Wendelin's "Christian Theology": The Nature of God

THESIS I: Hitherto the προλεγόμενα/Prolegomena of Christian Theology: now follows the explication of the body of Theology itself by parts. Now, the former part of Theology concerns the knowledge of GOD, which teaches rightly and savingly to know God in Himself and in His works.


THESIS II: GOD is an infinite Spirit, of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness, the author and preserver of all things outside Himself.

EXPLANATION: I. Although God is an altogether singular being, He in a certain manner displays the nature of a universal, because it, as a common nature, is predicated οὐσιωδῶς/essentially, truly and properly, of a plurality differing in number, not indeed Gods, but Persons of the Deity: as the Father is GOD, the Son is GOD, the Holy Spirit is GOD. Therefore, the description of God is to be fashioned in such a way that it might apply equally to the individual Persons of the Deity, and so express mention of the individual persons in it is not to be made. For, if you should say, that God is an immense Spirit, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the definition will be able with sufficient aptness to be applied neither to the Father, nor to the Son, nor to the Holy Spirit; because the Father is not the Son and the Holy Spirit, neither is the Son the Father and the Holy Spirit, nor the Holy Spirit the Father and the Son. In the definition of God, οὐσιωδῶς/essentially considered, some allege this reason why mention might not be made of the personal relations: because subsistence and personal relation do not belong to the intrinsic rationale of essence: which they prove: If relations are of the intrinsic rationale of essence, full divinity could not be understood to be in any in such a way that He might be identified with it, unless all the relations be in Him and identified with Him: as it is evident concerning the essential attributes of God. But the distinction of divine persons does not admit this: For the Father is one, the Son another, the Holy Spirit another; and the Father is completely God, as is the Son, and the Holy Spirit: and yet the Father is not the Son, neither the Son the Father, etc.

To others this description of GOD is pleasing, a Spirit living of Himself. In which God is called living, 1. because He works of Himself completely, not moved by another: 2. because vital action is of the essence of God: 3. because for all living He is the fountain of every vital entity and operation. He is said to live of Himself, because from no other does He receive His being or life after the manner of a dependent. This description is included in the proper name of God, יְהוָה/Jehovah, shared with no creature; I am Jehovah, says God in Isaiah 42:8, that is my name, and my glory will I not give to another: which Hebrew word is derived from the root הָוָה, to become, or הָיָה, to be: it indicates essence, or being of this sort, that exists of itself, one, perfectly simple, eternal, immense: since being of this sort is not creature, to no creature is this name attributed, or able truly to be attributed, in Scripture. This name is always singular, never plural: individual of itself: whence in the Hebrew Scripture it is never found with the demonstrative or emphatic ה.

* To the Greek Fathers this name is ἄῤῥητον/unutterable, not because it could or ought not to be pronounced: but because, according to the Jewish superstition, it was to be pronounced only by the High Priest, and only in the Temple, on the tenth day of Tishri.[1] Hence, with the Temple destroyed, the Jews today read אֱלֹהִים/Elohim/God and אֲדֹנָי/Adonai/Lord in the place of יְהוָה/ Jehovah. The Septuagint translators rendered it by the term κύριον/Lord.

Socinus and others contend that the name Jehovah is also attributed to creatures in the Hebrew Scriptures: and indeed, in the first place, that the ark of the covenant is often called Jehovah, they prove from Numbers 10:35; 32:20; Deuteronomy 12:7; Joshua 24:1; 2 Kings 6:2; Psalm 24:8; 1 Samuel 10:19, 25; 12:2; 2 Samuel 6:5, 14. Response: The presence of Jehovah before the ark of the covenant was clearly singular, as it is evident from Exodus 25:22; Leviticus 16:2; and elsewhere: whence He willed His whole worship to be discharged before it, 1 Kings 3:15; 1 Chronicles 17:1; and Himself to be adored, after the example of Joshua, Joshua 7:6, 7, and Hezekiah, 2 Kings 19:15. But in none of the alleged places is the ark called Jehovah: Let the individual passages be inspected: in the words, rise up, Jehovah, and before Jehovah, the ark is neither addressed nor signified, but the true God of Israel. In Deuteronomy 19:17, the name Jehovah is not attributed to the Priests and judges, but to the true God of Israel, who in that very place is distinguished from the priests and judges. If the title or emblem, Jehovah our banner, or Jehovah our righteousness, is inscribed on some created thing; there the name of Jehovah is not attributed to it in such a way that it is called Jehovah. Let the passage in Zechariah 14:20 be noted, in that day shall there be inscribed upon the bells of the horses, Holiness to Jehovah. Who would say that the name of Jehovah is bestowed upon the bells? It is remarkable that it is the case, that it is so confidently written by some learned men: the ark is called Jehovah; the Name of Jehovah is ascribed to the Altar: see Master Maccovius[2] volume thesium, part I, disputation 17, number 4. Where the name of Jehovah is attributed to an Angel, there the Angel is understood as uncreated, and in particular, the Angel of the covenant, who is the eternal Son of God.

