Is God Perfectly Good? Part II

This a continuation from the  previous post. Part II follows:

Theological Foundations for God’s Perfection

            Geisler proposes three justifications for God’s perfection.[1] First, knowledge of the imperfect implies the perfect. When mankind looks around and makes a judgment of what he sees, he is making a judgment, a comparison. Judgment requires, there must be a standard for comparison.[2]

There are many instruments in a large industrial facility which needs calibration on a regular basis. A national standard (National Institute of Standards) compares the accuracies of those gauges used for calibrations once a year. It is by using a known standard this instrument’s calibrations are acceptable. Therefore to recognize the imperfect, the knowledge of the perfect must exist, that perfect is God.

Second, God’s metaphysical attributes demand his moral perfection.[3] Geisler presents the following syllogism:

The reasoning goes like this:

(1) God’s nature is morally perfect.

(2) God is infinite, unchangeable, and necessary by nature.

(3) Therefore, God is infinitely, unchangeably, and necessarily morally perfect.[4]

Third, God’s function as the ultimate moral standard demands His moral perfection.[5] Geisler declares, “It is recognized that God is the ultimate standard for what is morally right: He is the ultimate Moral Lawgiver. The ultimate source of all moral perfection cannot be less than ultimately perfect; the ultimate measure of morality is by its very nature morally perfect. God can no less be perfect than a good yardstick can be less than three feet long.”[6]

God’s perfection is provable on numerous levels, and the belief in God’s perfection exists from the early church fathers to the present. In Chapter Eight Geisler declared:

Sacred Scripture asserts that God is absolutely perfect. There cannot be two beings who are absolutely perfect, for to be two they must differ; otherwise, they would be the same. To differ, one would have to possess some perfection that the other lacked. But the one who lacked some perfection would not be absolutely perfect; therefore, there can be only one Being who is absolutely perfect—holy, in the metaphysical sense.[7]

The question of this dissertation is not whether God is perfect, but what is God’s essence. The remainder of this chapter will use Pohle’s four-point test to determine God’s essence.[8]

The first test is primum in cognitione, is the attribute the first to be conceived. To answer the first question Pohle asserts, “What is God?”[9] The answer to this first question Pohle asserts, “The more general and more ancient opinion among theologians favors the view that aseity constitutes the metaphysical essence of God.”[10] Yes, God is self-existent, but if he were not perfectly self-existent at some point, he would cease to exist. One thing life has made plain, if there is a flaw or weakness in a substance, that substance would eventually cease to exist. Therefore, since God has continued without flaw, God not only self-exists but he perfectly self-exists.

Pohle’s second test, “It must signify God’s very being, not merely the status or mode of his being.”[11] Earlier in this chapter, it was shown God’s perfection is not only theologically proven but is supported by scholars of the church from the earliest church fathers all the way to the present. God’s perfection expresses God ‘s very being. Geisler communicates:

God is perfect in every way. “He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he” (Deut. 32:4). “As for God, his way is perfect” (2 Sam. 22:31). “It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect” (2 Sam. 22:33). “Do you know how the clouds hang poised, those wonders of him who is perfect in knowledge? (Job 37:16). “As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the Lord is flawless” (Ps. 18:30). “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul” (Ps. 19:7). “The Lord will fulfill [perfect] his purpose for me; your love, O Lord, endures forever—do not abandon the works of your hands” (Ps. 138:8). “O Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done marvelous things, things planned long ago” (Isa. 25:1). “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). “Then you will be able to test and approve … God’s … good, pleasing and perfect will” (Rom. 12:2). “When perfection comes, the imperfect disappears” (1 Cor. 13:10). “We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ” (Col. 1:28). “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17). “The man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom … will be blessed in what he does” (James 1:25). “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18).[12]

Perfection does not just express an attribute, but God’s very existence comprises his perfection. Barth states, “But everything which can be described as perfect is so because He is this thing. He not only has it as others have it. He has it as His own exclusively. And not only so, but He is it so that it has its essential being in him.”[13]

Pohle’s third test, “It must present a clear-cut distinction, after the analogy of an ultimate or specific difference, between God and everything that is not God.”[14] Paul the Apostle stated, “For there is none righteous no not one” (Romans 3:10). Paul continues, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). All mankind are sinners. Mankind is flawed; none are perfect. The mere possession of perfection by God supremely sets Him apart from all creation.

Pohle’s fourth and final test, “It must be the taproot or a priori source of all the other divine attributes.”[15] Aquinas declares, “Since therefore God is the first effective cause of things, the perfections of all things must pre-exist in God in a more eminent way.”[16] Therefore, all things, including his other attributes, find their origin in God’s perfection. God’s perfection answers all four of Pohle’s tests to determine God’s essence as his perfection.

This chapter has argued for the thesis, “God’s essence is neither love nor holiness, but rather God’s essence is perfection.” The proofs provided include the three theological points as provided by Geisler, the beliefs and writings by many scholars supporting the position of God’s perfection, and the successful answer to Pohle’s four tests for essence. The next two chapters will examine the numerous passages found in both the Old Testament (Chapter 12) and the New Testament (Chapter 13) which support the stated thesis. The dissertation will then close out with a summary and conclusion chapter.

[1] Geisler, Systematic Theology, Vol. 2, pp. 346-347.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid., p. 347.

[7] Ibid., p. 316.

[8] Pohle lays out four elements of the criteria: In order to come at the metaphysical essence of God, we must try to find among His many attributes one which fulfils four distinct requirements. Pohle Ph. D. D., Rev. Joseph, God: His Knowability, Essence, and Attributes, A Dogmatic Treatise (Illustrated) (St. Louis, MO: Aeterna Press, 2015), Kindle Edition. (Loc 1557-1560).

[9] Ibid., (Loc. 1692).

[10] Ibid., (Loc 1672).

[11] Ibid., (Loc 1556).

[12] Geisler, Systematic Theology, Volume 2, p. 346.

[13] Barth, Church Dogmatics, vol. II/I, p. 323.

[14] Pohle, Kindle Edition (Loc. 1556).

[15] Ibid.

[16] Aquinas, Summa Theologica, 1.q4.a2.

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