Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Frame on God's Attributes

I continue to work through the 864 page work by John frame entitled The Doctrine of God. It has been an enlightening read on many topics and I have enjoyed the journey. Frame writes with clarity and precision and leaves flourish to other writers. I really enjoy his straightforward approach and find it helpful when tackling some of the more difficult subjects.

I am currently reading his chapters on God's attributes. Frame approaches the attributes of God from a different angle then some of the books I have read on the topic. I wanted to share some of his opening remarks. Frame writes:

In chapter 12, I argued that the defining or essential attributes of God should not be considered parts of him, but rather are perspectives on his whole being, that is, his essence. In that sense, God is "simple." He is also complex, but each attribute describes God's entire complexity, not just a part of it. So no attribute is separable from the others. Each attribute has all the attributes: God's love is eternal, just, and wise. His eternity is the eternal existence of a just and wise person. Nevertheless, each attribute presents God's essence from a different perspective, so that the collection of the gives some insight into the complexity of his being.

Does God's simplicity mean, then, that his eternity is the same as his love, or that his knowledge and justice are identical? The attributes do differ in perspective and emphasis,but they ultimately coalesce. Yes, God's eternity is the same as his love, for his eternity is the eternal existence of a loving person, and his love is the love of an eternal person. That is to say, eternity and love are not abstract qualities that characterize many beings including God, and that exist in him alongside many other abstract qualities. Rather, they are God himself. Our standard of love is not something in God, alongside other things, but God himself. And to find what eternity is, we should not search among abstract "eternal objects" like numbers and and the properties of creatures; rather, we should look to God himself.

Ultimately, then, the rather abstruse notion of divine simplicity, which identifies God's attributes as his essence, reduces to divine personalism. That is, God is a person, not a collection of abstract qualities. It is tempting to think pf God as a collection of abstract qualities when we consider the divine attributes, but we must keep reminding ourselves that God is a person, and that the divine attributes represent his powers and character traits. (388)

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