Divine Infinitude

Unconfined and Fully Perfect

In the last couple of posts, we discussed God’s immutability and impassibility. If God is immutable and impassible, God must then also be infinite, because one who does not change or is affected by anything exterior to him consequently has no potential, that is, he has nothing to add or to lose. Thus, he is one who is not spatially restricted or fades away. In other words, immutability, temporally speaking, means that God must be the same forever. There then cannot be a beginning or end in God (Isa 44:6). Further, in spatial terms, if God is immutable then he cannot add or lose anything. Therefore, he is not something that can be confined or restricted by space or time.

The infinitude of God “means … that [God] is not limited by anything finite and creaturely.”[1] Infinitude can be taken in two ways: temporal and spatial. God’s infinitude relating to time coincides with his eternality and his infinitude relating to space coincides with his omnipresence. We will cover these two subcategories under the attribute of infinitude. But before the two are discussed, it is essential to show that God is infinite.

God’s Infinitude

Aquinas said, “God Himself is infinite….”[2] He argued this in a manner concerning matter and form. Matter is made finite by form and vice versa, for matter can take any form, but when it receives a form, it is terminated to the particular form. Similarly, form is made finite by matter because form is common to many, but when it takes on matter, it is determined to a particular thing. Aquinas goes on to say:

“Now matter is perfected by the form by which it is made finite; therefore infinite as attributed to matter, has the nature of something imperfect; for it is as it were formless matter. On the other hand form is not made perfect by matter, but rather is contracted by matter; and hence the infinite, regarded on the part of the form not determined by matter, has the nature of something perfect. Now being is the most formal of all things, as appears from what is shown above…. Since therefore the divine is not a being received in anything, but He is His own subsistent being … it is clear that God Himself is infinite….”[3]

Simply put, since God absolutely is, he is the most formal of all, and thus he must be infinite because he does not take or receive in anything (including matter, which contracts form). Therefore, God is infinite.

God and Eternality

If God is infinite, then we must confess he is eternal. For God to be eternal means that he transcends time. This means that God has no beginning, end, or succession of moments. He is not “temporal, that is, subject to time, measure or number.”[4] If we are to define time, we would do well to follow Bavinck and note that time is “the duration of creaturely existence.”[5] It “is a concomitant of created existence.”[6] Thus, time is the measure of the motion of a moveable, mutable, and therefore, created object. According to this definition, there can be no time in God for he is who he always is. Thus, Bavinck writes, “God is not a process of becoming but an eternal being.”[7] God has no beginning or end. As Calvin said, “he is self-existent and therefore eternal.”[8] Accordingly, the psalmist writes, “from everlasting to everlasting, you are God” (Ps 90:2).

God and Omnipresence

If God is infinite, then we must confess he is omnipresent. To be omnipresent means that one is not confined by space. “As an infinite spirit, God is not an infinitely extended body. He is present in every place because he transcends spatial categories.”[9] As Aquinas says, “in some way God is in every place….”[10] In fact, “[God] Himself fills every place.”[11] However, semantics are important here. It is improper to say that God is infinitely extended throughout space. On the other hand, it is proper “to say that God transcends the very categories of … space.”[12] In other words, God is not restricted or contained by space, for he is everywhere. Thus, Solomon declares, “not even the highest heaven can contain you” (1 Kgs 8:27; cf. 2 Chr 2:6).

Infinitude: A Positive Concept

While speaking of God’s infinitude, often some may be apt to refer to God not being confined to time or space (as even indicated in this article); however, as Bavinck observes, there is more to it than this. Infinitude “is not a negative but a positive concept.”[13] As he says, “infinity can also be construed in the sense that God is unlimited in his virtues, that in him every virtue is present in an absolute degree. In that case infinity amounts to perfection.”[14] Furthermore, God’s infinitude “is an ‘infinity of essence.’ God is infinite in his characteristic essence, absolutely perfect, infinite in an intensive, qualitative, and positive sense.”[15] We happily confess, then, God is wholly perfect, being infinitely bountiful in himself.

[1] Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, 2:160.

[2] Thomas Aquinas, ST, 1.7.1.

[3] Ibid., 1.7.1.

[4] Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, 2:164.

[5] Ibid., 2:163.

[6] Ibid., 2:164.

[7] Ibid., 2:163.

[8] Calvin, Exodus, 73.

[9] Horton, The Christian Faith, 255.

[10] Aquinas, ST, 1.8.2.

[11] Ibid., 1.8.2.

[12] Horton, The Christian Faith, 255.

[13] Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, 2:160.

[14] Ibid., 2:160.

[15] Ibid., 2:161.