the lectures from Dr's. Duncan, Sproul and Ferguson..........excellent!

https://www.ligonier.org/learn/conferences/orlando_2004_national_conference/
 
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Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
Dr. Sinclair Ferguson made a great statement on this along these lines; that strictly speaking, wrath is not an attribute of God. For something to be an attribute of God, it has to be something exercised before all worlds. Rather, wrath is the intersection of God's just judgment (His justice and righteousness) intersecting with unrighteousness (rebellion). Only then was wrath displayed.

I don't recall which Q&A this came from (Q&A 2 or 3), but I commend every lecture in this series as gold worth mining, especially the lectures from Dr's. Duncan, Sproul and Ferguson..........excellent!

https://www.ligonier.org/learn/conferences/orlando_2004_national_conference/
Ok, great. That is also my conclusion...glad to know someone like Ferguson agrees.
 

KMK

Administrator
Staff member
"That we may know what sort of a spirit God is, we must consider his attributes, which we gather from his word and works, and that two ways:
1. By denying of, and removing from God, in our minds, all imperfection which is in the creatures, Acts 17:29. And thus we come to the knowledge of his incommunicable attributes, so called because there is no shadow or vestige of them in the creatures, such as infinity, eternity, unchangeableness.
2. By attributing unto him, by way, of eminency, whatever is excellent in the creatures, seeing he is the fountain of all perfection in them, Psal. 94:9. And thus we have his communicable attributes, whereof there are some vestiges and small scantlings in the creature, as being, wisdom, power, &c. amongst which his spirituality is to be reckoned.


Now, both these sorts of attributes in God are not qualities in him distinct from himself, but they are God himself. God's infinity is God himself, his wisdom is himself; he is wisdom, goodness, 1 John 1:5. Neither are these attributes so many different things in God; but they are each of them God himself: for God swears by himself, Heb. 6:19; yet he swears by his holiness, Amos 4:2. He creates by himself, Isa. 44:24; yet he creates by his power, Rom. 1:20. Therefore God's attributes are God himself. Neither are these attributes separable from one another; for though we, through weakness, must think and speak of them separately, yet they are truly but the one infinite perfection of the divine nature, which cannot be separated therefrom, without denying that he is an infinitely perfect being."

Thomas Boston, "Of God and His Perfections", Works, Vol. I

Is that what your are looking for?
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
Ken,

Thanks, great quote. BUT....then wrath could not properly be called an attribute of God but only an attribute secondarily derived from His holiness, right? For God did not have wrath before all worlds but did have holiness before all worlds.

God is love because of the Trinity, but we cannot say God is wrath in the same manner, but only secondarily, due to His dealings with His rebellious creation.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
The phrase was originally used to cut off the Platonic charge that if God is Good, then he must participate in the form of Goodness. But that means that Goodness is independent of, and prior to, God.
 

earl40

Puritan Board Professor
I have said this in the past concerning God's immutability and how we ought to think God is not really an angry God who has emotions. Of course most recoil at that "heresy" I espouse.
 

KMK

Administrator
Staff member
Ken,

Thanks, great quote. BUT....then wrath could not properly be called an attribute of God but only an attribute secondarily derived from His holiness, right? For God did not have wrath before all worlds but did have holiness before all worlds.

God is love because of the Trinity, but we cannot say God is wrath in the same manner, but only secondarily, due to His dealings with His rebellious creation.

I agree with Boston that wrath is best contemplated as a manifestation of the attribute of justice, not holiness.

"The justice of God is manifested and discovered,
1. In the temporal judgments which he brings upon sinners even in this life.
2. In sentencing so many of Adam's posterity to everlasting pains and torments for sin, according to that dreadful sentence which shall be pronounced at the last day, Matth. 25:41.
3. In the death and sufferings of Christ.
4. The justice of God will be clearly manifested at the great day.
5. God's justice will shine for ever in the torments of the damned in hell."


I have never heard anyone say that wrath is an attribute of God. Is that a thing?
 

Dachaser

Puritan Board Doctor
What is the Biblical evidence of the phrase, "Every attribute of God is identical with His essence?"

I have heard it said a lot, but never proven from Scripture. Where is this doctrine derived from (except reason)?

Many list wrath/hate and mercy as part of God's communicable attributes but these all stem from God's holiness and goodness. By saying "Every attribute of God is identical with His essence" we are making wrath and hatred as part of his essence, rather than mere holiness which is more basic.

But God only exercises wrath and hatred towards His creation whereas God's holiness has existed for eternity past.

