« AnteriorContinua »
divine choice, in the light of which the so-called limitations are seen in basal truth to be forms or features of the divine perfection. The attributes of God must not be thought of as if they stood or acted each alone, but as constituting, so to speak, an infinite perfection of being in their unity. Because of the total completeness of the divine nature, in all the attributes existing together, and because of the consequent established nature of things in the universe, some objects are immutably outside of God's choice, and hence cannot be objects of His power. His power cannot effect them because they can never come within its range. It is not derogatory to God to say, as an apostle does, that He "cannot lie" (Tit. i. 2), or do anything contrary to His moral excellence. He cannot make right wrong or wrong right, or obliterate their eternal distinctions. He cannot act irrationally or effect things that in themselves are self-contradictory, as that a thing should be and not be at the same time, or make an event already past not to have occurred, or so overthrow the mathematical relations as to have a shorter than straight line between two points, or cause two and two to make five. But the whole limitation thus asserted manifestly means simply that God's power cannot be exercised except in harmony with His perfect nature and self-consistent will. He is unlimited by anything outside of Himself. The limitation comes from the very perfection of His being and His free self-harmony with the expression of Himself in creation. The omnipotence of God, being in free-will power, does not exclude, but implies the power of selflimitation. His freedom gives Him power over the exercise of His power. He is not shut up, either from without or within, to a necessary use of it all. His self
limitation is an exercise of His freedom. It was not an abnegation of omnipotence, but the use of it, when the divine nature humbled itself into the form of human flesh.
8. OMNIPRESENCE-often designated ubiquity or immensity. The Scriptures represent God as being everywhere. (1 Kings viii. 27; Ps. cxxxix. 7-12; Acts xvii. 27, 28.) Reason concurs in this view, as the divine working in cosmic creation and preservation implies it. The attribute means His superiority to space limitations as His eternity does to those of time. As He endures forever, without beginning or ending, so He is present everywhere in the universe. A precise definition of it must cover two aspects of the whole conception, as involved in the distinction between a potential or operative, and an essential or substantive presence. The distinction is legitimate, but both kinds of presence must be embraced in the divine omnipresence. The omnipresence by efficient power or dominion, finitely illustrated in the efficiency of an earthly sovereign with respect to his dominions, God's power extending or acting everywhere in the universe, must enter into a true notion of the divine reality. But we must include also the truth that it is a personal presence, a presence of God in His essential personal being, not at all, indeed, in the way of material expansion or diffusion, or by necessity, as if bound to the universe, but in His freedom and by His will filling all things with Himself. In the reality of His personal essence, He who reveals God says: "Where two or three are gathered in My name, there am I in the midst of them;" "Lo, I am with you always." That this personal omnipresence must stand in the divine freedom, and not in compulsion, is evident
from the truth that God may diminish or enlarge the universe to which He gives His presence.
9. OMNISCIENCE, or infinite knowledge. as truly as life and unity, rests in, and coheres with, the divine personality. Knowledge belongs only to a personal existence, and the reality of this attribute stands, in the harmony of Christian theism, in holding God to be the absolute, everliving personal Spirit. It is well to note, as we mark the attributes, how vital is their union, as well with each other as in the divine Essence.
As rightly defined, omniscience means God's absolute and perfect knowledge of all things which are objects of knowledge, whether past, present, or future. Nothing is beyond His view and full understanding. The mys teries of this reality, while checking the temerity of dogmatism, nevertheless allow, under the teachings of the Scriptures, a large determination of assured theological truth. In few relations is the Scripture revelation more explicit and comprehensive than in this-showing all things, from starry worlds to the secrets of human souls, eternally naked and open before the divine eye. (Ps. cxlvii. 4; Matt. x. 29; Ps. xxxiii. 13-15; 1 Kings viii. 39; Acts xv. 8; 1 John iii. 20; Heb. iv. 13; Ps. cxxxix. 1-6; Matt. vi. 8; x. 30; Mal. iii. 16; Isa. xlvi. 9, 10; Isa. xliv. 28; Acts ii. 23; 1 Sam. xxiii. 12; Matt. xi. 21; Acts xv. 18; Rom. xi. 33.)
We are warranted in marking some characteristics of the divine knowledge. As the human intelligence is an image of the divine, we may understand, in a measure, God's knowing as reflected in the modes of our own minds. Only His is free from all the limitations of ours and infinite in its vision. We are entitled to say that He knows in two ways, viz. : by self-inspection and objective
vision. The oft-debated question whether God's cognition embraces the world-existence objective to Him, cognizing it as an external object, which, by its objective existence, becomes knowable, is no longer disputable. The notion that an object-object is inconsistent with the absoluteness of God's cognitive activity, is necessarily abandoned.' We may affirm the divine knowing to be (a) Intuitive and immediate. God knows by direct view— unembarrassed by roundabout logical processes of inference and deduction. (b) Simultaneous. It embraces all things at once and always, eternity in all its range and fullness ever-present to His view, not needing to wait on the historical development of the world to know what will be, nor dropping out of knowledge what has been. (c) Full and exact. It is not deficient, is short in nothing, but infinitely inclusive and clear to atomic minuteness. God knows things as they are, the past as past, the present as present, the future as future, the free as free. Hence, (d) Infallible. Its perfection excludes mistake. (e) It is absolute. It is not conditioned on any unknown contingencies. Knowing the futuritions of contingent events, He is dependent for His knowledge neither on any predetermination of events nor on the volition of free agents. What He knows may be conditioned on the free will of men, but not that He knows it. In connection with this last point we will have more to say presently.
In immediate and inseparable relation with these characteristics of the divine knowing action stand the objects of God's knowledge. It is in defining these objects that the mysteries of it impress us. For the most part no perplexities hinder a distinct construing of the Scripture 1 See Julius Müller, "The Christian Doctrine of Sin," II., p. 242.
teaching. The difficulties that sometimes embarrass appear only in the more complex relations. This becomes evident when we seek completeness of view. (a) God knows Himself, in all the fullness of His nature, the perfections of His being, and the range of His purposes. There seems to be no propriety in excluding His self-knowledge from place under this attribute, on the basis of a definition which makes omniscience essentially a transitive attribute, as having relation only to the objective universe.' God is subject-object to Himself. The infinitude of His personal perfections requires this. He would not be God if he did not comprehend Himself, in His intelligence as well as other attributes. The Christian revelation and Christian theology place Him absolutely apart from the pantheistic god of modern philosophy, in which "the absolute" becomes self-knowing only in human intelligence. God's omniscience reaches, first of all, into the depths and fullness of His own being. Origen thought that since God is "infinite" He cannot be fully known, even by Himself, but he failed to recognize that the "infinite" is not the indefinite, and that the definitely infinite is equaled by the Infinite Himself. God is defined, is contradistinguished from everything which is not Himself, and because He is defined He is also comprehensible by His own thought. (b) He knows all objective reality, reality in the cosmos and history, that either is, has been, or shall be. This, of course, at once involves a knowledge of the future, though that future contains not only the ongoing of the physical universe, but the free conduct of personal life and the
1 So Dr. A. H. Strong, "System of Theology," p. 133; also, John McPherson, "Christian Dogmatics," p. 13.
'See Dorner, "System of Christian Doctrine," I., p. 324.