On the "Nature" of God

NOTICE: HAVING COME UNDER CRITICAL SCRUTINY, THIS ARTICLE WILL BE EDITED TO CLARIFY SOME REMARKS THAT MIGHT SOUND A LITTLE TOO MUCH LIKE HERESY. I DO NOT WANT TO BE A HERETIC. I AM NOT A HERETIC. THEREFORE I WILL MAKE EDITS THAT MAKE IT CLEAR THAT I AM NOT A HERETIC. PLEASE KEEP THIS IN MIND IF YOU READ ANY FURTHER.   —Eric

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In the midst of a discussion about the nature of God, someone recently said, "God didn't choose to exist the way he does, he just exists."

No, I vehemently object!  I say that God chooses to exist the way He does.

Right here, right out of the gate, I declare this: That God has no Nature!

Far too often, I believe, we find references in theological writings to the nature of God, the nature of the Godhead, the nature of the Trinity, etc., etc. I am personally tired of reading these commentary references—not because the references are necessarily incorrect in their overall analysis—but because "nature" is the wrong word! God has no nature, and the sooner we can get this issue settled in our minds, the sooner we will be able to begin to comprehend the beautiful character of God, our creator.

God Can Do Whatever He Wants

So let's get something straight: God is omnipotent. He is all-powerful. He can do whatever He wants. With His power and position over us and all creation, He is able to wipe us out from existence on a whim if He so chooses. He's God Almighty, is He not? The heavens and the earth were created by His word, so could not a single word of His end all existence that we know of? Of course it could, for He is God. Let us not be so arrogant, so presumptuous, as to think otherwise!

Some of us might like to read about "the nature of God," and find solace in the fact that our God is a loving God, who does not take pleasure in our destruction. And since this is God's nature, we are happy to learn that He is constrained to love us, as though by some external "law of nature" by which He must necessarily abide—because it's His nature to do so.

To this, I say, "Hogwash, people!" Wake up! God is God! He is not constrained by nature, or some kind of nature, as though it were imposed upon Him by some external law or laws of nature, as though something or someone set it all up that way.

Quite to the contrary:

If God is constrained, it is by His Own Choice.

And yes, I believe that God has constrained Himself. It's called self control, and it is one of the hallmarks of godliness even among men.

If "God didn't choose to exist the way he does, he just exists," as you say, then by what rule, or by whose decree does He "live and breathe and have His being"?  Of course we know that it is by His own decree, and by His own rule.

Our Moral Imperatives

There must be a moral imperative for God to exist and behave in the manner in which He exists and behaves, else there is nothing moral about His existence or behavior. Whence proceeds this moral imperative? Of course we know that God is the living definition of all moral imperatives. The moral imperative governing God's behavior proceeds from God Himself. The only way this can be true is if God chooses, voluntarily and of His own volition, to abide by His own moral imperatives.

If, on the other hand, this moral imperative derives from something external to God, and God's behavior is simply pre-wired, cast in stone, predetermined, requiring no decision-making on His part, then something or someone must have cast that stone into the shape it is in. This description of God requires a super-god, not necessarily to supervise God (since He really has no choice in the matter), but to have been there to set things up the way they are. If this is your god, then your god is a god of instinct, acting instictually in accordance with his nature. You might as well worship any given animal.

Faith Is the Issue

I believe that there is a driving force behind our reluctance to accept the fact that God (being omnipotent) has the potential ability to act outside of His own moral law. I believe this driving force boils down to a lack of faith. If we don't trust that God will always choose right, then the verses that tell us God cannot lie, for instance, automatically point our minds to His inability, rather than to His perfect character. If God is incapable of lying, then we can relax, cast aside any concerns about His trustworthiness, and thank our lucky stars that there are some things of which God is incapable.

Could Jesus have Sinned when Tempted?

It's a question often asked, and often answered wrongly, I believe. Many will say something to the effect that "… in His human nature, he could have sinned, but due to his god-nature, it was impossible for Him to have sinned when tempted."

But I don't believe you can reconcile a disabled Christ with an omnipotent God. For this reason, the question of whether Jesus, the man, could have sinned has only one answer: Of course He could have sinned, had He chosen to. Fortunately for us, He never did. Is this because that for Him to have sinned would have been contrary to His nature? No. It is because that for Him to have sinned would have been inconsistent with His character, which is perfect and impeccable. Only for that reason may we consider the event of Jesus sinning to be or to have been impossible! —not because He is incapacitated by some external constraint or nature.

And the same concept applies to God the Father. We may use the words "cannot" or "impossible" to describe things that we know God shall never do, but these words are reflective of our human logic (our thinking and language) rather than of God's potential ability. God is not constrained by His nature. Rather, He acts in ways consistent with His character.

God is love. God is perfect, according to His own definition of perfection, not ours, not someone else's. God is Judge. He does not sit before some higher court. The sooner we come to grips with this truth, the sooner we come to understand our place before Him. For we shall in no wise appeal to some theological precept which would constrain Him on our behalf. Our appeal, our plea, is unto Him. Him! Thus, when He says, "I have provided a means for your salvation," let us cling to the cross of Calvary!

Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. No creature is hidden from Him, but all things are naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must give an account.

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens — Jesus the Son of God — let us hold fast to the confession.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tested in every way as we are, yet without sin.  Therefore let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us at the proper time.

—Hebrews 4:13‭-‬16 HCSB

And David, who has been commended by God's Word as being "a man after my own heart," had this to say after being confronted with his own sin of adultry and murder:

Wash away my guilt and cleanse me from my sin. For I am conscious of my rebellion, and my sin is always before me.

Against You — You alone — I have sinned and done this evil in Your sight. So You are right when You pass sentence; You are blameless when You judge.

Indeed, I was guilty when I was born; I was sinful when my mother conceived me.

Surely You desire integrity in the inner self, and You teach me wisdom deep within.

Purify me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones You have crushed rejoice.

Turn Your face away from my sins and blot out all my guilt. God, create a clean heart for me and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not banish me from Your presence or take Your Holy Spirit from me.

Restore the joy of Your salvation to me, and give me a willing spirit.  Then I will teach the rebellious Your ways, and sinners will return to You.

Save me from the guilt of bloodshed, God, the God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing of Your righteousness.

—Psalms 51:2‭-‬14 HCSB

This is not an appeal to God's nature. It is a plea before God's character, a personal plea, humbly calling upon the righteousness and the loving-kindness of the omnipotent God of all creation.

So let us not so much as think about the "nature of God." Rather, let us ponder the beauty and impeccability of God's character. For He is righteous in all His ways, and His judgments are true, just, and irrefutable.

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