Archive for the ‘ Topical ’ Category

It is sad to find so many professing Christians who appear to regard the wrath of God as something for which they need to make an apology, or at least they wish there were no such thing. While some would not go so far as to openly admit that they consider it a blemish on the Divine character, yet they are far from regarding it with delight, they like not to think about it, and they rarely hear it mentioned without a secret resentment rising up in their hearts against it. Even with those who are more sober in their judgment, not a few seem to imagine that there is a severity about the Divine wrath which is too terrifying to form a theme for profitable contemplation. Others harbor the delusion that God’s wrath is not consistent with His goodness, and so seek to banish it from their thoughts.

Yes, many there are who turn away from a vision of God’s wrath as though they were called to look upon some blotch in the Divine character, or some blot upon the Divine government. But what saith the Scriptures? As we turn to them we find that God has made no attempt to conceal the fact of His wrath. He is not ashamed to make it known that vengeance and fury belong unto Him. His own challenge is, “See now that I, even I, am He, and there is no god with Me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal; neither is there any that can deliver out of My hand. For I lift up My hand to heaven, and say, I live forever, If I whet My glittering sword, and Mine hand take hold on judgment; I will render vengeance to Mine enemies, and will reward them that hate Me” (Deut. 32:39-41). A study of the concordance will show that there are more references in Scripture to the anger, fury, and wrath of God, than there are to His love and tenderness. Because God is holy, He hates all sin; And because He hates all sin, His anger burns against the sinner: Psalm 7:11.

Now the wrath of God is as much a Divine perfection as is His faithfulness, power, or mercy. It must be so, for there is no blemish whatever, not the slightest defect in the character of God; yet there would be if “wrath” were absent from Him! Indifference to sin is a moral blemish, and he who hates it not is a moral leper. How could He who is the Sum of all excellency look with equal satisfaction upon virtue and vice, wisdom and folly? How could He who is infinitely holy disregard sin and refuse to manifest His “severity” (Rom. 9:12) toward it? How could He who delights only in that which is pure and lovely, loathe and hate not that which is impure and vile? The very nature of God makes Hell as real a necessity, as imperatively and eternally requisite as Heaven is. Not only is there no imperfection in God, but there is no perfection in Him that is less perfect than another.

The wrath of God is His eternal detestation of all unrighteousness. It is the displeasure and indignation of Divine equity against evil. It is the holiness of God stirred into activity against sin. It is the moving cause of that just sentence which He passes upon evil-doers. God is angry against sin because it is a rebelling against His authority, a wrong done to His inviolable sovereignty. Insurrectionists against God’s government shall be made to know that God is the Lord. They shall be made to feel how great that Majesty is which they despise, and how dreadful is that threatened wrath which they so little regarded. Not that God’s anger is a malignant and malicious retaliation, inflicting injury for the sake of it, or in return for injury received. No; while God will vindicate His dominion as the Governor of the universe, He will not be vindictive.

That Divine wrath is one of the perfections of God is not only evident from the considerations presented above, but is also clearly established by the express declarations of His own Word. “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven” (Rom. 1:18).

Again; that the wrath of God is a Divine perfection is plainly demonstrated by what we read of in Psalm 95:11, “Unto whom I sware in My wrath.” There are two occasions of God “swearing”: in making promises (Gen. 22:16), and in denouncing threatening (Deut. 1:34). In the former, He swares in mercy to His children; in the latter, He swares to terrify the wicked. An oath is for solemn confirmation: Hebrews 6:16. In Genesis 22:16 God said, “By Myself have I sworn.” In Psalm 89:35 He declares, “Once have I sworn by My holiness.” While in Psalm 95:11 He affirmed, “I swear in My wrath.” Thus the great Jehovah Himself appeals to His “wrath” as a perfection equal to His “holiness”: He swares by the one as much as by the other! Again; as in Christ “dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” (Col. 2:9), and as all the Divine perfections are illustriously displayed by Him (John 1:18), therefore do we read of “the wrath of the Lamb” (Rev. 6:16).

The wrath of God is a perfection of the Divine character upon which we need to frequently meditate. First, that our hearts may be duly impressed by God’s detestation of sin. We are ever prone to regard sin lightly, to gloss over its hideousness, to make excuses for it. But the more we study and ponder God’s abhorrence of sin and His frightful vengeance upon it, the more likely are we to realize its heinousness. Second, to beget a true fear in our souls for God: “Let us have grace whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: for our God is a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:28,29). We cannot serve Him “acceptably” unless there is due “reverence” for His awful Majesty and “godly fear” of His righteous anger, and these are best promoted by frequently calling to mind that “our God is a consuming fire.” Third, to draw out our souls in fervent praise for having delivered us from “the wrath to come” (1 Thess. 1:10).

~ A.W. Pink – The Attributes of God16 – The Wrath of God.

My comment: “God is not “driven by” wrath – wrath is an attribute of God’s nature.”

CMP: No, wrath is a response of another attribute, namely righteousness. But that is not really the point of this post.

