What does “attribute” mean in relation to God?

The question has been asked, “What does the term “attribute” mean when applied to God?”

  1. Theologically:
    1. Attribute: an inherent characteristic of God.
    2. Each attribute is the whole of the Divine Essence – each is eternal, omnipresent, and immutable.
  2. Biblically:
    1. 1 Peter 2:9 – The special mission of Christians is to proclaim the “excellencies” of the God who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light. Here “excellence” comes closest to a biblical term for “attribute.” “Excellence” or “perfection” are better terms for God’s attributes in that they do not imply something “added” (i.e., attributed.) to the character of God.
    2. God’s perfections are His self-directed virtue; what is predicated of the Divine Being in Scripture, or is visibly exercised by Him in creation, providence, or redemption.

The term attribute implies an additive quality, but in fact, they are not additive. God is indivisible; he does not have parts. Where God is, all of God is there. Thus, love is not an aspect of God, it IS God. Love is not an isolated element of God. A better term is “perfection”. The various perfections are modes in which God’s Essence acts, not separate elements of God’s being. In this sense, Holiness is not an attribute in the same way the other God’s attributes. Holiness is not a mode of action; it is the designation that God uses for Himself.

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