Foundations

In attempting to discuss such a broad topic it is necessary to establish some guidelines which will enable rather than shackle our ability to delve into the mysteries of the character of God.

  1. We are not here talking about “the attributes of God” or “the perfections of God”[1], for this includes characteristics of being which are not necessarily interrelated with characteristics of motivation.[2] We are looking at a subset of “the perfections of God” – those which at essence, delineate God’s essential motivations.[3]
  2. The motivational characteristics of God must be understood as intertwined in an inextricable manner, that is, one cannot separate out the justice of God from the love of God.[4]
  3. We must recognize that any attempt to discuss God is limited inherently by our inability. As mortal and limited entities we are incapable of fathoming He who is immortal and unlimited. We will seek to approach the fullness of understanding but must always recognize that we speak through analogy and extrapolation, rather than full knowledge.[5]
  4. We assume the immutability of God, that is “God is unchangeable and thus unchanging.”[6] For our purposes, this focuses on immutability of motivational characteristics. God’s character is as loving in the past as it is today, though the expressions of this character may be different based upon the manifold wisdom of God.[7]
  1. [1]Charles Ryrie’s term in Basic Theology, Chapter 6.
  2. [2]For example, as humans we have eyes – this is a characteristic of a human, but it is not a characteristic of motivation. A motivational characteristic might be our desire to behold and while our eyes facilitate beholding they are not the root cause of our desire to behold nor are they necessary for beholding. While we most naturally consider beholding to be an act of the eyes, one can behold with the hands, or even with the nerve impulses of one’s skin responding to heat, cold, etc.
  3. [3]Ryrie calls these “moral attributes” and we may also consider these to be “communicable attributes” in that they are in some “relative or limited degree in people…” (Basic Theology, pg. 40).
  4. [4]As Ryrie states, “The various perfections of God are not component parts of God. Each describes His total being. Love, for example, is not a part of God’s nature; God in His total being is love. Although God may display one quality or another at a given time, no quality is independent of or preeminent over any of the others. Whenever God displays His wrath, He is still love. When He shows His love, He does not abandon His holiness.” (Basic Theology, pg. 39).
  5. [5]cf. Ryrie’s Basic Theology chp. 4 The Knowledge of God.
  6. [6]Ryrie, Basic Theology, pg. 43.
  7. [7]God in His wisdom knows what humanity needs at a specific point in history – both as a race and as individual entities. God is not obligated to act in the same way in the same situation throughout history, but does act consistently with His underlying motivational characteristics. Again, our ability to perceive this congruence with underlying characteristics is limited – to our limited intellects His actions may seem at odds with His underlying characteristics.