Jugulum: I actually agree w/him on “wrath”. Wrath isn’t an attr. because God’s wouldn’t be wrathful if he hadn’t created. God was/is/will-be eternally holy/righteous, which includes the trait, “I will be wrathful toward sin”. You might call that a “attr. of wrath”, but I think that was the distinction CMP was making. Similarly, God wasn’t eternally merciful, apart from a sinful creation. Mercy & wrath are expressions of his eternal attributes.

Recall this post: Divine Simplicity and Malformed Arguments.

This is another good example of why we must keep ALL of God’s attributes in mind, when formulating our theology – even on the internet. What does this point of view entail? First, that God changed. That He is not immutable. In this view, God began to be wrathful (or merciful). In this view, God’s wrath is not eternal, toward sin, nor is His mercy towards sinners eternal. Did God enter the temporal realm at a certain point in time, and thereby become successive, changeable, and non-eternal? If not, this view does not, and cannot, hold water. Similarly to when we say, as Athanasius said contra the Arians, that “there was never a time when the Son was not” – we must say that there was a never a time God’s wrath was not. God is not temporal, folks. God is not changeable, and God “is not a man, that He should change His mind”.

Hear me – I understand the distinction being made by CMP and Jugulum. However – the consequences of this view are utterly unacceptable. What God does, He eternally purposed to do. God’s righteousness is eternal, yes – but His wrath, since He is Eternal, is necessarily eternal wrath. Jer 10:10 – “But the LORD is the true God; He is the living God and the everlasting King. At His wrath the earth quakes, And the nations cannot endure His indignation.” Or take this – Deu 32:40-41 – “Indeed, I lift up My hand to heaven, And say, as I live forever, If I sharpen My flashing sword, And My hand takes hold on justice, I will render vengeance on My adversaries, And I will repay those who hate Me.”

As Charnock says, and as I used in my class for our 1st-6th graders recently – “Though God be least in their thoughts, and is made light of in the world, yet the thoughts of God’s eternity, when he comes to judge the world, shall make the slighters of him tremble. That the Judge and punisher lives forever, is the greatest grievance to a soul in misery, and adds an inconceivable weight to it, above what the infiniteness of God’s executive power could do without that duration. His eternity makes the punishment more dreadful than his power; his power makes it sharp, but his eternity renders it perpetual; ever to endure, is the sting at the end of every lash. And how sad is it to think that God lays his eternity as a security for the punishment of obstinate sinners… a reward proportioned to the greatness of their offences, and the glory of an eternal God!”

As to mercy, think on this – “And {He did so} to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory,” – Rom 9:23. We’re all Calvinists here, right? Are not God’s decrees eternal? This is an eternal decree of mercy, folks. Not to mention Rom 9:22 – “What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?” Now, I’m aware of CMP’s comments in this vein – but I’m not convinced there is anything different in the “timing” of the preparation, there. God’s decrees are eternal. You do notice, I hope, that it undermines Jugulum’s idea that mercy is also a reaction to man’s actions. As Calvinists, we must be careful not to think that God’s eternal decrees are subject to the actions of men – or consequent to them. If God is Sovereign, He is utterly Sovereign.

I’m not really concerned with commenting on CMP’s main article – TurretinFan already did so, much more ably than I could have. I was concerned with the explanation offered by CMP, and then Jugulum for the wrath of God; and Jugulum’s further extrapolation to mercy. If God is eternal, than His attributes are necessarily eternal. To say otherwise brings about serious exegetical and apologetic issues.

The Unknown God?

“The design of every false scheme and system of religion is to depict the character of God in such a way that it is agreeable to the tastes of the carnal heart, acceptable to depraved human nature. And that can only be done by a species of misrepresentation: the ignoring of those of His prerogatives and perfections which are objectionable, and the disproportionate emphasizing of those of His attributes which appeal to their selfishness—such as His love, mercy, and long-sufferance. But let the character of God be faithfully presented as it is actually portrayed in the Scriptures—in the Old Testament as well as the New—and nine out of every ten of church-goers will frankly state that they find it impossible to love Him.” The plain fact is, dear reader, that to the present generation the Most High of Holy Writ is “the unknown God.”

—A. W. Pink (1886–1952)

That quote brings Paul’s Areopagus sermon to mind. “What you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you.”

A.W. Pink on the Gospel

“Do you imagine that the Gospel is magnified or God glorified by going to worldlings and telling them that they “may be saved at this moment by simply accepting Christ as their personal Savior” while they are wedded to their idols and their hearts are still in love with sin? If I do so, I tell them a lie, pervert the Gospel, insult Christ, and turn the grace of God into lasciviousness.” —A. W. Pink (1886–1952)

When we examine the “all possible worlds” idea, we find that this conception fails to properly address God’s meticulous, exhaustive sovereignty over all of His creation. It also fails to properly address God’s timelessness in His exercise of exhaustive sovereignty.