Wrath is not identical to His essence, but comes about due to Creation, but many scholars list wrath as an attribute of God. There was a time when God did not exercise wrath(though God was always holy). If there was no time in which God did not exercise wrath towards pre-created sinners, then this makes Creation mandatory for God in order so that God might exercise His wrath. But God was free to create or not to create.

Any help?
Would not the essence of God actually be His spiritual Being, while attributes would be those that would branch off from His Being itself? God is Holy, Loving, All Mighty et all, but at His core He is God the Being Himself?
 

Ask Mr. Religion

Flatly Unflappable
Would not the essence of God actually be His spiritual Being, while attributes would be those that would branch off from His Being itself? God is Holy, Loving, All Mighty et all, but at His core He is God the Being Himself?
No. To the negation of assuming God has parts, we must say, God is His attributes, all of which inhere one another. All God’s attributes are primary, none can be elevated above the other to claim that the other attributes are somehow subordinate to something else in God. The nature of the one divine being, God, is inclusive of all the attributes of His being. When we speak of these attributes in their totality, we say they are God’s essence.
 

greenbaggins

Administrator
Staff member
It's been a while since I read it, but I remember that Turretin's treatment of this question was simply masterful. He is the one who completely convinced me that the attributes are not something different from the essence, but are rather different ways of looking at one and the same essence. The analogy has some flaws (pardon the pun), but one could consider that the attributes are like various facets of a diamond. They all provide a way of looking at the one essence, but you wouldn't say that the facets are different from the diamond.
 

Ask Mr. Religion

Flatly Unflappable
See Turretin at:
THIRD TOPIC
THE ONE AND TRIUNE GOD

FIFTH QUESTION
Can the divine attributes be really distinguished from the divine essence? We deny against the Socinians

A sample:
VII. The attributes of God cannot really differ from his essence or from one another (as one thing from another) because God is most simple and perfect. Now a real distinction presupposes things diverse in essence which the highest simplicity rejects. Things really diverse can become one only by aggregation (which is opposed to absolute perfection). Again, if they differed really, the essence would be made perfect by something really distinct from itself and so could not be in itself most perfect. Third, it would follow that God is not therefore immutable because he would have in himself passive potency (the root of mutability) by which the attributes might either be elicited from the essence or added to it. But since God is the first and independent being (which is whatever can be) nothing can be added to or taken away from him.

Turretin, Francis. Institutes of Elenctic Theology. Ed. James T. Dennison Jr. Trans. George Musgrave Giger. Vol. 1. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 1992–1997.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
The line in question is trying to avoid claims like "God is made up of parts, where each attribute (love, goodness, justice) is a "part" of God). That would mean God is dependent on other properties for his existence.
 

greenbaggins

Administrator
Staff member
Yes, Jacob, and that precise point is where my analogy has its limitations. After all, the facets as an aggregate make up the diamond, whereas that is not true of God.
 

Dachaser

Puritan Board Doctor
No. To the negation of assuming God has parts, we must say, God is His attributes, all of which inhere one another. All God’s attributes are primary, none can be elevated above the other to claim that the other attributes are somehow subordinate to something else in God. The nature of the one divine being, God, is inclusive of all the attributes of His being. When we speak of these attributes in their totality, we say they are God’s essence.
Humans have love and hate and feat emotions, but we are still at our core element humanity, correct?
 

greenbaggins

Administrator
Staff member
David, yes, God is a Spirit. I am not sure why that is relevant to the point we are making about the attributes in their relation to the essence.
 

Ask Mr. Religion

Flatly Unflappable
Would not the essence of God actually be His spiritual Being, while attributes would be those that would branch off from His Being itself? God is Holy, Loving, All Mighty et all, but at His core He is God the Being Himself?

Humans have love and hate and feat emotions, but we are still at our core element humanity, correct?
David,

You appear to be trying to draw some analogy between God and humans, about some notion of "core element". You go so far as to state "God is Holy, Loving, at all, [sic]" then you quickly add, "but" as if there is something we are all overlooking in the discussion of the attributes of God and His essence.

If you are disagreeing with what has been posted, then make your disagreement plain. If not, please explain what you are trying to convey by "at His core He is God the being Himself". Are you trying to distinguish between being and essence? Elaboration is needed. Don't force the reader to always have to unpack your stilted phrases, which usually results in your rejoinder beginning with "What I meant to say...".
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
I agree with Boston that wrath is best contemplated as a manifestation of the attribute of justice, not holiness.

