Theology Proper – A Study of the Doctrine of God

trinity-diagram

Theology Proper – the study of God the Father.

 

I. The existence of God.

  1. While the Bible assumes God’s existence (Gen. 1:1), there are good reasons to believe that God exists, even if His existence cannot be proven.

A) Cosmological Argument:

  • Every event has a cause.
  • The universe and all life had a beginning.
  • The universe and life have a ‘cause’; that is God.

B) Teleological Argument:

  • Design implies a designer.
  • The universe and life have complex design.
  • The universe and life must have a Designer.

C) Moral Argument:

  • Moral law implies a lawgiver.
  • Moral law is universal.
  • There must be a moral lawgiver.
  1. The works of God are also evidence of His existence.
  • Creation (Gen. 1:1-2:3; John 1:1-3; Job 38-39).
  • Providence (Acts 14:17; 17:26-28; Matt. 5:44-45).
  • Election (Eph. 1:4-5; 1 Pet. 1:1-2; 1 Cor. 1:26-29; Rom. 9).
  • Redemption (Gen. 3:21; Eph. 2:1-10; Rom. 3:21-26).
  • Judgment (John 3:18-19; Rev. 20:10-15; 2 Pet. 3:10).

 

II. Theodicy – the problem of God and the existence of evil.

  1. The Issue Stated: “If God is good and all powerful, He would put a stop to all evil.”
  • Metaphysical Answer – God is not responsible for evil because evil is not a ‘thing’; it is the lack of ‘holiness’.
  • Moral Answer – God gave Mankind freedom to choose, and man introduced evil into the world.
  • Teleological Answer – This is not the best of all possible worlds, but it is the best way to the best of all possible worlds. God is working out all things for His glory and our good.
  • Pastoral Answer – Ultimately God will set all things right. In the meantime, God uses pain in our lives to speak more clearly to us. This has been His pattern since the Garden of Eden; using the consequences of sin to display His grace.

 

III. The nature of God.

  1. Definitions of God.

A) Scriptural Definitions.

  • God is Spirit — (John 4:24).
  • God is Light — (I John 1:5).
  • God is Love — (I John 4:8).
  • God is a Consuming Fire — (Heb. 12:29).

B) Theological Definitions.

  • Westminster Catechism: — “God is a Spirit, Infinite, Eternal, and Unchangeable in His Being, Wisdom, Power, Holiness, Justice, Goodness and Truth.”

 

IV. The attributes of God.

“And the LORD passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.’ So Moses made haste and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshiped.” – Exodus 34:6-8 (NKJV)

  1. Definition.

When used in reference to God in theology, an ‘attribute’ is a quality or feature that is characteristic of or possessed by God, which defines who He is.

  1. The Bible teaches that God posses both ‘incommunicable’ as well as ‘communicable’ attributes.

A) Incommunicable Attributes (Attributes that are unique to God and cannot be possessed by created beings; these reflect God’s greatness):

  • Sovereignty (Job 42:2; Psa. 115:3; Rom. 9:16-21; Eph. 1:11).
  • Infinity – Limitless (1 Kings 8:27; Job 11:7-9; Psa. 147:5; Rom. 11:33).
  • Aseity – Self-Existent (Gen. 1:1; John 1:2; Rev. 1:8).
  • Immutability – Unchanging (Mal. 3:6; Heb. 6:17-18; James 1:17).
  • Eternality – Timeless (Psa. 90:2; Isa. 57:15; John 17:5; Col. 1:17; Jude 25).
  • Omnipotence – All powerful (Gen. 18:14; Psa. 115:3; Matt. 19:26; Eph. 1:19).
  • Omnipresence – Everywhere present (Psa. 139:7-12; Jer. 23:23-24; Acts 17:27-28).
  • Omniscience – All knowing (Psa. 33:13-15; 139:1-6; Matt. 6:8; 10:29-30; Acts 2:23; Rom. 11:33; Heb. 4:13).
  • Holy ( קָדֹש ) – Unique; unlike any other (Lev. 11:44; Psa. 99:9; Isa. 6:3-7).

