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|Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky|
Orthodox dogmatic theology
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The attributes of God.
Speaking of the attributes of God, the Holy Fathers indicate that their multiplicity, considering
the simplicity of the essence, is a result of our own inability to find a mystical and single
means of viewing the Divinity. In God, one attribute is an aspect of another. God is righteous:
this implies that He is also blessed and good and Spirit. The multiple simplicity in God is like thelight of the sun, which reveals itself in the various colors that are received by bodies on the earth,
for example, by plants.
In the enumeration of the attributes of God in the Holy Fathers and in the texts of the Divine
services, there is a preponderance of expressions that are grammatically in a negative form, that
is, with the prefixes “a-” or “un-.” However, one must keep in view, that this negative form indicates
a “negation of limits,” as for example: “not unknowing” actually signifies “knowing.”
Thus, the negative form is really an affirmation of attributes that are without limit. We may find a
model of such expressions in the Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith by St. John Damascene:
“God is unoriginate, unending, eternal, constant, uncreated, unchanging, unalterable, simple, uncomplicated,
bodiless, invisible, intangible, indescribable, without bounds, inaccessible to the
mind, uncontainable, incomprehensible, good, righteous, the Creator of all creatures, the Almighty
Pantocrator, He who looketh down upon all, whose Providence is over everything, Who
has dominion over all, the judge.”
Our thoughts about God in general speak: 1) either about His distinction from the created
world (for example, God is unoriginate, while the world has an origin; He is endless, while the
world has an end; He is eternal, while the world exists in time); or 2) about the activities of God
in the world and the relation of the Creator to His creations (Creator, Providence, Merciful,
In indicating the attributes of God, we do not thereby give a “definition” of the concept of
God Such a definition is essentially impossible, because every definition is an indication of” finiteness”
(In Russian, Father Michael is indicating here the derivation of the word opredeleniye (“definition”)
from predel (“limit” or “boundary”). In English the same thing is true: “definition” derives from the Latin finis,
“limit.”) and signifies, incompleteness. However, in God there are no limits, and therefore there
cannot be a definition of the concept of the Divinity: “For a concept is itself a form of limitation”
(St. Gregory the Theologian, Homily 28, his Second Theological Oration).
Our reason demands the acknowledgement in God of a whole series of essential attributes.
Reason tells us that God has a rational, free, and personal existence. If in the imperfect world we
see free and rational personal beings, we cannot fail to recognize a free and rational personal existence
in God Himself, who is the Source, Cause, and Creator of all life
Reason tells us that God is a most perfect Being. Every lack and imperfection are incompatible
with the concept of “God.”
Reason tells us that the most perfect Being can be only singular: God is One. There cannot
be two perfect beings, since one would limit the other.
Reason tells us that God is a self-existing Being, since nothing can be the cause or condition
of the existence of God.