Nature of God

OCR A2 Level. Religious studies revision cards.

Nature of God topic includes 

- God is simple
- Eternal vs Everlasting God
- Omnscience
- Omnipotence 

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God is Simple

God is unchanging. God is just God and cannot be broken down. 

Aquinas: Unchanging; cannot gain or lose characteristics.

God is unchanging because he is perfect. He lacks nothing and is not capable of chaning ingto something else and remaining perfect. 

Anselms ontological argument: God is simple so if i can imagine him to exist then he must. This is because existence is a predicate of God. 

Most christians would say that 'only an unchanging thing can cause a changning world'. 


How can he love his people? Answer = Loves us in a non-human way. Love concerns what God wills for us, not empathy.

Transcendant and unknowabe... Answer = Known through revelation. Talk about God and know him through analogies and the via negativa. 

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Eternal God

God is outside time, which supports 'God is simple' idea. God must be eternal becuase time passing implies change and imperfection. 

Nicholas Wolterstorff - eternal God is different from human experience of life in the physical world. 

Boethius On Eternity

Changless and doesn't exist in time. 

"the whole simultaneous and perfect possesion of unending life made clearer by comparrison with a temporal thing." 

We are linear and experience life one event after another. No temporal thing experiences past or future, only the present  'not yet arrived at tomorrow and can no longer exoerience yesterday'. God is not and experience past, present and future all at the same time. The passing of time is reflected in a single moment to God. Has knowledge of an unchaing present.
God has PROVIDENCE (divine knowledge). 

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Boethius on Eternity

Problem: If God see's our future do we have to do it? In this idea God is governed by necessity, but we don't think we are... Why do we think that we are not governed by necessity but a being with providence is? This seems illogical. 

Divine knowledge does not change the properties of individual things; it see's this as present which we see as future. 

Boethius argues against the idea that if God see's my future it must happen so i have no free will over it.

He said that it is true that IF my future is necessary it must happen but the argument fails to prove that my future is necessary at all. The divine mind looks on all things but doesn't change their nature. He see's our free will choices. God didnt make it happen he just saw it happen. Free will is intact in this view.

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Aquinas on Eternity

Builds on Boethius.

God is outside time and has a bird's eye veiw of everything. He illustrated this by the anogy of a man walking down a road. 

"A man is walking down a long road (his life). He has free will choices and choses what he does on the road and how to go down the road. God is on a mountain above the road and sees all the decisions the person makes. He doesn't make the man chose one path or the other he just observes it all happening." 

This is a type of soft determinism.

Luis of Molima : Knows every possible future but doesn't known which one you will take.
Anscombe: assuming there is a future. Future is not populated so how can there be any knowledge to know?

Critisms of Boethius

Swinburne: simultaneous experience makes no sense. Supports everlasting God. Cannot have a future you don't know.
Implications for religious language  - outside human understanding (transcendent) Answer =  Talk about God  by The Via Negativa and analogies.  

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In Biblical traditions God's power is suggested by God's activity in the world and miracles. Power beyound human comprehension and ability. There are problems with paradox's (can God make a stone he cannot lift). If we say no to the paradox's we limit God in anyway, but he is all powerful so he can do them. 

There are 3 way in which omnipotence is veiwed

1) God's ability to do anything including the logically impossible

2) God's ability to what is logically possible for a perfect God to do

3) Omnipotence is a statement of the power of God. It is what it is.

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God's ability to do anything including the logical

Rene Descartes - God could change the laws of physics if he wanted to, which are universal and unchanging.


J.L.Mackie - "Only a form of words that fails to describe any state of affairs." Nothing is logically impossible, this doesn't apply to anything.

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God's ability to what is logically possible for a

Aquinas - Contradictions and paradox's irrelevant as they are illogical concepts. We could all logically climb Mount Everest, it is logically possible. Doesn't mean we will do it or have the ability to climb Everest. There is a big difference between thinking and doing but God can do this. God is omnipotent as he is limitless because eternal and not limited by physical existence. He is an active power (exercises power to bring about events.) 

Paradox's are illogical and so are irrelevant, God cannot sin becuase it is against his nature. Anselm said that sinning involves lack of control over one's actions. Sinning would indicate God lacks power so God cannot sin as he is omnipotent.Anthony Kenny - God can do what is logically possible for God to do and is different from human beings who often have the capability but lack the power to achieve that goal. Must separated the idea of power and oportunity. God has the power but lacks the opportunity. Free will limits him.

Peter Geach - relies on veiw that God is prefect. Omnipotence is a statement concerning God's powers. 

Can God can history - No, this would contradict what we know and is logically impossible.
Can God  make a stone that is too heavy to lift? - Meaningless. The nature of the stone is unmoveable so no power could move it. it would be logically impossible.

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God's Omniscience

In the Bible God judges us. But if he knows everything how can that be? If he knows we are about to do evil then he cannot judge us because we must do if he has seen it. (Problem of Evil)

God doesn't gain knowledge the way we do, through experience. He just has knowledge. Knowledge is the possesion of the knower not the thing that is known. 

Aquinas - knowledge is not physical so God can gain knowledge. What God knows is self knowledge. God is the creator and through self-knowledge knows creation. It is not gained through senses.

Ulimtied knowledge includes past, present and future. Has knowledge of all of time (eternal God). Must be outside time.
Limited knowledge - chooses to limit himself to allow free will. Knowledge changes over time (everlasting God).

God limits his knowlegde = If God is everlasting he gains knowledge as events happen. This claims that God knows what is logicall possible to know. If the future has not happened there is no future to be known. Impossible to known what does not exist or has not yet existed. God has perfect knowledge of what has occured and what is occuring. (supports everlasting God).

How you see God's omniscience is dependant on if God is eternal or everlasting.....

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