Wendelin's "Christian Theology": Primary Attributes of God, Part 2

THESIS XI: Immutability is a property of God, which excludes from God all possibility of mutation: 1. with respect to existence; 2. with respect to place; 3. with respect to accidental properties, namely, quantity and quality; 4. with respect to knowledge; 5. with respect to decree, or the purpose of His will.

EXPLANATION: I. That God is able to be changed in none of these ways, we prove in this way:

(1.) With respect to existence: because He is eternal, immortal, and necessarily existing always: Psalm 102:26, 27, they shall perish, but thou shalt endure: all those things shall wax old like a garment; as a vesture thou shalt change them, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall have not end. 1 Timothy 6:16, who only hath immortality.

(2.) With respect to place: in such a way that He is moved from one place to another: because He is immense and omnipresent: as we shall prove in its place.

(3.) With respect to accidental properties: that He might sometimes be greater, sometimes lesser: furnished sometimes with this quality, sometimes with the contrary quality: because, as we proved above, He is absolutely simple, and so without accidents. To this pertains that in James 1:17, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.

(4.) With respect to knowledge: in such a way that He now knows what He previously did not; He now thinks true, what previously He judged to be false: because His knowledge is immeasurable and altogether certain, such that He is not able to be deceived, neither is anything hidden from Him: Hebrews 4:13, all things are naked and open unto His eyes.

* Change, if it should happen to the divine knowledge, would be either with respect to the faculty of understanding, or with respect to the thing understood. With respect to the faculty it happens: 1. When knowledge of a thing unknown is procured, or forgetfulness of a thing known is cancelled. 2. When what was possessed in habit and potential is known in act. 3. When what was possessed obscurely or confusedly is understood clearly and distinctly. None of these is applicable to God. Neither with respect to the thing understood. For this mutation no more changes cognition itself than the spinning of a revolving wheel the eye; indeed, less: because the divine essence is the immutable idea both of those things that were and have ceased, and of those things that are and are going to be.

(5.) With respect to the decree, or the purpose of the will, because it is perfectly wise. Whence He does not rescind His decrees after the manner of men: Numbers 23:19, the mighty God is not a man, that He should lie, nor the son of man, that He should repent: hath He said, and shall He not do it? or hath He spoken, and shall He not make it good? Proverbs 19:21, many cogitations are in the heart of a man, but the counsel of Jehovah shall stand. Malachi 3:6, I, Jehovah, change not. The consummate perfection of God is abiding, and not capable of increase or diminishment, so that it excludes all mutation, and so also all mutability.

The cause of immutability is also served by this rationale. God is neither changed nor able to be changed by an external principle, nor by an internal principle. Not by an external principle; because He is the first cause, upon whom all other things depend, to whom all things are accountable, and Himself to none. Not by an internal principle; for, because of His consummate simplicity, in Him there is nothing moving and mobile, or moved.

II. Against the immutability of God many things are able and wont to be objected: the chief of which are the following:

(1.) God is said to have suffered and died, as it is evident from the doctrine concerning the person of Christ:

Therefore, He was changed, with respect to essence.

Response: I make a distinction in the Antecedent: God is taken in two ways: 1. According to His perfectly simple and spiritual divine essence, considered absolutely and in itself. 2. According to the person of the θεανθρώπῳ/Theanthropos/God-man, who in the unity of His person is God and man at the same time, and so claims for Himself the things belonging to both natures, the divine and the human, yet with a diverse regard to the diverse natures. God is taken by us in the prior signification in this place, according to which He neither suffered nor died: in the latter sense He is said to have suffered and died, with respect, not to the divine, but to the human, nature.

(2.) He that was made man, when He was not man previously, has been changed.

But God was made man, when He had not been man previously.

Therefore, God has been changed.

