God and his testimony

Greeks appear to stress a theology of divine being, Hebrews of divine action… there is a tendency to identify the divine attributes by a list of ‘omni’s’ and negatives – omnipotent, omniscience, omnipresent, infinite, eternal, and the rest – and then paste on to them conceptions of divine actions

In Act and Being, Colin E. Gunton points out the odd method by which we study God in modern Christianity. We start with assumptions of various divine attributes and then deduce further attributes (this is before even looking at the text of the Bible). This process is an entirely Greek method of thinking, as opposed to the Hebrew method of testimony (experience):

Similarly, the treatment of omnipotence notoriously defines it, again in a priori terms, as the capacity to do everything but will a contradiction, there is no reference to what God actually does in the economy of creation and redemption. That is to say, Aquinas having set up the ontological framework for his theology… everything else follows by a process of logical deduction… We have an analysis of the God-world relation in largely cosmological terms, untrammelled by reference to those particular divine acts in which God is revealed by scriptures actually to operate. That is to say, the basic concepts come from philosophical, or, should we say, Greek theology. We are in the presence of an entrenched tradition which owns more to Greece than scripture and, despite modification, dominates the treatment of attributes until this day.

I would caution against coming up with an a priori list of attributes. It does damage to the text of the Bible, morphing the meaning into something not meant to be communicated, and it also fogs our understanding of God. If God is good, let the Bible show it (like creating a paradise for man). If God is righteous, let the Bible show it (like destroying a world full of sinners and saving the righteous). If God is relational, let the Bible show it (like coming to Adam and letting him name the animals). If God is powerful, let the Bible show it (like leading millions of Egyptian slaves from bondage). The Bible tells us about God through testimony, not abstract philosophy.

About christopher fisher

The blog is meant for educational/entertainment purposes. All material can be used and reproduced in any length for any purpose as long as I am cited as the source.
This entry was posted in Bible, God, Omnipotence, Omnipresence, Open Theism, Theology. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to God and his testimony

  1. Tom Torbeyns says:

    “We are in the presence of an entrenched tradition which owns more to Greece than scripture”

    “I would caution against coming up with an a priori list of attributes. It does damage to the text of the Bible, morphing the meaning into something not meant to be communicated, and it also fogs our understanding of God.”

    “The Bible tells us about God through testimony, not abstract philosophy.”

    These three statements nail it! :-)

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