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De Moor IV:13: The Spiritual Nature of God

In the Description of God just given the Nature or Essence of God occurs first to be considered: our AUTHOR advises that this is ascribed to God with good reason; and there is to be no scrupulous abstention from these terms. He thus advises obviously against the Antitrinitarians, who contend, as MARESIUS[1] observes in his Systemate Theologico, common place II, § 4, page 47, that these words are used profanely and incorrectly of God. And indeed, 1. not only was this mode of speaking concerning God used of old, since AUGUSTINE, book VII, de Trinitate, chapter V, opera, tome 8, column 610, writes: “It is manifest that God is improperly called substance, so that by the more common term Essence is understood, which is so truly and properly used that perhaps it is becoming that God alone be called Essentiam/Essence. For He alone truly est/is, because He is immutable.” 2. But also these are the Scriptural modes of speaking, in which mention is made of θείας φύσεως, the divine nature, 2 Peter 1:4. Idols are called μὴ φύσει ὄντες θεοὶ, no gods by nature, Galatians 4:8, the contrary of which then Paul indicates to agree with the true God. Consummate Wisdom claims for itself תּוּשִׁיָּה, sound wisdom, no less than עֵצָה/counsel, the former of which denotes Essence and true reality, Proverbs 8:14. Now, this divine Nature or Essence is elsewhere called τὸ θεῖον, the Deity, Acts 17:29;[2] θεότης, the divine nature, Colossians 2:9.[3] Deity, which word properly has regard to Essence: while θειότης, Romans 1:20, expresses Divinity[4] and is able qualitatively to be used of all qualities that befit the divine Essence; unless perhaps θειότης is an abstraction of τοῦ θείου, which in Acts 17:29 signifies Deity. In any event, it is only from their own, preconceived heretical opinions that the Socinians in Catechesi Racoviensi, chapter I, de Cognitione Personæ Christi, chapter I, question 81, pages 110, 111, content that τὴν θεότητα in Colossians 2:9 is able to be explained of the divine Will: see, on the other hand, ARNOLDI’S Refutationem Catecheseos Racovianæ, on the place cited, § 14, 15, pages 318, 319; BOCHART’S Epistolam post Phaleg et Canaan, columns 1038-1042.

[And we express this Nature of God through the word Spirit, rather than through that of Being, or Substance; etc.] For Being is either Substance or Accident; Substance is either Spirit or Body. Therefore, when we call God Spirit, we then more manifestly declare what sort of Being God is, and what is to be held concerning His Essence: which remains more indeterminate, if we make use of the more general language of Being or Substance. Apart from the fact that some Theologians argue, for example, MARESIUS in his Systemate, common place II, § 4, note d on this paragraph, that God is not able properly to be called Substance with respect to Essence considered in itself: for He is not primary Substance,[5] for primary Substance in the order of intelligent beings is a person, which is not able to be said of God considered οὐσιωδῶς/essentially, since the Essence of that is communicable and is actually communicated to the three Persons, whence some Ancients attributed three Substances to God. But neither is He secondary Substance,[6] say they, because thus Substance is a species, which is predicated of a number of individuals differing in number: but God could not be established specifically as a Substance, without positing multiple Gods. In which, not only do they follow LOMBARD, book I of his Sentences, distinction VIII, letter H, the title of which is: That God is not properly, but rather improperly, called Sustance: but already of old AUGUSTINE thus felt and also reasoned, book VII de Trinitate, chapter V, with whom they are unwilling that God should be called Substance, because the Philosophical definition of Substance does not befit God: Substance is a thing subsisting of itself and existing in accidental properties: but they judge that it is impious, and that rightly, to consider the Attributes of God after the likeness of Accidents, which belong to Essence as the subject of inhesion, since, for example, the Goodness of God is more rightly said to be God Himself. Neither is it the case that you should take Exception with Vorstius in his notes on Disputation III de Deo, page 198, that it does not belong to the concept of Substance properly so called, that it exists in accidental properties: for this is opposed to the common concept of Substance, which the Philosophical Schools from of old formed concerning this term, and which concept adhered to it already in the time of Augustine. Neither is the former part of the definition able to be said to befit God so much more perfectly that the Creature, when it is said to subsist of itself: for by that it is not signified that it exists independently, and requires no other thing in order to exist; thus obviously there would be no created Substance at all: but to exist of itself here only denotes not belong to another by way of accidental property as the subject of inhesion; but this befits uncreated Substance no more than created. Therefore, when we make use of the language of Substance concerning God, the declaration of its signification comes to be added; consult § 16 below: while in other respects God is not incorrectly said to be above Categories.

[That Spirituality pertains to the Attributes, rather than to the Nature.] See VAN MASTRICHT’S Gangrænam Novitatum Cartesianarum, posterior part, chapter VII, pages 236, 237.

[And that Spirit is properly a Corporeal word.] Thus WITTICH, in his Theologia Pacifica, chapter XIV, § 195; but compare also MARESIUS, in his Systemate Theologico, common place II, § 27, note b; and VAN MASTRICHT, Gangræna Novitatum Cartesianarum, posterior part, chapter VII, § 2-6, pages 237-242.

[1] Maresius, or Samuel Desmarets (1599-1673), was a French Huguenot minister and polemist. He held various ministerial posts, and served as Professor of Theology at Sedan (1625-1636), and at Groningen (1643-1673).

[2] Acts 17:29: “Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead (τὸ θεῖον) is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device.”

[3] Colossians 2:9: “For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead (τῆς θεότητος) bodily.”

[4] Romans 1:20: “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead (θειότης); so that they are without excuse…”

[5] Substantia Prima refers to a concrete, existing individual.

[6] Substantia Secunda refers to an abstract, universal nature, contained in genus and species.

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