The Mathematics of Truth

“Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck drew a distinction between pagan and biblical thought…. Bavinck said that modern (and ancient Greek) thinkers attempted to find the “essence” of a thing, that which makes a thing uniquely what it is, by subtraction. To discover the “essence” of a pencil, we subtract its color, its size, its shape – all of which may vary without changing the nature of the thing and all of which may describe something other than a pencil. (There might be a red apple as well as a red pencil, a six-inch long slug as well as a six-inch pencil, etc.) When we have subtracted all the variables, what we have left is the “essence” of the pencil, which might be called “pure pencilness.” (Of course, what we really have left is nothing at all.)

Scripture, by contrast, describes the essence of a thing by addition. Only when we know the fullness of a thing, all of its attributes, do we really know its uniqueness and “essence.” God’s “essence” is not some “bare minimum” of deity, or some “basic attribute” from which all the other attributes can be derived. Instead, the “essence” of God is the fullness of all His attributes.”

        -Peter Leithart, The Kingdom and the Power, p. 93,94

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