Orthodox Teaching about God – The Nature of God

God, as the primary reality, possesses self-existence, and is distinguished from all other living beings, which are relative. He is reality and infinite being set apart from finite substances (hypostases) and finite beings. The existence that is His is necessary, eternal, and immutable, as distinct from the contingent, the temporal, and beings that alter and change from worse to better.

He is the same always, whole, perfect, existing of Himself and lacking nothing, distinct from all other living beings which are imperfect and are by no means whole, and require com­pletion. They are empty and must acquire and be filled with what they lack. Thus naturally, these are the attributes that are postulated when men think about the being of God. Anyone who has the truthful concept of God cannot think of Him as other than having these qualities.

An intellect that thinks of God in completely different terms is false, because God cannot be other than as His nature demands. Over against the true way of thinking about God is set the false way which portrays Him as He is not. This latter, in fact, is rightly known as a fanciful, illusory way of thinking, and is wholly opposed to the rational, true way of thinking which perceives reality. The logical, truthful approach to the thought of God lies in the Logos of God and is revealed to us through the Gospel. In complete contrast with it are the false, deceptive arguments and misconceptions about God which are held by both ancient and modem peoples.

In his epistle to the church at Rome, St. Paul reproached the ancient world for misrepresenting the true concept of God which was revealed in creation. “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools . . . “ (Romans 1: 20-22).

St. Paul criticized the ancient world because it falsified the true concept of God and changed His glory into the likeness of created objects. He accused the ancients of changing ” … the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things.” They “. . . changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen” (Romans 1:23,25).

The entire ancient world possessed false concepts of the being and nature of the true God. The religions of the ancient world brought God down to the level of nature and the order of mortal, created things. They confused God with His works, and worshipped creation instead of the creator. They made a god of the world rather than of the creator and maker of all things, whom they did not recognize. However, when there dawned in the land of Greece, the fair light of philosophy and when the spirit’s horizon was illuminated with the rays of orthos logos, man’s intelligence was lifted up to the comprehension of the being of God, of His perfection and incorruptibility, and of the distinction between God and His creation and works.

That was the beginning of the collapse of the decadent, cultural edifice that was built on the teaching of a false conception of God. The orthos logos was the first to promise the eradication of all error, and to reveal to the world the true conception of God. God is perfect. God is eternal, unchanging, and immutable. God is imperishable and deathless.

These are the earliest utterances that have come from the mouths of those who have studied and thought seriously in the midst of the prevailing abysmal ignorance about God. Yet these mental images, even though true in themselves, nonetheless were not enough to explain the perfect nature of God, nor to give the perfect image of God to the human spirit.

Over against the eternal, necessary existence of God, was set mistakenly – as if it were eternal, necessary being-the existence of a primeval or primordial matter from which came the universe of created beings. God was dogmatized falsely as a specific force, fashioning and ordering the shapeless, formless, characterless matter and making all kinds of created beings from it. This preposterous notion of the eternity of matter which the ancient philosophers concocted, has been embraced even by some contemporary philosophers. They have pursued their enquiries along the lines of worldly arguments and not in accordance with orthos logos. They have not allowed the human spirit to be uplifted and form a true notion of God.

But when the fullness of time came for the abolition of the ignorance and sin that overwhelmed mankind, God revealed it in the world through His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. With His enlightenment we learned the nature of the true God and of His goodness and mercy.

When Christ came into the world and proclaimed sublime truths, He made God known to us, and His nature and His will. Through the words of Christ, human intelligence was lifted up and was able to receive the concept of God which is the foundation both of intellectual life and of all human life in general.

Today, by the mouth of everyone who has been initiated into the mysteries of Christianity, the name of God is blessed. Though once He was unknown among men, yet now He is known to the whole world through Jesus Christ. Today we know God not only is eternal being, existing necessarily, absolutely, and infinitely, and not only is both unalterable and unchanged, but also is capable of creating everything and yet is created from nothing, while bringing forth the universe. He is the cause that has no cause, creator and maker of the universe.

This is the great truth of which the ancient world was unaware – and even now he who remains outside the sphere of the Christian spirit still is unaware of it. The knowledge now lies with Christians – those who reflect and pursue their philosophical enquiries along the lines of Christ’s teaching.

The qualities that we term infinite, absolute, eternal, necessary, unchangeable, monadic, imperishable, and completely independent – these comprise the nature of the being of God. And yet these special qualities are insufficient to define the perfect concept of God, for this demands in addition the knowledge of other characteristics which are predicated of God. Because God is being and pure reality, He has the characteristics which we already have specified and explained. These characteristics we may call the characteristics of the external or more perceivable being of God, as distinct from the characteristics of His internal or inner, deeper being.

The qualities of being infinite, absolute, and immutable, and the other characteristics listed above, all are predicated on God who is Spirit according to the word of Christ: “God is a Spirit” (John 4:24). They are attributes which define not the very being of the Spirit, but the being of God, in that He is being and reality, in relation to matter, in relation to the finite, to the relative, to the contingent, to the changeable, to the perishable, and to the composite.

