статья по английски, к сведению

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Отправлено Алексей Чумаков, православный христианин, 23:57:10 01/06/2001
в ответ на: Re (3): Комментарий, отправлено Алексей Чумаков, православный христианин, 20:29:35 01/06/2001
The Nature and Attributes of God
I. As Known Through Natural Reason
A. Infinity of God
B. Unity or Unicity of God
C. Simplicity of God
D. Divine Personality
II. As Known Through Faith
A. Eternity
B. Immensity and Ubiquity, or Omnipresence
C. Immutability
Having established by inductive inference the self-existence of a personal First Cause distinct from matter and from the human mind (see EXISTENCE OF GOD), we now proceed by deductive analysis to examine the nature and attributes of this Being to the extent required by our limited philosophical scope. We will treat accordingly of
the infinity,
unity or unicity, and
simplicity of God, adding
some remarks on Divine personality.
When we say that God is infinite, we mean that He is unlimited in every kind of perfection or that every conceivable perfection belongs to Him in the highest conceivable way. In a different sense we sometimes speak, for instance, of infinite time or space, meaning thereby time of such indefinite duration or space of such indefinite extension that we cannot assign any fixed limit to one or the other. Care should be taken not to confound these two essentially different meanings of the term. Time and space, being made up of parts in duration or extension, are essentially finite by comparison with God's infinity. Now we assert that God is infinitely perfect in the sense explained, and that His infinity is deducible from His self-existence. For a self-existent being, if limited at all, could be limited only by itself; to be limited by another would imply causal dependence on that other, which the very notion of self-existence excludes. But the self-existing cannot be conceived as limiting itself, in the sense of curtailing its perfection of being, without ceasing to be self-existing. Whatever it is, it is necessarily; its own essence is the sole reason or explanation of its existence, so that its manner of existence must be as unchangeable as its essence, and to suggest the possibility of an increase or diminution of perfection would be to suggest the absurdity of a changeable essence. It only remains, then, to say that whatever perfection is compatible with its essence is actually realized in a self-existing being; but as there is no conceivable perfection as such — that is, no expression of positive being as such — that is not compatible with the essence of the self-existent, it follows that the self-existent must be infinite in all perfection. For self-existence itself is absolute positive being and positive being cannot contradict, and cannot therefore limit, positive being.
This general, and admittedly very abstract, conclusion, as well as the reasoning which supports it, will be rendered more intelligible by a brief specific illustration of what it involves.
(i) When, in speaking of the Infinite, we attribute all conceivable perfections to Him, we must not forget that the predicates we employ to describe perfections derive their meaning and connotation in the first instance from their application to finite beings; and on reflection it is seen that we must distinguish between different kinds of perfections, and that we cannot without palpable contradiction attribute all the perfections of creatures in the same way to God. Some perfections are such that even in the abstract, they necessarily imply or connote finiteness of being or imperfection; while some others do not of themselves necessarily connote imperfection. To the first class belong all material perfections — extension, sensibility and the like — and certain spiritual perfections such as rationality (as distinct from simple intelligence); to the second class belong such perfections as being truth, goodness, intelligence, wisdom, justice, holiness, etc. Now while it cannot be said that God is infinitely extended, or that He feels or reasons in an infinite way, it can be said that He is infinitely good, intelligent, wise, just, holy, etc. — in other words, while perfections of the second class are attributed to God formally (i.e., without any change in the proper meaning of the predicates which express them), those of the first class can only be attributed to Him eminently and equivalently, (i.e. whatever positive being they express belongs to God as their cause in a much higher and more excellent way than to the creatures in which they formally exist). By means of this important distinction, which Agnostics reject or neglect, we are able to think and to speak of the Infinite without being guilty of contradiction, and the fact that men generally — even Agnostics themselves when off their guard — recognize and use the distinction, is the best proof that it is pertinent and well founded. Ultimately it is only another way of saying that, given an infinite cause and finite effects, whatever pure perfection is discovered in the effects must first exist in the cause (via affirmationis) and at the same time that whatever imperfection is discovered in the effects must be excluded from the cause (via negationis vel exclusionis). These two principles do not contradict, but only balance and correct one another.
