God, nature of

God, nature of
   It is not surprising that the nature of God has been of great interest and concern to Christian philosophers, who have devoted considerable time and energy to expounding what can be known of the divine nature and rebutting atheistic objections to it. Perhaps three broad approaches can be identified: (1) perfect-being theology, which seeks to analyse the divine nature in the light of the single defining attribute of perfection or 'maximal greatness'; (2) creation theology, which seeks to postulate as features of the divine nature those features that we can see reflected in, or are needed to explain, the world around us; and (3) purely biblical theology, which seeks to attribute to the divine nature only those features that are attributed to God in special revelation. Attributes traditionally held to be part of the divine nature are omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, perfect goodness and eternity. Much philosophical discussion has gone into the explication of these attributes, their defence against atheistic objections, and arguing for the existence of a being that possesses them. One of the other attributes traditionally ascribed to God is divine simplicity. In its strongest form the doctrine of divine simplicity asserts that each of God's attributes is identical with each of his attributes, and that God himself is identical with this attribute. In other words, God is his nature. Indeed, on this approach it may seem as if the very word 'nature' is inappropriate when we are talking of God. Many modern philosophers (such as Alvin Plantinga), however, see no need to embrace the doctrine of divine simplicity in such a strong form, insisting that our intuitions about the unity of the divine nature can be satisfied by thinking of a single attribute, such as maximal greatness, as somehow determining the other, distinct, attributes.
   Further reading: Hill, Daniel J. 2005; Kretzmann 1997; Morris 1991; Swinburne 1993a; Wierenga 1989

Christian Philosophy . . 2015.

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