It seems to me that this desire to hold to *true* counterfactuals is grounded in an assumption of the *ability* for autonomy. In reality, we find no such grounds in Scripture. “The mind of man plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.” Or, “The king’s heart is {like} channels of water in the hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever He wishes. “. We have a desire to further our illusory goal of autonomy, and thereby project our finitude on God’s ordination – and from that ordination, on His thoughts concerning it. Yet, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. This is not a matter of *degree*, but of *category*. God is not “less finite” in His thoughts and actions, but *infinite*. Thus, God’s thoughts concerning His creation are not *less finite*, but *infinite*. Since they are timeless thoughts, there is no linearity, and there is no “progression” to them. To say that this is so, is to misunderstand the nature of the thoughts possessed by an eternal, immutable, infinite God.

To say that, for instance, it is *possible* that one of our Lord’s bones would be broken, is to overthrow the purposes of God’s sovereign ordination. The very idea of counter-factuals necessitates that they be *counter-possible*. That is the contention I’m trying to convey, despite my inferiority of language.

If: God has decreed in himself, from all eternity, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably, all things, whatsoever comes to pass.
Then: Nothing that God has NOT decreed in himself, from all eternity, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably, CAN come to pass.

In other word, God’s decree fixes, without one possible iota of deviation, that which CAN come to pass. Alternate possibilities are thereby utterly, definitionally, *impossible*.

Take this argument:
God is necessary in all possible worlds. God is necessarily immutable in all possible worlds. God’s decree is immutable in all possible worlds. All possible worlds are identical. Modal collapse results – there is one possible world.

Does that make it plainer, what I’m saying? Unless you want to strip out the *rest* of God’s attributes, “all possible worlds” is incoherent. There are no “counter-factuals” if you really hold to God’s absolute sovereignty. Only those who wish to posit a will in man independent from the ordination of God can seek to preserve this idea.

While we can *conceive* of a world in which counter-factuals are “true” – this does not mean such a world is possible. It only means that we are finite, and think in finite terms. For “…the Glory of Israel will not lie or change His mind; for He is not a man that He should change His mind.” “Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, ‘My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure’; Calling a bird of prey from the east, The man of My purpose from a far country. Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned [it, surely] I will do it.”

To say it is *possible* that God NOT do as He has eternally decreed – or that it is *possible* that God decreed things otherwise, is to so badly maul the doctrine of God as to leave it an unrecognisably mangled heap! God in his immutable perfection (wanting nothing to complete Him, lacking nothing, without fault) timelessly ordained all that He pleased to bring about.

The wonder and majesty of this conception, I fear, has been badly impugned by this idea of “all possible worlds”. While I am a rather weak vessel to attempt to do so, I feel that it must be answered.

“The carnal mind, when once it has perceived the power of God in the creation, stops there, and, at the farthest, thinks and ponders on nothing else than the wisdom, power, and goodness displayed by the Author of such a work (matters which rise spontaneously, and force themselves on the notice even of the unwilling), or on some general agency on which the power of motion depends, exercised in preserving and governing it. In short, it imagines that all things are sufficiently sustained by the energy divinely infused into them at first. But faith must penetrate deeper. After learning that there is a Creator, it must forthwith infer that he is also a Governor and Preserver, and that, not by producing a kind of general motion in the machine of the globe as well as in each of its parts, but by a special providence sustaining, cherishing, superintending, all the things which he has made, to the very minutest, even to a sparrow.” (Institutes, I,16,1)

I found this very interesting, when I read it last night. I had a suspicion Calvin would have something to say along the lines I’m going. The argument I advanced here hits on something re: The Problem of Evil and similar arguments that have been advanced many times. 1) They don’t address the entirety of who God is. 2) They don’t account for the interrelationship of God’s attributes. 3) They don’t address the interrelated exercise of God’s attributes in His creation.

Just something to think about.

This argument is an attempted formalization of the discussion found in my recent post God is Sovereign over Possibility. It’s intent is to demonstrate that the “all possible worlds” framework that is very commonly used is incompatible with Christian doctrine and the Scriptural revelation of the nature of the Triune God. If you have any possible defeaters, please post them in the comment section. Thanks!

(1) The Triune God of Scripture exists
(2) God’s essential attributes have been revealed in Scripture
(3) God is Simple(a), Sovereign(b), Holy(c), Immutable(d), Eternal(e), Wise(f), Infinite(g), Knowing(h), Powerful(i), Near(j), Loving(k), Merciful(l), Gracious(m), Just(n), Good(o), Spirit(p), Revelatory(q), Glorious(r), Joyful(s), Patient(t), Incomprehensible(u), Jealous(v), Transcendent(w), True(x), Wrathful(y), Self-Existent(z), Self-sufficient(A), Trinitarian(B), Perfect(C).
(4) God’s attributes are not external to Him (per 3A), but essential to His nature (per 3z).
(5) No one attribute can be considered separately from the other attributes, as all of God’s attributes are interrelated, (per 3a)
(6) God’s thoughts and actions are revealed as in accordance with His essence, or nature.