Consequently, when we try to distinguish the being of God from finite beings, we attribute to it the quality of being infinite, absolute, immutable, and imperishable. We cannot, however, have a clear and perfect concept of God through our mental perception of the attributes already mentioned. In order to attain a perfect concept of God, we must search for His inner. deeper attributes, for they define His perfect being and nature. Therefore, let us inquire into the nature and the attributes of the inner being of God.

God is Spirit, and the distinctive attribute of spirit is consciousness and thought. Where there is consciousness and thought, there is also of necessity, purpose and will. Hence God is thought and volition. Volition combined with thought goes hand in hand with ability. That is because where there is cognition and volition, there is also the power to act and to accomplish. It is impossible to act and produce results without ability. God, therefore, is intelligence and will, and simultaneously He also is ability because He acts and produces results as He thinks and purposes.

Thought precedes will and ability follows them both. If thought were taken away from God, God then would be changed into something purely material. In such a case He could not be Spirit, nor could He be called Spirit in the sense in which the Theanthropos called God Spirit – an intelligent, volitional being, able to act and to produce results freely without depending upon any other being. The word spirit denotes an existence that is able to think and plan, and is capable of action and of producing results freely. God, as Spirit, knows and wills, and has ability and functions. He knows, but He knows on an infinite and absolute scale; He is a mind that contains in itself every thought and every concept of every possible or probable being.

God knows on an absolute level; He is the first and foremost mind. Before it, no mind existed or exists, and no other intelligence or any other mind can be envisaged. God purposes – but His purposes are on an infinite and absolute scale, because His thought processes also are infinite and absolute. Additionally, He has infinite and absolute ability and will, and is able to achieve His every purpose without any hindrance, because there is no one above or before Him. As God knows, He also purposes and has ability, and acts and achieves. His cognition is equalled by His purpose and His power, because His thought is infinite, His purpose is infinite, and His ability is infinite.

Throughout its inspired pages, Holy Scripture, the written Word of God, testifies that almighty God is infinite mind, infinite will, and infinite ability. Thus Scripture calls our God a God of knowledge: ” . . . for the Lord is a God of knowledge” (I Kings 2:3; LXX). It proclaims: “With him are wisdom and power, with him counsel and understanding” (Job 12:13; LXX). “For the Lord gives wisdom; and from his presence come knowledge and understanding . . .” (Proverbs 2:6; LXX). The psalmist hymned God for His absolute will: “All that the Lord willed, he did in Heaven, and on the earth, in the sea, and in all deeps” (Psalms 134:6; LXX).

St. Paul declared that “. . . the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God” (I Corinthians 2:10). And from the inerrant lips of our Lord: “Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered” (Luke 12:6.7a).

St. Paul frequently wrote of the infinite will and ability of God: “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (I Timothy 2:3,4). “That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he” (God) “might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in Heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: in whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:” (Ephesians 1:10,11).

Likewise, the fact that God is puissant also is verified in Holy Scripture, for therein is said of His infinite power and might: “For with God nothing shall be impossible” (Luke 1:37). “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God” (Luke 18:27). Declared the psalmist, alluding to the heavens and water and all creation: “Let them praise the name of the Lord: for he spoke, and they were made; he commanded and they were created” (Psalms 148:5; LXX). God “. . . is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think,” wrote St. Paul in the epistle to the Ephesians (3:20).

This is the powerful evidence from Holy Scripture itself that almighty God is perfect and infinite mind, will, and power. In cognition, God thinks perfectly, infinitely, and absolutely. Similarly, He wills and has the power to place His will into effect. Moreover, His thought embraces truth as a whole – every thing that was and is and is to come. His internal thought embraces both Himself and the· universe; He possesses the conception both of Himself and of the universe. Thus He is all-wise.

God also purposes and wills to perfection; He wills only the good. He determines the existence both of Himself and of His creation. He wills and purposes the execution of the good design, and He aims at the completion and perfection of imperfect, created things through the blessings that He possesses. Therefore, He is all-good. Furthermore, He possesses ability to perfection. God is able to effect everything He wills and no other power may hinder His activity; therefore, He is all­powerful.

Thus God is all-wise, all-good, and all-powerful. In these three qualities is contained the whole nature of God. God not only is infinite being, unchangeable, absolute, necessary, and imperishable, but also is all-wise, all-good, and all-powerful. These attributes of God – complete wisdom, complete goodness, and complete power – we will examine in their wider implications at a later stage.

With the knowledge we have gained about the nature of God, let us examine the previous statements in detail. We must bear them in mind because our mental picture of God is the most important of our thoughts, and we should think of it in such a way that a sense of reverence for God is awakened in us, with its life giving power. It is only when we think of God, and think about Him as Christ taught us, that our worship of Him is real. True knowledge of God generates godliness, theosis, and ultimately, salvation.

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