HOT TOPIC: God's Nature vs His Character

michael_legna's picture

In another thread we veered off ending up discussing the Nature of God esepcially His omniscience and omnipotence.

I hold that God is ALL powerful and ALL knowing and He just chooses not to do somethings and to not know certain things when it suits His plans.

The other side of the argument is that there are certain things God cannot do, like sin. That it is not just Him choosing to not sin but that He is completely incapable of sin, that it is an actual limit to His omnipotence and omniscience.

This thread is meant to give all an opportunity to present arguments for either side.

I will begin by posting a few responses to the last few posts of one other poster in the previous thread.

michael_legna's picture

If God is not even capable of sin how can Jesus be tempted?

The opening post reads, "The other side of the argument is that there are certain things God cannot do, like sin. That it is not just Him choosing to not sin but that He is completely incapable of sin, that it is an actual limit to His omnipotence and omniscience."

JeffLogan said -
The foundation for this position addresses the question, "Is God Righteous, or does He merely refrain from sinning?"

You misunderstand the definition of righteous if you think it requires the inability to sin. If one is capable of sinning and then completely refrains from sinning they are righteous. The reason no man is righteous is not because they are capable of sin, but because they actually sin. If man could refrain from sinning they would be righteous.

JeffLogan said -
First of all

Let's establish a bases from scripture.

A Tree and Its Fruit

Matthew 7:15“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them."

How does this establish a basis for the idea that one has to be incapable of sin in order to be righteous? The inability of men to refrain from sin does not prove that God is not able to refrain from sin but is simply incapable of sin. In fact to assert that God is not relying on His strength of will and character to refrain from sin, but simply cannot sin implies His will is weaker than some men’s because it never succeeds because it is never tested. This idea of an inability to sin also contradicts the idea that Christ was tempted just as we are, and thus can commiserate with us because he truly has lived a life like ours.

Heb 4:15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.

Jesus was truly God and He was tempted, and refrained from sinning, He was not merely incapable of sinning because then He could not have felt our infirmities.

Jeff Logan said -
Interpreting

Now we know from life's experience that a tree can produce bad and good fruit. A portion of the tree can be damaged or dead and produce bad fruit while another portion can produce perfectly good fruit. So Jesus isn't just talking about horticulture. He is using simple everyday examples to illustrate spiritual truths. The spiritual truth He is establishing here is that the human heart cannot produce anything good because it is impure.

No this is taking this verse way too literally and failing to interpret it in light of several other verses. First we know we are not to trust our judging of others merely by external appearance. Jesus warns of it:

Mat 23:27 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness.

To all outward appearances the Pharisees produced good fruits, but Jesus could see into their heart and knew they were rotten inside. But this form of judgment is beyond mere men, which is why we are told to judge not lest we be judged. (Matt 7:1 and Luke6:37). John too warns against this idea of fruit judging:

John 7:24 Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.

Finally James bring the point home forcefully by declaring that if judge based on outward signs, if we become a respecter of men based on their appearances, we have put ourselves forward as judges of evil thoughts – something we clearly are not competent to do.

James 2:1-4 1 My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. 2 For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; 3 And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: 4 Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?

JeffLogan said -
But at the same time the heart of God cannot produce anything bad because it is pure. That is the spiritual truth Jesus is relating.

You are assuming your conclusion to use as premise in your argument, that is not a valid form of developing an argument.

Jeff Logan said -
Now if God is pure, can He produce bad fruit?

Sure He can (because He is almighty) but He chooses not to.

JeffLogan said -
The answer, based on Jesus' principle, is No!

I think you are developing a principle where one is not intended pushing a teaching further than it was meant to go and this principle does not agree with the rest of the scripture.

JeffLogan said –
So to suggest that God, who is pure, simply restrains His evil inclinations from manifesting themselves outwardly is absurd.

Yet Jesus did precisely that. I believe to declare God is not only incapable of that strong a will but actually not even required to have such a will is in my mind absurd.

JeffLogan said -
A second thought...

God is love. God is not simply loving but His nature defines love. Anything that God does, therefore, is love. And since love fulfills the law, anything God does also fulfills His law. I am speaking of His moral law. We have already learned from scripture that God is not restrained by the laws which govern nature when He miraculously caused the sun to stand still. But to carry that exception over into the moral sphere and arrive at the conclusion that God can lie, He only restrains Himself, is a blasphemous accusation against God.

First, I think we should refrain from accusing each other of blasphemy here since we are investigating the nature of God, a nature which in it entirety is well beyond anything either of us can understand and even beyond anything our language is capable of handling. I think denying God’s omnipotence could be seen as blasphemy as well but I suspect you do not do it with the intent of blaspheming so I hope you can extend the same understanding to my intentions when I disagree with your understanding.

Second I wonder why you think even the concept of Love is not tied to creation. Love as man understands it is part of who we are, and because creation shows in its characteristics only an incomplete glimpse of the nature of God I would not be so quick to draw conclusions as to how that correlates with what God can and cannot do. God is described as love in this creation because whatever the nature of God can only be described in our meager languages and concepts as love. It is His way of revealing Himself through creation as much as that creation allows. It is not an ultimate restriction on God or His nature, just another free choice on His part to limit Himself (or at least His revealing of Himself) to the creation He chose to create. There is nothing to say that He could not have done creation completely differently.

Summary

If the ability to lie lies with God, and He only restrains Himself from lying, then Jesus also lied when He accused Satan of being the father of lies because Jesus was before Lucifer was. Jesus was from eternity and Lucifer was created.

God does not become the father of lies just because He is capable of it, especially when we both admit He does not sin (either by choice or inability). Satan is the father of lies because he actually did lie. Your argument is simply flawed in this case.

JeffLogan said -
Now we find ourselves in a real predicament--if God can lie then He cannot be trusted and we have no assurance that He will fulfill His promises to us. If that is the case then we might as well eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we will die. Where is there any hope? If we cannot trust God then whom can we trust?

No His ability to lie does not mean He is untrustworthy. One who is untrustworthy is one who is both capable AND cannot be relied on to not do what he is capable of. But since God is reliable, through His perfect will, not to lie we can trust Him.

If God is not almighty how is it that Jesus said that all things are possible for God including removing the cup from Him in His prayer in the garden? Wouldn't this have constituted a going back on His promise of providing a Messiah/Savior? God didn't do it, because He has a perfect will, but He clearly was capable of doing so or else Christ was wrong about Him being able to do all things.




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