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.

JeffLogan's picture

Dan, I'd like to comment on *updated*

Dan, I'd like to comment on both positions.

Dan summarized Jeff's position as follows:
"1. One of you is saying God could not remain God if He sinned, or lied. That by definition God is all good and therefore He cannot sin or lie. Scripture says God cannot lie. If God were go lie would He stop being God? Does that reflect Jeff's position right?"

That is basically my position.

Another writer has stated it this way.

    "Can God be limited? Many Bible passages proclaim that God is all-powerful, all-seeing, and all-knowing. While God is unlimited by time, space, or force, His very character has determined that He will never do some things, because to do them would be inconsistent with His principles—viz., God’s nature prevents Him from such things. For example, God cannot lie."

    -God Cannot Lie, by Caleb Colley, M.L.A.
    Source: as of 4/2/2011.

Then he cites the following passage of scripture.

    Numbers 23:19: “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?”

    1 Samuel 15:29: “And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor relent. For He is not a man, that He should relent.”

    Psalm 92:15: “To declare that the Lord is upright; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.”

    Malachi 3:6: “For I am the Lord, I do not change.”

    Romans 3:4: “Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar.”

    Titus 1:2: “[I]n hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began.”

    Hebrews 6:18: “[I]t is impossible for God to lie.”

    James 1:17-18: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.”

Dan summarized ML's position as follows:
"2. The other is saying that for God to be God He can, by definition, do what He pleases. He chooses not to sin but He could sin if He chose to do so. God would remain God no matter what His actions were. Is that Michael's contention?"

It seems inconceivable to us that God could be incapable of doing anything. After all, scripture even states that "with God all things are possible." ML's case presents God as All-powerful and reasons thusly that being All-powerful places no limits on what God can do, not even when it comes to evil (sin of lying). But sin is not a strength, it is a weakness. Men do not sin by choice, they do it by nature through weakness of moral character. They cannot choose to be free of sin; they are captives to it and cannot free themselves from its bondage. Thus, they have no choice but to sin. This is not a position of strength but of utter helplessness.

Only someone who is weak can be over-powered by sin. If given the choice most people would rather avoid the inconveniences of sin. They regret the ill-spoken words which cause others hurt. They despise their deceitful ways and hate the same in others. They feel remorse that they cannot be naturally kind. Yet, without Christ they will continually fail. For they are human and weak. Saying that God cannot sin does not therefore limit His Omnipotence but reaffirms it.

Another point. Sin is the transgression of God's law. God's laws is based upon the principles of love and truth which are the very essence of His nature. The two greatest laws being, "Love the Lord with all your heart," and "love thy neighbor as thyself." Scripture tells us that "God IS love." God does not merely love, the very expression of His essence is love. And Jesus said of Himself, "I am the Truth." But of Satan He said, "he was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies." John 8:44 NLT.

God's consistency of character is directly attributable to His very essence. His goodness cannot be overcome by evil. And yet it is not by will-power that God restrains Himself from evil. God is pure and cannot be tempted by evil. There is nothing in His nature or character which is flawed such that sin would find a resounding chord in Him. Jesus said that the prince of this world could find nothing in Him.

    Barnes' Notes on the Bible

    John 14:30

    Hath nothing in me - There is in me no principle or feeling that accords with his, and nothing, therefore, by which he can prevail. Temptation has only power because there are some principles in us which accord with the designs of the tempter, and which may be excited by presenting corresponding objects until our virtue be overcome. Where there is no such propensity, temptation has no power. As the principles of Jesus were wholly on the side of virtue, the meaning here may be that, though he had the natural appetites of man, his virtue was so supreme that Satan "had nothing in him" which could constitute any danger that he would be led into sin, and that there was no fear of the result of the conflict before him.

[begin edit] I would like to add that Jesus, while fully man and fully God, had no propensity to sin and did not through exercise create an appetite for sin. He took upon Himself the likeness of our sinful flesh weakened as it was by sin but He did not take our sinful nature--something claimed for Mary. He was without sin. He subjected Himself to temptation but evil found nothing in Him that touched a cord. As the Last Adam, Jesus was born without sin. He posssed the same nature Adam had at creation. He was perfect in all His ways. Yet, He took upon Himself the likeness of our sinful flesh. He faced temptation but did not yield. He did not entertain the seeds of doubt nor embrace the lies which Satan offered Him. His constant watch-word was the Word of God. He came to redeem the human race as the second Adam by offering us a new heritage. He walked the same path the original Adam had walked on behalf of all mankind but unlike the first Adam He never sinned, nor even stumbled. As God His Divinity precluded Him from evil. But as man He could face the same temptations we face. Scripture says that He was tempted in all points just as we are.

    Hebrews 4 NIV

    14Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. 16Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

[end edit]

Many think that sin is what we do, some outward deed or word. But the truth is sin dwells in our hearts. We are the bad tree which cannot produce good fruit, the sour well which cannot bring forth sweet water. It is out of the heart than sin boils to the surface and overflows into the life.

    Matthew 15

    17“Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? 18But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean.’ 19For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20These are what make a man ‘unclean’; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him ‘unclean.’”

[begin edit] It is God's nature which defines righteousness and therefore it also defines sin. Whatever is contrary to God's nature is sin. Sin is the absence of righteousness, of godliness. It is not something God refrains from but something absolutely opposed to His very nature. The natural man is not pure, nor good, nor can it live in harmony with God's will. [end edit] This is why we need to be reborn. We were born of Adam our natural father and he passed on to us our sinful nature. He could not pass a righteous nature to us because he did not posses one. But Jesus is pure. There is no sin in Him. When we are reborn of Jesus we partake of His nature. It is then that we can produce good fruit and sweet water, for Christ dwells in our hearts by faith. And with Him living in us it is no longer us who lives but Christ living in us. It is His goodness which comes out of our reborn heart.

Satan had tried to overcome the Last Adam as he had overcome the 1st, but he could find nothing in Jesus to lure him onto his grounds and thereby overcome him and cause him to sin against His Father in Heaven. Jesus overcame where the 1st Adam had failed. In all points His character was tested but He has no sin. Satan tried every allurement known to overcome man but none of these found any response in Christ for He was pure--that is, free from sin. It is inconsistent with God's very essences for Him to partake of evil. Evil is contrary to God, two opposites. Evil would necessarily be present in Him, along with the good, for Him to be capable of choosing between the two. But if this were the case then not only would He be a house divided but He would also be unjust to condemn in us something that resides in Him. So to suggest that He merely restrains Himself from evil, neccesitates that both natures co-exist in Him.

Therefore, I reject all notions, however slight they be, that God can do evil and He only restrains Himself from doing it. For that suggests that God is not pure but that both evil and good dwell in Him. And that is not the picture of God presented in scripture. And am I glad! "While God is unlimited by time, space, or force, His very character has determined that He will never do some things, because to do them would be inconsistent with His principles—viz., God’s nature prevents Him from such things."

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“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you."