God: Now in convenient chart format

Tim Challies introduces a chart detailing the attributes of God as part of his ongoing “Visual Theology” series:

(click to embiggen)

If it’s still difficult to read, Tim Challies has a link to a larger picture and pdf in his post. It certainly gives us plenty of fodder for quibbling about the details (which is what the Christian life is about, after all). I’m not sure why God’s eternity requires him to experience “no succession of moments”, for example- I’m guessing that is the influence of Wayne Grudem, cited on the chart, who has consistently failed to impress me with his grasp of the issues surrounding the philosophy of time and God.

But do give the chart a look. There’s enough code-wording to communicate that a certain theological slant is lurking behind the curtains, but it seems agreeable enough. What looks especially commendable? Any egregious errors?



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10 Replies to “God: Now in convenient chart format”

  1. Interesting; a few things strike me as odd, although it may be due to my lack of theological training.

    1. Eternal is defined, in part, as “experiencing no succession of moments”. Did Christ not experience a succession of moments? Christ is fully God, right? You bring this up too, Joel, but it bears repeating.

    2. I have no idea what he means by Glory. The “created brightness”? Did God create his own glory– meaning there was a time before he created it? Is it literally bright?

    3. Is the understanding of “truthfulness” viciously circular? If God’s knowledge and words are both the truth and the standard of truth, all that means is that God’s knowledge and words are God’s knowledge and words.

    4. Is the definition of Omnipresence not equivalent to Panentheism, which presumably would not be something Challies would advocate?

    It’s a mildly interesting chart, but I feel like it needs refinement. Still, it does manage to remain simple and clear on many topics that are difficult to explain concisely.

    1. I think a lot of the points are simplifications of things that Grudem has written about in his “Systematic Theology” (it’s like the Little Red Book of the New Calvinist movement). So stuff like the definition of Glory are probably idiosyncratic definitions to that particular strain of Evangelical thought. Likewise I seem to remember a long discussion in his Systematic Theology about panentheism and omnipresence. But I agree, for what it tries to be its alright, although there are a lot of things to question.

  2. Challies is obviously grossly unaware of the Openness debate since he defines God’s omniscience with the phrase “[God knows] all possible things.” What “possible” things exist in a view of time that presupposes exhaustive definite foreknowledge? None. There are no “possibilities” when only certainties exist in the future, as Calvinists like Challies dogmatically argue. Only Open and Relational theists argue that the future contains “possible” events, because “possible” necessarily means “not necessarily certain.”

    Furthermore, when classical theists like Challies write their lists of divine attributes they routinely deny the divinity of Jesus Christ. Was Jesus Christ not “made up of matter”? Surely Thomas touched matter, did he not? Surely the nails pierced matter, did they not? I guess Jesus wasn’t God then, and doesn’t forever exist as the God-Man now.

    1. I’m not sure how knowledgeable Challies is about the openness debate. He never has anything nice to say about Open Theism, but I don’t recall him ever going in depth on his blog about it. Obviously if Grudem is the major resource behind this chart then its going to be uncomplimentary to non-determinist Christian conceptions of God. In regards to “possible” clause in the definition of omniscience, I think the determinist would define “possibles” as logically possible but unactualized situations; God could have eternally predetermined A but if He had chosen to He could have actualized B instead. But yes, possible seems to make more sense in non-determinist contexts.

      In regards to your second point, I don’t think that this classical definition of God disqualifies Christ from being divine. This chart is, if I understand it, explaining the essential attributes of God- if God did not have these qualities then He is not God. To say that Jesus is God, and Jesus had attributes A B and C, is not to say that God essentially has attributes A B and C.

  3. Josh, it could be that I’m just dense, but, to me, saying that God is “not made up of matter” rules out the possibility of Jesus being in any sense “fully God.” Perhaps Jesus could be “like” God in some characteristics (kindness, mercy, etc.). But I see no way in which Christ could have “all the fullness of the Deity” in him “bodily” while upholding Challies’ criterion. In the present schema (the God-can’t-be-made-up-of-matter schema), it seems the only way Jesus could be “God” is in a way you and I can be “God.” Jesus could not have been God in any unique way.

    Jesus said that if we have seen him (John adds they touched him, beheld his glory, etc.), we have seen the Father. I’m not sure how by that he actually meant “don’t take all my attributes to be necessarily indicative of God.” Isn’t it just as likely that the “matter” of which Jesus was “made” was divine matter? He was physically touched by Thomas, yet he walked through walls. No matter I know of has that kind of composition.

    Is “matter” beneath God? (Perhaps God needed a Demiurge to create the world) Is “spirit” somehow better than matter? Sounds blatantly Platonic, and perhaps Gnostic, to me.

    1. Affirming the incarnation is tricky business to me, in the sense that I don’t want to come down too firmly on saying “this is the precise formulation of what it means to be fully man and fully God”. I’m not convinced that there needs to be a reformulation of certain classical theist notions of God’s essential attributes, like disembodiment. To say that God is essentially non-embodied in no way precludes the incarnation; it just means that embodiment is not part of what it means to be God. In fact, I would say that this view glorifies the incarnation because it makes God’s embodiment something He freely chose, a way of submission that was not necessary for him to take.

      Discussing the possibility of “divine matter” is fun, but I don’t see scriptural reason to think its essentially connected to God’s being. Jesus’ statement about “if you have seen me you have seen the Father” was said to the disciples before his resurrection, after all.

      The most problematic thing with the reasoning “Jesus had property X, therefore God has property X” is that it leads to some odd conclusions; its almost a reductio argument in that way. Jesus had black hair and a beard, therefore one of the attributes of God is having black hair and a beard. Jesus was male, therefore God is male. Offhand, and as an admittedly untrained and uneducated part of the laity, sticking with classical theists on this point looks wise.

  4. OK, I do not know anything about theology. But I process data input. In this case, data provided by you. I was impressed by your post on Julian of Norwich. I never heard of her before. But what she said makes sense. She said God loves. Sin is a necessary learning process for humans.
    Not too bad for someone living in the 1300-1400’s (Black death, world coming to an end, repent, you caused it).
    So…the “Box” = “Wrath”, “God intensely hates all sins” ~ DOES NOT COMPUTE.
    More rationale, OT = hate and discontent.
    example one: Midianite woman lure Israelite men into bed, then to Baal.
    Not the men’s fault. Has to be the women’s fault.
    God must “love” them by exterminating the Midianite people; men, women, children.
    Example 2: Adam and Eve are doing pretty well. But God puts a tree with fruit in front of them. Pick the wrong fruit, and you, and all your generations are wacked with death.
    A little like putting an ding dong in front of a 5 year old, and telling him not to eat it.

    Jealousy box might have a problem too. Sounds like the chart was generated by a literalist.

    1. Hi Gary, the post about Julian of Norwich was posted by Joel. This is his blog, but as an act of Christian charity he allows homeless people like me to post here. In any case, I’m not familiar enough with Julian to address incongruence between her and this chart. But I do believe Challies (the creator of this chart) would self-identify as a literalist of sorts, although probably with qualifications.

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