* The most common name of God in the Hebrew Scripture is אֱלֹהִים/ Elohim, by the Greek translators rendered Θεὸς/God, as by them יְהוָה/Jehovah has been rendered κύριος/Lord, which two names are quite frequently conjoined.[3]

II. The Being of God is manifest, not only from the book of Scripture, but also of nature: with respect to Scripture the matter is so evident than that it does not require any proof or induction of testimonies: for there is no head of canonical Scripture that does not testify clearly to this.

When we say that the Being of God is known by nature, we mean this: that Man by his reason, which is left to him after the fall, even without special revelation, from the consideration of so many creatures is able to know that God is, which is proven:

(1.) From the terrors of an evil conscience, and from the joy and security of a good one: these witnesses exert themselves among all men that are able to make use of reason, and testify that God is the avenger of sins and the rewarder of virtues.

(2.) From the induction of the nations, which have been many outside of the Church in all ages, and have all confessed with one mouth that God is, and have worshipped Him: Whence Cicero says, that no nation was ever so barbarous, that it did not know that God is: even if most nations did not arrive at the knowledge of the true GOD. But it is one question, Whether there is a God? but another, Who is that true GOD?

(3.) From Paul’s testimony: Romans 1:19, that which is able to be known of God is manifest in the nations; and verse 21, although they (the nations) knew God, yet they glorified Him not as God; and verse 28, as it did not seem good to them to retain God in their knowledge, so God gave them up, etc.

(4.) From the law of GOD written by nature on the hearts of the nations: Romans 2:14, 15.

(5.) From ἀναπολογησία/inexcusability: For Paul bear witness that the Gentiles were made inexcusable, because they did not so worship God, as they knew Him: Romans 1:20, 21.[4]

(6.) From the necessary reduction of all things to one, simple principium.

III. Today’s Socinians, and certain others, impugn the natural knowledge of GOD; these arguments, among others, belong to them:

(1.) Not in all men is implanted the knowledge of GOD, namely, that GOD is.

Therefore, the knowledge of GOD is not natural.

The rationale of the consequence: because what is natural to man is applicable to all men.

The Antecedent is proven from the example of the Indians, who knew nothing of GOD: and of certain Philosophers, who frankly denied that GOD is.

Response: 1. When we say that the knowledge of GOD is implanted in man by nature, we mean this: that man, being strong in the use of reason, with his own reason as his guide, without special revelation, solely by the consideration of matters before his eyes, is able to know that GOD is; and that whoever exercises his reason and senses does indeed know this. In this sense we deny the antecedent of this argument. The Proof is partly false, partly inconsequent. False, because among all the Indians some worship of GOD has been discovered, albeit it was absurd and idolatrous. Therefor, all know that GOD is, even if they do not know who and of what sort is that true GOD. Inconsequent, because the Philosophers that are called ἄθεοι/atheists either have denied that GOD is with the mouth, but not in heart and conscience: or have denied relative, not absolutely, namely, that He is GOD, who is acknowledged and proclaimed by others.

2. If the antecedent speaks of actual knowledge: the Consequence is also able to be denied, together with the proof. For, so that anything might be called natural, it is not the case that it must be present in act in all and always: it is sufficient, if it is able to be derived from a natural principal. Thus it is natural to man to see in act, even if a man does not see in act always.

(2.) Only by revelation do we know that GOD is: Romans 1:19.

Therefore, it is not known by natural knowledge.

Response: The consequence is denied: the rationale is: that not just any revelation prevents the knowledge from being natural, but only special revelation, which is made by the word of GOD, or a hidden, internal revelation. General revelation, which is made by the works of creation, does not remove, but argues natural knowledge.


THESIS III: God is known in Himself or in His works.


THESIS IV: In Himself He is known: (1.) with respect to His Nature, which others prefer to call His essence; (2.) with respect to the Properties of His nature; (3.) with respect to Persons.


THESIS V: With respect to His Nature, God is a Spirit, that is, a completely incorporeal substance or essence.

EXPLANATION: I. That GOD is Spirit, is the express testimony of Scripture, John 4:24, GOD is a Spirit.

Now, intelligent Spirit is either created or uncreated. An Angel is called a created Spirit κατ᾽ ἐξοχὴν, par excellence; secondarily, the soul of man. GOD is uncreated. Therefore, with respect to nature, God differs from other spirits, because the other spirits are creatures: GOD is the creator. Most distinguishing characteristics are sought from the properties, concerning which we shall teach hereafter in order.