Response: I make a distinction in the Major: whoever, not being man previously, was made man, through the transmutation of the divine nature into a human nature, or the acquisition of a new perfection or imperfection in the divine nature; he has been changed: But God was not made man in this manner: but by an assumption of a human nature to the divine, which in itself has suffered no mutation: it has not received anything of perfection or imperfection from the human nature: but it gave the highest perfection to the human nature. Others say, that God, when He was made man, was not changed, because He was made man actively, not passively.

(3.) God began to create in time, since He did not create the world from eternity:

Therefore, He was changed from a non-agent into an agent, and hence was changed in some manner.

Response: I deny the Antecedent concerning the active creation, as far as it is conceived by us as the act of God: Because the act, whereby God created the world, was the eternal will of God, that the world would exist in time. And so the world existed by the act, that is, the eternal will of God, not by a new act, which would at some point begin in time. The proceedings have this by a peculiar will, that from an ancient act a new work was able to exist.

(4.) The knowledge of God is mutable:

Therefore, God Himself is mutable.

The Antecedent is proven: Because God knew that Christ was going to be born before He was born. But He does not now know this, after He has been born: because He is not now going to be born.

Response: I deny the Antecedent; the proof is invalid: for it only argues a mutation of the object of divine knowledge with respect to diverse times. But this mutation of the object does not change the very knowledge of God. For God in His eternity knows, that of old the nativity of Christ was going to happen; but now has passed by, and is no longer future.

(5.) God’s will and decrees are mutable:

Therefore, God Himself is mutable.

The Antecedent is proven: Because Scripture attributes repentance to God, Genesis 6:6; 1 Samuel 15:11. But repentance argues a change of mind, and an acknowledgement of error in word or deed.

Response: I deny the Antecedent: The proof is invalid; because Scripture attributes repentance to God ἀνθρωποπαθῶς/anthropopathically; which is manifest from this, that it constantly asserts the immutability of GOD: as we have shown in EXPLANATION I. Now, by the repentance of GOD is signified His will to change the work without a mutation of His will, for He who changes His work does not change His will at that point. When we read, says Augustine, book 17 de civitate Dei, chapter 7, that it repenteth Him, a change of affairs is signified, with the immutable divine prescience remaining undisturbed.

THESIS XII: Immensity is a property of GOD, whereby all bounds of essence are excluded; and so, not only with respect to operation, but also with respect to essence He is at one and the same time everywhere, in heaven and on earth, even indeed beyond the heavens, yet without any extension or multiplication.

EXPLANATION: I. GOD is everywhere present in this world in three ways:

(1.) By power and operation, because He works all in all, 1 Corinthians 12:6.

(2.) By knowledge, because He beholds all things with perfect clarity, even the most hidden: Whence all things are said to be naked and open unto His eyes, Hebrews 4:13.

(3.) By His essence, because He fills all places and spaces with His immensity. Concerning this immensity, or ubiquity, we treat in this place, which Scripture also asserts: 1 Kings 8:27, behold, the very heavens and the heavens of heavens contain thee not: Psalm 139:7-10, Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into the heavens, art thou there? or if I make my bed in the grave, behold, thou art present, etc.: Jeremiah 23:24, Do not I fill heaven and earth?: Isaiah 66:1, thus saith Jehovah, The very heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where then is the house that ye build for me? and where is the place of my rest?: Acts 17:27, He is not far from every one of us.

But God is everywhere, in such a way that He is not expanded, nor multiplied, because He is free from all dimension, and perfectly one. Whence Augustine, book 7 de Civitate Dei, chapter 30: God is everywhere in His totality, filling heaven and earth, with His power present, and His nature not absent.

II. Now, God is not only everywhere in this world, but He is also beyond it: as it is evident from 1 Kings 8:27, the very heavens and the heavens of heavens contain thee not. But they would contain God, if He were shut up in the circuit of the heavens. To this some also refer Job 11:8, He is higher than the highest heavens; what canst thou do? deeper than the grave; what canst thou know?

