Augustine. What is God Like?

Augustine was a Philosopher - Theologian of such great importance that his writings helped shape not only Theology, but also the whole of Western thought. He was born in 354 AD, and died in 430 AD. Perhaps his most famous work is the story of his conversion which was entitled, The Confessions of Augustine. It is in this book that he makes the statement about God below.

Augustine’s statement on God is the very first page of an excellent book entitled, How Great Thou Art, by Steve Halliday and William Travis (copyright, 1999). I very highly recommend this book for anyone, whether you are new to God, or whether you have been a believer for decades. Nonetheless, here is what Augustine had to say about God;

For who is God besides the Lord? And who is the Rock except our God? (2 Samuel 22:32) What is God – what, but the Lord God? For who is the Lord but the Lord? Or who is God save our God? Most high, most excellent, most powerful, most almighty, most merciful, and most just; most hidden, yet most present; most beautiful, and most strong; stable, yet mysterious; unchangeable, yet changing all things; never new, never old; making all things new and bringing age upon the proud, though they do not know it; always working, yet always at rest; still gathering, yet lacking nothing; sustaining, filling and protecting; creating, nourishing, and maturing; seeking, yet possessing all things. God loves without passion; He is jealous without anxiety; He repents, yet has no sorrow; is angry, yet serene; changes His ways, yet His plans are unchanged; recovers what He finds, having never lost it; never in need, yet rejoicing in gain; never covetous, yet requiring interest. He receives over and above, that He may owe – yet who has anything that is not His? He pays debts, owing nothing; remits debts, losing nothing. And what can anyone say when they speak of Him?

Words like that just elevate my view of God, and even my view of life. I have read that so many times that I almost have it memorized.

This next statement on who God is comes from 1647, which is more than 1000 years later than Augustine. It is written in the King’s English but it still gives you a good idea of how the Church defined God, at least in 1647.

“God hath all life, glory, goodness, blessedness, in and of Himself, and is alone and unto Himself all-sufficient, not standing in any need of any of the creatures which He has made, not deriving any glory from them, but only manifesting His own glory in, by, unto and upon them. He is alone the fountain of all being, of whom, through whom, and to whom are all things, and has most sovereign dominion over them, to do by them, for them, or upon them whatsoever He Himself pleases” (The Westminster Confession of Faith, 1647). The Shorter Catechism of the same states, “God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.”

Those statements above are good descriptions of God Himself. But as I begin to be more specific about what God is like, I think Ronald Nash gives a good definition of what God’s Attributes are;

“A divine attribute is an essential property of God. A property is essential to some being if and only if the loss of that property entails that that being ceases to exist. A divine attribute is a property which God could not loose and continue to be God”.

(Ronald Nash, The Concept of God, p. 16).

Attributes are God’s properties, excellencies, perfections, or qualities. They are what God has forever been and will forever be in His nature. Some of them, we can relate to… Others are more difficult.