    (6a) God’s thoughts are therefore revealed as sovereign, eternal, immutable, transcendent, perfect, sufficient, just, holy, good, merciful, gracious, powerful, infinite, and true. (Not to be restricted to only these attributes, but abbreviated for space)
    (6b) God’s thoughts are revealed as unchanging in every respect (per 3d), and therefore preclude “changing His mind.”
    (6c) God’s thoughts are revealed as eternal (per 3e), therefore God has always had these thoughts.
    (6d) God’s thoughts are revealed as perfect (per 3C), and are therefore free of any defect of any sort.
    (6e) God’s thoughts are revealed as sovereign (per 3b), therefore they never fail to intend His rule over all things.
    (6f) God’s thoughts are revealed as sufficient (per 3A), and are always therefore complete in every way.

(7) Therefore, God’s thoughts can never include infinite numbers of hypothetical worlds not in accordance with His purposes (per 3b), as that would be contrary to His nature.
(8) God’s thoughts include His ordination of all things (per 3b).
(9) God’s thoughts concerning His ordination of all things, (or His decree) encompassing all of creation in time, are revealed to be in accordance with His nature.
(10) God’s ordination of all things, encompassing all of creation in time, is in accordance with His nature.

    (10a) God’s ordination of all things encompasses all of God’s attributes, (per 3a).
    (10b) God’s ordination of all things is therefore revealed as sovereign, eternal, immutable, transcendent, perfect, sufficient, just, holy, good, merciful, gracious, powerful, infinite, and true. (Not to be restricted to only these attributes, but abbreviated for space)
    (10c) God’s ordination of all things, encompassing all of creation in time, is revealed as unchanging in every respect (per 3d), and therefore preclude “changing His decree.”
    (10d) God’s ordination of all things, encompassing all of creation in time, is revealed as eternal (per 3e); therefore God has always decreed this state of affairs.
    (10e) God’s ordination of all things, encompassing all of creation in time, is revealed as perfect (per 3C); therefore it is free of any defect of any sort.
    (10f) God’s ordination of all things, encompassing all of creation in time, is revealed as sovereign (per 3b); therefore it never fails to accomplish His rule over all things.
    (10g) God’s ordination of all things, encompassing all of creation in time, is revealed as sufficient (per 3A); and is always, therefore complete in every way.

(11) To ordain any state of affairs not in accordance with God’s nature is impossible.
(12) Since God has always infinitely, simply, immutably, sovereignly, sufficiently, perfectly, knowingly, powerfully, justly, mercifully, graciously, revelationally and truly decreed this state of affairs, this state of affairs is the only state of affairs possible.

So, here is the thrust of the argument.

As Christians (and this argument is largely particular to the Reformed faith) we start our reasoning with The Triune God, as revealed in His scriptures. For a detailed argument for this viewpoint, see The Portable Presuppositionalist, Jamin Hubner (2009), Cornelius Van Til in Geehan, E.R., Jerusalem and Athens, (New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed Publ. Co., 1955), pp. 20, 21, A Survey of Christian Epistemology, Cornelius Van Til, (1980), Revisionary Immunity, Bahnsen (1975), Always Ready, Greg Bahnsen, (2008) also see my debate with Mitch LeBlanc on the thesis “The Triune God of Scripture is the proper grounds for all knowledge” (2009).

God is a God of revelation. In that revelation, the Christian Scriptures, He has perfectly communicated sufficient knowledge concerning Himself. From that revelation, we are therefore able to know God as He intends us to know Him.

Since God is simple (see this post for discussion), none of His attributes can correctly be considered apart from all of God’s attributes. (You cannot discuss only part(s) of God’s nature, or essence; for God does not have parts – or is not compound.)

Therefore, when you are considering the statement: “God is sovereign,” you immediately have to think of how God is sovereign. He is infinitely sovereign. He is truly sovereign. He is eternally sovereign. He is perfectly sovereign. Or, further, consider this example. “God created the heavens and the earth.” God created the heavens and the earth how? Sovereignly, perfectly, truly, justly, etc. When we define God, we are required to use the terms by which God describes Himself – but we are also required to recognize that no terms stands isolated from the rest.

With that rule in mind, we can then examine the concept of “all possible worlds”. First, there was Liebniz’ view. That this world is the best of all possible worlds. On the surface, I’d agree. However, there are issues with this, which we will examine.

For the purposes of this argument, we will consider the implications of these two conceptions, when compared to the theology of the Reformed faith – especially its Doctrine of God. First, recall: God’s eternality. This can be supported by Psa. 90:2, Job 36:26, Rev. 1:8, 4:8, Isa 46:9-11. However, in Isa 46, we see something very interesting. “Remember the former things long past, For I am God, and there is no other; {I am} God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, ‘My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure’; Calling a bird of prey from the east, The man of My purpose from a far country. Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned {it, surely} I will do it.” (Isa 46:9-11) In this passage, God does not merely *know* the end from the beginning – God has *declared* the end from the beginning. From first to last, all events in time are planned and ordered by God. This is known as God’s exhaustive Sovereignty. From the Confession I subscribe to: “God hath decreed in Himself, from all eternity, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely and unchangeably, all things, whatsoever comes to pass.” This is the highest of views concerning the place of God over His creation – and of God Himself.