(ii) Yet sometimes men are led by a natural tendency to think and speak of God as if He were a magnified creature — more especially a magnified man — and this is known as anthropomorphism. Thus God is said to see or hear, as if He had physical organs, or to be angry or sorry, as if subject to human passions: and this perfectly legitimate and more or less unavoidable use of metaphor is often quite unfairly alleged to prove that the strictly Infinite is unthinkable and unknowable, and that it is really a finite anthrpomorhic God that men worship. But whatever truth there may be in this charge as applied to Polytheistic religions, or even to the Theistic beliefs of rude and uncultured minds, it is untrue and unjust when directed against philosophical Theism. The same reasons that justify and recommend the use of metaphorical language in other connections justify and recommended it here, but no Theist of average intelligence ever thinks of understanding literally the metaphors he applies, or hears applied by others, to God, any more than he means to speak literally when he calls a brave man a lion, or a cunning one a fox.
(iii) Finally it should be observed that, while predicating pure perfections literally both of God and of creatures, it is always understood that these predicates are true in an infinitely higher sense of God than of creatures, and that there is no thought of coordinating or classifying God with creatures. This is technically expressed by saying that all our knowledge of God is analogical, and that all predicates applied to God and to creatures are used analogically, not univocally (see ANALOGY). I may look at a portrait or at its living original, and say of either, with literal truth, that is a beautiful face. And this is an example of analogical predication. Beauty is literally and truly realized both in the portrait and its living original, and retains its proper meaning as applied to either; there is sufficient likeness or analogy to justify literal predication but there is not that perfect likeness or identity between painted and living beauty which univocal predication would imply. And similarly in the case of God and creatures. What we contemplate directly is the portrait of Him painted, so to speak, by Himself on the canvas of the universe and exhibiting in a finite degree various perfections, which, without losing their proper meaning for us, are seen to be capable of being realized in an infinite degree; and our reason compels us to infer that they must be and are so realized in Him who is their ultimate cause.
Hence we admit, in conclusion, that our knowledge of the Infinite is inadequate, and necessarily so since our minds are only finite. But this is very different from the Agnostic contention that the Infinite is altogether unknowable, and that the statements of Theists regarding the nature and attributes of God are so many plain contradictions. It is only by ignoring the well-recognized rules of predication that have just been explained, and consequently by misunderstanding and misrepresenting the Theistic position, that Agnostics succeed in giving an air of superficial plausibility to their own philosophy of blank negation. Anyone who understands those rules, and has learned to think clearly, and trusts his own reason and common sense, will find it easy to meet and refute Agnostic arguments, most of which, in principle, have been anticipated in what precedes. Only one general observation need be made here — that the principles to which the Agnostic philosopher must appeal in his attempt to invalidate religious knowledge would, if consistently applied, invalidate all human knowledge and lead to universal scepticism — and it is safe to say that, unless absolute scepticism becomes the philosophy of mankind, Agnosticism will never supplant religion.
Obviously there can be only one infinite being, only one God. If several were to exist, none of them would really be infinite, for, to have plurality of natures at all, each should have some perfection not possessed by the others. This will be readily granted by every one who admits the infinity of God, and there is no need to delay in developing what is perfectly clear. It should be noted, however, that some Theistic philosophers prefer to deduce unicity from self-existence and infinity from both combined, and in a matter so very abstract it is not surprising that slight differences of opinion should arise. But we have followed what seems to us to be the simpler and clearer line of argument. The metaphysical argument by which unicity, as distinct from infinity, is deduced from self-existence seems to be very obscure, while on the other hand infinity, as distinct from unicity, seems to be clearly implied in self-existence as such. If the question, for example, be asked: Why may there not be several self-existing beings? The only satisfactory answer, as it seems to us, is this: Because a self-existent being as such is necessarily infinite, and there cannot be several infinities. The unity of God as the First Cause might also be inductively inferred from the unity of the universe as we know it; but as the suggestion might be made, and could not be disproved, that there may be another or even several universes of which we have no knowledge, this argument would not be absolutely conclusive.
