Series 1 Episode 9

Interpersonal and Moral Attributes

Welcome to series 1 episode 9 – we’ve talked about God’s primary attributes as well as his relational attributes and now we’re going to finish by discussing his interpersonal and moral attributes.

 

Interpersonal Attributes

What we know of God in light of human experience. 
(What we know about God because he created humans).

Personal

Definition: God is incomparably Personal, all experiencing One, congruent in feeling, sensibility, emotivity, affection

Scripture:

  1. God speaks (genesis 1:3)

  2. God sees (Genesis 11:5)

  3. God hears (Psalm 94:9)

  4. God feels anger (Deut 1:37)

  5. God feels jealousy (Exodus 20:5)

  6. God feels compassion (Psalm 111:4)

  7. “God can say, ‘I’” (I AM)

A 2008 survey by the Pew Research Center reported that, of U.S. adults, 60% view that "God is a person with whom people can have a relationship," while 25% believe that "God is an impersonal force."

Impersonal gods

  1. Scientology

  2. Karma

  3. Pantheism

  4. Pandeism
     

Implications:

  1. God is a friend

  2. God is a father

  3. God is not mechanical
     

Spiritual

Definition: Not physical, not material, invisible)

Scripture:

  1. For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:24)

  2. No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him. (John 1:18)

  3. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. (Colossians 1:15)

  4. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. (1 Timothy 1:17)

Implications:

We must worship in spirit and in truth (both the head and the heart must be engaged in our worship)


Free
Definition: God is radically free to do whatever He wants, nothing outside of himself dictates, influences (without his permission/consent), or coerces Him.
 

Tough Questions:

If God always has to do that which is in accordance with his nature and always has to make the most perfect choice then doesn’t God only ever have a single option to choose from? Can He really be free?

 

We must remember that attributes of God don’t exist outside of himself, they’re not something that He must live up to but rather They are Him. God is goodness, He is love, He is power, He is immensity, He is uncreated, He is “I AM” and as such He’s free to do whatever He pleases and what He pleases is in full accord with who He is. So we see how knowing about God’s other attributes that we’ve already covered can help us better understand others.

 

I would also argue that We’re less free then God is, not because we can do what we don’t want to do but exactly because we often do that which we wish we wouldn’t do. Addicts, moral failure, etc. Augustine reflects on the minds ability to tell the arm to move but it’s inability to tell itself to not think certain things or respond in certain ways. That’s not freedom – that’s frustration and captivity.
 

If God really has to do that which is perfect, how can he be deserving of our praise for doing that which he must do by his nature?
 

This is inconsistent with what we see in humans. When I praise someone for doing something good – a fireman for rescuing someone from a burning building or first responders who ran into the twin towers during 911… Their being “selfless heroes” and willingly putting themselves in harms way is a reflection of their heart, their character, their selves. And as such we praise them that their actions reflect their heart.
 

It would be absurd for us to say, “First responders don’t deserve our praise because they’re just doing what selfless people would naturally do.”
 

Additionally it would be absurd for us to praise someone who accidentally puts themselves in harms way and happens to save someone else. When we praise someone we do so because it reflects their heart, their character.
 

God is deserving of praise precisely because he actions reflect his worhip-able character.
 

Lastly: If God has to make perfect decisions and therefore likely only has one choice available to him in every situation (the perfect choice) then is interacting with God similar to interacting with a vending machine? Or a robot? Or is God's wrath comparable to throwing a stone (sin) against a wall (Holiness) and have it bounce off and hit you in the face? (Justice/wrath). If we had enough knowledge – would God be perfectly predictable and therefore manipulatable?
 

No. when we interact with God we are interacting with the Persons of the godhead, not just the nature of God. When I sin against God, I'm not just sinning against God's holiness, I'm sinning against the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Persons respond, not just the nature of God. Much like if you were to throw a rock against a man, his skin would bleed or bruise... his nature would respond but so too the person of that man would respond. God's interaction with us is not mechanical but rather both personal and perfect.
 

