Church Education Trust

Christian Belief

ST002/9 Absolute Attributes.



Infinity must be included as an essential part of any adequate conception of God. It infers that there are no bounds or limits to the Diving Nature. It is a difficult term, however, because of its scientific and mathematical associations and its theological meaning must be appreciated and understood. The following points should be noted:-

  • While the word "Infinity" is negative in form, it is positive in content and idea. It refers to the entirety and fulness of the perfection of God. The term, used theologically, can only be applied to God, and is applicable in a peculiar way to the attributes of wisdom, power and goodness. The word is a positive attempt to express the idea that God, in all His perfections is not subject to limitations as to time, space or other limiting circumstances such as are known to finite beings.

  • The idea of infinity must, however, be guarded against the conception of diffusion or all inclusion. This leads to Pantheism. That God is infinite does not preclude the possibility of real finite beings with a separate existence. The Christian conception is that "the infinite is the source and ground of all other existence without absorbing into itself all finite reality." In other words, God is limited by nothing outside His own nature. Any limitation is entirely self-imposed. 
  • Augustine expresses it in his own inimitable way - "God knows how to be everywhere in His whole Being and to be limited by no place. He knows how to come without departing from the place where He was: He knows how to go away without leaving the place whither He has come." "He is everywhere in His whole Being, contained by no place, bound by no bond, divisible into no parts, mutable in no respect, filling heaven and earth with the presence of His power."


The attributes with which we are dealing have to do with the transendence of God. Eternity is the transendence of God over the limitations of time. We live in the realm of time and therefore find it almost impossible to conceive of anything beyond it. All our references, therefore, to the eternity of God are expressed in ways that have to do with time.

"Eternity has two connotations in connection with the infinity of God. It means no beginning and no end of existence, it also means that the being of God spans and fills eternity. He exists in His fulness in all time and yet is not limited by it. This does not mean that He does not know the finite divisions of time as it appears to finite beings, for He created all; but though He knows and understands the limitations in respect of time, He is not bound by those divisions of past, present and future future." (Bowie).

Past, present and future are as real to God as to us. He understands them fully but He stands above there. "Gods s thoughts may have logical sequence; but not, like ours, chronological sequence." (Bowie). The problem of eternity will appear again in the discussion of other attributes. Probably the best conception of it is that given by Wiley, "In the positive sense eternity is a mode of being which God sustains to time.

The truth of eternity in the positive sense, is in some mysterious manner connected with the intuitive idea of God, while the temporal belongs to the intuitive idea of man. We must then hold fast the truth that as in self consciousness, the self transcends the flow of time and yet recognizes this
flow? so God also as the Eternal transcends time, but as the God of His creatures He works out His purposes for them under the law of time which H; has Himself created." (Vol.1 p.339).

The Scriptures make the eternity of God quite certain. God makes His eternal existence plain in the name He gives Himself in Exodus 3:14. "I AM THAT I AM" which John expresses as "which is and which was and which is to come, the Almighty" (Rev.l:8). Other references to the eternity of God are found in Deut.33:27; Psalm 90:2; 102:27; Isa.57:15, Mic.5:2p 1 Tirn.1:17; and Rev.4:8.


Immensity refers to God's transcendence over space as eternity does over time. "Space is born out of immensity as time out of eternity," This transcendence over space is the ground of God`s omnipresence and will be dealt with again under that subject. There is only one direct reference to immensity in the Bible — "Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain Thee, how much less this house which I have built:" (2 Chron. 6:18 cf,l Kings 8:27).

It is inferred elsewhere e.g. "Thus saith the Lord, the heaven is my throne and the earth is my footstool." (Isa.66:1; cf.also Jer.23:21 and Ps,14:2). Those Scriptures appeal primarily to our devotional life and the thought of the passages is to guard against unduly localizing God.


By immutability is meant the fact that God is changeless. In essence or attribute, purpose or consciousness. There is no development with God, no process of becoming or any possibility of change. Creation did not change Him, His fulness of life, light and love were the same after as before and were undiminished by the free outflow in creation.

The law of finite beings is progress and without it there is deterioration. God is above this law and is continually and fully perfect without progression or doterioration. "God is immutable because His being, in all its changes and modifications remains constantly true to its own conception.Seeing that God at all times and in all His relations with this world, perfectly corresponds to His own idea, He is at all times like Himself and consequently immutable."
(Rothe, Still Hours. p.lo) .

The Scriptural references are as follows:-- "Thou art the same and Thy years shall have no end." (Psalm 102:27). The Epistle to the Hebrews quotes this passage in these words -- ''But Thou art the same, and Thy years shall not fail." (Hebrews l:12); "For I, the Lord, change not." (Malachi.3:6); "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of Lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning."(James 1:17).

"Wherein God, willing more abundantly to show unto the hairs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath; that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope
set before us." (Heb.6:17,18).Some problems arise in connection with God's immutability.

  1. Some passages in the Scriptures speak as though God did change.
    Gcnesis 6:6 is one of them, where we read, "It repented Jehovah that He had made man." This, however, is rarely an expression, in human terms, of God`s sorrow at man`s sin, His sorrow, that is at having to bring judgment on man instead of blessing. Expressions of this nature are always found in connection, with man`s sin and in no way imply a change of purpose in God on account of previous error of plan or judgement.
    God "loves righteousness and hates iniquity and His moral government is always in harmony with His nature as holy love." (Wiley, Intro.p.94) . Therefore the apparent change in God is not a change in His nature but a change of His attitude to man as a result of man`s change of character and attitude to God. This must of necessity be.(Nunbers, 23:19) .
  2. This leads to the point that only as the above is correct could God possibly forgive the sinner. When man`s attitude changes, God`s attitude can change and bring forgiveness and the sense of God's favour to the repentant and believing sinner.
  3. Because God is unchangeable in being and character it does not mean that He cannot change His modes of activity and administration. "Immutability does not require immobility."

"Immutability refers to the essence or attributes of God, and not to His operations in creation and providence, only in so far as these are always in harmony with the immutability of the Divine Nature." God does change His modes of operation and activity as is clear from the account of God's working under the old covenant in the Old Testament and the new covenant in the now.

W.N.Clarke says, "Immutability is not stereotyped sameness, but impossibility of deviation by one hair`s breadth from the course which is best. A man of great force of character is continually finding new occasions for the manifestation and application of moral principle.

In God infinite consistency is united with infinite flexibility. There is no iron—bound inflexibility, but rather an infinite originality in Him." (Outlines of Christian Theology). A quotation from Dr.Blair makes a fiting conclusion to the subject,"This is the perfection which perhaps more than any other distinguishes the divine nature from the human, gives complete energy to all its attributes, and entitles it to the highest adoration. From hence are denied the regular order of nature and the steadfastness of the universe."


By perfection is meant that which consummates and harmonizes all the other perfections. To quote from Wiley, "Nothing is wanting in Gods being which is needed for blessedness. We must regard this perfection as a unity, unique and absolute. It is not the combination of the individual perfections, it is not the culmination of a process, it is the ground and source of all other perfections and it excludes all possibility of defect.

When therefore our Lord enjoined upon His disciples, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect', He presented the Father as the "Summun Benum" of all spiritual good and the chief end of man`s enjoyment and devotion; because as the Perfect One, He comprehends in His being all that is needed for our own eternal blessedness." (Wiley, Vol.l p.342,343).

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