Smith considers divine attributes like knowledge, life, will, love, justice and mercy, power, and so on. He locates an asymmetry here: some of these “refer to God’s personality rather than his metaphysical nature as an existing being. To say that God is loving or merciful is not equivalent to claiming that he is infinite or ineffable…” (55)
The “imbalance” disappears once we make the distinction between ad intra “ontological” attributes of God as He is in Himself and ad extra “relational” attributes that describe how God relates to His creatures. For example, God would possess self-knowledge even without creation, but to say that God is merciful presupposes humans who sin and are forgiven by God. A caveat is that God’s nature itself (especially the Son’s) changed with creation.
Smith asks strangely, “Wisdom, love, knowledge, power — these may be fine qualities, but just what are they qualities of? What is the nature of the being possessing them?” (55) Say what? Obviously, this nature is wise, loving, knowing, and powerful. He goes on:
“When the Christian says that God is alive, does he mean that God is alive in the same sense as natural organisms? If so, God must be a material entity who will eventually die.”
Reply: Life entails teleology or seeking ends and enjoying having attained them, such as happiness and whatever conduces to it. God’s pleasure consists in His act of self-understanding; thus, He “pursues” happiness in a kind of eternal act of self-actualization and, having grasped Himself, rests thereupon, perfectly content and fulfilled. As a result, life as self-motion toward “future expected utility” should be attributed to God.
But it is life perfected and transcended, as compared with human lives.
“When God is said to be wise or to possess knowledge, is this the conceptual knowledge with which man is familiar?”
Reply: wisdom can be defined as knowledge of good and evil, or, alternatively, as vision of how all things in a given area of study fit together. It belongs to a wise man to “arrange and judge.” Therefore, God’s wisdom regards the entire universe which God created and over which He exercises providence. In addition, God knows things that are not but could be as possible worlds, and His wisdom extends towards those, too, to infinity.
God’s knowledge is intuitive and “through Himself” as the exemplar of all that has been created.
“When God is said to have a certain power or capacity, is this power similar to the concept as we understand it?” (55)
Reply: In a manner of speaking, yes. God’s ad intra “internal” power is to “achieve” and forever maintain perfect happiness.
As Mises points out, “Omnipotence would mean the power to achieve everything and to enjoy full satisfaction without being restrained by any limitations.” (HA, 69)
His ad extra “external” power, through which His 3rd-level goodness is manifested, is to create the world ex nihilo, to sanctify it, and to redeem the human race. And so on.
Smith objects to analogical predication of creaturely terms to God:
… we can have no idea of what it means to ascribe a positive quality to his nature — analogically or otherwise — because we have no knowledge of that nature.
To say that an “unie” possesses wisdom in proportion to its nature — while stipulating that such wisdom is different in kind from man’s wisdom and that the nature of an “unie” is unknowable — contributes nothing to our understanding of “unie” or to the meaning of attributes when applied to an “unie.” (59-60)
Has our author already forgotten the distinction between negative and positive theology? God possesses wisdom positively in proportion to His nature understood negatively as unlimited.
Smith is correct that God is superintelligible, as in perfectly comprehensible by an appropriate intellect (since He is pure act, and there is no potentiality in Him that can be, though is not yet, this or that). The only such intellect, however, is the divine mind itself. Smith is dissatisfied with this fact: “to say that God is ‘infinitely knowable’ is to say that he is ‘knowable’ in some unknowable fashion — which is to acknowledge that he is incomprehensible, period.” (69) Well, we know the following proposition: “God knows everything; moreover, the ‘everything’ put together is God Himself.” But we do not know everything that God knows. So, we do know a little bit about God but not so much what God is.