Church Education Trust

Christian Belief

ST002/11 Attributes.



Wisdom is very closely connected with knowledge and therefore with omniscience. There is a difference, however, and as the Scriptures speak of the wisdom of God in addition to and distinct from His omniscience, it is as well to deal with it separately though briefly.

Wisdom is the application of knowledge; it is putting our knowledge to the best and most profitable use. The people that know the most are not necessarily the wisest. "Knowledge must be properly used, weighed and evaluated to serve its best purpose."

God is not only omniscient but is perfect in His use of His knowledge; He always uses it to the best and highest purposes, and in the most perfect manner. Wiley states it well when he says that, "Knowlodge is the apprehension of things as they are, and wisdom is the adaptation of this knowledge to certain ends." (Intro.p.l00).

Wakefield defines the wisdom of God as "that attribute of His nature by which He knows and orders all things for the promotion of His glory and the good of His creatures." (Christ.Theol.p.159). The greatest evidence of the infinite wisdom of God is shown in His plan to save a race which chose to sin, while still allowing it freedom of choice.

Some of the scripturo references to God`s wisdom are, Job 12:13; 36:5; Psalm.104:24; Prov.3:19; Daniel. 2:20; Romans 11:33; 1 Cor.1: 24 & 30, 1 Timothy 1:17. In the Old Testament we find the Logos personified as Wisdom, Prov.8:22, 23, 30. Cf.also John 1:1.


The Goodness of God is that attribute "by reason of which God wills the happiness of his creatures. "Goodness" as used today is a purely relative term and has lost its original fulness and purity. It must be understood of God in its full and pure sense. "It is that excellence which moves God to impart being and life to finite things and to communicate to them such gifts as they have capacity to receive." (Wiley, Intro.p.l01).

The goodness of God is voluntary and is related to love. Whereas, however, love, has to do with responsive beings, the benevolence which is the result of goodness has to do with the whole creation. Not a sparrow is forgotten before God" (Luke 12:6). The scripture references are many, including Ex.34:6; Ps.23:6; 27:13; 31:19; 52:1; 145:7; Zech.9:17; Romans 2:4; 11:22.

The objection is often raised as to the reason for physical and moral evil if God is good. It is therefore frequently considered necessary to produce what is called a "theodicy", or justification of the goodness of God. For the child of God this is not really necessary. He knows God, trusts Him and knows that He is love, given when he cannot explain the reason for every thing.

It is not possible to produce a theodicy which is completely unanswerable any more than it is possible to solve an equation with insufficient data. We have not sufficient data to enable us to solve the problem. We do not know nor understand the deep counsels of God, nor do we know His real purpose in creating man. Certain arguments can be produced however which enable us to see the matter in a clearer light.

With regard to physical evil, pain and suffering, it can be said, first of all, that most of it, though not all, is the result of conditions in a fallen world under the dominion of Satan. Then it can be shown also that pain and suffering are not unmitigated evils, nor are they incompatible with belief in the goodness of God.

Belief in the goodness and power of God grow up in face of the known facts of pain, suffering and physical evil. Likewise it is a fact that the greatest of sufferers have often found that their suffering strengthened their faith. It may be possible to argue that pain and suffering ought to be fatal to belief in the goodness of God, but to argue that it actually is, is just contrary to plain fact. The problem of pain is in fact only such to those who believe in the goodness of God. If there is no good God, then there is no problem in pain.

The problem of moral evil is more difficult because, while God might even cause pain for a very good purpose, we could never believe that God could directly cause sin. Here again, though,it is the very fact of the belief in God that produces the belief in sin and the higher and more real is our belief in God, the more lively is our sense of sin.

The Hebrew race is the outstanding example of this. Of all the ancient races they had the purest and highest belief in God and at the same time they were the only race that had any real vital sense of sin.

Actually those who object to belief in God on the grounds of the existence of evil, are in a difficult position. They assert there is no good God and yet are forced to maintain that there should be, for sin cannot be an objection unless there is.

It is obvious that whatever we concieve the universe to be, whether personal or non personal, good or otherwise-that the ground has produced a universe and created beings to which sin is a problem and in which sin is strongly felt to be something wrong and against the common good.

Why and how is this so if God is neutral of morally impotent? While these who do not believe in God do away with the problem of reconciling evil with the goodness of God, they produce a greater problem.

The insoluable enigma why from matter should come good and bad and why we should be so constituted as to be passionately partisan in a conflict in which allegedly matter from which we spring is neutral and indifferent.  

We close the section with a quotation from John Wesley - "Why is sin in the world? Because man was created in the Image of God; because he is not mere matter, a clod of earth, a lump of clay, without sense or understanding, but a spirit like his creator; a being endued not only with sense and understanding, but also with a will exerting itself in various affections.