Scripture:

  1. The Lord does whatever pleases Him (Psalm 135:6)

  2. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please. (Isaiah 46:10)
     

Implications

  1. We can’t force God’s hand

  2. God is not completely predictable
     

Incomprehensible

Definition: That we cannot fully understand God)

Scripture:

  1. God is dwelling in unapproachable light (1 Timothy 6:16a)

  2. His understanding no one can fathom (Isaiah 40:28)

  3. "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," declares the LORD. "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9)

  4. His greatness is unsearchable (Psalm 145:3)

  5. Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?” “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?” For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen. (Romans 11:33-36)

 

Tradition:

Only the infinite God can fully comprehend the infinite (Augustine, On. Chr. Doctrine 1.6; Hilary, Trin 1.6).
 

Implications:

  1. To be deeply humbled

  2. To be forever teachable

  3. To maintain a heart of wonder and awe

  4. To trust in God’s incomprehensibility when we can’t wrap our minds around doctrinal issues.
     

Moral Attributes  

What we know of God in light of human experience as it pertains to morality. 
(What we know about God because he created free humans)

Thomas Oden, Summarizing the Church Fathers said that: “The great variety of moral qualities attributed to God by Scripture revolves particularly around two-holiness and love. These may be said in summary form to constitute the moral character of God.” As a result we’ll finish this topic on God’s attributes by looking at those two attributes – God’s holiness and God’s love.  

The Holiness of God

Definition: Moral Purity, Righteousness, Justice, veracity, integrity, perfect, set apart. 

Scripture:

  1. Glory in His Holy name
    (Psalm 105:3)
     

  2. I am the Lord, your Holy One,
        the Creator of Israel, your King.”
    (Isaiah 43:15)
     

  3. Declare and present your case;
        let them take counsel together!
    Who told this long ago?
        Who declared it of old?
    Was it not I, the Lord?
        And there is no other god besides me,
    a righteous God and a Savior;
        there is none besides me.
    (Isaiah 45:21)
     

  4. The Lord within her is righteous;
        he does no injustice;
    every morning he shows forth his justice;
        each dawn he does not fail;
        but the unjust knows no shame.
    (Zephaniah 3:5)
     

  5. You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
    (Mathew 5:48)
     

  6. but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
    (Peter 1:15-16)
     

  7. Pray then like this:
    “Our Father in heaven,
    hallowed be your name.
    (Matthew 6:9;)
     

  8.  And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Lord God, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes.
    (Ezekiel 36:23)
     

  9. “Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods?
        Who is like you, majestic in holiness,
        awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?
    (Exodus 15:11)
     

  10. Who will not fear, O Lord,
        and glorify your name?
    For you alone are holy.
        All nations will come
        and worship you,
    for your righteous acts have been revealed.”
    (Rev 15:4)
     

  11. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.
    (James 1:13)
     

  12. And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say,
    “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty,
        who was and is and is to come!”
    (Rev 4:8;)
     

  13. Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.
    (2 Cor. 7:1)
     

Tradition

  1. It’s absurd that a servant doesn’t even dare to call his master by name or mention him unceremoniously and casually yet everywhere he goes he tosses around the name of the Lord of Angels commonly with much irreverence! (Chrysostom, Hom. on Statues 7.9)
     

  2. …Trinity is the fountain of all holiness…”  (Origen, OFP 1.4.2). 
     

  3. “Holiness is another of the attributes of the almighty, all-wise God. He is infinitely distant from every touch of evil. He is light and in him is no darkness at all. He is a God of unblemished justice and truth…” (Wesley, WJW 7: 266)
     

  4. Let us then draw near to Him with holiness of spirit, lifting up pure and undefiled hands unto Him, loving our gracious and merciful Father, who has made us partakers in the blessings of His elect. (Clement, Letter to the Corinthians ch. 29)
     

  5. [131] Seeing, therefore, that we are the portion of the Holy One, let us do all those things which pertain to holiness… (Clement, Letter to the Corinthians ch. 30)
     

  6. For the scripture saith; Woe unto them that are wise for themselves, and understanding in their own sight. Let us become spiritual, let us become a temple perfect unto God. As far as in us lies, let us exercise ourselves in the fear of God, [and] let us strive to keep His commandments, that we may rejoice in His ordinances.  (The epistle of Barnabas 4:11)
     

Implications:

What does God’s holiness mean to you? For the Church Fahers it was clear – God deserves our fear, our reverence, our respect. And we ought to be driven to holiness and mindful of sin.
 

