THE ATTRIBUTES OF GOD – Incommunicable Attributes

“Making God the same as the universe is simply talking about Pantheism…”

Gerald Nyenhuis

Based on the articles previously shared in this Blog and established then that the Triune God is the Creator God of the universe as exposed by the Bible; let us now know in depth His character, a character that by the way is revealed from the very creation of the universe.

But, first of all, it is important to mention that the English version of this article has been translated from the Spanish version of Towards Excellence (https://hacialaexcelencia.org/2022/03/06/los-atributos-de-dios-atributos-incomunicables/); not necessarily from the original texts and works of authors here cited. The Bible verses used are mentioned below.

In fact, the universe itself speaks, as we have already analyzed it earlier (see previous articles), of the existence of an intelligent being behind it. As Francis A. Schaeffer puts it, the universe openly exposes what God is; and not only that, but it does so in four areas.[1]

The four areas that Schaeffer mentions from the perspective of the universe are: (1) The universe speaks of the existence of Being. The universe is there, existence is there, God is there. (2) The universe has order. It is not chaos. This is evidenced in Genesis 1, as it relates that God made all things to produce after its own kind. Nothing is chaotic or random. (3) The universe speaks of the character of God. Likewise, and as described in Genesis 1, everything that God made is good. Therefore, God is good. (4) The universe speaks of God as a person. In Genesis 1:27, God creates the human being in His own image. Here it is evident that the Triune God who communicates and loves has created the human being, who reflects His personality, His communication and His love.[2]

Thus, and to enter properly into the study of the attributes of God’s character, it should be noted that scholars have classified them into two large groups: the communicable and the incommunicable.

TE-God does not changeThis classification allows us to denote that God is immanent and transcendent. As it was before explained (see previous articles), this means that God is present and active in His creation (immanent); and, on the other hand, God is superior and independent of His creation (transcendent).

Making God the same as the universe is simply talking about Pantheism, emphasizes Gerald Nyenhuis. And, furthermore, he asserts that through an attribute the nature of God is revealed to us. An attribute of God is everything that God has revealed in His Word as a true characteristic of Him. He also points out that incommunicable attributes speak of God’s transcendence; and on the other hand, the communicable ones speak of His immanence.[3]

On his part, Dr. Miguel Núñez points out that, in the study of theology, regarding the study of the Triune God, it is important to know that the incommunicable attributes are those that belong only to God.[4] And, on the other hand, the communicable attributes are those that God is somehow going to form in us, human beings.[5]

And as Millard J. Erickson expresses it well, when we speak of attributes we refer properly to the qualities of God, which constitute what He is. Attributes are permanent and intrinsic qualities, which cannot be lost or gained. They are inherent and essential dimensions of His very nature, he emphasizes.[6]

With this in mind, we will analyze each of the attributes, both communicable and incommunicable, step by step. In this article we will focus first on the “incommunicable attributes”.

Incommunicable Attributes

As Nyenhuis says, these attributes are those that highlight the transcendent greatness and absolute differentiation of God.[7]

And although not all theologians or scholars agree on the number of attributes; for this study we are going to take Gerald Nyenjuis’s analysis as the main reference, thus we will talk about four incommunicable attributes.

  1. Independence of God

When one speaks of the “independence of God,” one simply speaks of the fact that God exists by the necessity of His own being and that for His existence He does not depend on any external thing.[8]

“Aseity,” from the Latin word aseiti which means “of oneself”, is another term with which this attribute is also known, and which simply means that God is independent, self-existent and has no needs of any type, says Dr. Miguel Núñez.[9]

TE-Acts17For this purpose, it is important to share two biblical quotes that support what has been said, insofar as God has life in Himself; and, on the other hand, that He is not served by human hands, that is to say that He has no needs, nor does He depend on anything or anyone; on the contrary, all of His creation is the one who depends on Him.

“For as the Father has life in himself…” (John 5:26a  – NIV)

“Nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since He Himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.” (Acts 17:25 – ESV)

  1. The Immutability of God

The truth of this attribute is evidenced in some biblical passages; for the case, we will refer to Psalm 102, thus:

“But you are the same, and your years will not end. (Psalm 102:27 – ESV)

Likewise, similar references to the immutability of God are found in Malachi 3:6; Psalms 33:11; James 1:17 and Hebrews 13:8.

