Which of God’s attributes are above all others?Question: "Which of God’s attributes are above all others?"
Answer: The question of which of God’s attributes are highest or most important or “above” the others must be answered in two parallel modes. One possible answer differentiates between the attributes of God that are more important for us to understand; but we must also consider whether or not some attributes of God are more important for Him, in reality. Interestingly, when we look at the attributes of God, we find they are all unchangeably perfect, so there is no practical difference in their importance—at least not to God. However, from a human viewpoint, the way we understand God’s qualities has to come in a certain order.
In order to be truly “infinitely” perfect, a being has to be perfect in all qualities. Attributes such as omnipotence and omniscience can only exist in cooperation with each other. For example, a being could not have all possible power unless he also has all possible knowledge. He could not be all-knowing unless he was all-present. And so on and so forth. For this reason, God’s attributes cannot be ranked on a scale of importance as if some were more critical than others to who God is. All of God’s qualities are equally perfect, equally “infinite,” and equally ranked.
At the same time, human beings are not infinite, nor are we perfect. Our understanding has to come in steps and stages. For this reason, certain attributes of God must be understood before we can properly appreciate the others. When all is said and done, the starting point for understanding who God is, from a human perspective, is His holiness (see Isaiah 6:3). God’s holiness means that He is set apart from mankind, that He is something other than we are, in a radical and fundamental way. He is perfection, without a hint of unrighteousness. Before anything else about God makes sense, we must understand that God is holy—without recognizing this uniqueness, none of His other qualities make sense.
More generally, we need to understand attributes of God that are “beyond” mankind before we can make sense of those more connected to human experience. God’s holiness, sovereignty, and omnipotence, for example, are crucial foundations for our understanding of His other qualities such as love and justice. As pointed out before, God’s perfection ensures none of God’s qualities are “more” or “less” present than the others. But, in order to grasp God to the extent the human mind is able, we can arrange those qualities in a certain logical order. That begins with His holiness, extends to His power (omnipotence, sovereignty, etc.), and then to His personality (love, mercy, justice, etc.).
Recommended Resource: Knowing God by J.I. Packer
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