No One Good But the Father?

God the Father only is good, wise, holy, invisible, sovereign, and immortal, and is greater than the Son.

Most Christians today would probably call someone saying what I just said above an Arian, and consider those words blasphemous. Yet, these words are found throughout scripture:

“Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” 18 So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God.” (Mark 10:17-18 KNJV)

“To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ for ever. Amen.” (Romans 16:27 KJV)

“Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (1 Timothy 1:17 KJV)

“For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Jude 1:4 KJV)

“I give thee charge in the sight of God, who quickeneth all things, and before Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession; 14 That thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ: 15 Which in his times he shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; 16 Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen.” (1 Timothy 6:13-16 KJV)

“And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints.4 Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest.” (Revelation 15:3-4 KJV)

Are the scriptures Arian? Do the Son and Holy Spirit lack true goodness, wisdom, holiness, invisibility, and immortality?

The scriptural answer to these questions is an emphatic “no”. The Son and Holy Spirit share all these attributes with the Father, having the very same goodness, wisdom, holiness, invisibility, and immortality as the Father, as They have the very same divine nature as He.

We see this in many ways in scripture. One easy example is that the Son Himself is called the “Wisdom of God”. How can the Wisdom of God lack wisdom? Such an idea is absurd. And what of Solomon, who is called wise, and many other men also? Clearly then, when scripture refers to the Father alone as being wise then, it does not do this to indicate that others to do not possess wisdom. So the same is true with all these other attributes ascribed to the Father in an exclusive manner- they do not exclude others in creation from participating in those qualities, and do not exclude the Son and Holy Spirit from possessing those attributes in Themselves as Their divine nature.

How then, can these things be so? Is scripture self-contradictory in speaking of the Father in such an exclusive way in regards to these various attributes, when it teaches at the same time that they belong equally to the persons of the Son and Holy Spirit?

The answer is emphatically “no”. There are no contradictions in scripture, and what appears to men to reveal contradictions in scripture really reveals to us that we do not understand scripture fully. When understood according to its right meaning, no part of scripture contradicts another, on account of its divine origin as the very words of God.

Why then, does scripture speak this way of the Father? The answer, we may deduce from scripture, is because the Father alone has all these attributes in Himself without cause, source, or origin. He is the origin and very definition of divinity, and all the attributes of it. The Father alone is goodness, and wisdom, and love, and holiness uncausedly, having these attributes from no source, but being rather the fountain of them. And from this Fountain, the Son and Spirit draw Their being, having the paternal divinity in Themselves, of the Father.

Thus the Son is Wisdom from the only Wise, Goodness from He Who alone is Good. The Son having all that He is and has from the Father, and the Father alone being the Supreme Cause of all, Who Himself has no cause.

Thus the Son is called the Wisdom of God, and the Logos of God; not simply ‘Wisdom’ and ‘Word’. For He is not simply an attribute of the Father, nor do the Father and the Son draw Their being equally from some anterior divinity so as to account for Their having an identical nature; but since the Son draws His existence from the Father, and has His essence from the Father, He has the very same nature, from the Father. The Father then, in His nature is the very definition of wisdom and rationality; He is these things in what he is. The Son then, having His origin from the Father, has this same wisdom and rationality; like the Father He is wisdom and rationality in what He is. But He is this because the Father begat Him, and gave Him His divinity; therefore, the wisdom He has is not original to Himself, nor is the rationality He is original to Himself, but is from the Father: and for this reason, He is the ‘Wisdom of God’, and ‘Word of God’, for His essence is the Father’s, given to Him in eternal generation.

Since then, the Father is all that He is without cause, unoriginate, and is therefore the original of all that He is, for this reason the divine attributes are ascribed to Him by scripture in an exclusive manner. This is not because He alone possesses the attributes of divinity, but because He alone possesses them without cause, source, or origin.

In a similar manner, the scriptures speak of the Father alone as Lord over all and the only sovereign, not to deny what is taught elsewhere that Jesus His Son is Lord over all creation, but because the Father alone is the supreme authority and head of all, and all authority other persons possess is subordinate to His, and from Him. The Son then is truly head over all creation, yet “God is the head of Christ”, the Lord and God of the Son. And although He has supreme authority over heaven and earth, the Son does not have it of Himself, but from the Father, Who tells the Son to sit at His right hand. Thus scripture says “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” (Matthew 28:18 KJV), since the Father gave Him to have authority over all creation.

And the Lord openly confessed that the Father was greater than He, not in respect to His humanity alone, but eternally, not in respect to any difference in nature, as the Son is equal in divinity to the Father, but because the Son is subordinate to the Father as His cause and His head. In these respects, that is, in the Father being the cause of the Son and Head of the Son, the Father is greater than He.

So then, we see that scripture is in no way contradictory, nor does it in any way give any credence to the blasphemy of Arius. But the high and exclusive titles applied to the person of the Father, “the only true God”, are applied to Him in such a way in reference to His alone being the Supreme Cause of all, and Supreme Head of all, even of the persons of the Son and Holy Spirit.

