On the Affections of God

“God is love.”

1 Jn. 4:16

“How shall I give thee up, Ephraim?…  mine heart is turned within Me, my repentings are kindled together.  I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger, I will not return to destroy Ephraim: for I am God, and not man;”

Hos. 11:8-9

“God is not a man…  that He should repent: hath He said, and shall He not do it? or hath He spoken, and shall He not make it good?”

Num. 23:19



Order of Contents

Articles  12+
Quotes  7+

Historical Theology  2
Absolute & Relative Attributes  9+
God’s Expressions of Desire  10+
Wrath & Hatred are Not Properly in God  16+
Latin  10+




Does God have emotions?  People often respond to sincere inquirers with a blanket “No”, and end up ignoring or denying as much truth as they affirm.

The reformed orthodox terms were that God has affections and perfections.  The affections that are attributed to God in Scripture, they held, were metaphors, which were not wholly characteristic of God, and yet were in some respect, having an eternal foundation in his nature, or perfections.  The perfections of God, those proper properties of his nature, are infinite and never change.  Get wrecked by the reformed scholastics below on this webpage on this often neglected, though very important topic.

In 2019 charges were brought against Dr. Scott Oliphint in the Orthodox Presbyterian Chuch for putting forward the thesis that God, upon creation, assumed certain ‘covenantal properties’.  We believe both he, and his controverters on the other side (who emphasized the simplicity of God), did not describe the issues as accurately and in as much of an orthodox manner as the reformed orthodox did in the now-lost distinction between God’s Absolute & Relative Attributes below.

Further, what does God ‘desiring’ the conversion of his sinful creatures in the Gospel call mean?  All sides, we believe, will be satisfied by the dominant reformed scholastic answer of Rollock, Rutherford and Pictet, On God’s Expressions of Desire below.  In this section below there is a new translated excerpt from Rutherford’s Treatise on Providence.

And lastly, see below on this page why it is that many through Church history have taught That Wrath & Hatred are Not Properly in God.  May God bless you with a greater understanding of Himself.




Medieval Church

Aquinas, Thomas – Summa Theologiae, pt. 1

Question 5, ‘Of Goodness in General’

Question 6, ‘The Goodness of God’

Question 13, ‘The Names of God’

Book 1 of Zanchi’s Of the Nature of God is very similarly outlined as this section of Aquinas (and gives the same answers to the questions in general).

Question 20, ‘God’s Love’

Question 21, ‘The Justice & Mercy of God’


An Anthology of the Post-Reformation Era

Heppe, Heinrich – ch. 5, ‘The Attributes of God’, sections 29-32  in Reformed Dogmatics  ed. Bizer  (Wipf & Stock), pp. 92-96

Heppe quotes Heidegger, Riissen, Cocceius, Bullinger, Dilucid, Mastricht, the Leiden Synopsis, Wyttenbach, Endemann, Polanus, Voet, Heidegger & Braun.



Polanus, Amandus – Substance of Christian Religion Soundly set forth in two Books, by Definitions and Partitions…  (London, 1595), pp. 

‘And these are the senses, which are attributed to God: the affections follow’, pp. 9-11

‘And these are the affections which are attribu∣ted to God: the adjoints follow’, pp. 11-12

Morton, Thomas – A Treatise of the Nature of God  (London, 1599)  This is in the form of a dialogue.

ch. 4, ‘Of the Attributes of God Called his Affections’

ch. 5, ‘Of the Attributes of God Called his Virtues’



Trelcatius, Jr., Lucas – pp. 52 & 63  of Bk. 1, ch. 3, ‘Of God & the Attributes of God’  in A Brief Institution of the Common Places of Sacred Divinity…  2nd ed.  (1610)

Trelcatius Jr. (1573-1607) was a professor of theology at Leiden.  Robert Bellarmine was a prominent Roman Catholic apologist.

Ames, William – Ch. 3, theses 62-67, p. 14  of The Marrow of Sacred Divinity  (London, 1639)

Rutherford, Samuel – ch. 2, section 18, ‘Whether God Intends the Obedience of Reprobates in the Gospel Call?’  in Rutherford’s Examination of Arminianism: The Tables of Contents with Excerpts from Every Chapter  tr. Johnson & Fentiman (RBO, 2019), pp. 57-58

See the footnote on “disposition”, which is affectus in the Latin.

Leigh, Edward – A System or Body of Divinity…  (London, 1654), 2nd Book, ‘Of God’

Ch. 8, ‘Of God’s Affections, his Love, Hatred’

Ch. 9, ‘Of the Affections of Anger & Clemency, Given to God Metaphorically’

“Other affections which are given to God metaphorically, and by an anthropopathy are 1. Anger, and its contrary, complacency or gentleness, which are improperly in God, for He is neither pleased nor displeased; neither can a sudden either pertubation or tranquillity agree to God; but by these the actions of God are declared, which are such as those of offended and pleased men are wont to be; viz. God by an eternal and constant act of his will approves obedience, and the purity of the creature, and witnessses that by some sign of his favor, but abhors the iniquity and sin of the same creature and shows the same, by inflicting a punishment, not less severe, but far more just than men are wont to do when they are hot with anger, Ex. 32:10, ‘Now therefore, let Me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them…'”

Ch. 10, ‘Of God’s Virtues, Particularly of his Goodness’

“…his virtues follow; which as they have their seat in man, in the will and affections, so it is not inconvenient for method’s sake to refer them to the same in God.  Gods virtues are his essence considered, as it always works orderly, fitly and agreeably to perfect reason.  They are not things differing from his essence as in us, but we must conceive of them according to our capacity, and handle them distinctly.

By virtues we understand first in general the idea of virtue, or the chiefest moral perfection, by which God is in Himself absolutely the best, and in respect of which all the virtues of angels and men are only slender shadows and representations.”

Rijssen, Leonard – ch. 3, God, pp. 40-42  in A Complete Summary of Elenctic Theology…  trans. J. Wesley White  MTh thesis  (Bern, 1676; GPTS, 2009)

Owen, John – Ch. 4, ‘Of the Attribution of Passions & Affections, Anger, Fear, Repentance unto God’  of Vindiciae Evangelicae; Or the Mystery of the Gospel Vindicated & Socinianism Examined  in Works, 12.108-115

Charnock, Stephen – Discourse 6, ‘On the Immutability of God’, Propositions III-V, pp. 340-6  in Discourses upon the Existence & Attributes of God  2 vols.  (NY: 1853), vol. 1

Heidegger, Johann H. – Locus 3, sections 14-16  in The Concise Marrow of Theology  trans. Casey Carmichael  (RHB, 2019), pp. 25-26  Reader beware that these sections, and the volume in general, have constant translation errors; the translation is unreliable.  He translates affectus as ’emotions’.  Rather, see the Latin below.

Peter van Mastricht – Theoretical Practical Theology  (RHB), vol. 2, bk. 2, ch. 15, ‘The Will & Affections of God’

sections 18-21, pp. 303-306

“…according to the common saying of Gregory of Nazianzus, since these affections are attributed to God in a human way, they must be understood in a way worthy of God, according to the effective operation rather than the affection.

XXI.  …Second, the virtues, so different in us, denote in God a single readiness in acting, which readiness coincides with his essence…  And fourth, those virtues that remain and involve no imperfection are to be left for God in such a way that we conceive of them with the highest eminence of perfection.”

section 32, ‘5. Do affections properly belong to God?’

“The Reformed, although they do not at all deny that words that express affections, just as words that express body parts, are employed to speak of God in the Scriptures, and although likewise they acknowledge that when every imperfection is removed from the affections, the substance of those words is in God, even so do not dare to allow in God these disturbances, in which almost the whole nature of affections consists.”



Pictet, Benedict – pp. 84-89  of bk. 2, ch. 5, ‘Of the Will & Affections of God’  in Christian Theology  (d. 1724)

Pictet was the Swiss professor of divinity in Geneva after Turretin.  He was the last professor to hold the orthodox faith there before the rise of the Enlightenment.