"The justice of God is manifested and discovered,
1. In the temporal judgments which he brings upon sinners even in this life.
2. In sentencing so many of Adam's posterity to everlasting pains and torments for sin, according to that dreadful sentence which shall be pronounced at the last day, Matth. 25:41.
3. In the death and sufferings of Christ.
4. The justice of God will be clearly manifested at the great day.
5. God's justice will shine for ever in the torments of the damned in hell."


I have never heard anyone say that wrath is an attribute of God. Is that a thing?
They divide up the attributes into incommunicable attributes and communicable attributes and place wrath in the latter sometimes. Several systematic theologies list wrath and mercy as attributes of God, but these seem secondarily derived due to love and holiness responding to a fallen creation and not present from all eternity past within God Himself. God is love, of course, because of the nature of the Trinity forever loving one another. But God is merciful or wrathful only due to the Creation, and God was not obligated to create.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
It appears then that wrath and mercy CANNOT be true attributes of God because prior to Creation there was no need or occasion to exercise wrath or mercy, but mercy and wrath are secondarily derived from the true attributes of love and justice, which were before all worlds.

How does that sound?
 

earl40

Puritan Board Professor
It appears then that wrath and mercy CANNOT be true attributes of God because prior to Creation there was no need or occasion to exercise wrath or mercy, but mercy and wrath are secondarily derived from the true attributes of love and justice, which were before all worlds.

How does that sound?

Sounds EXELLENT! :) Sweet music to our God this Lord's Day.
 

Andrew P.C.

Puritan Board Junior
But God is merciful or wrathful only due to the Creation, and God was not obligated to create.

You say God was not obligated to create, but then say He is obligated to demonstrate wrath because He created? Is that an accurate summary?
 

Andrew P.C.

Puritan Board Junior
Side comment: taking into account Thomas Goodwin’s exegesis of Eph. 1, and him stating that God chose us “according to the good pleasure of his will, which he had purposed in himself”, how do you understand God’s love and hate? I think of Romans 9 as well. He did all these things before His creation and purely “to the good pleasure of his will”.
 

Alan D. Strange

Puritan Board Senior
God is who He is in and of Himself, the One upon Whom all depends, and Who Himself depends upon none. This is what's in view when we speak of His aseity.

In keeping with this, nothing in creation has the power to impact God (so that He is acted upon, instead of the Actor). This is what's in view when we speak of His impassibility.

While creation may become the occasion for the expression of that which we would not otherwise see (the grace and mercy of God, on the one hand, and the wrath and retribution of God on the other), it cannot be the case that creation is either necessary (God is a perfect communion of persons, needing nothing outside His own triune Self) or that it adds anything to God, which would be a denial of his aseity, immutability, and impassibility.

This is all incomprehensible, and it cannot be otherwise, given that God the Creator cannot be fathomed by man the creature. As has been noted, Turretin and others (Bavinck, especially) have excellent treatments of this.

Peace,
Alan
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
You say God was not obligated to create, but then say He is obligated to demonstrate wrath because He created? Is that an accurate summary?

Yes, God is not obligated to create. Yet He has chosen to create in such a way to put His full being on display and exhibit both his wrath and His mercy. This was no obligation.

God could have chosen to create a world where sin never entered into creation at all. Why He did or did not do so....well, I don't know, except that God did it this way.

My deeper questions which still linger are as follows:

If I were to say that God chose to create and allow the Fall in order to fully display His wrath and mercy, and that God chose this reality because it was the BEST way, than I have to ask if God is obligated to always follow the best way. Is He? Could God have created a reality that was sub-par or lacking in some way?

And if so, would this be a sort of obligation for God to create in order to fully display His wrath and mercy?

Was there a way for sin NOT to enter the world AND for God to fully display His wrath and mercy to the universe? And if there was, why didn't God choose it? Is God bound within this dilemma of, "Ugh.....I can either have one of two choices but not both....I can either allow sin and fully display my being in a maximal way, or else I can disallow sin and endure having my being not fully be expressed...."

This conjecture is interesting, and I do not know the answers, and I think perhaps we ought not to press it further.
 

Dachaser

Puritan Board Doctor
David,

You appear to be trying to draw some analogy between God and humans, about some notion of "core element". You go so far as to state "God is Holy, Loving, at all, [sic]" then you quickly add, "but" as if there is something we are all overlooking in the discussion of the attributes of God and His essence.