To crown all the rest, he was endued with liberty, a power of directing his own affections and actions, a capacity of determining himself or of choosing good and evil. Indeed had not man been endued with this, all the rest would have been of no use.

Had he not been free as well as an intelligent being, his understanding would have been as incapable of holiness or any other kind of virtue, as a tree or a block of marble. And having this power, a power of choosing good and evil, he chose the latter, he chose evil. Thus sin entered into the world."

Moral Attributes.

The moral attributes of God are those which have reference to God's government over creatures with a free will and intelligence and therefore also with a moral nature. There is a marked difference between the metaphysical attributes which we have just considered and the moral attributes now to claim our attention.

Man, with his rational nature, can more easily comprehend the metaphysical attributes than the moral. Sin has done more damage to the moral nature of man than to his rational understanding. Truly to appreciate the moral attributes of God we need to be made partakers of His divine nature through the redemptive work of our Lord Jesus Christ.

It is here that natural revelation is found to be most defective. The holiness and love of God can never be known except by supernatural revelation. The moral attributes can be considered in two ways, either individually or as all springing from holiness and love considered as one.

For clarity of understanding it will be better to take them individually, but before doing
so it will be as well to say something about holiness and love taken together as constituting the moral nature of God.

In considering the moral nature of God it must be remembered that "it is a characteristic of personality to mask itself of as separate and distinct from all other existences, personal or otherwise, in what is commonly known as self—grasp or self—affirmation.

But it likewise belongs to personality to reveal and impart itself. (Wiley, Christ.Theology,. Vol.1 p.366) . So it is with God. The self—affirmation side of His personality lies in the conception of the divine holiness; the self—impartation or self—communication side in the conception of divine love.

Thus Dr.Pope maintains that the two divine perfections, holiness and love, may be called the moral nature of God, and that they are the only two terms which unite both the essence and attributes of God. By this he means that holiness and love constitute the moral nature of God, but at the same time they are the terms used to express the manifestation of that nature to man, through the economy of divine grace.

Speaking of holiness alone Wakefield says, "The holiness of God is not and cannot be something different from the moral perfections of His nature, but is a general term under which all these perfections arc comprehended."

Dr.Wardlaw likewise defines holiness as "the rays of the spectrum. We may therefore say with propriety that the moral nature of God is holy love, for as Martensen says, "the Christian mind knows nothing of a love without holiness." (Christian Dogmatics p.99).

At the same time we must be careful not to confuse or identify the two terms and their meaning.The moral attributes must now be considered individually.

The Holiness of God.

Dr.W.N.Clarke`s definition is good, "Holiness is the glorious fulness of God's moral excellence, held as the principle of His own action and the standard for His creatures." (Outline of Christ. Theol,p.89) . Wiley points out that in this definition are contained character, consistency, and requirement.

First, holiness as the character of God is "the perfection of moral excellence, which in Him exists unoriginated and underived." God in His perfection is distinct and separate from all other beings. There is none like Him. (See Ex.15:11; Isa.6:3; Ps.7l:22; Rev.4:8; 15:4) .

Second, the consistency in that holiness is the "principle of God`s own activity". His holiness is both positive and negative, for it implies that He possesses all positive goodness and is free from all evil. (See Hab.1:3, Ps. l45:17; Heh.1:9).

Third, there is requirement in that "holiness is the standard for God's creatures". Man is called upon to be holy, though, of course, with a relative holiness derived from God and made possible through the atoning work of our Lord Jesus Christ. (See Lev.11:44; Luke 1:74,75; 1 Pet.1:15,16) .

The idea of the holiness of God can be summed up in the following words from Wiley, "The character of God a.s holy could not be such unless it possessed all moral goodness. It is the sum of all excellencies, not as a mathematical total but as a nature which includes every perfection, not one of which could be diminished without destroying His holiness.

In God's consistency with His perfections, we have the action of the will to which holiness is sometimes ascribed. But perfect character demands perfect conduct and for this reason His perfect freedom must he in perfect harmony with His character.

During the scholastic period the question was frequently debated, as to whether God willed, the good because it was good, or whether it was good because He willed it. The question is a meaningless one, for God's holiness is not determined by something outside of Him but within Him.

He cannot contradict Him self and is therefore morally incapable of that which does not truly express His nature as holy. He cannot make evil good without ceasing to be God. By omnipotence in God we mean that He is not limited by anything outside of Himself, but we do insist that He is limited by His own divine nature and character. He cannot will anything contrary to His nature or in any wise be untrue to Himself. (Christ.Thool, Vol.1 pp.374,375)

While in the Trinity life is peculiarly the property of the Father, light of the Son and love of the Holy Spirit, holiness is the basic character and nature of all three. This is revealed in the threefold ascription of adoration called the Trisagion .- "Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts".

< back to previous page >

©2008 Church Education Trust