De Moor, Bernhardinus – Didactic-Elenctic Theology  (1761-1772)

IV:17, ‘The Rabbis on the Attributes of God’

IV:14, ‘Answering the Anthropomorphites’

IV:19, ‘Classification of God’s Attributes: Proper & Metaphorical’

IV:19, ‘Classification of God’s Attributes: Absolute & Relative’

IV:26, ‘The Impassibility of God’




On the Post Reformation Era

Richard Muller

PRRD (Baker, 2003), vol. 3, pt. 2, ch. 5.4, D. The ad intra Distinctions, p. 454

“The will of God is also to be viewed in the light of the various ‘affections’ attributed to God.  these ‘affections’ are, in man, termed emotions or passions and are associated with human weakness and mutability.  In relation to God, however, the ‘affections’:

‘do not designate any passions or emotions, nor are to be understood as diverse divine wills, for this would imply mutation in God, but as acts of the same will, indicating its different relations.’ (Pictet, Theol. chr. I.vii.1)

Of course, the immutability of God, like his being unmoved, describes a God who is also actus purus [pure act]: thus neither concept indicates a divine immobility or quiescence.”


Dictionary of Latin & Greek Theological Terms (Baker, 1985)


affection; vis., passion or desire, a disposition toward someone or something; synonymous with passio and affectus.  Specifically, the affectio animi, or affection of soul, that is the faculty of desire.

affectus voluntatis Dei:

affections of the will of God; vis., those divine attributes which, according to the strict faculty psychology held by the Protestant scholastics, appear as dispositions or conditions of the divine will; i.e., amor or love, benevolentia or goodness of will…”

“attributa divina

…(4) The attributes are, nevertheless, truly and properly predicated of God.  thus the attributes are not distinct from one another or from the divine essence realiter, really, as one thing is distinct form another; nor are they distinct merely rationaliter, rationally, in the reasoning of the finite subject only (ratio ratiocinans, q.v.).

In denominating the attributes, the human mind rests its conclusions on the exercise of divine power in the world and on the explicit revelation of God, so that the attributes are predicated of God and distinguished from one another on the basis of a reasoning founded in the reality of the thing under consideration, vis., God (ratio ratiocinata, cum fundmento in re).  This distinctio rationis ratiocinatae, or distinction of ratiocinative reason…  also called a distinctio virtualis [a virtual distinction], is taught by nearly all the Lutheran and Reformed scholastics.  It is incidentally, the solution to the problem of predication proposed by Thomas Aquinas and Henry of Ghent.”



The Synopsis of Pure Theology

ed. Dolf te Velde  trans. Riemer A. Faber  (Brill, 2015), Disputation 6, theses 39-43

“God’s good affections (which in human beings are the passions), and the virtues of his intellect and will (which in mortals are the ethical and moral qualities which designate regulation of the affections), are: truth, love, goodness, gentleness, charity, generosity, mercy, and long-suffering, anger, hatred, justice, and also holiness, etc., and are truly and properly said of God (of course with the removal of every imperfection from them); and they are nothing other than God’s ardent will towards us, and its power and effect in creatures. These are classified by different names, according to the variety of things that are their object, and according to the ways in which they are performed, and their various effects.

Moreover, just as these qualities rightly are attributed to God, so too the vices opposite to these virtues are far from God: falsehood, injustice, and the rest (Number 23:19; 2Chronicles 19:7; Romans 9:14)…  Even regret, fear, grief, hope and desperation, and the likes are not found as befitting God’s perfect nature (Numbers 23:19).

Finally, there are things predicated of God that actually denote perfection in created beings also (though not absolutely, but in some fashion appropriate to creatures), which do not apply to God properly, but because of some similarity to God they are expressed through figures of speech and metaphorically. Such are the names, parts, limbs, properties and actions of inanimate and animate things, and especially of man (Psalm 94:7[-9]). We may add to them the qualities which God in his dispensation makes his own, like a physical body that He assumes for the occasion, or speech, a voice, a word He formed in the air.  All of these are said of God in an anthropopathic way [anthrōpopathōs], but they must be understood in a way that is appropriate to God [theoprepōs] and taken as indicating the properties and workings of God.

What is more, the perfection of God consists in all those divine attributes, as of one in whom there are no shortcomings.  There is excellence and preeminence above all things, for nothing is similar or equal to Him.”


Samuel Rutherford

The Examination of Arminianism…  (Utrecht, 1668), ch. 9, section 9, ‘Whether, by the death of Christ, the merciful affection in God, by which He wills all to be saved, is changed into an absolute purpose to give eternal life to those who believe?  We deny against the Remonstrants.’, pp. 405-6  trans. T. Fentiman

“We deny:

1. Because there is in God no partial-mercy or partial will to commiserate, which is able to augment and change into an entire willing; nor yet is the will of God capable of an increase or alteration.

3. Because the change of the divine wrath and hatred into love and benevolence is not a change in God ad intra [in Himself] but only a change in the effect of God being wrathful and holding sinners in enmity, ad extra [outside of Himself].”


Turretin, Francis

Institutes (P&R), vol. 1, 3rd Topic, 20th Question,

sections 4, p. 241

“Hence although love considered affectively and on the part of the internal act is equal in God (because it does not admit of increase and diminution), yet regarded effectively (or on the part of the good which He wills to anyone) it is unequal because some effects of love are greater than others.”


section 7, p. 242

“Now it is usual to understand it [grace] principally in two ways:  either affectively (as they say), i.e., with respect to the ‘internal act’ in God; or effectively, with regard to the effects which it produces outwardly in the creatures.  The former is toward us, and we stand objectively related to it; the latter is in us, and we stand subjectively related to it.”



Robert L. Dabney

Discussions, vol 1, ‘God’s Indiscriminate Proposals of Mercy’

“We may be reminded that the [Westminster] Confession declares God to be ‘without passions.’  So the theologians tell us that we must ascribe to Him no ‘passive powers’; for then He would not be immutable.  He acts on everything, but is acted on by none.  He is the source, but not the recipient of effects.  This is indisputable.

But we should not so overstrain the truth as to reject two other truths.  One is, that while God has no passions, while He has no mere susceptibility such that his creature can cause an effect upon it irrespective to God’s own will and freedom, yet He has active principles.  These are not passions, in the sense of fluctuations or agitations, but none the less are they affections of his will, actively distinguished from the cognitions in his intelligence.  They are true optative functions of the divine Spirit.  However anthropopathic may be the statements made concerning God’s repentings, wrath, pity, pleasure, love, jealousy, hatred, in the Scriptures, we should do violence to them if we denied that He here meant to ascribe to Himself active affections in some mode suitable to his nature. And it is impossible for us to suppose an agent without active principles, as well as cognitive, as we could not believe that the compass could move the ship without any motive power.

The other truth is, that objective beings and events are the real occasions, though not efficient causes, of the action both of the divine affections and will.  Are not many divines so much afraid of ascribing to God any ‘passive powers,’ or any phase of dependence on the creature, that they hesitate even to admit that scriptural fact?  But why should they recoil from the simple statements of his Word on this point, unless they were confused or misled by the old sensualistic view, which regarded the objective impression as somehow the efficient, instead of the mere occasion, of the following activities of the percipient soul: “God is angry with the wicked every day” (Ps. 7:11); “But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord;” “My delight is in her” (Is. 62:4); “In these things I delight, saith the Lord” (Jer. 9:24).

Is all this so anthropopathic as not even to mean that God’s active principles here have an objective?  Why not let the Scriptures mean what they so plainly strive to declare? But some seem so afraid of recognizing in God any susceptibility of a passive nature that they virtually set Scripture aside, and paint a God whose whole activities of intelligence and will are so exclusively from Himself that even the relation of objective occasion to Him is made unreal, and no other is allowed than a species of coincidence or preëstablished harmony.  They are chary of conceding (what the Bible seems so plainly to say) that God is angry because men sin; and would go no farther than to admit that somehow He is angry when men sin, yet, because absolutely independent, angry only of Himself.”



