Saturday, May 09, 2015

95 Theses, #3-6: The Nature of God

(To see the introduction and disclaimers for my 95 Theses, first go to: 95-Theses-Introduction)


(Holy Trinity Icon, 17th century, Russian, author unknown; image is in the public domain) 



3.)    Attributes of God - God, as classically defined, is the ultimate expression of all values—all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good. He is the uncaused cause, the one Necessary being that all contingent things require and depend on. As such, he is himself without cause (as logic itself tells us—one cannot have an infinite regression of causes, so something must be the uncaused cause). In creating the universe, as recent science instructs us, time and space came into existence together; thus implying, as Christians have always believed, that God is beyond space and time. He is not physically removed from them, as if he were “outside” of space-time; rather, he is both transcendent of space-time (“wholly other”) and immanent throughout it.


4.)    God as Spirit - God, as being wholly other from our material universe of matter and energy, is a different sort of being altogether. He is usually referred to as “spirit,” but this word, when used of God, cannot simply be thought of as another “substance” like matter and energy. God in his nature is something that will always be entirely beyond our understanding, and he cannot be thought of as being “composed” of any kind of substance more fundamental than his own nature. (As such, though we speak of angels and humans as being or having “spirits,” we mean something slightly different by this than when we use the word of God—it signifies, in our case and that of angels, both a distinction from the materiality of the universe and an affinity to God’s nature, but we cannot think of ourselves as composed of little pieces of the substance that God is, because God is not composed of any "substance".)


5.)    Trinity as Pure Mind - God has also been classically been expressed as “Mind”—the pure thought that encapsulates within itself all that is (rather, in a certain sense, like Plato’s realm of ideal forms). Perhaps this is one way to think of God as “Spirit”—not of spirit as an ethereal substance of which God is composed, but of spirit as “pure Mind”. In our experience, however, “Mind” in the abstract would strike us as incomplete unless coupled with expression and action. Thus, once again, we can use this metaphor to lead us to reflection on the Trinity. If the Father represents Mind, then the Son can be thought of as representing the self-expression, the speaking forth, of the Father—“the Logos” in Johannine terminology—and the Holy Spirit can be seen as the active principle (with the “spirit”/“breath” etymology of his name denoting a life-giving aspect), which puts the speaking forth of God into action and brings forth its effects in the world. 


6.)    The Relationships within the Trinity - This biblical metaphor for the Trinity also helps us conceptualize the classical doctrine of the Father “begetting” the Son—if the Son is the self-expression of the Father, his speaking forth, then we have an image that can be complementary to our understanding of the nature of God along with the biblical analogy that uses the image of human begetting. God, who exists in an all-encompassing act of will, is always speaking forth his self-expression, his Logos, and always has been—the “begetting” is an eternal begetting, “from before all ages” and into eternity to come. Likewise, the “procession” of the Spirit from the Father can be imagined in the terms of this metaphor—of the life-giving active power of God constantly and eternally proceeding forth, both as the love within the Trinity and as the creative power of God towards the universe.

Next week: Why this is "the best of all possible worlds"

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