God's Attributes, Oneness, and Trinity

This document is in a way a continuation of my argument for God's existence, so it aims to be philosophical yet approachable. Being written primarily for non-Christians, this is not the place for Scriptural arguments, nor quotes from the Church Fathers. If you want these, please click on "Virtually all Topics" in my menu "For Protestants." Also, see the link at the end of this document. If you do not yet know that God exists, click here. As always, if you have a problem with my arguments, email me.

I discuss only 10 attributes of God here briefly, so it is not long! In fact, it is enjoyable. A note on monotheism and the Trinity follows. To see that God is not responsible for any evil, read down to Attribute 7: "Love" and click the link.

** Note: I speak of God as "he," i.e. as a male singular, to avoid cumbersome style. This is not to be taken literally. **

Attribute 1: Creator: The fact that the universe came into being by the agency of a Creator who exists outside of time is assumed here; it is proven in the proof for God's existence. Now, this does not in fact say a great deal about God; it identifies him as a cause, and says something which he is not, i.e. contained by time.

Attribute 2: Unchangeable: Since he is outside of time, we know there is no past, present, or future for him, even though there is for his effects, obviously. Now change can only exist in something with a past and a future. For the word "change" means a transition from one state to another, and nothing can exist in two contrary states at once. Therefore, God is unchangeable. If you have Biblical objections, click here.

Attribute 3: Uncreated: For anything created, there was a coming into existence, which is a change for the thing created. Since God is unchangeable, it follows that he is uncreated.

Attribute 4: Spiritual: God cannot be material, for if he were the material universe would not have been created. And any being which is not material is immaterial. "Spirit" means "an immaterial being." In science fiction, we hear of beings made of energy, but in fact energy means either the capacity to do work, or the use of this capacity; it is not a thing. To dispute this is to argue against any dictionary.

Attribute 5: Omnipotent (All-Powerful): We have seen that he has total power over the existence and design of every part of the entire universe, and created natures, both the physical and the spiritual. This goes with being Creator of it all. Now this is what is meant by omnipotence, for which reason we stand up and pay attention. This is not "omnipotence" in the sense of being able to draw round triangles, to cause the past not to have been, or to perform other logical absurdities. Nor does it necessarily mean being capable of doing evil, which in the case of God shall be discussed elsewhere.

Attribute 6: Superfine Taste for Beauty: I think that creation is pretty beautiful, how about you? Now I don't just mean the awesome power and marvelous beauty of stars, comets and nebulae, or the intricate and frail beauty of flowers or their delightful scents. What about your baby, your mother and father, good music and the most beautiful virtues which God made possible for you? Suffice it to say, he really has a taste for beauty, of every kind.

Attribute 7: Love: Did you read the above paragraph? Do you fail to discern any love from the facts which I bring to your attention? Perhaps you ask how he can love us if he allows so much evil to happen to us. Good question. This is answered elsewhere. Click here for it. Also, do remember that I am here for you if you need someone to talk with. Just email me.

Attribute 8: Cause of our Continued Existence: First, consider this: To say that you have power over the future can mean two things: first, that you can act now in such a way as to indirectly affect what will eventually happen; secondly, that (assuming you continue to exist) you will have the same power to affect things directly at a future time as you have now to affect the present state of things. For example, in the first sense, you can affect the success of your business by making prudent decisions now. In the second sense, you shall have the power tomorrow to feed yourself (tomorrow). But you cannot right now feed yourself tomorrow, obviously.

My point is that our power does not extend directly to anything in the future; we act on the present world, only. The same goes for your dog, a planet, or any physical thing. It follows from this that nothing in the universe can act to directly cause either its own or anything else's future existence. But things in nature continue to exist, as we know through sight. And it has been established that created things cannot ever exist uncaused. Therefore, our continued existence is caused by the Creator.

Attribute 9: Omniscience (All-Knowing): It has just been proven that God causes our existence moment by moment. I ask you now, can a thing be caused to exist without being caused to exist as something? Can something exist without having qualities? Absurd. God, then, not only causes everything to be, but he gives things their design, qualities and properties. In which case he knows all details about everything.

Attribute 10: Beyond our understanding: Out of several good reasons for being humble about our understanding of God, I give one. We are not outside of time and we do not know what it is like to possess the above attributes. Our very ideas are formed by what we see around us and within ourselves. Therefore, we must admit that, while we can come to know several things about God, we understand him sometimes in human terms, and sometimes in terms of what he is not (for example, in time). Our ideas of what he is are therefore frequently necessarily approximate; we do not yet grasp him perfectly.

God is Evidently One, but Possibly Also a Trinity

We have now proven the major attributes of God as described in the Western Religions. (Alright, I postponed his mercy and justice to a different article.) But all that we see are a number of attributes or qualities; this describes his essence: these things necessarily exist in God as Creator. There is no different essence for God, and in this we find that God is one. This is the classic meaning of "monotheism."

Traditionally, by "God" we mean this essence; this comes to us not only from Plato and Aristotle in the philosophical tradition, but from the Jewish and Christian tradition which is shared by Islam. These say, for example, that "God is Love." We have seen that he is personal, for his nature has qualities of a human person. But in this we do not see that there can not be more than one "person" sharing the nature of Creator God. In Genesis, God speaks as a "we": "Let us make man..." And this does not seem to be a "majestic plural," for if the author of Genesis felt that the majestic plural were in order, it would be used all the time, but statements of God's action are usually put in the singular. It follows that when one "person" of God is acting, we see the singular; when more than one are acting, we see the plural. So this is the oldest and most traditional understanding of God.

The doctrine of the Trinity states that three "persons" share this nature of God. As far as reason alone takes us, we have no idea whether more than one divine "person" participated in the creation of the universe. Accordingly, the doctrine of the Trinity is compatible with monotheism, although it is not as philosophically provable. If reason does not convince you of this compatibility but you know the truth of Sacred Scripture, click here.

Thanks, and God bless.

Copyright 1997, Luke Wadel. Written permission of the author is required for copying, electronically or otherwise.

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