Thomas Mount

Existential Dimensions of the Contemporary Impassibility Debate:  a Pastoral Approach to the Question of Divine Suffering within the Context of Conservative Evangelicalism  PhD thesis  (South African Theological Seminary, 2015), 6.2.1 Provide definitional clarity, p. 338

“Helm (1990) urged the coining of an entirely new term, ‘theomotions’, to express divine affect in contradistinction to human varieties [Helm, ‘The Impossibility of Divine Passibility’ in ed. N.M. de S. Cameron, The Power & Weakness of God (Edinburgh: Rutherford House, 1990), pp. 119-140]. And Scrutton (2005) suggested that differentiating ‘passions’ from ‘affections’, a la Augustine and Aquinas, would move the conversation forward.”



Historical Theology


Muller, Richard – Post Reformation Reformed Dogmatics  2nd ed.  (Baker Academic, 2003), vol. 3

ch. 3.3, D. ‘Patterns of Classification’, 2. ‘Divine names, essential or absolute attributes (attributes of the first order), relative attributes and divine affections (attributes of the second order)’, pp. 217-9

ch. 6.3, ‘The Divine Affections & Virtues’, pp. 551-89

“The second part of the division, however, that between ‘proper’ and ‘figurative,’ is the point of distinction between the affections and all of the attributes discussed previously [life, intellect, will, righteousness, truth, pwer, glory, etc.].  For the affections of the divine will or, as they are sometimes called, divine virtues, are attributed to God, not properly, but figuratively…  The affections are, therefore, either inward and inalterable dispositions of the divine will or figurative attributions based on ad extra manifestations.  Furthermore, what makes the attribution of an affection to God figurative or metaphorical is its apparent variation, temporality, or alterability.

…the [reformed] orthodox assume that God has affectiones that characterize his relationship to the world and that some analogy can be drawn between these ‘divine affections’ and the affections that belong to human willing–with the major qualification that, unlike human affections, the divine affections do not indicate essential change in God and that they are permanent rather than transient dispositions…

…This, an affection is a disposition of nature or an inclination of will toward an object and, as such, it can indicate either a transient disposition (in contrast to a habitus) that is caused by an external object or a permanent disposition or virtue.  It is the latter sense of the term, as a permanent disposition or virtue, that the orthodox accept…  A virtue is, quite simply, a moral perfection–in the case of God, the perfection of his understanding and/or will.433

433. [William] Ames, Marrow, I.iv.63…  the point of the theological argument is that God act[s] but is not acted upon.

The Reformed orthodox understanding of God, in accord with the greater part of the Christian tradition, assumes the divine immutability, and, typically, denies change and, certainly, acquired qualities to God.

The divine affections…  are divine perfections that have some analogy to the dispositions or habits of the human will.” – pp. 552-7



On Absolute & Relative Attributes


Early Church

Augustine – On the Trinity, bk. 5, ch. 16, ‘What is Said of God in Time, is Said Relatively, Not Accidentally’

“For if a lord also is not so called unless when he begins to have a slave, that appellation likewise is relative and in time to God; for the creature is not from all eternity, of which He is the Lord. How then shall we make it good that relative terms themselves are not accidental, since nothing happens accidentally to God in time, because He is incapable of change, as we have argued in the beginning of this discussion?  Behold!  To be the Lord is not eternal to God; otherwise we should be compelled to say that the creature also is from eternity, since He would not be a lord from all eternity unless the creature also was a servant from all eternity…  Certainly to be the Lord of man happened to God in time.  And that all dispute may seem to be taken away, certainly to be your Lord, or mine, who have only lately begun to be, happened to God in time.

How then shall we make it good that nothing is said of God according to accident, except because nothing happens to His nature by which He may be changed, so that those things are relative accidents which happen in connection with some change of the things of which they are spoken.  As a friend is so called relatively…

how much more easily ought we to admit, concerning that unchangeable substance of God, that something may be so predicated relatively in respect to the creature, that although it begin to be so predicated in time, yet nothing shall be understood to have happened to the substance itself of God, but only to that creature in respect to which it is predicated?  Lord, it is said, ‘You have been made our refuge.’  God, therefore, is said to be our refuge relatively, for He is referred to us, and He then becomes our refuge when we flee to Him; pray does anything come to pass then in His nature, which, before we fled to Him, was not?  In us therefore some change does take place; for we were worse before we fled to Him, and we become better by fleeing to Him: but in Him there is no change…

Therefore that which begins to be spoken of God in time, and which was not spoken of Him before, is manifestly spoken of Him relatively; yet not according to any accident of God, so that anything should have happened to Him, but clearly according to some accident of that [thing or person], in respect to which God begins to be called something relatively…

that what is said may be said in that way in which it can be comprehended by human affections. So also, when He is said to be angry with the unrighteous, and gentle with the good, they are changed, not He: just as the light is troublesome to weak eyes, pleasant to those that are strong; namely, by their change, not its own.”


Medieval Church

Aquinas, Thomas – Contra Gentiles, Bk. 2, On Creation

10. ‘How Power is Attributed to God’

“…It is evident that power is in truth attributed to God in relation to things made, not in relation to action, except according to our way of understanding…”

11. ‘That Something is Said of God in Relation to Creatures’

“Now, since power is proper to God in relation to His effects, and since power, as was said, has the character of a principle, and since principle expresses relationship to that which proceeds from it, it is evident that something can be said of God relatively, with regard to His effects.”

12. ‘That relations predicated of God in reference to creatures do not really exist in Him’

“Now, these relations which refer to God’s effects cannot possibly exist in Him really.  [2] For they cannot exist in Him as accidents in a subject, since there is no accident in Him…  Neither can they be God’s very substance…  so that God’s substance would then have to be referred to something else. But that which is essentially referred to another depends upon it in a certain way, since it can neither be nor be understood without it.  Hence, it would follow that God’s substance would depend on something else extrinsic to it, so that He would not be, of Himself, the necessary being…  Therefore, such relations do not really exist in God.

Furthermore, we observe that whatever receives something anew must be changed, either essentially or accidentally.  Now, certain relations are predicated of God anew; for example, that He is Lord or Governor of this thing which begins to exist anew.  Hence, if a relation were predicated of God as really existing in Him, it would follow that something accrues to God anew, and thus that He is changed either essentially or accidentally;”

13-14. ‘How the aforesaid relations are predicated of God’

“[4] Having proved that these relations have no real existence in God, and yet are predicated of Him, it follows that they are attributed to Him solely in accordance with our manner of understanding, from the fact that other things are referred to Him. For in understanding one thing to be referred to another, our intellect simultaneously grasps the relation of the latter to it, although sometimes that thing is not really related.

[5] And so it is evident, also, that such relations are not said of God in the same way as other things predicated of Him.  For all other things, such as wisdom and will, express His essence; the aforesaid relations by no means do so really, but only as regards our way of understanding.  Nevertheless, our understanding is not fallacious.  For, from the very fact that our intellect understands that the relations of the divine effects are terminated in God Himself, it predicates certain things of Him relatively; so also do we understand and express the knowable relatively, from the fact that knowledge is referred to it.”



Owen, John – pt. 1, ch. 2, pp. 503, 508-12  of Dissertation of the Divine Justice, in Works, vol. 10

Charnock, Stephen – Discourse 12, ‘On the Goodness of God’, pp. 332-4  in Discourses upon the Existence & Attributes of God  2 vols.  (NY: 1853), vol. 2



De Moor, Berhardinus – A Continuous Commentary on Johannes a Marck  (1761-1772), IV:19, ‘Classification of God’s Attributes: Absolute & Relative’

“[Attributes of God are classified] Into Absolute and Relative, which imply a Relation to the creatures with Himself, and are founded in Absolutes.  Thus an Absolute Attribute of God is Goodness, but a Relative Attribute is Mercy, which pertains to the Goodness of God, but additionally involves a regard to a miserable creature. Immensity is an Absolute Attribute, but Omnipresence is Relative, because it indicates a relation to created things, in all which it asserts the presence of God.