Just as God is independent, so to the same degree, God is immutable, Nyenhuis analyzes. If He depended on any created thing for sure He would be subject to change.[10]

This “divine constancy,” as Erickson calls it, involves a couple of aspects: (1) There are no quantitative changes. He cannot grow because He is already perfection. He cannot decrease, because if He did, he would cease to be God. (2) There are no qualitative changes. His nature is not subject to change. God does not change His mind, plans, or actions, no matter what happens.[11]

  1. The Infinity of God

The infinity of God, according to Mark Jones, means that there is no limit to God’s perfections. This qualifies the other attributes and qualifies them as intensely and qualitatively infinite. The infinity of God is the highest sense of perfection.[12]

In fact, according to Nyenhuis, this attribute shows several aspects, as follows: (1) Absolute perfection, as we have already said, qualifies the other attributes. God is infinite in His knowledge, goodness, justice, power, in all that He is. (2) His eternity, that is, in relation to time. God transcends time and owns the totality of what we call time or history. God is not limited by the categories of past, present, or future. (3) His immensity, this in terms of His relationship with space. An important aspect with His eternity is His omnipresence. That is to say, God is present in every place and every space; but it does not mean that He is distributed, but rather that He is totally present everywhere. So declares His Word, in Psalm 139: 7-10.[13]

  1. The Simplicity of God

God is absolute, which means that there are no distinctions within His being.[14]

The simplicity of God or unity as it is also known means that God is not divided into parts. What God is, says Miguel Núñez, is all the time and in all His being. And he provides an interesting example:

“God is not divided into parts, as if He were 10% love, 10% power, 10% faithfulness, etc. Instead, God is 100% love, 100% infinite, 100% faithful, 100% just, etc. His attributes are distributed throughout His whole being.” (Núñez, What are the incommunicable attributes of God? 2018)

Nyenhuis says, some theologians use the expression of the “unity of God”, that is to say that God cannot be divided among many beings, or otherwise, it is not possible for several beings to share His nature. And he cites a good example of this concept throughout Deuteronomy:[15]

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one!” (Deuteronomy 6:4 – NKV)

In other words, Nyenhuis stresses, God’s simplicity implies uniqueness.

Coming soon – “The Communicable Attributes”!

[1] Gerald Nyenhuis and Dr. R.C. Sproul, El Dios que adoramos (Miami, FL: Logoi, Inc., 1990), 244.

[2] Gerald Nyenhuis and Dr. R.C. Sproul, El Dios que adoramos (Miami, FL: Logoi, Inc., 1990), 244.

[3] Gerald Nyenhuis and Dr. R.C. Sproul, El Dios que adoramos (Miami, FL: Logoi, Inc., 1990), 70, 71, 91.

[4] Miguel Núñez, “Los atributos comunicables de Dios,” Coalición por el Evangelio, https://www.coalicionporelevangelio.org/articulo/los-atributos-comunicables-dios/

[5] Miguel Núñez, “¿Qué son los atributos incomunicables de Dios?” Coalición por el Evangelio, https://www.coalicionporelevangelio.org/articulo/los-atributos-incomunicables-dios/

[6] Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2003), 291-292.

[7] Gerald Nyenhuis and Dr. R.C. Sproul, El Dios que adoramos (Miami, FL: Logoi, Inc., 1990), 91.

[8] Gerald Nyenhuis and Dr. R.C. Sproul, El Dios que adoramos (Miami, FL: Logoi, Inc., 1990), 91.

[9] Miguel Núñez, “¿Qué son los atributos incomunicables de Dios?” Coalición por el Evangelio, https://www.coalicionporelevangelio.org/articulo/los-atributos-incomunicables-dios/

[10] Gerald Nyenhuis and Dr. R.C. Sproul, El Dios que adoramos (Miami, FL: Logoi, Inc., 1990), 91.

[11] Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2003), 304.

[12] Mark Jones, “10 Things You should Know about God´s Attributes,” Crossway, https://www.crossway.org/articles/10-things-you-should-know-about-gods-attributes/

[13] Gerald Nyenhuis and Dr. R.C. Sproul, El Dios que adoramos (Miami, FL: Logoi, Inc., 1990), 92.

[14] Mark Jones, “10 Things You should Know about God´s Attributes,” Crossway, https://www.crossway.org/articles/10-things-you-should-know-about-gods-attributes/

[15] Gerald Nyenhuis and Dr. R.C. Sproul, El Dios que adoramos (Miami, FL: Logoi, Inc., 1990), 93.

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