With that sort of view of God, certain things must follow. If God declares the end from the beginning, and His purposes are eternal, then what must we say about possibility?

Imagine this conception of “all possible worlds” so commonly thought of. We’ll take a purportedly Christian view, to begin with. There are an infinite number of possibilities to actualize, from which God chooses the one maximally suited to His purposes. From whence do these possibilities come? The answer is obvious. The mind of God. Note one thing about these *other* possible worlds, however. If the one actualized world is *maximally* suited for His purposes – what were the other, non-actualized worlds? Non-maximally suited. This brings us to the next problem.

God is perfect. Job 36:4 says “For truly my words are not false; One who is perfect in knowledge is with you.” Job 37:16 says “Do you know about the layers of the thick clouds, The wonders of one perfect in knowledge.” So, therefore, God’s knowledge is perfect. Since this is so – can you tell me? Why does God *eternally* think of imperfect worlds, while *eternally* discarding them as imperfect? This brings us to another problem. There are an infinite number of them, according to the theory.

Why would God eternally think of an infinite number of imperfect worlds? I think that this is not necessary. God, being one, is not required to think of an infinite number of possible, imperfect worlds. I think it is much more reasonable to consider that He thinks of one finite world infinitely – that one finite world has been eternally and infinitely known by the Trinity (perfectly, sovereignly, omnipotently, and truly – again, not exhausting His attributes, but to save space) – and as such, all possibilities within this world have been immutably ordained by Him.

Let’s sum this up. Since God is Simple, ignoring the sum total of God’s attributes cannot be done without presenting a strawman of the Christian position. A Christian arguing without a properly balanced view of God’s attributes is badly handling the Word – and impugning God Himself. The presentation of the view of “all possible worlds” presupposes a God who is *not* eternal, *not* sovereign, and *not* omnipotent. To use this sort of approach is to undercut the entirety of God’s Scriptural witness concerning Himself. This idea is a direct assault on God’s sovereignty – it proposes that God is *not* sovereign over everything in His creation. This idea is a direct violation of God’s eternality – that ideas are something God picks up, then discards. This idea is a direct violation of God’s immutability – God cannot change His mind, and there never was “plans A-Z” that God had to select from, on penalty of directly violating this attribute. This idea is a direct violation of God’s perfection, as it postulates a multitude of imperfect conceptions, originating in the mind of God. For all these reasons, and a host of other reasons as well, this conception fails miserably as a proper depiction of reality.

Argument format updated on Dec 6, 8:59pm

Reformed theology, as properly expressed, would consider the doctrine of God’s unity not as the classical formulation used by Aquinas and the Scholastics, but as a unity of being; in which all attributes of God are distinct in their display, necessarily interrelated but not identical to each other, despite being differentiated expressions of God’s singular, essential nature. The Scholastics (following the lead of earlier writers) may be summed up as follows: “It is commonly said in theology that God’s attributes are God himself, as he has revealed himself to us… It was further asserted by the Scholastics that the whole essence of God is identical with each one of the attributes, so that God’s knowing is God, God’s willing is God, and so on. Some of them even went so far as to say that each attribute is identical with every other attribute, and that there are no logical distinctions in God.” (L. Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 45)

This conception, however, is not that of the consistently Reformed position. I will give you Berkhof, Bavinck, and the inestimable Dr. Gill.

“Naturally, we should guard against separating the divine essence and the divine attributes or perfections, and also against a false conception of the relation in which they stand to each other. The attributes are real determinations of the
Divine Being or, in other words, qualities that inhere in the Being of God. Shedd speaks of them as “an analytical and’
closer description of the essence.”
In a sense they are identical, so that it can be said that God’s perfections are God Himself as He has revealed Himself to us. It is possible to go even farther and say with Shedd, “The whole essence is in each attribute, and the attribute in the essence.”2 And because of the close relation in which the two stand to each other, it can be said that knowledge of the attributes carries with it knowledge of the Divine Essence. It would be a mistake to conceive of the essence of God as existing by itself and prior to the attributes, and of the attributes as additive and accidental characteristics of the Divine Being. They are essential qualities of God, which inhere in His very Being and are co-existent with it. These qualities cannot be altered without altering the essential Being of God. And since they are essential qualities, each one of them reveals to us some aspect of the Being of God.” – Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 45-46

Simplicity is not in conflict with the doctrine of the Trinity, for the term “simple” is not used as an antonym of “twofold” or “threefold,” but of “compound.” Hence, this simplicity does not conflict with the doctrine of the Trinity, for the divine being is not composed of three persons, neither is each person composed of God’s being plus the personal property; but the one and only uncompounded (simple) being exists in three persons; every person or personal property is distinct from God’s being not “in the object” but “in reason”; every personal property is indeed a “real relation,” but does not add “something real” to the “essence.” The personal properties “do not compose but only distinguish.” – Herman Bavinck, The Doctrine of God, trans. William Hendricksen, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1951), 172.

