While we oppose the nominalistic view, which holds them to be mere names with which, by the necessity of our thinking, we clothe the one simple divine essence, we need equally to avoid the opposite realistic extreme of making them separate parts of a composite God.
We cannot conceive of attributes except as belonging to an underlying essence, which furnishes their ground of unity. In representing God as a compound of attributes, realism endangers the living unity of the Godhead.
Notice the analogous necessity of attributing the properties of matter to an underlying substance, and the phenomena of thought to an underlying spiritual essence; else matter is reduced to mere force, and mind, to mere sensation, ? in short, all things are swallowed up in a vast idealism. The purely realistic explanation of the attributes tends to low and polytheistic conceptions of God. The mythology of Greece was the result of personifying the divine attributes. The nomina were turned into numina, as Max Muller says; see Taylor, Nature on the Basis of Realism, 293. Instance also Christmas Evans?s sermon describing a Council in the Godhead, in which the attributes of Justice, Mercy, Wisdom, and Power argue with one another. Robert Hall called Christmas Evans ?the one- eyed orator of Anglesey,? but added that his one eye could ?light an army through a wilderness?; see Joseph Cross, Life and Sermons of Christmas Evans, 112-116; David Rhys Stephen, Memoirs of Christmas Evans, 168176. We must remember that ?Realism may so exalt the attributes that no personal subject is left to constitute the ground of unity. Looking upon Personality as anthropomorphism, it falls into a worse personification, that of omnipotence, holiness, benevolence, which are mere blind thoughts, unless there is one who is the Omnipotent, the Holy, the Good.? See Luthardt, Compendium der Dogmatik, 70.
3. The attributes belong to the divine essence as such. They are to be distinguished from those other powers or relations which do not appertain to the divine essence universally.
The personal distinctions (proprietates) in the nature of the one God are not to be denominated attributes; for each of these personal distinctions belongs not to the divine essence as such and universally, but only to the particular person of the Trinity who bears its name, while on the contrary all of the attributes belong to each of the persons.
The relations, which God sustains to the world (predicata), moreover, such as creation, preservation, government, are not to be denominated
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