Vindictive Justice is a Relative Attribute, indicating a relation to a creature, sinful and worthy of punishment; but it is founded in an Absolute Attribute, divine Holiness.  And so, although that relation did not obtain before the things were created, nevertheless the Relative Attributes are able truly to be said to be Essential to God, because they are always applicable to God with respect to their foundation.”



Muller, Richard – ch. 3.3, D. ‘Patterns of Classification’, 2. ‘Divine names, essential or absolute attributes (attributes of the first order), relative attributes and divine affections (attributes of the second order)’  in Post Reformation Reformed Dogmatics  2nd ed.  (Baker Academic, 2003), vol. 3, pp. 217-9

Trueman, Carl – ‘Absolute & Relative Attributes’  in ch.3, ‘The Doctrine of God’  in The Claims of Truth: John Owen’s Trinitarian Theology  (Paternoster, 1998), pp. 103-4



Antonius Walaeus

as quoted in Johannes Hornbeek, Institutes 3.9  trans. Charles Johnson

“Some [attributes] are said absolutely concerning God, as all the preceding attributes.  Others relatively, which relation is two-fold: either with respect to the persons among themselves, as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, or with respect of the creatures to God, as Creator, Savior, Lord, King, etc.

Here it is asked, whether all these things were in God from eternity past.

Response:  All those things that are attributed to God absolutely are eternal, even those that are spoken relative to the very persons, as shall be proven afterwards against the heretics – Arians, Samosatensians, etc.  The difficulty, therefore, remains only in those which are spoken concerning God with respect to the creatures, concerning which we respond, if we consider the foundation of the relation, such as the power to create, to conserve, to reign, etc, this also is eternal, because it is referred to the absolute: but if we consider the formal relation, that is added in time: for God was not an actual creator until he had created things.

Objection:  But then it is stated that something was added to God; and therefore, some change was also done in Him.

Response:  That relation, with respect to God, is not real; but it is only so with respect to the creature.  For to the creature, something real is added, and not to God; but only some notional concept.  Augustine compares it to a coin: when it becomes a pledge, nothing is really added to the coin; but to the man who accepts it, something is really added.  Thomas compares it to a column, which is to my right: when I turn to that side, still nothing is really added to the column; but only to the man, who turns himself toward it in this or that way, does any change take place.”


John Owen

Vindiciae Evangelicae; Or the Mystery of the Gospel Vindicated & Socinianism Examined, ch. 2, ‘Of the Nature of God’, p. 93  in Works, vol. 12

“The properties of God are either absolute or relative.  The absolute properties of God are such as may be considered without the supposition of any thing else whatever, towards which their energy and efficacy should be exerted. His relative are such as, in their egress and exercise, respect some things in the creatures, though they naturally and eternally reside in God.

Of the first sort is God’s immensity ; it is an absolute property of his nature and being. For God to be immense, infinite, unbounded, unlimited, is as necessary to him as to be God ; that is, it is of his essential perfection so to be.  The ubiquity of God, or his presence to all things and persons, is a relative property of God ; for to say that God is present in and to all things supposes those things to be. Indeed, the ubiquity of God is the habitude of his immensity to the creation. Supposing the creatures, the world that is, God is by reason of his immensity indistant to them all;”


Stephen Charnock

Discourses upon the Existence & Attributes of God  2 vols.  (NY: 1853), vol. 2

Discourse 12, ‘On the Goodness of God’, p. 352

“The absolute goodness of God, as it is the excellency of his nature, is the object of praise: the relative goodness of God, as He is our benefactor, is the object of thankfulness.”


Discourse 13, ‘On God’s Dominion’, p. 370

“Besides, creation is the only first discovery of his dominion.  Before the world was framed there was nothing but God Himself, and, properly, nothing is said to have dominion over itself; this is a relative attribute, reflecting on the works of God; He had a right of dominion in his nature from eternity, but before creation He was actually Lord only of a nullity; where there is nothing it can have no relation; nothing is not the subject of possession nor of dominion.  There could be no exercise of this dominion without creation: what exercise can a sovereign have without subjects? Sovereignty speaks a relation to subjects, and none is properly a sovereign without subjects.

To conclude: from hence does result God’s universal dominion; for being Maker of all, He is the ruler of all, and his perpetual dominion; for as long as God continues in the relation of Creator, the right of his sovereignty as Creator cannot be abolished.”


Richard Muller

PRRD (Baker, 2003), pt. 2, ch. 6.3, 3. ‘Doctrinal Conclusions’, pp. 559-60

“Inasmuch, moreover, as the divine affections are understood as descriptive of God’s movement or egress toward the finite order, they are not only to be understood as communicable attributes par excellence, they are also attributes defined primarily in their relationship to finite objects.  It is by these affectiones or virtues that God sustains his relations with creatures–they are the preeminent example of the so-called communicabilia or relative attributes. (Mastricht, Theoretic-practica theologia, II.xv.19)

In attempting to define the issue still more precisely, Owen distinguished between ‘attributes of Deity which, in order to their exercise, require no determined object antecedent to their agress’ and ‘attributes which can in no wise have an egress or be exercised without an object predetermined, and, as it were, by some circumstances prepared for them.’ (Owen, Dissertation of the Divine Justice, in Works, X, p. 508)  The affections fall, clearly, into the latter category, the virtues into the former.”




Zanchi, Jerome – Of the Nature of God…  (Heidelberg, 1577), bk. 1

ch. 2, sections 4-5, pp. 6-7

ch. 10, Last Question, ‘As God is eternal and immutable, and nothing new occurs to Him, so are other names (which are convenient to Him with regard to time) thus from eternity not able to pertain in Him?, pp. 27-29

Danaeus, Lambert – ch. 8. ‘Of Accidents in God’  in A Christian Introduction to Christian Theological Common Places (Geneva, 1588), pp. 20.v-21

Danaeus (c. 1535–c. 1590)



Maccovius, Johannes – Disputation 21, ‘Of the Relative Attributes of God, & in Specific of the Power of God in Creatures’  in Another Part: Theological Theses through Common Places, pt. 1  in A Theological Collection of all that which is Extant…  (Franeker, 1641), pp. 95-98



De Moore, Berhardinus – A Disputation on Vindictive Justice being Essential to God, pt. 7  (Leiden, 1730), §27-28, pp. 5-8

“Now, relation to creatures, or to a certain state of them, which obtains in the denomination of any divine attribute, whether considered in itself or in its effects, adds or diminishes nothing of intrinsic perfection from a divine attribute of this sort: see my Disputationem de Justitia Vindicativa Deo Essentiali, §27,28.” – De Moor, IV: 19, ‘Absolute & Relative’



On God’s Expressions of Desire


Rutherford, Samuel

Ch. 2, Heading 5, ‘Whether because God amiably invites and by supplications solicits, entreats and calls upon reprobates, and as He mourns over them, is grieved by them and laments on account of the
disobedient, whether He, therefore, intends the obedience of them? The Remonstrants affirm; we negate.’ or ‘Whether God Intends the Obedience of Reprobates in the Gospel Call?’, pp. 57-8  in Rutherford’s Examination of Arminianism: the Tables of Contents with Excerpts from Every Chapter  trans. Charles Johnson & Travis Fentiman  (1639-42; 1668; ReformedBooksOnline, 2019)

‘God’s Serious & Unfeigned Ardency of Desire that we do what is our Duty’  from Christ Dying & Drawing Sinners to Himself…  (London 1647), pp. 443-45 (irregular pagination: colophon lll2-lll3) & pp. 440-42 (colophon: Kkk4-Lll1)

“It’s much worthy of observation, how that sweet evangelic invitation is conceived, Isa. 55:1…  For the interjection, ‘Ho’, is a mark of sorrowing, as ‘ah’, or ‘woe, everyone that thirsts’.  It expresses two things: 1. A vehemency and a serious and unfeigned ardency of desire that we do what is our duty, and the concatenation of these two, extremely desired of God, our coming to Christ and our salvation.  This moral connection between faith and salvation is desired of God with his will of approbation, complacency, and moral liking, without all dissimulation, most unfeignedly [margin: What the revealed will of God is];

…we say with good reason of God’s good will, called voluntas signi, it might have its complete and entire end and effect though not any one of men or angel obey…

We are hence taught to acknowledge no love to be in God which is not effectual in doing good to the creature; there is no lip-love, no raw well-wishing to the creature which God does not make good…  yet does not the Lord’s general love fall short of what He wills to them.”