“God being a Spirit, we learn that he is a simple and uncompounded Being, and does not consist of parts, as a body does; his spirituality involves his simplicity: some indeed consider this as an attribute of God; and his spirituality also: and, indeed, every attribute of God, is God himself, is his nature, and are only so many ways of considering it, or are so many displays of it. However, it is certain God is not composed of parts, in any sense; not in a physical sense, of essential parts, as matter and form, of which bodies consist: nor of integral parts, as soul and body, of which men consist: nor in a “metaphysical” sense, as of essence and existence, of act and power: nor in a “logical” sense, as of kind and difference, substance and accident; all which would argue imperfection, weakness, and mutability. If God was composed of parts he would not be “eternal”, and absolutely the first Being, since the composing parts would, at least, co-exist with him; besides, the composing parts, in our conception of them, would be prior to the compositum; as the body and soul of man, of which he is composed, are prior to his being a man: and, beside, there must be a composer, who puts the parts together, and therefore must be before what is composed of them: all which is inconsistent with the eternity of God: nor would he be “infinite” and “immense”; for either these parts are finite, or infinite; if finite, they can never compose an infinite Being; and if infinite, there must be more infinities than one, which implies a contradiction: nor would he be “independent”; for what is composed of parts, depends upon those parts, and the union of them, by which it is preserved: nor would he be “immutable”, unalterable, and immortal; since what consists of parts, and depends upon the union of them, is liable to alteration, and to be resolved into those parts again, and so be dissolved and come to destruction. In short, he would not be the most perfect of Beings; for as the more spiritual a being is, the more perfect it is; and so it is, the more simple and uncompounded it is: as even all things in nature are more noble, and more pure, the more free they are from composition and mixture.

Nor is the simplicity of God to be disproved by the Trinity of Persons in the Godhead; for though there are three distinct persons, there is but one nature and essence common to them all, and which is not parted and divided among them, but is jointly and equally possessed by them; nor do these persons really differ from the divine nature and essence, nor from one another, but by their distinct modes of subsisting; so that they only distinguish and modify, but do neither divide nor compose the divine nature: nor is it to be disproved by the decrees of God; the decrees of God are within himself, and, as it is commonly said, whatever is in God, is God, and so are no other than God himself, as to the act of decreeing, though not with respect to the things decreed; and though they are many and various, as to the objects of them, yet not in God, who, by one eternal act, in his infinite mind, has decreed every thing that has been, is, or shall be; and is what Plato means by en kai polla, “one” and “many” in God; one, as to his essence; many, as to the ideas and decrees in it, which many are one: nor is it to be disproved by the attributes of God; for they are no other than God himself, and neither differ from one another, but with respect to their objects, and effect, and in our manner of conception of them; nor from the nature and essence of God; they are himself, and his nature; he is not only eternal, wise, good, loving, &c. but he is eternity itself, wisdom itself, goodness itself, love itself, &c. and these are not parts of his nature, but displays of the same undivided nature, and are different considerations of it, in which we view it; our minds being so weak as not to be able to conceive of God at once and together, and in the gross, but one thing after another, and the same in different lights, that we may better understand it: these several things, called attributes, which are one in God, are predicated of him, and ascribed to him distinctly, for helps to our finite understandings, and for the relief of our minds; and that we, with more facility and ease, might conceive of the nature of God, and take in more of him, as we can by parcels and piecemeals, than in the whole; and so, as a learned Jew observes, all those attributes are only intellectual notions; by which are conceived the perfections that are in the essence of God, but in reality are nothing but his essence; and which attributes will be next considered.” – John Gill, A Body of Doctrinal Divinity, Book 1, Chapter 4, Sec. 3

What Divine Simplicity entails, for someone engaging in theology or arguing contrary to it, is that their formulation must address all of God’s attributes, or at least argue against a conception of God consistent with all of His attributes, even if they are not specifically addressed. If they do not do so accurately, they are guilty of arguing for or against an incomplete picture of God. This is not something new, but long recognized in theology. What is unfortunate is that believers so often fail to object to these malformed arguments from the grounds of proper theology – which should be the basis of our philosophy.

Anthropic Arguments and Assumptions

If God is morally perfect then He must perform the morally best actions, but creating humans is not the morally best action. If this line of reasoning can be maintained then the mere fact that humans exist contradicts the claim that God exists.


Look at the assumption required for the second half of this sentence. “creating humans is not the morally best action”. Says who? By what standard? As usual, I think we can guess what that is. Anthropic Arguments and Assumptions

Walker suggests that God is morally culpable for creating human beings with defective natures (defective in comparison to God’s).

Is He, now? Culpable to who? Oh, wait. That’s the assumption! The same assumption all of these dumb arguments make. God is answerable to man. That’s funny, here I thought Scripture answered that sort of ridiculousness.