A reason is added: If God is not beyond the world, but is contained in or limited to the world, He is certainly not immense and infinite. For, who would call Him infinite and immense, who is shut up and contained in a finite space?

Likewise: If the Immensity of the divine essence does not exceed the limits of this present world, He does not exceed, either because He does not wish to exceed, although He is able; or because He is not able to exceed. The former is not able to be said; because the immensity of God is always in act, never in potency, and is not capable of enlargement or contraction. Neither is the latter able to be conceded: For, if He were not able to exceed, either the limits of this world were not able to be extended farther by God, which is false: or, if they could be extended, and were extended in act, God would not, and could not be, everywhere in the larger and more extended world: since He is supposed not to be able to exceed the limits of the former and smaller world, which is obviously altogether absurd.

But to the one asking, since nothing is beyond this world, how is God able to be beyond this world, and where is He? we respond, He is in Himself: as before the world He Himself was for Himself world, and place, and all: which are Tertullian’s words, against Praxeas, chapter 5. Thus Augustine on Psalm 122: Before God made the holies, where was He dwelling? He was dwelling in Himself.

III. Against the Immensity of God it is objected:

(1.) He that dwells in heaven is not beyond heaven and on earth at the same time.

But God dwells in heaven, according to the Scripture.

Therefore, He is not at the same time beyond Heaven and on earth.

Response: I make a distinction in the Major: One that dwells in heaven in such a way that he is shut up and enclosed in heaven is not beyond heaven and in other places at the same time. But God does not dwell in heaven in this way. But He is said to dwell in heaven, because in a peculiar manner He constantly reveals His majesty in heaven to blessed angels and men.

(2.) He that is far from the impious is not everywhere.

But God is far from the impious: Numbers 14:42.

Therefore, God is not everywhere.

Response: I make a distinction in the Major: One that is far from the impious, namely, in his essence, in such a way that he is separated from them by an interval of space, is not able to be everywhere. But God is not far from the impious in this manner: but He is only far, and is said to be far, from them by His special grace and help, when He denies to them His grace and help.

(3.) God is able to be seen, Exodus 24:10; 33:19; Numbers 12:8.

Therefore, He is not infinite. The rationale of the consequence: because what is seen is comprehended; but what is comprehended by one finite is not infinite.

Response: The consequence is denied: the proof is not valid in a simple way: what is seen is more rightly to be said to be apprehended than comprehended. Now, the apprehension of an object is as great and of such an extent as its exhibition and revelation proportioned to sense. God exhibits Himself to be seen in creatures, even the Gentiles: in images and figures, in the Old Testament, Patriarchs, and Prophets: In the word, by faith, to the saints in the Old and New Testaments; in the flesh; formerly in the Apostles. In glory, to the blessed by His presence. Yet not one of these exhibitions implies an immediate and full apprehension, much less a comprehension of the divine essence, with respect to created sense. Whence Paul: no man hath seen God, nor can see, 1 Timothy 6:16.

(4.) If God were immense, He would not differ from created things, and would be compounded with all: But the consequent is absurd: Therefore, also the antecedent.

Response: I deny the connection: For, by that very thing He differs from created things, because He is immense, and all created things are finite. Neither does a thing that is within a thing immediately enter into a composition with that thing: for a composition more things are required than the existence of one thing in another: The stares are in the expanse, fish in the waters, birds in the air, worms in the earth, without composition with the expanse, water, air, earth: substantial nearness is to be distinguished from composition.

(5.) Nature does not admit an infinite.

Therefore, God is not infinite.

Response: Nature does not admit a natural infinite: But God is a supernatural infinite. And who would subject the Lord of Nature to the rule of Nature?

(6.) If God be immense and everywhere, He would also be in sordid places and be polluted: But the consequent is absurd: Therefore, etc.