Rijssen, Leonard – ch. 3, God, pp. 40-42  in A Complete Summary of Elenctic Theology…  trans. J. Wesley White  MTh thesis  (Bern, 1676; GPTS, 2009)



Robert Rollock

‘A Brief Instruction on the Eternal Approval & Disapproval of the Divine Mind’  trans. Charles Johnson & Travis Fentiman  (1593/4; ReformedBooksOnline, 2020), p. 3

“God from eternity either approves or disapproves of something.  Approval in general is either bare and without the decree, or it is with the decree.  Approval without the decree is when God approves something simply, yet He does not decree that it be chosen or followed after.

Approval without the decree belongs to all good things with respect to themselves, though they are not at any time realized, of which sort are the conversion, faith, and salvation of reprobates; which God surely approves of simply, but does not decree to come about; thus He decrees them not to come about…

Concerning approval without the decree, see Dt. 5:29, “O that there were such a heart in them, that they would fear me and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children forever!” 1 Tim. 2:4, “Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.”  1 Tim. 4:10, “…who is the Savior of all men, specially of those that believe.””


Samuel Rutherford

A Scholastic Disputation on Divine Providence  (Edinburgh, 1649), Metaphysical Inquiries, p. 605  Trans. T. Fentiman.  A ‘metonymy’ is something that is indirectly named by something closely related to it.

“[Margin note:] How far the will of sign may be a will

Question 33, Whether the will of sign may improperly and metonymically be the will of God?

Response:  The will of sign, according as it designates what is the pleasing and acceptable revealed will of God to us, that which is of our duty, so it is called the approving will, contradistinguished from the will of good-pleasure [of decree], and refers to two things:

1. To that which we ought to believe or do, inasmuch as that is obliging of consciences, since we ought to will to please God and will the reward of obedience following.

2. It refers to obedience, and this so far as God displays that to us by an urging [actu], either through special grace or a common concursus.

The first will is of complacency and is properly called will, whose object is the duty of the rational creature.  In this way God sincerely [serio] approves and wills obedience, and is pleased in this moral good as a rule and norm, and it is not less a will than that which is called of good-pleasure [or the will of decree].

But the latter way is not an executing will as the will of good-pleasure is, nor does God will, intend or decree through grace or concursus, to work in the creatures that which He commands or prohibits, because He commands or prohibits it.

And in this way the will of sign is so far improperly called ‘the will of sign’; indeed, the punishment is called the wrath of God, because assuredly God punishes that which is done, as men are accustomed to do such being angry and in the passion of wrath, being aroused and agitated, although nonetheless, passions do not occur in God.”


John Owen

Ch. 4, ‘Of the Attribution of Passions & Affections, Anger, Fear, Repentance unto God’  of Vindiciae Evangelicae; Or the Mystery of the Gospel Vindicated & Socinianism Examined  in Works, vol. 12, p. 109

“First, in general, that God is perfect and perfectly blessed, I suppose will not be denied; it cannot be but by denying that He is God.  He that is not perfect in Himself and perfectly blessed is not God.  To that which is perfect in any kind nothing is wanting in that kind.  To that which is absolutely perfect nothing is wanting at all.  He who is blessed is perfectly satisfied and filled, and has no farther desire for supply.  He who is blessed in Himself is all-sufficient for Himself.  If God want or desire any thing for Himself, He is neither perfect nor blessed.  To ascribe, then, affections to God properly [as his Socinian opponent does]…  is to deprive Him of his perfection and blessedness.

1. Affections, considered in themselves, have always an incomplete, imperfect act of the will or volition joined with them. They are something that lies between the firm purpose of the soul and the execution of that purpose.^ The proper actings of affections lie between these two ; that is, in an incomplete, tumultuary volition.  That God is not obnoxious to such volitions and incomplete actings of the will, besides the general consideration of his perfections and blessedness premised, is evident from that manner of procedure which is ascribed to him. His purposes and his works comprise all his actings.  As the Lord hath purposed, so hath he done.  ‘He worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.'”


Benedict Pictet

Christian Theology  (d. 1724), bk. 2, ch. 5, p. 87

“To the love of God belong what may be called his desires or wishes, etc.  Now it is the absence of good which excites desire; but since God enjoys all good, it is plain that desire cannot properly apply to Him; yet it is frequently attributed to Him in scripture, and to this may be referred all those passages in which God is introduced speaking to this effect: “O that my people had hearkened unto me.” (Ps. 81:14; Isa. 48:14; Lk. 19:42)  Therefore this desire in God denotes, that man’s obedience is highly pleasing to him, and that He will not pass it by unrewarded; at the same time it points out man’s duty, and his great wickedness in not discharging this duty.

To this desire is opposed aversion, by which God is said to loathe sin, and to have no pleasure in the destruction of the creature.  From what has been said, we clearly see what ideas we ought to have of the hope of God, of his joy, sorrow, jealousy,etc.  Hope or expectation in God, intimates that the thing is due to Him.  Thus when He said that He “looked that his vineyard should bring forth grapes,” (Isa. 5:2) He meant that the vineyard owed him fruit, and could not be fruitless without sin.  God is said to rejoice when anything is pleasing to Him; and also when He performs anything which displays his glory, as when He does good to his people, or when He punishes the rebellious and ungodly. (Deut. 28:63; 30:9)”


Bernhard De Moor

Didactic-Elenctic Theology  (1761-1772), IV:26, ‘The Impassibility of God’

“The passions of the [human] soul are perfections in those, in which it is a perfection to seek what is lacking, and to flee what is hurtful: they are not perfections in Him, whose Will is satisfied only with His own Sufficiency; and who is not able to receive from another source any good that He might desire, and whom no evil is able to threaten, that He should fear; therefore, nothing is able to be presented to Him, by the impulse of which His Will might be moved from its immovable state.”


Further Webpages

Bible Verses on God’s Revealed Will Being His Will, Desire, Pleasure & Wish

Historic Reformed Quotes on God’s Revealed Will & the Gospel Call as God’s Desire, Wish & Pleasure



Maresius, Samuel – ch. 31, ‘Of Desire, Hope & Joy, & the Contraries of them which are Attributed to God in the Sacred Scripture’  in Bk. 1, ‘Of God & his Attributes’  in The Hydra of Socinianism Expunged, vol. 1  (Groningen, 1651), pp. 578-604

Burman, Francis – ‘Of the Desire & Aversion of God’  in A Synopsis of Theology…  vol. 1  (Utrecht, 1671), Locus 2, ‘Of God’, pp.130-31



That Wrath, Hatred & Other such Negative Qualities Attributed to God are Not Proper to God or in Him, or Part of his Nature or Essence

“Fury is not in Me.”

Isa. 27:4


This is because (1) God is eternally and completely blessed (which wrath and hatred are incompatible with, says John Owen below), (2) there is nothing for Him to be wrathful at in his lone, atemporal, eternity as He alone fills it, and there is no sin or lack of perfection there, and (3) God needs nothing outside of Himself nor can be acted upon by anything outside of Himself.