God is a simple being or substance excluding every kind of composition, physical or metaphysical. Physical or real composition is either substantial or accidental — substantial, if the being in question consists of two or more substantial principles, forming parts of a composite whole, as man for example, consists of body and soul; accidental, if the being in question, although simple in its substance (as is the human soul), is capable of possessing accidental perfections (like the actual thoughts and volition of man's soul) not necessarily identical with its substance. Now it is clear that an infinite being cannot be substantially composite, for this would mean that infinity is made up of the union or addition of finite parts — a plain contradiction in terms. Nor can accidental composition be attributed to the infinite since even this would imply a capacity for increased perfection, which the very notion of the infinite excludes. There is not, therefore, and cannot be any physical or real composition in God.
Neither can there be that kind of composition which is known as metaphysical, and which results from «the union of diverse concepts referring to the same real thing in such a way that none of them by itself signifies either explicitly or even implicitly the whole reality signified by their combination.» Thus every actual contingent being is a metaphysical compound of essence and existence, and man in particular, according to the definition, is a compound of animal and rational. Essence as such in relation to a contingent being merely implies its conceivableness or possibility, and abstracts from actual existence; existence as such must be added before we can speak of the being as actual. But this distinction, with the composition it implies, cannot be applied to the self-existent or infinite being in whom essence and existence are completely identified. We say of a contingent being that it has a certain nature or essence, but of the self-existent we say that it is its own nature or essence. There is no composition therefore of essence and existence — or of potentiality and actuality — in God, nor can the composition of genus and specific difference, implied for example in the definition of man as a rational animal, be attributed to Him. God cannot be classified or defined, as contingent beings are classified and defined; for there is no aspect of being in which He is perfectly similar to the finite, and consequently no genus in which He can be included. From this it follows that we cannot know God adequately in the way in which He knows Himself, but not, as the Agnostic contends, that our inadequate knowledge is not true as far as it goes. In speaking of a being who transcends the limitations of formal logical definition our propositions are an expression of real truth, provided that what we state is in itself intelligible and not self-contradictory; and there is nothing unintelligible or contradictory in what Theists predicate of God. It is true that no single predicate is adequate or exhaustive as a description of His infinite perfection, and that we need to employ a multitude of predicates, as if at first sight infinity could be reached by multiplication. But at the same time we recognize that this is not so — being repugnant to the Divine simplicity; and that while truth, goodness, wisdom, holiness and other attributes, as we conceive and define them express perfections that are formally distinct, yet as applied to God they are all ultimately identical in meaning and describe the same ultimate reality — the one infinitely perfect and simple being.
When we say that God is a personal being we mean that He is intelligent and free and distinct from the created universe. Personality as such expresses perfection, and if human personality as such connotes imperfection, it must be remembered that, as in the case of similar predicates, this connotation is excluded when we attribute personality to God. It is principally by way of opposition to Pantheism that Divine personality is emphasized by the Theistic philosopher. Human personality, as we know it, is one of the primary data of consciousness, and it is one of those created perfections which must be realized formally (although only analogically) in the First Cause. But Pantheism would require us to deny the reality of any such perfection, whether in creatures or in the Creator, and this is one of the fundamental objections to any form of Pantheistic teaching. Regarding the mystery of the Trinity or three Divine Persons in God, which can be known only by revelation, it is enough to say here that properly understood the mystery contains no contradiction, but on the contrary adds much that is helpful to our inadequate knowledge of the infinite.