* Spirit is not the univocal genus of GOD: because that is equally applicable to its species, with respect to which its species are equal. Neither is it equivocal, because its species have nothing common besides the term. But it is analogical, which Logicians call imperfect. Thus Angels do not equally participate of the nature of spirit, although a similitude exists among them with respect to nature and certain properties.

II. The Anthropomorphites were heretics, so called because they were attributing human figure and members to God properly.

This was their principal argument:

In Scripture, human members, hands, eyes, ears, heart, etc., are attributed to God.

Therefore, God is not an altogether simple spirit, but a corporeal substance, after the likeness of man, and divided into members.

Response: I deny the Consequence: the reason of the denial: because human member are improperly attributed to GOD, by a figure, which Theologians call ἀνθρωποπάθειν/anthropopathy: whereby are attributed to God human gestures, affections, and members, to indicate the divine properties, or to signify singular effects. Thus the right hand of GOD signifies GOD’S power and majesty; eyes and ears, His omniscience, etc. Therefore, what things are said of GOD ἀνθρωποπαθῶς/anthropopathically are to be understood by us men θεοπρεπῶς, in a manner suitable for God.

Scripture confirms this ἀνθρωποπάθειν/anthropopathy, when it teaches that GOD, to whom it attributes human members, eyes, ears, hands, feet, etc., is Spirit, without flesh and bones, independent, simple, absolutely perfect, simply first, immense, immutable: to all which so numerous a complement in God of organs and members, properly so called, and really distinct, stands in diametrical contradiction. Scripture also furnishes an evident example of this figure, when it attributes repentance to GOD, Genesis 6:6; 1 Samuel 15:11; it is manifest that this, properly so called, is not applicable to GOD, out of Numbers 23:19, The mighty GOD is not a man, that He should lie; neither the son of man, that He should repent. Paul brings up the error of the Anthropomorphites to the reproach of the Gentiles, Romans 1:23, 24, they changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to moral man: wherefore GOD gave them up to the lusts of their own hearts. The passage in Isaiah 40:18 is not to be neglected: to whom will ye liken the mighty GOD? and what likeness will ye compare unto Him? But if He should have corporeal members in common with man, would not a response to the Prophet be in readiness: we will liken Him to man, and we will compare Him to the likeness of man.

But, you might say, if GOD does not have eyes, ears, and hands, which the Scripture attributes to Him, the very truth of the Scripture will not at all be established.

Response: If the Scripture should properly attribute eyes, ears, and hands, properly so called, to God, and God is without them, the very truth of the Scripture would not at all be established.

But, since with great reasons, sought out of the Scripture itself and the nature of God, it is able to be evinced, that human members are not properly attributed to God by the Scripture, but that by them divine perfection is noted ἀναλόγως/analogically, which of itself is able by most eminent reason to present, whatever perfection by those members is applicable to man: the truth of the divine word here is no more in danger than in other improper phrases, with which Sacred Scripture is full.

This crass heresy of the Anthropomorphites, even if already previously condemned in the Church of Christ, and eradicated of old; in this calamitous age, by a certain infelicitous fecundity, is renewed in the schools of certain new Prophets, who prefer to savor of obscure revealers, and of the Spirit of GOD.

Nevertheless, they object:

He that made the corporeal creature after His own image, is Himself corporeal.

But GOD made the corporeal creature, namely, man, after His own image.

Therefore, GOD is corporeal.

The Major is proven: Because man would not be similar to GOD, if man is corporeal, but GOD incorporeal.

Response: I deny the Major, together with the proof; for every similar thing is also dissimilar: Therefore, the similitude between GOD and man does not consist of itself in the corporeal mass, as far as it is corporeal, but in the spirituality of the soul, intellect, and will, in wisdom, and righteousness, and finally in dominion over all creatures. But, to what extent the image of GOD might shine forth from the body, we will hereafter show in its own place.

[1] Tishri corresponds with September-October on the Gregorian calendar. The tenth day of Tishri is the Day of Atonement (see Leviticus 16). [2] Johannes Maccovius (1588-1644) was a Polish Reformed theologian. He served as Professor of Theology at Franeker (1615-1644). Maccovius’ supralapsarianism, use of scholastic terminology in metaphysics, and loose living, brought him into conflict with his colleague, Sibrandus Lubbertus. Lubbertus drew up fifty charges against Maccovius, and those charges were taken up at the Synod of Dordt, at which Maccovius was acquitted of heresy, by admonished to be more cautious and peaceable. [3] For example, Genesis 2:4: “These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the Jehovah Elohim (יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהִ֖ים) made the earth and the heavens…” Again, Exodus 3:15: “And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, Jehovah Elohim (יְהוָ֞ה אֱלֹהֵ֣י) of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations.” [4] Romans 1:20, 21: “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; so that they are without excuse (εἰς τὸ εἶναι αὐτοὺς ἀναπολογήτους): because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.”

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