Rather, wrath and hatred, which the Scriptures so often speak of, are the manifestation in God’s revealed will to his creatures (as He relates to them in ways that they can understand) of his omnipotent righteousness, goodness and love coming into confrontation with that which is inconsistent therewith, namely sin.  God is love, and his other attributes, but He is not wrath and hatred.

The foundation in God’s nature of his revealed wrath for sin (which is disobedience unto his will, and is contrary to it in numerous respects) is his exhaustively infinite and perfect love for his own will, goodness, holiness, truth and glory.

Thus before sin, God is perfectly blessed.  When, by a privation in the will of the creature, sin enters the Creation, it incurs the wrath of God, insofar as God relates to the Creation, though He remains perfectly blessed and unchanged forever.  The change is in the creature, not in God; and being under wrath is the only way rational creatures, their minds and sight disfigured by sin, can begin to understand how perfect and infinite goodness, righteousness and glory now relates to them.

Further, if hatred and wrath were proper attributes of God, they would have to be coincident in every act of his will, and harmonious with all of the other proper attributes occurring therein (such as goodness, love, wisdom, etc.).  Yet this is most clearly not the case, as God is only wrathful towards sin (which is an accidental quality, a deprivation of goodness) as it occurs in a certain portion of time.

Further, while God may have an infinite hatred of and wrath towards finite sin, insofar as the foundation of it is his infinite righteous being, yet sin itself can only ever be finite and not infinite, and that in relation to the good.  As there is no absolute sinful being, of infinite sinfulness, which is impossible (as the reformed scholastics affirmed), so there can be no hatred or wrathfulness absolute and infinite in its being.  Thus, hatred and wrath cannot be perfections of God, as they are not perfections, but only occur in relation to that which is imperfect and deformed.


On Zanchi

It is true that there has been a variety of expression and emphasis on this topic in the writers of reformed orthodoxy.  Zanchi, in his monumental, Of the Nature of God (1577), opens his chapter on the wrath of God (bk. 4, ch. 6) saying, “That wrath is in God, none is able to deny, nor that it is an indignity to his majesty.”  He qualifies this, saying, “Further, in his being wrathful to all sinners, it is for no other cause than on account of sins.”  The first question that Zanchi poses, “Whether wrath is properly attributed to God?”, Zanchi answers with a “Yes”.  He spends, though, most of his answer denying that wrath reflects any commotion in God.  He proposes as his first thesis, “Wrath in that sense by which the Scriptures give that to God, is truly and properly attributed to Him.”

What is this sense?  Zanchi answers this on p. 499, lt. col. 2/3 of the way down:

“First, it signifies that certain and most just will of God and decree to avenge or punish injuries done to Himself or to his Church.  Thus it is in John: “Those which do not believe in the Son, the wrath of God abides upon them,” (3:36) that is, a just vindication, the decree of God making it firm.  And [in the letter] to the Romans, “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven upon all ungodliness,” (1:18) that is, by the effects it is opened up what is the will of God holding in heaven against all iniquities…  In God it is not a commotion, but the most just and most holy will and decree taking up punishments on sinners.”

Two things here, Zanchi says (which we agree with), are signified by the ‘wrath’ of God spoken of in Scripture (and this anthropopathically, p. 500): 1. the will and decree of God to punish sinners, and 2. the effects that come upon sinners in time.

The second, the effects that come upon sinners in time, are not in God, but are revealed and executed in time from Him.  The first, of the will and decree of God to punish sinners, is in God; however, God’s decree is only his purpose to execute such effects in time.  His purpose or decree to do such is not sin itself, nor is his purpose actually angry itself, nor is it the same as the actual execution that it determines, nor does it necessitate that sin co-temporaneously exists (for instance, before Adam fell, God’s decree was the same, and yet God was very pleased with his creation).  The decree in God, which is in fact righteous, has no opposition in eternity, nor is God at all troubled or incensed in his own self at having decreed sin to occur eternally in Hell.

Where God’s wrath and hatred are manifested, due to his righteous and completely self-sufficient, holy and untouched nature, can only be outside of Himself where alone sin exists as something other than Himself, and that only in relation to it (see our subsection above: On Absolute & Relative Attributes).


Will & Nature Distinguished, & Owen

To further confirm these things, there is and must be a difference (according to our conception) between God’s will and his nature (as Charnock makes clear), because God is who He is necessarily by his nature and will operating internally, and yet He is able, and does, will things directed outside of Himself, freely, which could be otherwise.  Hence God’s will is distinct from his nature (as it must be according to our finite minds, which cannot contain the infinite, we being only ever able to understand in part, 1 Cor. 13:9).

Thus, to say that God’s wrath signifies his eternal will to punish sinners, the whole of which is contingent on his free decree to create at all (which, in a certain respect could have been otherwise), in no way implies that hatred and wrath are attributes of God’s nature as He is in Himself.  John Owen makes this point in discussing ‘wrath’ signifying God’s eternal will to punish sinners (Vindiciae Evangelicae in Works, vol. 12):

“Properly, in the sense by him [Mr. Biddle, a Socinian] pointed to, anger, wrath, etc., are not in God…  If He be properly and literally angry and furious, and wrathful, He is moved, troubled, perplexed, desires revenge, and is neither blessed nor perfect.” p. 112

“Of love, mercy, and grace, the condition is something otherwise [than with wrath]: principally they denote God’s essential goodness and kindness, which is eminent amongst his infinite perfections” – pp. 114-5

May we seek to learn from the resources below, as they help us to more clearly understand the deep things of our great God, and may we ever serve Him with fear, and have greater reason to rejoice with trembling. (Ps. 2:11)  He is a refuge to all those who take refuge in Him.



Medieval Church

Aquinas, Thomas

Contra the Gentiles, Bk. 1, Ch. 96, “That God Hates Nothing, & the Hatred of No Thing Befits Him”

Aquinas explains the hatred of sinners spoken of in Scripture, in sections 7-8, as a ‘similitude’ and a willing of a relative, lesser good to them, via justice and the order of the universe.

Summa Theologiae, pt. 1

Question 29, ‘Of Hatred’

Article 2, ‘Whether Love is a Cause of Hatred? [Yes]’

“…love consists in a certain agreement of the lover with the object loved, while hatred consists in a certain disagreement or dissonance.  Now we should consider in each thing, what agrees with it, before that which disagrees: since a thing disagrees with another, through destroying or hindering that which agrees with it.  Consequently love must needs precede hatred; and nothing is hated, save through being contrary to a suitable thing which is loved.  And hence it is that every hatred is caused by love.”

(3) ‘Whether hatred is stronger than love?’ [No]

“It is impossible for an effect to be stronger than its cause. Now every hatred arises from some love as its cause…  Therefore it is impossible for hatred to be stronger than love absolutely.  But furthermore, love must needs be, absolutely speaking, stronger than hatred. Because a thing is moved to the end more strongly than to the means.”

Question 46, ‘Of Anger in Itself’, Article 2, ‘Whether the object of anger is good or evil? [Both in different ways]’

“Hence the movement of anger has a twofold tendency: viz. to vengeance itself, which it desires and hopes for as being a good, wherefore it takes pleasure in it; and to the person on whom it seeks vengeance, as to something contrary and hurtful, which bears the character of evil.”

Question 47, ‘Of the Cause that Provokes Anger…’, Article 3, ‘Whether a man’s excellence is the cause of his being angry?’



Muller, Richard – Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics  (Baker, 2003), vol. 3, ch. 6.3, E. IraOdio Dei: The Anger & Hatred of God, & Related Affections’, pp. 581-89

Muller gives a short survey of the reformed scholastics on God’s hatred.  A variety of expression has been used on the subject, with different theologians emphasizing different aspects of the issues at hand.