Reason, as we have seen, teaches that God is one simple and infinitely perfect spiritual substance or nature. Sacred Scripture and the Church teach the same. The creeds, for example, usually begin with a profession of faith in the one true God, Who is the Creator and Lord of heaven and earth, and is also, in the words of the Vatican Council, «omnipotent, eternal, immense, incomprehensible, infinite in intellect and will and in every perfection» (Sess. III, cap. i, De Deo). The best way in which we can describe the Divine nature is to say that it is infinitely perfect, or that God is the infinitely perfect Being; but we must always remember that even being itself, the most abstract and universal term we possess, is predicated of God and of creatures not univocally or identically, but only analogically. But other predicates, which, as applied to creatures, express certain specific determinations of being, are also used of God — analogically, if in themselves they express pure or unmixed perfection, but only metaphorically if they necessarily connote imperfection. Now of such predicates as applied to creatures we distinguish between those that are used in the concrete to denote being as such more or less determined (v.g., substance, spirit, etc.), and those that are used in the abstract or adjectively to denote determinations, or qualities, or attributes of being (v.g., good, goodness; intelligent, intelligence, etc.); and we find it useful to transfer this distinction to God, and to speak of the Divine nature or essence and Divine attributes being careful at the same time, by insisting on Divine simplicity, to avoid error or contradiction in its application. For, as applied to God, the distinction between nature and attributes, and between the attributes themselves, is merely logical and not real. The finite mind is not capable of comprehending the Infinite so as adequately to describe its essence by any single concept or term; but while using a multitude of terms, all of which are analogically true, we do not mean to imply that there is any kind of composition in God. Thus, as applied to creatures, goodness and justice, for example, are distinct from each other and from the nature or substance of the beings in whom they are found, and if finite limitations compel us to speak of such perfections in God as if they were similarly distinct, we know, nevertheless, and are ready, when needful, to explain, that this is not really so, but that all Divine attributes are really identical with one another and with the Divine essence.
The Divine attributes or perfections which may thus logically be distinguished are very numerous, and it would be a needless task to attempt to enumerate them fully. But among them some are recognized as being of fundamental importance, and to these in particular is the term attributes applied and special notice devoted by theologians — though there is no rigid agreement as to the number or classification of such attributes. As good a classification as any other is that based on the analogy of entitative and operative perfections in creatures — the former qualifying nature or essence as such and abstracting from activity, the latter referring especially to the activity of the nature in question. Another distinction is often made between physical, and moral or ethical, attributes — the former of themselves abstracting from, while the latter directly express, moral perfection. But without labouring with the question of classification, it will suffice to notice separately those attributes of leading importance that have not been already explained. Nothing need be added to what has been said above concerning self-existence, infinity, unity, and simplicity (which belong to the entitative class); but eternity, immensity, and immutability (also of the entitative class), together with the active attributes, whether physical or moral, connected with the Divine intellect and will, call for some explanation here.
By saying that God is eternal we mean that in essence, life, and action He is altogether beyond temporal limits and relations. He has neither beginning, nor end, nor duration by way of sequence or succession of moments. There is no past or future for God — but only an eternal present. If we say that He was or that He acted, or that He will be or will act, we mean in strictness that He is or that He acts; and this truth is well expressed by Christ when He says (John, viii, 58-A.V.): «Before Abraham was, I am.» Eternity, therefore, as predicated of God, does not mean indefinite duration in time — a meaning in which the term is sometimes used in other connections — but it means the total exclusion of the finiteness which time implies. We are obliged to use negative language in describing it, but in itself eternity is a positive perfection, and as such may be best defined in the words of Boethius as being «interminabilis vitae tota simul et perfecta possessio,» i.e. possession in full entirety and perfection of life without beginning, end, or succession.
