What are the basic characteristics of God? What can we say about God’s being? Where do we even begin?
The attributes of God are qualities that are true about God. The attributes are God are organized in different ways. Though this might not resolve all the issues, the paradigm that has been most helpful to me is this. I like to think of:
Qualities unique to God – qualities that describe what God’s unique character is like. God is Triune, self-existent, self-sufficient, transcendent, immutable, infinite, eternal, omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient, sovereign.
Qualities God shares with people – qualities that describe what God’s common character is like. God is personal, good, loving, patient, merciful, gracious, faithful, holy, righteous, just, truthful, wise.
So, on one hand, God has attributes quite unlike anything else in the universe. God is God, and there is no one like him. God is bigger than big!
Yet, on the other hand, many of God’s characteristics are shared in some degree with us human beings. We are created in his image, which makes it possible for us to understand some aspects of what he is like, except God has all these qualities in perfection!
Plus, God maintains all these qualities perfectly and in balance. Most of us find we can be loving or angry, forgiving or jealous, compassionate or holy – but not both at once. God is under no such limitations.
For example, God’s unlimited power and personal love are never in conflict with each other. His love and his wrath are not in opposition to each other. Specifically, in his compassion, God loves the sinner. In his holiness, God hates the sin. And in his justice, he must punish the sin.