Semi-modalism’s Absurdity in Light of the Simplicity of the Divine Nature

“Simplicity” in respect to God may sound odd to those not familiar with the historic use of the term and the doctrine it denotes. God is beyond our comprehension, infinite, and transcendent; when we speak of God’s ‘simplicity’, we are not saying that God is easily comprehended by our minds. Rather, ‘simple’ here is being used as the opposite of compound; the idea is that God does not have parts that He is composed of.

This of course fits with the fact that God is incorporeal, and infinite, etc. But even beyond imagining God as somehow being composed of physical or material parts, some are inclined to think of the attributes of God as parts of Him. Some will speak of God as if He is part holy, and part loving, as though God were a blend of many individual parts. This however, is not how the scriptures reveal God.

The idea of simplicity is that rather than being composed of parts, God is what He is. For example, God is just; therefore, He is, in His very nature, the definition of justice. God is good; He is the very definition of goodness. God is loving; therefore, God is love. We can follow this pattern with a whole list of God’s attributes.

Scripture speaks of the simplicity of God, for example, when it says “God is love” (1 John 4:8). And the idea that God is what He is is expressly stated in Exodus 3:14 “And God saith unto Moses, `I Am That Which I Am;’ He saith also, `Thus dost thou say to the sons of Israel, I Am hath sent me unto you.'” (YLT).

This conceptually makes a lot of sense when we begin considering the attributes of God. Take love, for example. It is intangible, and eternal. Love is not something created by God that did not exist at one point and came into existence later; in fact, if any attribute of God came into existence as a creation of God, God would have changed, a thing which is impossible: ““For I am the Lord, I do not change; Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob.” (Mal 3:6 NKJV). So we know that God has always had all His attributes, without change. That means that they are eternal.

But they do not exist eternally as something separate from God that is coeval with Him. Before creation, there was only God, His Son, and His Spirit; these attributes exist eternally as what God is. Love, justice, truth, and perfection exist eternally as what God is in His very nature. The essential attributes of God exist eternally as what God is.

When we examine this relative to the classical trinitarianism scripture teaches, we understand that Father as the one God, Who is what He is of Himself. In what He is, He is the very definition of goodness, love, justice, and perfection. His simple divine nature is properly His own; He has it from no other source. And this simple divine nature is communicated to His only-begotten Son in His eternal generation, so that the Son has the same simple divine nature. The Holy Spirit likewise, eternally from the Father by procession, has the Father’s simple divine nature as His own.

Each person then, is the very definition of love, goodness, justice, etc in their very nature, for they all possess the same simple divine nature, the Father possessing it unoriginately, and the Son and Spirit participating in the Father’s divine nature. Thus there is one God, Who alone is good; yet His Son and Spirit participate in this same goodness. So there are three persons who are good, each in their nature the very definition of goodness; yet there is only one goodness, the one essence they share.

Semi-modalism, however, stumbles and falls to pieces over the doctrine of simplicity. Semi-modalism, unlike classical trinitarianism, posits one divine person who is the three divine persons of the Father, Son, and Spirit. However, since the divine nature is simple, how can this one person be three persons? The super-person, “God the Trinity”, cannot be simple, since he is compound of the three real persons of the Trinity, in the vain imagination of the semi-modalists. For in simplicity, all of God’s attributes are equated with one another; God’s nature is equally the very definition of both love and justice, for example. In God, love and justice are not two different things, but both are what God is in his nature.

However, in semi-modalism, this does not work. For semi-modalists posit a real relational distinction between the persons of the Father, Son, and Spirit, so that the persons are not equated with one another. This is why they are semi-modalists, not classical modalists like Sabellius. However, if these persons are not equated, yet are all together a single person, then this single person is unlike and unequal to himself, and not at all simple. “God the Trinity” then, since he is both the Father and the Son, is imagined to be both unbegotten as Father and begotten as Son, and proceeding as Spirit. What absurdity, what blasphemous heresy, teaches a God who is a Father-Son, begetter and begotten of his own self? When examining this it is difficult to see a meaningful difference between the false teaching of the semi-modalists and that articulated by Sabellius himself. For all they have done is resurrected his heresy in a slightly modified form.

Yet if they will say that their super-person, their “triune God”, is simple, then He cannot have parts, and the things he is must be identical to one another; this then would be a denial of any real personal distinctions between the persons of the Trinity, and bring them to be classical modalists, since the Father, Son, and Spirit then must be regarded as identical with each other. Yet if they deny that their imagined person of the “triune God” is simple, then he cannot be regarded as God at all, since the divine nature is simple. How blasphemous then they would be to give worship to a person who is not true God, and to make him out to be the real persons of the Trinity! Or else perhaps they will posit the absurdity that he is God in nature, yet not simple. If this is the case, then he possesses not the same divine nature as the real persons of the Trinity; and having introduced a second divine nature, they convict themselves of being polytheists, believing in multiple gods.

Such then, is the absurdity of the semi-modalists, whose pseudo-trinitarianism is incompatible with scripture’s teaching of the simplicity of the divine nature. Let us, however, hold both simplicity and the doctrine of the Trinity as being equally true, and entirely compatible, as we have seen above, how unlike semi-modalism, classical trinitarianism is entirely compatible with the doctrine of divine simplicity.