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Attributes of God

Paul K. Moser on God as a Title Not a Name


Setting the bar high, indeed as high as possible, we will approach the term “God” as a supreme title of personal perfection rather than a proper name. (We can always lower the bar if our overall evidence calls for this.) Likewise, some variants of monotheism suggest that the term “God” is a normative title requiring worthiness of worship. Given such a title, no mere potentate who dominated over all others will qualify as God. Something beyond domination is needed, because worthiness of worship is needed. Such worthiness is normative, not merely descriptive, and therefore does not support the false claim that “might makes right.” According to this view, “God” is not God’s name, because the term “God” is a normative title. A title can be meaningful but lack a titleholder. In talking about God, then, we can give a fair hearing to proponents of atheism and agnosticism without begging questions against them or otherwise dismissing them.

David Bentley Hart on the Discipline of Theology


The majority of the faculty of most modern universities would surely regard the claim that theology constitutes some kind of “science” absurd and presumptuous. ¶ Religion, after all (as  everyone knows), is a realm of purely personal conviction sustained by faith, which is (as everyone also knows) an entirely irrational movement of the will, an indistinct impulse of saccharine sentiment, pathetic longing, childish credulity, and vague intuition. And theology, being the special language of religion, is by definition a collection of vacuous assertions, zealous exhortations, and beguiling fables; it is the peculiar patois of a private fixation or tribal allegiance, of interest perhaps to the psychopathologist or anthropologist, but of no greater scientific value than that; surely it has no proper field of study of its own, no real object to investigate, and whatever rules it obeys must be essentially arbitrary.

Seriously Dangerous Religion


The Old Testament is often maligned as an outmoded and even dangerous text. Best-selling authors like Richard Dawkins, Karen Armstrong, and Derrick Jensen are prime examples of those who find the Old Testament to be problematic to modern sensibilities. Iain Provan counters that such easy and popular readings misunderstand the Old Testament. He opposes modern misconceptions of the Old Testament by addressing ten fundamental questions that the biblical text should–and according to Provan does–answer: questions such as “Who is God?” and “Why do evil and suffering mark the world?” By focusing on Genesis and drawing on other Old Testament and extra-biblical sources, Seriously Dangerous Religionconstructs a more plausible reading. As it turns out, Provan argues, the Old Testament is far more dangerous than modern critics even suppose. Its dangers are the bold claims it makes upon its readers.

The Severity of God


This book explores the role of divine severity in the character and wisdom of God, and the flux and difficulties of human life in relation to divine salvation. Much has been written on problems of evil, but the matter of divine severity has received relatively little attention. Paul K. Moser discusses the function of philosophy, evidence and miracles in approaching God. He argues that if God’s aim is to extend without coercion His lasting life to humans, then commitment to that goal could manifest itself in making human life severe, for the sake of encouraging humans to enter into that cooperative good life. In this scenario, divine agapē is conferred as free gift, but the human reception of it includes stress and struggle in the face of conflicting powers and priorities. Moser’s work will be of great interest to students of the philosophy of religion, and theology. ~  Publisher’s Description

Alvin Plantinga on God and Personhood


According to classical theistic belief — classical Muslim and Jewish as well as Christian belief — first of all there is God, the chief being of the universe, who has neither beginning nor end. Most important, God is personal. That is, God is the kind of being who is conscious and enjoys some kind of awareness of his surroundings (in God’s case, that would be everything). Second (though not second in importance), a person has loves and hates, wishes and desires; she approves of some things and disapproves of others; she wants things to be a certain way. We might put this by saying that persons have affections. A person, third, is a being who has beliefs and, if fortunate, knowledge. We human beings, for example, believe a host of things… Persons, therefore, have beliefs and affections. Further, a person is a being who has aims and intentions; a person aims to bring it about that things should be a certain way, intends to act so that things will be the way he wants them to be… Finally, persons can often act to fulfill their intentions; they can bring it about that things are a certain way; they can cause things to happen. To be more technical (though not more insightful or more clear), we might say that a person is a being who can actualize states of affairs. Persons can often act on the basis of what they believe in order to bring about states of affairs whose actuality they desire. ¶ So a person is conscious, has affections, beliefs, and intentions, and can act… First, therefore, God is a person. But second, unlike human persons, God is a person without a body. He acts, and acts in the world, as human beings do, but, unlike human beings, not by way of a body. Rather, God acts just by willing: he wills that things be a certain way, and they are that way. (God said “Let there be light”; and there was light.)

Our Idea of God


Many people, even within the ranks of devout religious believers, have only the haziest conception of God. A significant number of such people admit that this vagueness about God bothers them deeply, but that they don’t know how to go about getting clearer on this important idea. Our Idea Of God assists in dealing with this problem. Thomas V. Morris provides an example of how simple, straightforward philosophical methods of thinking can shed some light on theological matters that might otherwise remain obscure. Morris challenges his reader, stimulating deeper thinking about matters of religious conviction. He offers a basic introduction to philosophical theology. The philosophical issues that can arise concerning the concept of God can become very complex. Recent treatments of these issues by philosophers have been as technical and demanding as pioneering work in any other field of serious human intellectual inquiry. In contrast, Morris’s discussions, while containing much original material, are streamlined, and as accessible as possible to non-philosophers. There are many more technical treatises available for those readers who want to pursue these topics further, but Our Idea Of God provides a place to begin. ~ Product Description

Stewart Guthrie on Anthropomorphising God


‘But if oxen (and horses) and lions…. could draw with hands and create works of art like those made by men, horses would draw pictures of gods like horses, and oxen of gods like oxen. … Aethiopians have gods with snub noses and black hair, Thracians have gods with grey eyes and red hair.’ Like many later critics of anthropomorphism, Xenophanes evidently did not question the gods themselves but only their human attributes. Later Western writers think the Greek gods especially anthropomorphic, but gods in many other religions are equally so.

David Hume on the Incomprehensibility of God


All the sentiments of the human mind, gratitude, resentment, love, friendship, approbation, blame, pity, emulation, envy, have a plain reference to the state and situation of man, and are calculated for preserving the existence, and promoting the activity of such a being in such circumstances. It seems therefore unreasonable to transfer such sentiments to a supreme existence, or to suppose him actuated by them ; and the phenomena, besides, of the universe will not support us in such a theory. All our ideas, derived from the senses’ are confusedly false and illusive ; and cannot, therefore, be supposed to have place in a supreme intelligence: And as the ideas of internal sentiment, added to those of the external senses, compose the whole furniture of human understanding, we may conclude, that none of the materials of thought are in any respect similar in the human and in the divine intelligence. Now, as to the manner of thinking; how can we make any comparison between them, or suppose them anywise resembling? Our thought is fluctuating, uncertain, fleeting, successive, and compounded; and were we to remove these circumstances, we absolutely annihilate its essence, and it would, in such a case, be an abuse of terms to apply to it the name of thought or reason. At least, if it appear more pious and respectful (as it really is) still to retain these terms, when we mention the Supreme Being, we ought to acknowledge, that their meaning, in that case, is totally incomprehensible; and that the infirmities of our nature do not permit us to reach any ideas, which in the least correspond to the ineffable sublimity of the divine attributes.