He Who Is: A Study in Traditional Theism

By E. L. B. D. Mascall | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II
THE MEANING OF "GOD"

THE first of the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England sums up the Christian doctrine of God in the following words:

There is but one living and true God (unus est vivus et verus Deus), everlasting, without body, parts or passions, of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness, the Maker and Preserver of all things both visible and invisible. And in unity of this Godhead there be three Persons, of one substance, power, and eternity; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

This article deals first with the unity and then with the trinity of God, in the two sentences of which it is composed. The second of these falls outside the scope of this book, the first is its primary concern.

It is immediately clear that this sentence, and the similar statements which we might find in other confessions, gives us a description rather than a definition of God. It catalogues the most important truths about God which the Christian religion holds, but it makes no attempt to show that they are consistent with one another or that all of them are logical consequences of some one more fundamental truth. And, indeed, in the strictest sense of the word "definition"--what is technically called "logical definition" --it is impossible to give a definition of God. For logical definition proceeds by the method of genus and differentia; it singles out the being (or beings) with which it is concerned from some larger class by attributing to it some specific character which is felt to belong peculiarly to it. Thus, when we define man as a rational animal, we single him out from the class of animals by means of the differentia "rational"; if we define King George IV as the first gentleman of Europe, we single him out from the class of European gentlemen by means of the differentia "first." Some differentia, of course, express the real nature of a being far more intimately than others; there is a certain arbitrariness about the definition just given of King George IV that does not attach to that just given of man. Some philosophers have held that there is for every being some definition--the essential definition--that does

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He Who Is: A Study in Traditional Theism
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vi
  • Preface vii
  • ERRATA. xiv
  • Chapter I - INTRODUCTION 1
  • Chapter II - THE MEANING OF "GOD" 8
  • Chapter III - EXPERIENCE AND REVELATION 14
  • Chapter IV - THE TRADITIONAL APPROACH 30
  • Chapter V - THE TRADITIONAL APPROACH 40
  • Chapter VI - THE TRADITIONAL APPROACH 57
  • Chapter VII - INTELLECT AND INTUITION 83
  • Chapter VIII - GOD AND THE WORLD: ANALOGIA ENTIS 95
  • Chapter IX - THE DIVINE ATTRIBUTES 116
  • Chapter X - TRANSCENDENCE AND IMMANENCE 126
  • Chapter XI - THE COSMOLOGY OF WHITEHEAD 150
  • Chapter XII - THE COSMIC TELEOLOGY OF TENNANT 161
  • Chapter XIII - CONCLUSION 191
  • Bibliography 200
  • Index 208
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