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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: Understanding the God of the Bible

Don Stewart :: Should We Attempt to Categorize the Attributes, or Characteristics, of God?

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Should We Attempt to Categorize the Attributes, or Characteristics, of God?

Understanding the God of the Bible – Question 3

For convenience sake, those who have carefully studied the Scripture have divided the attributes or perfections of God into different categories. A number of observations need to be made about this practice.

1. The Bible Does Not Divide Up God’s Attributes

To begin with, Scripture does not make any division of God’s attributes. Indeed, they are never categorized for us. Consequently, any division will be human-made, and this will only be for the sake of convenience. The result will be that we can better understanding God’s Person.

2. There Is No Agreement upon the Division of Attributes

In addition, there is no agreement among Bible-believers as to how the various attributes of God should be divided. Students of God’s Word divide these attributes differently from one another.

Thus, there is no clear, or set way in which to list His characteristics. This should also make us cautious about how we categorize these various characteristics of God’s nature.

3. There Is Much Overlap between the Attributes

There is also much overlap in any division of God’s attributes. Because we are describing a Person, God, there will be some characteristics of His person that fit into a number of different categories.

Therefore categorizing them is not that helpful. Each description that we give must be understood in light of everything the Bible says about God’s nature.

4. There Are Attributes That God and Humans Have in Common

Some divide God’s attributes along the lines of those shared with humankind, such as love and personality. There are indeed a number of attributes that God and humans have in common. These attributes, that human beings have, reflect the divine nature.

5. God’s Attributes Are Not the Same as Human Attributes

While God and humans have some attributes in common, God’s attributes are not the same as human attributes. There are only degrees of comparison. Humans have some knowledge but God has all-knowledge. Humans can be present in one place but God is present everywhere. Humans have some power but the God of the Bible is all-powerful. Humans can love God can love. Humans can hate and God can hate. These attributes are not exactly the same. God’s love is perfect so is His hatred of sin. Our love, on the other hand, is not perfect.

6. Some Attributes Are Unique to God Alone

There are a number of attributes that belong to God and Him alone. This includes such things as the fact that He has existed forever, or His eternity, and that He is without limits, or infinity. Humans, as created beings, have nothing in common with certain attributes of God. He has always existed and has no human limitations. There is nothing we have in our experience to which to compare them.

Therefore, when we do categorize God by His attributes, we are doing it more the sake of convenience and for our understanding. There are not hard and fast rules.

Summary – Question 3
Should We Attempt to Categorize the Attributes, or Characteristics, of God?

One of the ways in which we learn about God is by studying His individual attributes or characteristics. However, when we attempt to categorize the attributes of God there are a number of things that we must realize.

First, the Bible does not do this. It never attempts to place the various characteristics of God into categories. Thus, we are making up human-made categories. While this is not something which is wrong to do, we cannot assume that we can come up with some perfect list.

This brings us to our next point. There is no agreement among Bible-believers as to how the various attributes should be categorized. This illustrates the fact that we are not dealing with hard and fast categories. We categorize God’s attributes for the sake of convenience. Individual Bible teachers will not always categorize them the same.

In addition, there is much overlap between God’s attributes. Consequently, one particular attribute may fit into a number of categories. This further illustrates some of the difficulties we face when we categorize God’s characteristics.

Some place these characteristics into two categories. They consist of the attributes that humans and God have in common, and attributes that belong to God alone. Those perfections that humans and God have in common are not exactly the same. God’s characteristics are perfect, while ours are imperfect.

Finally, there are characteristics that belong to God alone. Indeed, many of God’s attributes can only be known through divine revelation. There is nothing in our experience to which we can relate.

This sums up some of the important things we need to realize as we begin our study of God’s attributes.

What Are Some Important Things to Understand about God and His Attributes? ← Prior Section
In What Sense Is Our Knowledge about the God of Scripture Limited? Next Section →
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