What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! For He says to Moses, “I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION.” So then it {does} not {depend} on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “FOR THIS VERY PURPOSE I RAISED YOU UP, TO DEMONSTRATE MY POWER IN YOU, AND THAT MY NAME MIGHT BE PROCLAIMED THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE EARTH.” So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires. You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use? What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And {He did so} to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, {even} us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles. ~Rom 9:14-24

See, man always believes that he can pass judgment on God. That he is morally autonomous. Scripture says differently. This text rightly denies man’s ability to judge God. It then goes into an explanation of God’s intention in the creation of man. God is not unjust. A Holy God can rightly judge the man with a fallen nature – and the fallen man cannot judge the Holy God. This argument fails on point #7, for those interested in the formal argument also included in the post linked to above. I’m not concerned with the rest of the points, although I would likely dispute them if 7 didn’t fail so spectacularly. The reason 7 fails is because it introduces that pesky “should”. yourenotthebossofmeWho says He “should”? Man does. Man is not capable of imposing a “should” upon God, as man is not morally autonomous. Scripture relates to us why that “should” is incorrect, and the argument fails to even give any reason whatsoever why the “should” is applicable to God. It is an assumption of human autonomy.

I truly wish atheists who make these sorts of arguments would pay more attention to what they are arguing against. I’m sure this will be touted, with much hoopla, in that community – but it is not anything novel, damaging, or even explanatory. To break it down, a pot says “I don’t like the way you made things. If you didn’t make things the way I wanted, I deny that you exist – because I’ll only believe in a Potter that makes things the way I want them to be.” Not overly satisfying, or convincing. It would also help if they didn’t use an argument directly countered in Scripture. That would, of course, assume that they had read it. It doesn’t look like this atheologian bothered, sadly.

God is Sovereign over Possibility

God is Sovereign. He ordains all things, whatsoever. He is unconstrained by anything; yet by Him, all things are constrained. God is eternal. He did not begin, He did not end. He is outside of time. God is unchanging. No aspect of God is subject to change. He does not alter in any fashion.

A popular (and approaching universal) conception of possibility entails there being a multiplicity of hypothetical possibilities to be selected from. In the case of God, it is often advanced that God is selecting from amongst multiple possibilities which He has to choose from. My design is to show that such a conception is completely at odds with who God is. First, Scripture.

which He will bring about at the proper time– He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To Him [be] honor and eternal dominion! Amen. ~1 Tim. 6:15-16

also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will – Eph 1:11

Remember the former things long past, For I am God, and there is no other; [I am] God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, ‘My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure’; calling a bird of prey from the east, The man of My purpose from a far country. Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned [it, surely] I will do it. ~ Isaiah 46:9-11

Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, OR WHO BECAME HIS COUNSELOR? Or WHO HAS FIRST GIVEN TO HIM THAT IT MIGHT BE PAID BACK TO HIM AGAIN? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him [be] the glory forever. Amen. ~Romans 11:33-36

Even from eternity I am He, And there is none who can deliver out of My hand; I act and who can reverse it? ~Isa 43:13

But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, {Too} little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity. ~Micah 5:2

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. ~Rom 1:20

Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, {be} honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. ~1Tim 1:17

how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? ~Heb 9:14

{Abraham} planted a tamarisk tree at Beersheba, and there he called on the name of the LORD, the Everlasting God. ~Gen 21:33

The eternal God is a dwelling place, And underneath are the everlasting arms; And He drove out the enemy from before you, And said, ‘Destroy!’ ~Deu 33:27

Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, From everlasting even to everlasting. Then all the people said, “Amen,” and praised the LORD. ~1 Chr 16:36

Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, From everlasting to everlasting. Amen and Amen. ~ Psa 41:13

Before the mountains were born Or You gave birth to the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God. ~Psa 90:2

Your throne is established from of old; You are from everlasting. ~Psa 93:2

Trust in the LORD forever, For in GOD the LORD, {we have} an everlasting Rock. ~Isa 26:4

Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth Does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable. ~Isa 40:28

But the LORD is the true God; He is the living God and the everlasting King. At His wrath the earth quakes, And the nations cannot endure His indignation. ~Jer 10:10

Are You not from everlasting, O LORD, my God, my Holy One? We will not die. You, O LORD, have appointed them to judge; And You, O Rock, have established them to correct. ~Hab 1:12

Also the Glory of Israel will not lie or change His mind; for He is not a man that He should change His mind. ~1 Sam 15:29

The LORD has sworn and will not change His mind, “You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek. ~ Psa 110:4

For this the earth shall mourn And the heavens above be dark, Because I have spoken, I have purposed, And I will not change My mind, nor will I turn from it. ~ Jer 4:28

For I, the LORD, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed. ~Mal 3:6

My covenant I will not violate, Nor will I alter the utterance of My lips. ~Psa 89:34

