Language of the Divine “Attributes”


In Colin Gunton’s last work, Act and Being, he points out many problems that occur when trying to articulate what God’s attributes are.  One such problem is the use of the actual term “attribute.”  One can attribute a characteristic or a quality to someone b/c either that person really has that characteristic, or it is either merely believed and/or wished that it is true.  

The obvious danger is that if we attribute a quality to God in one of the latter senses, then we have taken an improper approach.  While it is doubtful that most are consciously looking to play this sort of semantic game to manipulate the uninitiated, nonetheless we as theologians must be careful, following Barth, to not attribute something to God, as much as focus on what exactly has He revealed Himself to be.  Framing the issue in this way keeps us normed in the Biblical witness, and keeps us from letting our philosophical abstractions come to dominate our understanding of God.


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