If you are disagreeing with what has been posted, then make your disagreement plain. If not, please explain what you are trying to convey by "at His core He is God the being Himself". Are you trying to distinguish between being and essence? Elaboration is needed. Don't force the reader to always have to unpack your stilted phrases, which usually results in your rejoinder beginning with "What I meant to say...".
I am not disagreeing, just trying to get for myself better understanding on this issue, as I still hve a hard time seeing the attributes of God same way as His very Being/nature.
God expresses Himself to us as One who has wrath/love/forgiveness, but he is also beyond that is eternal Being.
Are His emotions the same as His attributes?
 

Ask Mr. Religion

Flatly Unflappable
I am not disagreeing, just trying to get for myself better understanding on this issue, as I still hve a hard time seeing the attributes of God same way as His very Being/nature.
God expresses Himself to us as One who has wrath/love/forgiveness, but he is also beyond that is eternal Being.
Are His emotions the same as His attributes?
David,
Rather than me just telling what you I think these terms mean, let's start with you distinguishing between attributes of God and being of God as you consider the two terms to be defined. As the Latin phrase in my sig below indicates, he who distinguishes well, learns well. ;)

As you construct your definitions of the two terms consider the following:
In seeking a definition of God we look to the attributes of God. What we are attempting to do by seeking to define anything is to individuate. When we talk about God, we are talking about something or someone that is ultimately sui generis — that which is in a class by itself. God is supremely sui generis, making definition difficult.

What does it mean to say that God is a being?
1. Is there something out there called “beingness” in which God participates
and in which we participate?
2. We describe ourselves as human beings while God is popularly described as
the supreme being.
3. The danger is to think of some general category we call “being.”
4. The problem is that there is no being at all apart from God.
a. The Bible says that we live and move and have our being in God (Acts
17:28).
b. But we are not “little gods.”
c. Pantheism — Everything is some form, extension, mode, piece, or part
of God Himself.
d. Scripture demands that we make a clear distinction between the Creator
and the creature.​
5. We do not want to make God one member of a big class of being in the
world.
6. When we think of “being” simply as a mental concept, then it makes perfect
sense and we are on safe ground.
7. When we say that God has beingness and we have beingness in this sense,
all we are saying is that God is real and we are real.

The real difference between man and God isn’t the difference between human and supreme kinds of being.
1. The real difference exists in the concept of being itself.
2. God is being in its absolute perfection.
3. The medieval theologians’ definition of “God” was ens perfectissimum—“the most perfect being.”
4. Anselm described God as the most perfect conceivable being.
5. We are imperfect creatures who must speak of the perfect.
Once you have provided your distinctions between being and attributes, the discussion can proceed effectively. Take your time to carefully lay out your position.
 

Dachaser

Puritan Board Doctor
David,
Rather than me just telling what you I think these terms mean, let's start with you distinguishing between attributes of God and being of God as you consider the two terms to be defined. As the Latin phrase in my sig below indicates, he who distinguishes well, learns well. ;)

As you construct your definitions of the two terms consider the following:
In seeking a definition of God we look to the attributes of God. What we are attempting to do by seeking to define anything is to individuate. When we talk about God, we are talking about something or someone that is ultimately sui generis — that which is in a class by itself. God is supremely sui generis, making definition difficult.

What does it mean to say that God is a being?
1. Is there something out there called “beingness” in which God participates
and in which we participate?
2. We describe ourselves as human beings while God is popularly described as
the supreme being.
3. The danger is to think of some general category we call “being.”
4. The problem is that there is no being at all apart from God.
a. The Bible says that we live and move and have our being in God (Acts
17:28).
b. But we are not “little gods.”
c. Pantheism — Everything is some form, extension, mode, piece, or part
of God Himself.
d. Scripture demands that we make a clear distinction between the Creator
and the creature.​
5. We do not want to make God one member of a big class of being in the
world.
6. When we think of “being” simply as a mental concept, then it makes perfect
sense and we are on safe ground.
7. When we say that God has beingness and we have beingness in this sense,
all we are saying is that God is real and we are real.

The real difference between man and God isn’t the difference between human and supreme kinds of being.
1. The real difference exists in the concept of being itself.
2. God is being in its absolute perfection.
3. The medieval theologians’ definition of “God” was ens perfectissimum—“the most perfect being.”
4. Anselm described God as the most perfect conceivable being.
5. We are imperfect creatures who must speak of the perfect.
Once you have provided your distinctions between being and attributes, the discussion can proceed effectively. Take your time to carefully lay out your position.
The essense/Being of God is that which what makes Him to be God, His etrnal existence state, as Spirit.
His attributes to me are how God relates to His creation, as in he shows love/Grace/Mercy/wrath etc.
God is an eternal Being who has those divine attributes due to Him being God.
 
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