De Moor IV:19: Classification of God's Attributes: Internal and External

δ. Into Internal and External, which division was accommodated to the Philosophy of Descartes, according to which the whole nature of God is mere Thought, to the exclusion, as we were hearing Poiret say above, § 16, of all other things that are able to be conceived of besides thought. From this principium it is deduced that there are only two internal Attributes of God, Intellect and Will, because there are only two general modes of thought, perception or the operation of the intellect, and volition or the operation of the will, according to Descartes, Principiorum Philosophiæ, part I, § 32: hence all the remaining Attributes of God are contemplated only as External Denominations, etc., just as the Most Illustrious BURMAN expressly writes, Synopsi Theologiæ, book I, chapter XIX, § 17, “But, since there are only two Internal Attributes of God, Intellect and Will; the rest are only External Denominations, Relations or Negations, which do not properly have regard unto the internal Essence of God; but they are only attributed to Him in order to man and other external things: it will be an advantageous order of handling these things, if we first treat of the Internal, true and absolute Attributes of God, and then of the External and relative.” But, 1. if we distinguish the Spiritual Essence of God in our conception from His Attributes, our AUTHOR maintains that the divine Intellect and Will will be considered as spiritual Faculties of the Essence, rather than as Attributes; in this way no such Internal Attributes would remain. 2. We acknowledge that, in conceiving of the divine Attributes in some small measure, our mind frequently thinks of God with relation to things that are outside of His Essence; as we experience this, as often as we represent to ourselves Eternity, Immensity, etc.: but, although from this it is gathered that considerations of this sort for things outside of God help our understanding in forming notions of the divine Perfections; yet one may not infer from this that those Attributes with respect to their formal in the divine Nature itself are summed up in pure relation or negation. 3. It is less accurately said, that those things that as predicates are fitting for God in a simple way as Spirit, are more Internal to Him, and speak more of reality, than those things that are fitting for Him as Independent: since a Spiritual Nature is yet common in an analogical manner to God and to rational creatures, but Independence is above all proper and essential to God. 4. As from these things it follows that God by reason of His Independence is infinitely distant from creatures, so from the mind of the Cartesians it is necessary that it follow, that the same principally differs from creatures by certain Relations or Negations or Denominations, that is, by certain non-entities. 5. It is to be believed that from eternity, with creatures not existing, and so with Relations, Denominations, and Negations of this sort ceasing, the divine Nature is stripped of most of its Attributes. 6. That Independence, and those things having regard to this, the Necessity of Existing, Simplicity, Immutability, Immensity, and Eternity, are not mere Negations, or Denominations or Relations, but Attributes no less positive on their part, than Spirituality itself, will be evident below in the explication of the individual Attributes.


Poiret objects: Thus something brute, destitute of perception, is granted in God, and this is blasphemous.


Responses: 1. Distinguish our formal concept from the thing itself as it is in God, in which all Attributes are identified with His Essence. If you insist, that then we at least conceive something brute in God: I answer in the negative, if you understand it of a matter again regarded on God’s side: in our conception, however, we conceive of something that is able to be conceived of without the idea of thought expressed, not something that is incapable of thought. 2. In the same manner I could say that he that conceives of God as eternal conceives in Him a matter impotent, because in Eternity the notion of Omnipotence is not involved; while Descartes conceives of God as willing, he does not conceive in Him a matter non-intelligent. 3. Otherwise all Theologians before Descartes would have been blasphemers.

ABOUT US

Dr. Steven Dilday holds a BA in Religion and Philosophy from Campbell University, a Master of Arts in Religion from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia), and both a Master of Divinity and a  Ph.D. in Puritan History and Literature from Whitefield Theological Seminary.  He is also the translator of Matthew Poole's Synopsis of Biblical Interpreters and Bernardinus De Moor’s Didactico-Elenctic Theology.

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