God's Attributes Accoding to the Orthodox Christian Church

St. Junia

St. Junia

My beloved spiritual children in Our Risen Lord and Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,

By Athanasios S. Frangopoulos, Theologian and Preacher

Part I

God has many attributes which are identical with His nature and essence because God is not complex, composed of different parts, but simple, and the attributes ascribed to Him are not separate from each other, but constitute a single whole, manifesting the unattainable Majesty of God's essence and glory. We distinguish God's attributes however, not because they are really distinct one from another, but in order that we men may better understand the Divine energies through which the Most-High God sheds His beneficence upon us.

And how do we discover these attributes of God? We discover them, as the Holy Fathers of the Church say, by subtracting all imperfection from human things and by adding every perfection to Divine matters to the highest degree. Thus we say that:

1. God is everywhere present

This means that God is everywhere. There is no part of creation form which God is absent. Consequently, God sees and oversees all: everything visible and invisible, tangible and intangible, that which can and cannot be perceived by our eyes, our hands, our ears and our senses, and those things which do not even pass through our thoughts but which yet exist and move within God's presence. In all, without and within, God is present and searches them and envelopes them. All things, even the most hidden and unknown and mysterious. There is no place or thing outside God's presence. God's eye and ear and hand perceive all, and nothing escapes Him. As Scripture says: "Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in His sight: but all things are naked and open unto the eyes of Him with Whom we have to do" Hebrews 4:13). Even the depths of our hearts are known to God since it is He who tries the hearts and proves the reins".

2. God is omniscient

And naturally because He is omnipresent, He knows all, as we have already said, and consequently He is omniscient. He knows all things not as past and future, but as ever present. Why? Because God is eternal, and time does not exist for Him. There is no past and future for Him, only the present. For God, there is no yesterday and tomorrow but only today. Thus He knows all things as present, as if they were taking place here and now, both those things that transpired centuries ago and those things which are to occur in the most remote and unforetellable future, in other words, God knows all things eternally, perfectly and directly, "He sees clearly and simply both the present, the past and the future before they begin", and before they take place. As Saint John Chrysostom says, "He foresees at a glance all things together and each thing separately".

3. God is eternal

Eternity is another one of God's attributes. God is not limited by time. He cannot be confined to 100; 1,000 or 1,000,000 years. God is above and beyond time. He is the Lord and Master of time. For this reason He is timeless, eternal, ever the same, immutable and unchanging, ageless and unending. He has no beginning and no end. This is what perpetual, or better, eternal means. Perpetual signifies that which has a beginning but no end. Angels and men are perpetual because although they have a beginning--there was a time when they did not exist but came into existence and were created--they have no end. They are unending. Eternal, however means: ever the same, and as far as time is concerned, having neither beginning nor end. As concerns essence, this term signifies that it never changes but remains ever the same and immutable. This is what the Psalmist means when he says: "In the beginning Thou, O Lord, didst lay the foundations of the earth; and the heavens are the works of Thine hands. They shall perish, but Thou remainst: and they all shall wax old as a garment, and as vesture shalt Thou fold them and they shall be changed. But Thou are the same, and Thy years shall not fail" (Psalm 101:26-28). And in Psalm 89:2, 4 he says: "Before the mountains existed, and before the earth and world were formed, ever from age to age, Thou art...For a thousand years in Thy sight are as the yesterday which is past, and as a watch in the night". That is to say, time is set at naught before God, and has no meaning or effect upon Him. Just as God is beyond space in His omnipresence, so He is beyond and outside of time with His eternity. Thus the Book of Revelation it is said that God is "He which is, and which was, and which is to come" (Revelation 1:4), i.e., He Who exists, and Who always existed and Who always shall exist and shall come to oversee and judge the world.

Within the context and meaning of God's eternity there also exists God's attribute of immutability.