“As in the case of the other divine affections, the Reformers identify such negative attributes as anger, hate, scorn, or jealousy as metaphoes and anthropopathisms, applied to God or even in the sense ‘assumed’ by God by way of revelation and accommodation to us…” – p. 581

Hurd, Ryan – ‘God Has Zero Wrath: A Note on a Basic Patristic Teaching from Augustine’  (2023)  9 paragraphs  at Ad Fontes

This article is helpful on Augustine, though there is at least one statement (which supports a rather unqualified trajectory in the article) that is either not helpful, or wrong: “Never is it sinners in the hands of an angry God, but only ever sinners in the hands of a loving one.”

Johnson, Charles – ‘Amandus Polanus on the Holiness & Wrath of God’  (2023)  8 paragraphs



Medieval Church

Thomas Aquinas

We must needs assert that in God there is love: because love is the first movement of the will and of every appetitive faculty.  For since the acts of the will and of every appetitive faculty tend towards good and evil, as to their proper objects: and since good is essentially and especially the object of the will and the appetite, whereas evil is only the object secondarily and indirectly, as opposed to good; it follows that the acts of the will and appetite that regard good must naturally be prior to those that regard evil; thus, for instance, joy is prior to sorrow, love to hate: because what exists of itself is always prior to that which exists through another.

Again, the more universal is naturally prior to what is less so. Hence the intellect is first directed to universal truth; and in the second place to particular and special truths. Now there are certain acts of the will and appetite that regard good under some special condition, as joy and delight regard good present and possessed; whereas desire and hope regard good not as yet possessed. Love, however, regards good universally, whether possessed or not. Hence love is naturally the first act of the will and appetite; for which reason all the other appetite movements presuppose love, as their root and origin. For nobody desires anything nor rejoices in anything, except as a good that is loved: nor is anything an object of hate except as opposed to the object of love. Similarly, it is clear that sorrow, and other things like to it, must be referred to love as to their first principle. Hence, in whomsoever there is will and appetite, there must also be love: since if the first is wanting, all that follows is also wanting. Now it has been shown that will is in God (Q[19], A[1]), and hence we must attribute love to Him.”




Sacred Problems of Theology…  (Geneva, 1589; Bern, 1604), Place 158, ‘Whether Wrath is in God, and How?’, pp. 477-78

“Scripture attributes wrath to God throughout, and other passions also.  It will be queried therefore in this place whether it pertains to God, and in what way.  And first, the philosophers denied wrath to occur in God, as Epicurus denied and the Stoics, which we so grant, though we only minimally demonstrate [in what follows].

True, therefore, is this judgment:  Wrath does not properly occur in God by his nature, but concerning that, it is said in a human fashion.

We define, therefore, the wrath of God to be the eternal judgment, always like unto Himself, against a sinner.”


Daniel Tilenus

An Ordered Arrangement of Theological Disputations held in the Academy of Sedan, vol. 1  (1607), p. 119-20

“18. Wrath signifies in God the just will to avenge an injury done or thought to Himself or his Church, Jn. 3:36; Rom. 1:18; 2:5.

19. It is attributed to Him not except as an anthropopathism to Himself; it denotes merely an effect, not an affection.

24. Hatred also is in no way in God as a passion [or as something suffered], but rather this signifies three things:  1. a negation, or subtraction of the grace and benevolence of Himself by which He is compassionate on others and loves them unto eternal life; 2. the detestation of the hateful thing; 3. the decree to punish, and its execution.”


Gisbert Voet

A Syllabus of Theological Problems…  (Utrecht, 1643), pt. 1, tract 2, Attributes of God in Specific, 2nd Kind, subtitle 9, Appendix  Note that where Voet mostly denies something, but would concede a true qualification about it, he answers: ‘Denied with a distinction.’

“Whether hatred may properly pertain [competat] to God?  It is denied.

Whether wrath may properly pertain to God?  It is denied.”


Richard Baxter

The Divine Life...  (London, 1664), Treatise 1, ch. 21, p. 148

“The last of God’s attributes which I shall now mention is his Dreadfulness or Terribleness, to those that are the objects of his wrath.  This is the result of his other attributes, especially of his Holiness, and Governing Justice, and Truth in his comminations [threats].”


John Owen

Ch. 4, ‘Of the Attribution of Passions & Affections, Anger, Fear, Repentance unto God’  of Vindiciae Evangelicae; Or the Mystery of the Gospel Vindicated & Socinianism Examined  in Works, vol. 12, pp. 111-12, 114-5

“2. The anger, then, which in the Scripture is assigned to God, we say denotes two things:  (1.) His vindictive justice, or constant and immutable will of rendering vengeance for sin.” – p. 111

“Properly, in the sense by him [Mr. Biddle] pointed to, anger, wrath, etc., are not in God…  If He be properly and literally angry and furious, and wrathful, He is moved, troubled, perplexed, desires revenge, and is neither blessed nor perfect.

4. Mr. Biddle [a Socinian] has given us a rule in his preface, that when any thing is ascribed to God in one place which is denied of Him in another, then it is not properly ascribed to Him.  Now, God says expressly that ‘fury’ or anger ‘is not in Him,’ Isa. 27:4; and therefore it is not properly ascribed to Him.” – p. 112

“Of love, mercy, and grace, the condition is something otherwise: principally they denote God’s essential goodness and kindness, which is eminent amongst his infinite perfections; and secondarily the effects thereof…

The apostle tells us that God is “blessed forever,” Rom. 9:5; “He is the blessed and only Potentate,” 1 Tim. 6:15; ‘God all-sufficient’ Gen. 17:1.  That which is inconsistent with absolute blessedness and all-sufficiency is not to be ascribed to God; to do so casts him down from his excellency.  But can He be blessed, is He all-sufficient who is tossed up and down with hope, joy, fear, sorrow, repentance, anger, and the like?” – pp. 114-5


Charnock, Stephen

Discourses upon the Existence & Attributes of God, vol. 2  (Robert Carter, 1853), Discourse 11, ‘On the Holiness of God’, pp. 115-16

“As the Divine will cannot but be perfect, so it cannot be wanting to render the highest love to itself, to its goodness, to the Divine nature, which is due to Him.  Indeed, the acts of those, ad extra are not necessary, but upon a condition.  To love righteousness without Himself, or to detect sin, or inflict punishment for the committing of it, could not have been, had there been no righteous creature for Him to love, no sinning creature for Him to loathe and to exercise his justice upon as the object of punishment.

Some attributes require a condition to make the acts of them necessary, as it is at God’s liberty whether He will create a rational creature or no…  It is at his liberty whether He will permit a creature to sin; but if He sees good to suffer it, it is impossible but that He should detest that creature that goes cross to his righteous nature.  His holiness is not solely an act of his will, for then he might be unholy as well as holy…”



Wilhelmus à Brakel

Ch. 3, ‘The Essence of God’  in The Christian’s Reasonable Service, vol. 1  trans. Bartel Elshout  (1700), ch. 3, ‘The Essence of God’, ‘The Righteousness or Justice of God’, p. 127

“The righteousness of God can be considered either in and of itself as referring to the justness, perfection, and holiness of the character of God; or in view of its manifestation toward the creature. As such the righteousness or justice of God consists in giving each his worthy due, either by punishment or reward.”


Edwards, John

Theologia Reformataor, The Body and Substance of the Christian Religion, vol. 1  (1713), On the First Article of the Creed, Discourse 2, ‘The Divine Attributes’, p. 78

“The general notion of the divine holiness is, that it is that attribute whereby God loves, and is pleased with, and delighted in his own native purity and goodness, and loves all holiness and purity in his rational creatures, and perfectly hates and abhors all sin…  The very first apprehension we have of God’s being holy, is that…  there is no impurity, stain or fault in Him…”


Benedict Pictet

Christian Theology  (d. 1724), bk. 2, ch. 5, ‘Of the Will & Affections of God’, p. 88

“As to the divine anger, we are sure, that it does not signify any such emotion or passion of the mind as arises from bile inflaming the blood round the heart, such being altogether inconsistent with the calm and happy nature of the deity; but it denotes his just and free purpose of punishing sinners.