Response: The connection concerning pollution is denied; Because God is a Spirit, who is able to be polluted by no bodily contact, nor to be touched by a body. Whence the little verse: Tangere vel tangi, nisi corpus, nulla potest res, nothing is able to touch or be touched, except a body.[1]

IV. But, even if God is absent from no creature, by reason of His immense essence, whereby He is equally present to all with respect to ἀδιαστασίαν/continuity: yet, with respect to efficacy of presence, He is not near to all in the same manner: Whence four degrees of the divine presence are enumerated.

(1.) In the first degree of presence God is near to all creatures, to the extent that He preserves and governs all.

(2.) In the second degree He is near to blessed angels and men in heaven: whom He not only preserves and governs in the first manner, but also imbues with the blessedness of eternal life.

(3.) In the third degree He is near to those renewed and pious in this life; wherein He not only preserves their temporal life, but also prepares them by His grace for eternal life, and retains them in faithful obedience.

(4.) In the fourth degree He is near to the human nature of Christ, which the second Person of the Deity, the Son of God, hypostatically united to Himself and assumed unto the unity of His person. Whence God is said to have been made man. This degree of the divine presence is the highest, and to be admired in every way.

The Scholastics establish five special modes, whereby God is in a peculiar manner only in some creatures: For, God is:

(1.) In the humanity of Christ, through the hypostatic union:

(2.) In the saints, by knowledge and love:

(3.) In the Church, by essence and direction:

(4.) In heaven, by majesty and glory:

(5.) In hell, by avenging justice.

THESIS XIII: Eternity is a property of God, whereby He excludes all bounds of duration, being without beginning and end of existence.

EXPLANATION: I. Scripture expressly attributes Eternity to God, Romans 16:26, where God is called αἰώνιος.[2] Scripture also indicates the eternity of God (even more expressly, because the terms αἰών and αἰώνιος are ambiguous[3]), when it calls Him, who is, who was, and who is to come; the first and the last, the beginning and the end, Revelation 1:4, 8, 17; 21:6. In the same sense He is said to have been before the world, Psalm 90:20; Ephesians 1:4.

The eternity of GOD is defined by Boethius,[4] total and perfect possession simultaneously of interminable life.[5] Therefore, in eternity there is no succession; in it nothing past, nothing future, but the perpetual present: in which respect a thousand years are said to be in the eyes of God like one day, or a watch of the night, Psalm 90:4.

Augustine’s opinion is the same, Psalm 101, The substance of God, which has nothing mutable, is eternity itself: there nothing is past, as if it were not now; nothing is future, as if it were not yet: nothing is there, except He is: there is no He was and will be.

In the same place: The years of God are not one thing, and God Himself another: but the years of God are the eternity of God: The substance of God is Eternity itself, whereby He has nothing mutable.

A memorable opinion concerning the indivisibility of eternity occurs in Plutarch,[6] in his little book περὶ τοῦ ῥητοῦ ἐν Δελφοῖς: where he, after he said many things concerning eternal immutability, finally subjoins these words: εἷς ὤν, ἑνὶ νῦν τὸ ἀεὶ πεπλήρωκε, that is, since GOD is one, in one now He has filled eternity. As if he should say, that the eternity of God is indivisible, just like τὸ νῦν, the now, which we call an instant and point in time.

Therefore, two things are to be briefly demonstrated here:

(1.) That the Eternity of GOD is the very essence of God.

(2.) That in the eternity of God there is no prior and posterior, no past and future.

The former is demonstrated in this way:

All divine properties are the very essence of God. Eternity is a property of God.

Therefore, it is the very essence of God.

The Antecedent we proved above on theses 6 and 10. Others thus prove the same thing:

The Eternity of God is the duration of God:

The duration of God is the enduring existence of God:

The existence of God is God’s most simple essence itself, without all composition.

Therefore, eternity is the essence of God.

The latter is demonstrated in this way:

The essence of God is indivisible, the whole simultaneously, without parts succeeding one another:

Eternity is the essence of God.