B) Communicable Attributes (Attributes of God that can be shared with created beings that have not fallen into sin, or that have been regenerated from a sinful condition; these reflect God’s goodness):

  • Holy (αγιος) – Pure (When shared with created beings; by justification, imputation, regeneration and sanctification – Hab. 1:13; 1 Pet. 1:14-16).
  • Just (Psa. 19:9; 89:14; Acts 17:30-31; Rom. 2:6-8).
  • True (Num. 23:19; John 1:14; 14:6; Rom. 3:4; Titus 1:2).
  • Gracious (Ex. 34:5-7; Eph. 1:5-8; 2:8-9; Titus 2:11; 3:4-7).
  • Merciful (2 Sam. 24:14; Psa. 103:1-5; Rom. 9:15-16; 11:30-32; Titus 3:4-7).
  • Love (John 3:16; 1 Jn. 3:16; 4:8; Rom. 5:8).
  • Separate from sinners (Deut. 4:29; Psa. 24:6; 119:2; Prov. 8:17; Eccl. 3:9-15 Isa. 55:6; Jer. 29:13).
  • Wise (John 3:16; 1 Jn. 3:16; 4:8; Rom. 5:8).

 

V. The Names and Titles of God.

The name of a person, place, or thing is that by which it is known. The names of God are those by which He is known – they denote His character and attributes.

  1. Primary Names of God:
  • God (Elohim) – אֱלֹהִם : “Creator God” It is interesting to note that the name “Elohim” is plural and that later in the history of progressive revelation, God revealed Himself as being one God eternally existent in three Persons, Father, Word (Son) and Holy Spirit – Genesis 1: 27 reads, “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness’” (Gen 1:1).
  • YHWH – יהוה : “I AM” The Personal Name of God (Correct pronunciation was lost because the Jews stopped speaking the Name to avoid blaspheming) Transliterated as “Jehovah” in the 1611 King James Version and American Standard Version of 1901 – The correct pronunciation, however, is probably closer to “YaHVeH” – Rendered as “LORD” in most modern translations of the Bible (Ex 6:1-4).
  • Adonai – אַדֹנִי : “Lord and Master” When reading from the Old Testament, Jews substituted the title “Adonai” in place of God’s Personal Name “YHWH” to avoid blaspheming – consequently, the correct pronunciation was eventually lost (Josh 5:13-15).
  • God (Theos) – θεος: “Creator and Initiator” (John 1:1).
  • Lord (Kurios) – κυριος: “Lord” The Life Giver – the God of Abraham (Romans 10:9-13).
  1. Compound Names of God:
  • El Shadai – אֵל שַדּי : “God Almighty” (Gen 17:1).
  • El Elyon – אֵל עֶלְיוֹן : “God Most High” (Gen 14:19).
  • El Olam – אֵל עוֹלָם : “God Everlasting” (Gen 21:33).
  • El Roi – אֵל רֳאִי : “God Who sees” (Gen 16:13).

Note: This list of God’s names and titles is not exhaustive!

 

VI. The doctrine of the Trinity, or, Tri-unity of God.

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.” – Paul the Apostle, 2 Corinthians 13:14

  1. Definition – the doctrine stated.

Over the course of history of God’s ‘progressive’ revelation to Mankind, God at first emphasized His ‘oneness’, but eventually revealed Himself as one God eternally existent in three Persons within the Godhead – Father, Son (or, Word) and Holy Spirit; three distinct individual persons united in one essence.

“And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Amen.” – Matthew 28:18-20

  1. Scriptural evidence for the doctrine.
  • Evidence of one unique God (Deuteronomy 6:4).
  • Evidence of three Persons within the Godhead (Ephesians 1:3-14; c.f. Genesis 1:26 & 19:24).
  1. Clarification of the doctrine.
  • The Father is God (1 Cor. 8:6; John 6:27; 1 Pet. 1:2).
  • The Son (also called the “Word” by John) is God (Heb. 1:8; Rom. 9:5; John 8:58; 20:28).
  • The Holy Spirit is God (Acts 5:3-4).
  • The Father is not the Son or the Holy Spirit.
  • The Son is not the Father or the Holy Spirit.
  • The Holy Spirit is not the Father or the Son.
  • The Son eternally proceeds from the Father; thus the phrase “only begotten Son”.
  • The Holy Spirit proceeds from both the Father and the Son.

 

VII. The Nicean Creed; a clarification of the doctrine by the Council of Constantinople (381 AD).

“I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible; and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, begotten of His Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father; by whom all things were made; who for us men and for our salvation came down from Heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the virgin, Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures, and ascended into Heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge both the living and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end. And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord, and Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son; who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified; who spoke by the Prophets. And I believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church; acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.”

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