Bernhardinus De Moor

A Continuous Commentary on Johannes a Marck  (1761-1772), IV:19, ‘Classification of God’s Attributes: Absolute & Relative’

“[Attributes of God are classified] Into Absolute and Relative, which imply a Relation to the creatures with Himself, and are founded in Absolutes.  Thus an Absolute Attribute of God is Goodness, but a Relative Attribute is Mercy, which pertains to the Goodness of God, but additionally involves a regard to a miserable creature. Immensity is an Absolute Attribute, but Omnipresence is Relative, because it indicates a relation to created things, in all which it asserts the presence of God.

Vindictive Justice is a Relative Attribute, indicating a relation to a creature, sinful and worthy of punishment; but it is founded in an Absolute Attribute, divine Holiness.  And so, although that relation did not obtain before the things were created, nevertheless the Relative Attributes are able truly to be said to be Essential to God, because they are always applicable to God with respect to their foundation.

…the Proper Attributes, or those that are revealed in a proper sense concerning God, as, when God is said to be Go[o]d, Wise, Just, they are applicable to God of themselves and primarily, and, just as I observed above at the beginning of this § [section], God is Good, before He communicated any vestige of His Goodness to creatures [note that this is not true for hatred and wrath].”



Richard Muller

Dictionary of Latin & Greek Theological Terms (Baker, 1985)


wrath, anger, ire; specifically, the ira Dei, or wrath of God, against sin.  The wrath of God may be counted either as a function of the iustitia Dei (q.v.), the righteousness of God, and, specifically, of the iustitia vindicativa sive punitiva (q.v.), the vindicatory or punitive righteousness of God; or as one of the affections of the divine will (voluntas Dei, q.v.) in its relation to human sin.”


Latin Articles

Zanchi, Jerome – Bk. 4, Chs. 6. ‘Of the Wrath of God’ & 7. ‘Of the Hatred of God’  in Of the Nature of God, or of the Divine Attributes, in 5 Books (Heidelberg, 1577)

Zanchi (1516-1590) was an Italian, protestant Reformation clergyman and educator who influenced the development of Reformed theology during the years following John Calvin’s death.

Maresius, Samuel – ch. 30. ‘Of the Love, Grace & Mercy of God, & of their Contraries, of Hate & Wrath’, pp. 545-578  in Book 1, ‘Of God & his Attributes’  in The Hydra of Socinianism Expunged, vol. 1  (Groningen, 1651)



Latin Works on the Affections of God


Zanchi, Jerome – Of the Nature of God…  (Heidelberg, 1577)

Bk. 1, ‘On the Divine Names’

ch. 2, sections 3-5, 9, pp. 6-8

ch. 6, ‘Whether any name may be agreeable to God whereby, it being discerned from created things, He may be made known to us? [Yes]’, pp. 10-12

ch. 7, ‘Whether there is any name that may be congruent to God, as to his substance, which is predicated to Him? [No, “This is beyond controversy.]’, pp. 10-15

ch. 8, ‘Whether some names are properly expressed of God? [Yes]’, pp. 15-16  Questions 3-6

ch. 9, ‘Whether things which are predicated of creatures, all these likewise may be able to be predicated of the Creator, and whether those things which are predicated of God may all further be able to be said of the creatures?’, pp. 19-25

ch. 10, ‘Whether those things which are predicated of God and simultaneously also of the creatures may be predicated univocally, equivocally or even analogically? [Analogically]’

Bk. 4, On the Goodness, Grace, Love, Mercy, Justice, Wrath, Hatred & Lordship of God  in 8 chapters

“Zanchi also evidences a far greater interest in the divine affections than does Aquinas–reserving the entire fourth book of his De natura Dei to the affections.” – Muller, PRRD (2003) 3.218

Danaeus, Lambert – ch. 8. ‘Of Accidents in God’  in A Christian Introduction to Christian Theological Common Places (Geneva, 1588), pp. 20.v-21

Danaeus (c. 1535–c. 1590)



Polanus, Amandus – A System of Theology, vol. 1  (Hanau, 1609; 1615), Bk. 2  See also chs. 6, 14 & 21-31 in the ToC.

Things Improperly Attributed to God

32 – A Distinction is Given of the Proper Attributes of God  1226
33 – Of the Metonymical Attributes of God  1228
34 – Of the Ironic Attributes of God  1229
35 – Of the Metaphorical Attributes of God  1231
36 – Of the Synechdocal Attributes of God  1262
37 – Of the Figurative Attributes of God  1263

Maresius, Samuel – Book 1, ‘Of God & his Attributes’  in The Hydra of Socinianism Expunged, vol. 1  (Groningen, 1651)

28. Of the Goodness & Gentleness [Clementia] of God, & of its Opposite, Severity  500

29. Of those which are Affections in God by likeness (Of the Quasi-Affections of God)  533

30. Of the Love, Grace & Mercy of God, & of Their Contraries, of Hate & Wrath  545

31. Of Desire, Hope & Joy, & the Contraries of Them which are Attributed to God in the Sacred Scripture  578

Burman, Francis – A Synopsis of Theology, & Especially of the Economy of the Covenant of God, from the Beginning of Ages to the Consummation of All Things, vol. 1  (Utrecht, 1671)

Locus 2: Of God

23. Of the Attributes of the Divine Will, which are Called Affections  126

Of the Astonishment of God; of the Love & Hate of God  127
Of the Wrath of God  129
Of the Desire & Aversion of God  130
Of the Hope of God & its Opposites.  Of the Joy & Mourning of God  131
Of the Deriding & Compassion of God  132
Of the Acquiescence & Repentance of God  133
Of the Glory of God  134

24. Of the Attributes of the Divine Will which are Called Virtues  134

Burman (1628-79)

Braun, Johannes – pt. 2, locus 2, ch. 4, ‘Of the Power, Affections & Virtues of God’  in The Doctrine of the Covenants, or A System of Didactic and Elenctic Theology  (Amsterdam, 1691), pp. 82-91

Braun (1628-1708)



Van Til, Salomon – A Compendium of Both Natural & Revealed Theology  (Leiden, 1704; 1719), bk. 1, pt. 1

Ch. 2, Of the Virtues of God  57

Section 1, Of the Truth of God  58
Section 2, Of the Goodness of God  60
Section 3, Of the Holiness of God  62
Section 4, Of the Justice of God  65

Van Til (1643-1713)

Holtzfus, Barthold – A Theological Tract on God, the Divine Attributes & the Divine Decrees, Three Academic Dissertations  (1707)

9. Of the Affections Attributed to God in Scripture  127-52

10. Of the Virtues of God  152-76

Holtzfus (1659-1717) was a reformed professor of philosophy and theology at Frankfurt.

Heidegger, Johann Heinrich

The Marrow of the Marrow of Christian Theology  (Zurich, 1697), Locus 3, sections 14-16, pp. 22-25

The Marrow of Christian Theology: an Introductory Epitome of the Body of Theology  (Zurich, 1713)

51.  Of the Affections of God, p. 59

52.  Of the Virtues of God, p. 60

Vitringa, Sr., Campegius – Theses 70-124  in Ch. 3, ‘Of God, his Nature, Attributes & Virtues’  in The Doctrine of the Christian Religion, Summarily Described through Aphorisms, vol. 1  (d. 1722), pp. 27-56




“For I am the Lord, I change not.”

Mal. 3:6




Related Pages

Of God, the Knowledge of God & of his Attributes

On God’s Revealed Will

Historic Reformed Quotes on God’s Revealed Will & the Gospel Call as God’s Desire, Wish & Pleasure

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On Scripture using Accommodated Language

What Anthropopathisms Positively Teach About God

On Possibilities & Hypotheticals