Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 142:567 (Jul 1985)
Article: Book Reviews
Author: Anonymous

Book Reviews

The Concept of God: An Exploration of Contemporary Difficulties with the Attributes of God. By Ronald H. Nash. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1983. 127 pp. Paper, $5.95.

The purpose of this book is to examine the logical coherence of Christian theism. Nash says, “the question today is not ‘Does God exist?’ but ‘Is it logically possible for God to exist?’“ According to Nash the choice between classical theism (of Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, and Calvin) and process theology (of Whitehead, Hartshorne, Ogden, and Griffin) is unnecessary. Nash believes “major rethinking” is required (p. 11). In his neoclassical rethinking of God Nash departs from the “I Am” of classical Christian theology. He is willing to sacrifice the traditional attributes of God’s immutability, simplicity, and eternity. By retaining God’s omniscience and omnipotence Nash vainly hopes to salvage theism.

Nash does not seem to be fully aware of the fact that tampering with the package of God’s attributes affects the whole group. The nonmoral (metaphysical) attributes as a whole stand or fall together. Nash also wants to believe of God that “neither His nature nor His character can change,” yet he holds “that God [can] experience change in the intentional order of His being” (p. 114, italics added). Nash also wishes to retain God’s sovereignty, yet he implies that God’s foreknowledge may not make all future events necessary (p. 66). But can he have it both ways?

Nash rejects the simplicity of God with an argument that is logically fallacious. He insists that if attribute A is identical to God’s essence and attribute B is also identical to God’s essence, then attributes A and B must be identical. But as students of logic know this is the fallacy of an undistributed middle term. Just because all horses have four legs and all dogs have four legs does not mean that all horses are dogs.

Though Nash shows more awareness and appreciation for medieval theists than in his previous writings, he makes several important blunders. For example, he mistakenly equates Aristotle’s and Aquinas’s concept of God as “pure actuality.” In truth, Aristotle’s belief in God(s) as pure Form (Being) was what Aquinas thought angels were. Aquinas, unlike Aristotle, made a distinction between actuality and potentiality on the level of Being. Thus Aquinas’s “pure actuality” is not the same as Aristotle’s simple Form (Being). Nash likewise mistakenly claims that Aquinas believed that “everything [except God] is a composition of form and matter” (p. 10). In fact Aquinas believed angels and the human soul were pure forms, with no matter in them.

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