Infinitude

If we are to discuss God’s attributes, then we need to be jealous for the language that we use. Define everything. Each word needs to be calculated and calibrated. Some of the attributes given to God aren’t necessarily things that the Bible would call an attribute. What I do not mean is that these are somehow not descriptions of God. What I do mean is that we have a way with using words and language that the Bible simply doesn’t seem to employ. When I say “infinitude,” what I mean is that God is infinite. Many throughout the generations have held to this. Before getting into Scriptures, we need to properly define this. It seems so right to say that God is infinite, but what exactly do we mean when we say this?

When defining infinity, we are not to take the mathematical idea of infinity. Mathematics defines infinity as a quantitative amount. Yet, it doesn’t seem to make sense to talk about God in a “quantitative” connotation. Why does that not make sense? When we read Scriptures about God being higher than the heavens or deeper than the seas, or we read about a God that is beyond comprehension, we’re not describing infinite. I’ll explain. The Hebrew word olam is typically translated as “eternal” or “eternity.” Yet, the Hebrew concept of olam is “to the horizon and beyond.” The idea is that we can see all the way to the horizon, but we can’t see past the horizon. God is past it. He is past our “sight” or perception.

So to say that God is infinite, we’re not necessarily saying that God is infinite. At least, the Hebrew concept is simply to say that He is beyond comprehension. It does not mean that God is infinite in the sense that there is no end. We could say that, but it is a very Greek manner of thought instead of the Hebraic mindset, which is the biblical mindset. Personally, I don’t care too much for the idea that God is infinite. I think we should find better wording, but since it is already established, we define it in such a manner. If we decide to go with a quantative conception of infinite, then we must say that God is beyond perception. I would hesitate to commit to anything more than that.

However, when I speak of God as being infinite, I am speaking of a qualitative concept, not a quantitative concept. God is infinitely just, infinitely righteous, and infinitely holy. But those are not quantitative statements about God as though we have to come up with an infinite amount of utterances about God’s holiness. Nor do we take God’s infinitude to mean that He has an infinite amount of attributes. Nor that we can fill an infinite amount of buckets with something called “holiness”.

What this means is that God is infinite in His attributes. We wouldn’t claim that God is infinite quantitatively, because that implies that God would have an infinite amount of attributes or that we should be able to find an infinite amount of expressions of that attribute. When speaking of God being omniscient, we don’t say that God is infinite in knowledge. Why? There is not an infinite amount of knowledge for God to know. When we speak of God being omnipresent, we are not talking about God being infinitely spacious. Why? There is not an infinite amount of space for God to fill. Rather, when we address God’s infinitude, we are making the assertion that God is all of that and more. We are making the assertion that God is the full embodiment of His attributes, and that there cannot be a fuller representation of those attributes.

So to put it as plainly as possible, I would say that God’s infinitude is that God is inexhaustible in His attributes. This is not to say that He is incomprehensible, nor is it to say that He is transcendent. It is distinct from both in that God is the full embodiment of these attributes, and there cannot be anything more loving, gracious, or faithful than God. He is the absolute standard, because in all His attributes He is the source itself. For God to be infinitely loving would mean that He could at no time not be loving. He is the absolute standard of these attributes, and in being the full expression of love, even in the times of judgment or ‘punishment’, God is still being love. We can also apply this to hell. God is long-suffering, and there is never a time when He is no longer long-suffering. What could be a worse ‘punishment’ than to have the open invitation to heaven, and yet not have the capacity any longer to change in heart to attain unto heaven?

To sum up, infinitude has two implications: God is the source of all His attributes, and God cannot be anything other than those attributes. Interestingly enough, this is actually where we get into the realm of God’s freedom. The only true freedom that a being can experience is when that being is able to fully express self without expressing something that it is not. Freedom is when you can live from the core of who you are. We find as Christians that we are coming more and more into freedom when we are no longer bound by the things that keep us from being who God has made us to be.

This implies that God is the only infinite thing. There cannot be two infinite beings or realities. The reason for this is in the very definition of infinity given above. If God is the fullest embodiment of all His attributes, then there cannot be another being that would equally display that fullness, otherwise neither one is the “fullest,” but there are instead two that display the “fullest” embodiment. There is a tie, in a sense, for the number one spot.

Not only is this philosophically impossible, but it is also impossible in other respects. The old western movie saying, “This town ain’t big enough for the two of us,” seems to come into play. The infinity of one would limit the other. It is like asking, “Which is longer, a ray or a line?” Well, if we say that the line is longer because a ray has a starting point, then we have just performed a mathematical blooper. Neither can be longer. One goes off infinitely in both directions, the other infinitely in one direction. Now, this is still an inappropriate argument, given that God’s infinitude is not a mathematical classification. The two would limit each other, because to be infinite in one’s attributes would mean that we are the source of that attribute.

From this attribute of infinitude comes the idea that God is “incomprehensible.” I think that this is an unfair way of perceiving God. God has shown Himself as the God that comes down. He walked with Adam. He came down to examine the tower of Babel. He came down upon Sinai. He comes and meets with many Old Testament believers, such as Gideon. He speaks with the prophets (it seems from the story of Elijah that He spoke audibly). God came down in the form of a man named Jesus. He promises one day to come down again. God came down again, and even dwelt in men, on the day of Pentecost. With all of this, can we really make the statement that God is incomprehensible?

With all respect, it seems like God surely wants to be known. At the same time, He does “hide” in that we need to search out His character and attributes. Not everything is revealed all at once, nor is everything laid out bare and obvious. But surely we can’t take the lazy route and say that God is incomprehensible, and therefore unknowable. His thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways, but has He not spoken the end from the beginning to tell us His thoughts and His ways? Has He not given us the mind of Christ? Why should we conclude that just because God is infinite or He is transcendent that we cannot know Him in a very personal and real way? We might not exhaust His character and His attributes, but that in no way indicates that He is “incomprehensible.” Of course, by incomprehensible, what is meant is that you cannot exhaust Him. Forgive me, however, for being a stickler on this. Words have meaning, and if we take the context of that meaning, to say God is incomprehensible seems to allude to saying that He is unknowable.

To say that what is meant by incomprehensible is inexhaustible, this I agree with. You won’t ever exhaust His love. You won’t ever find a time when God is suddenly not gracious. Nor will there ever be a time that something other than God is more just than God. That is what is implied with God’s infinitude, though. So why we have a mass of words all explaining the same phenomenon, I couldn’t tell you. If anything, we really should ask these sorts of questions. Why do we insist upon God being incomprehensible? Sure, we can’t ever come to a full understanding, because we are finite. But does that mean that we can’t comprehend God? Doesn’t it more lend to the word transcendent? God is more, or above, or beyond our conventional understanding? We should wrestle with this diligently and not cheaply.

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