Jesus Christ {is} the same yesterday and today and forever. ~Heb 13:8

Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation, or shifting shadow ~James 1:17.

for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. ~Rom 11:29

Therefore the earth will mourn and the heavens above grow dark, because I have spoken and will not relent, I have decided and will not turn back. ~Jer 4:28

Even they will perish, but You endure; And all of them will wear out like a garment; Like clothing You will change them and they will be changed. ~Psa 102:26

In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. ~Heb 6:17-18

Note first: This is the consistent view of Scripture. God is Sovereign. God is Eternal. God is immutable. God is also self-sufficient, all-wise, infinite, holy, trinitarian, omniscient, faithful, perfect, loving, self-existent, just, merciful, good, and omnipresent. All of these attributes are interrelated. Therefore, if an imperfect conception of one of God’s attributes is held to, the rest are compromised.

For the concerns of this post, I will concentrate on the first three mentioned, but will refer to all of God’s attributes, to show how the argument I am making violates none of God’s attributes as listed above, while showing how the popular conception of possibility violates many, if not them all.

When we think of God, should we think of God as thinking linearly? Where every one of his thoughts follows a linear progression? To do such a thing requires that God be *changing* – having *new* thoughts. This is unacceptable, when matched against Scripture. So, how must we think of God’s thinking? Well, God is eternal. Would His thoughts not also be eternal? God, being omniscient, knows all things. God, being eternal, knows all things simultaneously. God’s knowledge of all things is also related to His ordination of all things – His sovereign decree. As God decreed all things from before the foundation of the world, He therefore knows all that He has decreed. Does God “know” that which He has not decreed? What content does a hypothetical “something” not decreed by God have? In these other supposed worlds, not decreed by God, what is the content of them? Not-real, not-decreed non-things? Such a concept, when examined, seems quite a bit akin to “God knows something about nothing”

Further, there cannot be possibility apart from God – as He is self-sufficient and self-existent; since He is, He is the only grounds that can exist for any other existence, and the only thing in existence that can provide that grounds, in His self-sufficiency. If God is perfect – and nothing exists (including concepts, I’d argue) that does not have God as it’s Creator, then this concept involves God having well-nigh infinite numbers of imperfect conceptions of His creation! Not “a creation that is imperfect” – but an “imperfect conception of creation” – almost infinite numbers of them!

When we think of God’s thoughts, should we not think of them as eternal thoughts? Do God’s thoughts escape Him? Do they go away? Are they, unlike everything else about Him, NOT from everlasting to everlasting? If God’s thoughts are, therefore, eternal – “as high above as the heavens are above the earth” – do we *really* expect all of these imperfect conceptions, and as *eternally existing* conceptions? If God’s thoughts are eternal, if they are perfect, if they are sovereign, if they are good, if they are holy, if they are immutable; etc, etc. If they are all that, God would think exactly as He intends, without changing, for all eternity, with utter control, about everything He has decreed will take place. In other words – God thinks exactly as He intends to, without error, and without change. He thinks it for eternity, with sovereign control, and with utter holiness. There IS no possibility apart from the ordination and will of the Holy, Eternal, Sovereign, unchanging God.

A possibility apart from God’s control of it is an affront to His sovereignty. A concept which is imperfect has nothing to do with His perfection. It is NOT good. It is NOT holy. Linear thoughts are not the thoughts of an eternal God. A process in which God chooses from all of the “possible worlds” in which men make “free choices” is not loving – as men are fallen, and *cannot choose God,* and neither are they free. It is also absurd.

If God chooses from among “possible worlds” – what makes them possible or impossible?

If it is God – are the ones not chosen “possible” at all? Why use the term?

If it is NOT God – what puts a condition on God? Is God then sovereign? Is He self-sufficient? Is He truly self-existent? These are things I don’t see ways around, from Scripture, and the revelation of God’s nature to us.

If God is sovereign over all things, He is sovereign over possibility, and always perfectly sovereign.
If God is eternal, His thoughts are eternal. They always have existed, always are existing, and always will exist.
If God is immutable, He cannot change His intention, His mind, His conceptions, His determination of possibility.
If God is perfect, neither His thoughts nor His actions can be imperfect, and this can never change.

We could go on and on with combinations of God’s attributes – but we MUST think linearly, as God has created us to do so; so it is hard for us to contemplate all of God’s attributes at once. Impossible, probably. We do not have that capacity. When we attempt it, however, we find it hard to reconcile these ideas. I’d welcome feedback on these things.

In summary, the concept of all possible worlds cannot be compatible with the Scriptural picture God gives us of Himself.

Suggested Reading:
Whate’er My God Ordains: A Biblical Study of God’s Control
Always Ready, Dr. Greg Bahnsen – esp. Chap. 16, Worldviews in Collision
Revisionary Immunity, Bahnsen (1975)
Science, Subjectivity And Scripture, Banhsen (1979)
At War With The Word – The Necessity Of Biblical Antithesis, Bahnsen (1990)
The Problem of Knowing the “Super-Natural”, Bahnsen (1991)

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