Therefore, eternity is indivisible, the whole simultaneously, and without parts succeeding one another.

The Major is proven: If the essence of God has parts succeeding one another, of which some are past and others future: every day something of the divine essence might perish, and again something succeed into the place of the lost part, and thus the whole essence of God would be liable to perpetual mutation: which is blasphemous.

The Minor was just now proven.

II. Against the eternity of God as hitherto explained it is objected:

(1.) If the eternity of God is indivisible, the whole simultaneously, certainly it would co-exist with all differences of times, past, present, and future.

But the consequent is absurd: Therefore, the antecedent is also.

The Minor is proven: If all differences of time co-exist with eternity, certainly all would also co-exist with each other: and thus the past, present, and future would be simultaneously:

But the consequent is absurd: Therefore, the antecedent is also.

Response: I deny the minor of the principal syllogism. I likewise deny the connection of the prosyllogism: the rationale of the denial is: that with eternity the individual difference of time do not simultaneously co-exist, but successively. Thus, what is just now past, at that time co-existed with eternity; the present co-exists; the future will co-exist when it will be present.

(2.) The Scripture attributes to God present, past, and future. Revelation 1:4, who is, who was, and who is to come. Thus elsewhere it attributes days to Him, Daniel 7:13, and years, Psalm 102:27.

Therefore, in the duration of God there is a succession of the prior and posterior, which sort is in days and years: and there are differences of past, present, and future.

Response: I deny the Consequence: the rationale is: that in the passages alleged the Scripture speaks of God ἀνθρωποπαθῶς/anthropopathically; as often elsewhere, in accommodating itself to our capacity and infirmity, by images of things corporeal and human it leads us to the knowledge of things spiritual and divine. Thus to God it attributes a past, so that it might represent to us the infinity of eternity, which will never end, and so always was, always is, always will be, yet in a manner altogether divine, which excludes all succession of duration.

(3.) Eternal life is also applicable to blessed spirits, and is promised to men:

Therefore, it is not a property of God.

Response: I deny the consequence: for the eternity, which is applicable to the angels, and is promised to men, is far different from the eternity of God: The eternity of angels and blessed men is successive duration, with a finite manner of beginning: but the eternity of God is indivisible duration, infinite, without beginning and end.

Note: Philosophers distinguish between eternity, an age, and time: And they attribute eternity without beginning and end to God alone: an Age, being only without end, to never-ending creatures: Time, having both beginning and end, to creatures ending at some point.

Therefore, those that to GOD attribute time properly so called, and that eternal and really distinct from GOD, err. Time properly so called is nothing eternal: χρόνοι αἰώνιοι, which are expressed in the Greek Scriptures, are not eternal times, but ages of the world: as far as they are called αἰὼν/age, αἰῶνες/ages; but, that χρόνους αἰωνίους, concerning which Romans 16:25[7] and elsewhere, are not eternity properly so called, it is evident, because there is something prior to them, namely, which was πρὸ χρόνων αἰωνίων, 2 Timothy 1:9;[8] but there is nothing prior to eternity.

[1] Lucretius’ de Rerum Natura, book 1, line 304. Titus Lucretius Carus (c. 99-c. 55 BC) was a Roman poet and Epicurean philosopher. [2] Romans 16:26: “But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting (αἰωνίου) God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith…” [3] These terms can indicate lengthy periods of time or eternity. [4] Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius (480-c. 525) was a Roman statesman and Christian thinker of great learning and virtue. He faithfully served King Theodoric, until he was imprisoned and executed, falsely accused of treasonous activity. While in prison, he wrote The Consolation of Philosophy. [5]De Consolationis Philosophiæ, book V, section 6. [6] Mestrius Plutarchus (c. 46-127) was a Greek historian. [7] Romans 16:25: “Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began (χρόνοις αἰωνίοις)…” [8] 2 Timothy 1:9: “Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began (πρὸ χρόνων αἰωνίων)…”

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