Friday, September 15, 2023

Post # 15 The Doctrine of God - God's Attribute of Truthfulness

Reviewing how our study of attributes so far is giving us a a clearer picture of God as He is.

   Before we get into our investigation of God's truthfulness, let's review how the last several posts on God's incommunicable attributes give us a coherent picture of the God of the Bible. 

1. What is meant by "attributes", and their categories.

    We began by first distinguishing between God's "incommunicable" and "communicable" attributes, noting that the former speaks of qualities God shares with His creatures, whereas the latter category are those that are unique to Himself. 

    As for the term "attribute" itself, we discovered that any talk of God's essence in action or relationship. We may tend to view God's attributes as adjectives that describe the noun "God", almost as if the attributes are pieces that plug into God's nature. 

    However, the Bible does not present God in this way. Instead, think of the attributes as "adverbs" (those "ly" words that describe the action of a verb). Think of them describing God in constant motion. He is a Living, Personal, Eternal, Infinite, Beginningless, and Endless reality. God is His attributes. He lives and acts forth lovingly ("love" used as an adverb to describe how God lives and how He acts) because God is love (1 John 4:8). This quality about God's being is what theologians call "Divine simplicity". The word "simplicity" derives from the Latin simplex, signifying that God is unmixed, not put together, not having parts, and that all that God is (by nature) and all that God does (His attributes) are one-and-the-same. 

    Any of God's attributes delivers to us the totality of God, as in for example God's unchangeability gives to us God in all of His unchangeability (Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 1:8-10; Hebrews 13:8). 

    Theologian J.P. Boice observes the following about the idea of God's attributes in his "Abstract of Systematic Theology", page 65,

"They are not separate nor separable from his essence or nature, and yet are not that essence, but simply have the ground or cause of their existence in it, and are at the same time the peculiarities which constitute the mode and character of his being."

    It is important to remember that when contemplating God's being and attributes, we can never fully comprehend Him in His being (what is called "God's incomprehensibility"), yet we can truly know Him (due to the revelation of Himself to us in creation, 

2. Reviewing God's unchangeableness, independence, omnipresence, spirituality, eternality.

    We then proceeded to talk of God's unchangeability or "immutability", noting that the God of the Bible is unchanging in His nature and His attributes (see Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 1:8-10). We then considered God's independence, self-sufficiency, or what is called by older theologians "Divine aseity", noting that God's "Godness" is in view. God is not dependent on anything else outside Himself and that He alone is self-sufficient. Each of these attributes tell us further truth about God's very being. He as God, in the totality of His essence, is unchanging, is "a se" (Latin for "from oneself"), i.e. God is independent in-and-of-Himself. 

    It is then we noted that because God is unchanging and independent, He is omnipresent. God as God acts omnipresently. God's omnipresence means that all of God is present at every point in creation and beyond it, all the while being able to act differently or manifest different perfections that befit the situation experienced in the lives of His creatures. 

    We then spent some time discussing God's spiritual nature or spirituality, noting that because He is spiritual, and eternally so, He is able to be all the other perfections or attributes we've discussed already. As a final note of review, we looked at that wonderful perfection of God's eternality. God's Divine eternity speaks of His infinite being with respect to time, as well as how he in His Divine life experiences no succession or interruption of moments. All in all, each of these Divine perfections give us views of His total being in action and relating to His creation. 

God's Divine truthfulness, defining terms and key Biblical references.

    We now come to that perfection of God that is known as "Divine truthfulness". Theologian Sam Storms passionately notes the following about God's truthfulness,

"Let’s be clear right from the start. God isn’t whatever you want him to be. He is who he is whether you like it or not. God is not like silly putty in the hands of those who wish to twist and shape him into something more palatable to their senses. He has always been, is now, and will forever be the same. His character and revealed will do not change when culture does or when he falls out of favor with human opinion."

    Another theologian, Wayne Grudem, lists this perfection of God as a "communicable attribute", since we as creatures share in truthfulness by our need for truth and by our moral nature knowing about truth. God is truthful by nature. Jeremiah 10:10 reminds us,

"But the Lord is the true God; He is the living God and the everlasting King. At His wrath the earth quakes, And the nations cannot endure His indignation."

    In the realm of human salvation, the truthfulness of God is central, as for instance 1 John 5:20 states,

"And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life" (see also John 14:6; 17:3). 

    The great nineteenth century theologian Charles Hodge notes the following about God's attribute of truthfulness in terms of its implications. He writes in Volume One of His Systematic Theology, page 437, "The true, therefore, is, 

1. That which is real as opposed to that which is fictitious or imaginary.

2. The true is that which completely comes up to its idea, or to what it purports to be. A true man is a man in whom the idea of manhood is fully realized. The true God is He in whom is found all that Godhead imports.

3. The true is that in which the reality exactly corresponds to the manifestation. God is true, because He really is what He declares himself to be.

4. The true is that which can be depended upon, which does not fail, or change, or disappoint. In this sense also God is true as He is immutable and faithful. His promise cannot fail; his word never disappoints. His word abideth forever."

How God's truthfulness grounds creation, salvation, and Scripture.

    The "truth" of God grounds all of creation. In our conception of what truth actual means, we often assign the definition of "that which corresponds to reality" or "that which makes coherent sense within itself without contradiction". One of the most fundamental concepts in all of logic is the "Law of non-contradiction", which states that something cannot be one way, then its opposite, in the same way and the same sense". 

    Hence, to speak of a "married bachelor" is a logical contradiction, and thus cannot be true, since it could never correspond to reality anywhere, and as a concept, is incoherent. Whenever you think about it, the "truthfulness about truth" gives us one way of arguing not only for God's existence, but also gives us insight into the kind of God He is by nature. To mention what I said earlier of God's attributes functioning as adverbs (those "ly" words which describe the actions of verbs), God acts truthfully due to Him being truthful.  

    When we consider Biblical salvation, God as the true God is central. In a more specific sense, God revealed through the Person of the Son is how we see God as central to salvation, since He is the God of truth. For example, Psalm 31:15 states, "Into Your hand I commit my spirit; You have ransomed me, O Lord, God of truth."  Some readers may recognize the first clause in this verse, since it is exactly what Jesus Himself said and quoted on the cross in Luke 23:46, "And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.” Having said this, He breathed His last." This is so fitting of course, since the One who uttered those words came as the incarnation of truth itself, claiming Himself to be "the truth" (John 14:6), as well as standing before Pilate in silence as "The Truth", with Pilate blindly saying "what is truth?" (John 18:38).

    If we turn our attention to the doctrine of Scripture itself, the inerrancy (The Bible's truthfulness) and infallibility (The Bible's incapability of ever being wrong) rests in Jesus' teaching on the Scriptures, fulfilled prophecy, and God's truthfulness. Passages such as Numbers 23:19; 1 Samuel 15:25; Malachi 3:6; Titus 1:2; and Hebrews 6:18 assert the unchanging truthfulness of God. James 1:17-21 puts side by side the doctrines of God's revelation of Himself, the Word of God, and salvation as rooted in His unchanging truthfulness. 

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