The eternity of God is a corollary from His self-existence and infinity. Time being a measure of finite existence, the infinite must transcend it. God, it is true, coexists with time, as He coexists with creatures, but He does not exist in time, so as to be subject to temporal relations: His self-existence is timeless. Yet the positive perfection expressed by duration as such, i.e. persistence and permanence of being, belongs to God and is truly predicated of Him, as when He is spoken of, for example, as «Him that is, and that was and that is to come» (Apoc., i, 4); but the strictly temporal connotation of such predicates must always be corrected by recalling the true notion of eternity.
Space, like time, is one of the measures of the finite, and as by the attribute of eternity, we describe God's transcendence of all temporal limitations, so by the attribute of immensity we express His transcendent relation to space. There is this difference, however, to be noted between eternity and immensity, that the positive aspect of the latter is more easily realized by us, and is sometimes spoken of, under the name of omnipresenee, or ubiquity, as if it were a distinct attribute. Divine immensity means on the one hand that God is necessarily present everywhere in space as the immanent cause and sustainer of creatures, and on the other hand that He transcends the limitations of actual and possible space, and cannot be circumscribed or measured or divided by any spatial relations. To say that God is immense is only another way of saying that He is both immanent and transcendent in the sense already explained. As some one has metaphorically and paradoxically expressed it, «God's centre is everywhere, His circumference nowhere.»
That God is not subject to spatial limitations follows from His infinite simplicity; and that He is truly present in every place or thing — that He is omnipresent or ubiquitous — follows from the fact that He is the cause and ground of all reality. According to our finite manner of thinking we conceive this presence of God in things spatial as being primarily a presence of power and operation — immediate Divine efficiency being required to sustain created beings in existence and to enable them to act; but, as every kind of Divine action ad extra is really identical with the Divine nature or essence, it follows that God is really present everywhere in creation not merely per virtuten et operationem, but per essentiam. In other words God Himself, or the Divine nature, is in immediate contact with, or immanent in, every creature — conserving it in being and enabling it to act. But while insisting on this truth we must, if we would avoid contradiction, reject every form of the pantheistic hypothesis. While emphasizing Divine immanence we must not overlook Divine transcendence.
There is no lack of Scriptural or ecclesiastical testimonies asserting God's immensity and ubiquity. It is enough to refer for example to:
Heb. i, 3 iv, 12, 13
Acts, xvii, 24, 27, 28;
Eph., i, 23;
Col., i, ;6, 17,
Ps. cxxxviii, 7-12;
Job, xii, 10, etc.
In God «there is no change, nor shadow of alteration» (James, i, 17); «They [i.e. »the works of thy hands"] shall perish, but thou shalt continue: and they shall all grow old as a garment. And as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed: but thou art the selfsame and thy years shall not fail" (Heb., i, 10-12, Ps. ci, 26-28. Cf. Mal., iii, 6; Heb., xiii, 8). These are some of the Scriptural texts which clearly teach Divine immutability or unchangeableness, and this attribute is likewise emphasized in church teaching, as by the Council of Nicaea against the Arians, who attributed mutability to the Logos (Denzinger, 54-old No. 18), and by the Vatican Council in its famous definition.
That the Divine nature is essentially immutable, or incapable of any internal change, is an obvious corollary from Divine infinity. Changeableness implies the capacity for increase or diminution of perfection, that is, it implies finiteness and imperfection. But God is infinitely perfect and is necessarily what He is. It is true that some attributes by which certain aspects of Divine perfection are described are hypothetlcal or relative, in the sense that they presuppose the contingent fact of creation: omnipresence, for example, presupposes the actual existence of spatial beings. But it is obvious that the mutability implied in this belongs to creatures, and not to the Creator; and it is a strange confusion of thought that has led some modern Theists — even professing Christians — to maintain that such attributes can be laid aside by God, and that the Logos in becoming incarnate actually did lay them aside, or at least ceased from their active exercise. But as creation itself did not affect the immutability of God, so neither did the incarnation of a Divine Person; whatever change was involved in either case took place solely in the created nature.

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