4. God is immutable

He never changes. He can never change from being immortal and become mortal, nor from good can He change to evil; from righteous to unrighteous, from compassionate to hardhearted, from benevolent to inhuman. Nor can we imagine any fault in God, nor can we say that God erred and later repented. That is to say, that He changed His mind, His disposition and His behavior. He remains ever the same in His eternity, His essence and His Holiness. Holy Scripture speaks of God's immutability when it says in words of Saint James, the Brother of the Lord, that in God, the Father of Lights, there is "no variableness, neither shadow or turning" (St. James 1:17). There is neither change in His thoughts and decisions, nor modification or change in His movements like that which occurs with the shadow of things that move and change, as does the sun and the moon. God remains immutable. So states the Psalm 101:26-27.

5. God is omnipotent

That is, His power is infinite. Man possesses relative strength but this strength is insignificant, and regardless of how great it may appear, it is limited. God's power, however, is unlimited. And God can do all things regardless of how difficult or impossible they may seem. This is the meaning of omnipotent. It also means that He is Almighty, "Pantocrator", i.e., He holds all things in His hand and rules over all things, both in heaven and on earth. God's infinite power, His omnipotence, can be seen in His creation of the world, which He created by His fiat alone. It is all the more seen in the salvation of mankind, which, though it fell into the hands and the power of Satan through its sin and was condemned to eternal damnation, God saved by destroying death and trampling upon the devil through the Crucifixion and Resurrection of His Incarnate Son. Furthermore, it is manifest in the many miracles which He performed for man's salvation, and which man witnesses in awe and wonder and exclaims: "Great are Thou, O Lord, and wondrous are Thy works" and repeats the words of the Gospel: "What is impossible for man is possible for God" (St. Matthew 10:27).

6. God is all-wise

This attribute of God is inseparable from Divine Omniscience and is an extension of it. It is, so to speak, the "ethical and practical side of Divine Omniscience". What then is the Divine all-wisdom? It is God's property to discover and determine the most excellent and perfect means whereby His most excellent aims and purposes are achieved. Is there any man who is as wise as God? No. Neither man nor Angel. Holy Scripture calls God "the only wise God" (1 Timothy 1:17), and in the Epistle to the Colossians we read: "in Whom (i.e., God) are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (2:3). The wise Solomon also observes: "The Lord by wisdom hath founded the earth; by understanding hath He established the heavens" (Proverbs 3:19). David marveling at God's works exclaims: "O Lord, how manifold are Thy works! in wisdom hast Thou made them all" (Psalm 103:24). Finally, Saint Paul exclaims: "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? Or who hath been His counselor?" (Romans 11:33-34). In other words: How great and unconceivable is the depth of the wisdom and knowledge of God through which all things are guided to their most excellent end! What a treasure is God's knowledge! How inscrutable are God's judgments and decisions to us men! Who has ever known what God thinks? Who has ever succeeded in entering God's mind and thought in order to know His decisions? Who has ever been His counselor and His guide? No one. For all are unwise and foolish, and only God is wise and prudent. And it is true that God's all-wisdom is manifested in the works of His creation, both in the greatest and even in the least of His works. It is chiefly manifested, however, in the manner in which He saved sinful man. He combined both His righteousness and His love in the sacrifice of the Cross offered by His Theanthropic Son and so saved the world: an excellent means for the attainment of an excellent purpose. This is why the holy Apostle calls God's wisdom "manifold": "To that intent", he says: "that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the Church the manifold wisdom of God" (Ephesians 3:10). That is, by the manner in which God saved sinful man He made His wisdom known even to the Angels, a wisdom that is manifold and ingenious. It appears in many forms and through many means. And the purposes, the means, and the plans of the Divine wisdom doth "the Angels desire to look into" (1 Peter 1:12). The Angels stand in awe, marveling at God's means and plans with which He leads men to repentance and salvation, and desire to see and observe these things, to delve into them so as to learn and understand what is God's wisdom and how deep and ingenious it is. This is God's all-wisdom and this is what we mean when we say that He is all-wise.

Next: God is Holy


"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"-Saint John Chrysostom


With sincere agape In Christ, Our Risen Lord and Savior,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George