The Love of God
Definition: Faithfulness, benevolence, grace, mercy, forbearance, compassion)

One author mentioned, what an amazing thing it is that God’s action and attitude towards us should be primarily characterized as love. Sometimes seen as outward oriented holiness.
 

Scripture:

  1. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
    (1 John 4:16)
     

  2. Good and upright is the Lord;
        therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
    (Psalm 25:8)
     

  3. For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving,
        abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you.
    (Psalm 86:5)
     

  4. O Israel, hope in the Lord!
        For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
        and with him is plentiful redemption. 
    (Psalm 130:7)
     

  5. Pss. 31:21-24; 146:8; 
     

  6. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
    (John 3:16; )
     

  7. but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
    (Romans 5:8)
     

  8. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
    (1 John 1:9)
     

  9. Romans 8:31-39

 

Tradition
 

  1. “He does not say love is God but God is love so that deity may be understood to be love.” (Augustine Faith and the Creed 19)
     

  2. (Let him who has love in Christ keep the commandments of Christ. Who can describe the [blessed] bond of the love of God? What man is able to tell the excellence of its beauty, as it ought to be told? The height to which love exalts is unspeakable. Love unites us to God. Love covers a multitude of sins. Love bears all things, is long-suffering in all things.  There is nothing base, nothing arrogant in love. Love admits of schisms: love gives rise to no seditions: love does all things in harmony. By love have all the elect of God been made perfect; without love nothing is well-pleasing to God. In love has the Lord taken us to Himself. On account of the love He bore us, Jesus Christ our Lord gave His blood for us by the will of God; His flesh for our flesh, and His soul for our souls. (Clement of Rome, Corinth. 49)
     

  3. How is the Father’s love for us proved? By the fact that he sent his only Son to die for us. As the apostle Paul says, “He who did not spare his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how will he not freely give us all things?” [Rom. 8:32] Notice how the Father delivered up Christ, and so did Judas. Does it not seem that they did the same sort of thing? … There was a delivering up by the Father; a delivering up [of himself] by the Son, and a delivering up by Judas. The thing done is the same, but what is it that sets their actions apart? This: the Father and the Son did it in love, but Judas did it in betrayal. So you see that we need to consider not what a person does but with what mind and will he does it. Why do we bless the Father and detest Judas for doing the same deed? We bless love and detest wickedness. Augustine Sermon on 1 John 4:4-12 (par 7)
     

  4. “God loves us more than a father, mother, friend, or any else could love, and even more than we are able to love ourselves” – St. John Chrysostom

Implications:

You know I think there are a lot of things we can glean from reflecting on God’s love and I think each of us is going to have sort of our own personal response to this personal God who loves us personally. For me, I think it means I need to trust Him more – that He cares for me and wants what’s best for me, and knows what’s best for me and ultimately will look out for me. That’s a tough one for me – because I know there are so many other factors at play and I know my job is just to submit and surrender to whatever God might have in store for me.
 

But something that comes to my mind is this: There’s a current debate among theologians – does God act primarily out of concern for his glory? Or does God act out of selfless loving concern for man? I think tradition tends to lean towards the latter – that Jesus died “for us and for our salvation.” But I also think the debate might not be necessary at all – God is fully loving and fully aware of our need to worship and glorify Him.
 

Well that wraps it up for God’s attributes. Sorry if there was a particular attribute that we weren’t able to cover that you were hoping we might.
 

In the next few episodes we’re going to be finishing up this series with a discussion on creation.
 

Waite Park Church is a multi-generational, neighborhood church that strives to share the life Jesus promised in our community and around the world.

ADDRESS

1510 33rd Ave NE

Minneapolis, MN  55418

(612) 781-7434

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