Saturday, January 14, 2006

Theology Proper: The Doctrine of God

God in Three Persons, Blessed Trinity
  • Trinity – from Latin words for three (tri) and one (unitas).

  • Truly a work of systematic theology.

  • The term of explicit concept is not in the Bible.

  • Thus a work of synthesis from Biblical text to Biblical theology to Systematic Theology.

  • Not all theologians have considered it to be of the first order of import.
  • Melanchton – Luther referred to Melanchton as Dr. Phillip. He formulated doctrine since this was not Luther’s primary passion. Melanchton writes that the apostles wrote about the law, sin and grace. He thought that looking at the Trinity only provided limited illumination.

  • Schleiermacher – 1768 – 1834 – His theology in 1821-22 is the Glabenslehr – “Faith Teaching”. Schleiermacher treats it only passingly in his work (app. 15 pages out of 500). The Trinity is not a sufficient revelation concerning Christian self-consciousness. It might be important, but it is not central to the Christian experience.
  • Jefferson, Thomas – Contemporary of Schleiermacher. He did not like the “Trinitarian arithmetic”. He thought the Trinity overshadowed the simple Jesus.

  • Harnack – 1851 – 1930 – The core of Christianity is about God and the soul and the soul and God. He wanted to eliminate any alien intrusions in this relationship. The idea of the son being incarnate deity was an undesirable alien concept. Harnack was influential during the heyday of liberalism. Harnack was a functional Trinitarian. In actual being, he was not part of the godhead.

  • Why investigate the Trinity?
  • Renaissance of Trinitarian studies. Many like Barth started their theologies with the Trinity. In his words, without a robust understanding of the Trinity, Christianity loses its soul. In his Dogmatics, he deals with this issue and many have responded. Please note that Barth was a student of Harnack.

  • The Trinity and other key doctrines. Systematic theology is integrated, therefore, there is a lot of overlap. What are the implications of the Trinity on doxology? One needs to know how to worship the Trinity, to pray to the Trinity, etc. Christology is intimately tied to the Trinity. Theologies that have de-emphasized the Trinity have been strong on the humanity of Christ. Theologies of salvation that emphasize Christ’s humanity state that Jesus was the ultimate example of someone knowing God. As a result, we are inspired to these same acts of devotion. Historically, theologies that emphasize a strong view of the Trinity have emphasized the deity of Christ. This leads to a theology of the cross that states that Jesus was the perfect substitute.

  • Misconceptions among laity. It is Tim Janiszewski’s opinion that many lay members are operating as tritheists. People think of them as three gods that form the perfect committee. Progressive churches move toward Unitarianism. Their argument is that God is solely the Father and the spirit is the immanence of God surrounding all of us. Only God is really God.

  • The challenge of religious pluralism. The temptation of pluralism is to de-emphasize the cognitive. Many people at the end of day would put experience as the base of their world. If this is the base, the cognitive is melded to what you are experiencing. The Trinity is not directly experiential; therefore, it becomes less meaningful. The parts of doctrine that do not fit into an inter-religious dialogue are also downplayed. The two closest religions to Christianity are Judaism and Islam. All three religions lay claim to worshipping the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. All three of them accept the Old Testament witness to God. At least two of them accept the NT; Islam and Christianity. The point of departure is the Trinity. Surah 3:54 and other passages refer to the non-deity of Christ.
  • Identifying the cults.

  • The doctrine is sometimes attacked.

  • Wanting to get God right!

  • The Story of the Doctrine from the New Testament
  • Context – Jewish monotheism of the first Christians. I Corinthians 8:4, Ephesians 4:6; James 2:19; etc. – The early church was composed of monotheists. It was condemnable to be polytheistic.

  • New datum – The encounter with Jesus forced them to reinterpret the idea of one, true, living God. The unfolding of their realization was progressive. As they continued to reflect on it with the aid of the Holy Spirit, the doctrine was more concretely formulated. Jesus had profound implications. Much of this was explored in the book of John.

  • Question – How do we reconcile Jewish monotheism and Jesus?

  • Jesus’ self identification.

    • Matthew 11:26-30 – This passage very clearly shows that certain mysteries were obscured in the past. Jesus claimed to have all things handed to him from God the Father. No one knows the Father except the Son. Jesus had the authority to either reveal or conceal God. Jesus self-arrogated to himself amazing dominion and being. Matthew per the synoptic scholarly tradition is not supposed to have such things about Christ! This is often called the Johanine Thunderbolt in Matthew.
    • John 8:52-59 – Before Abraham was born, Jesus was. This blatant passage staked Jesus’ claim to deity. The people surrounding Jesus certainly saw it as blasphemy. They knew that he was equating himself to God.
      Jesus and acts designated to God.

    • Mark 2:1-11 – Jesus teaches at a home that is overflowing. Four friends lower their paralytic friend through the roof. The scribes were upset that Jesus claimed to have the authority to forgive sin; an act that is solely in the dominion of God.
      Jesus and worship.

    • John 20:28 – Thomas fell down to worship.

    • Acts 7:54-60 – Stephen has a vision of the glorified Jesus in heaven next to God the Father.

    • Revelation 5:12-14 – Worship of Christ by the heavenly creatures.

    • NT appellations – Lord Jesus (41 times), Lord Jesus Christ (60), etc. The word “Lord” was substituted for the tetragrammaton. The LXX used “kurios”.
      Jesus is Lord

    • James 2:1 – “My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons.”

    • Philippians 2:6-11 – “And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
      Jesus as God

    • Romans 9:5 - Explicitly says Jesus is God.

    • Titus 2:13 – “while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.”

    • Hebrews 1:8 – Christ’s throne will last forever.

    • II Peter 1:1 –

    • John 1:1, 14, 18: 20:28 – Christ tabernacled or dwelled among us. Jesus exegeted the Father.

    • Colossians 1:15-20 – “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.”

    The Story of the Doctrine from the Old Testament
  • Christ came as a fulfillment of the prophets and the law (Matthew 5:17, Romans 10:4).

  • Look for multiplicity in the singularity.

  • Plurals in divine self-reference (Gen. 1:26; 11:7; Isaiah 6:8).

  • Angel of the Lord. In Genesis 16, Hagar claims to have seen the Lord upon seeing the angel. The visitors to Abraham speak of one angel in a deific sense.

  • Son passages. Proverbs 30:4 – “Who has gone up to heaven and come down? Who has gathered up the wind in the hollow of his hands? Who has wrapped up the waters in his cloak? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is his name, and the name of his son? Tell me if you know!”

  • The Shema itself – Deuteronomy 6:4 – The Lord is one Lord. There are two Hebrew words for “one”; yahid and echad. Yahid refers to one of a kind. Echad refers to the idea of unifying or of collecting into one. Echad is used as a bunch of grapes. Deuteronomy used echad.

  • A N.T. interpretation – I Peter 1:10-12 – “Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, 11 trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. 12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.”

  • The Story of the Doctrine from the Early Fathers
  • I John 5:7 (KJV) – “There are three that bear record in heaven…and they are one.” This is not in the earliest manuscripts. It was an early impulse that they wanted to see explicit references.

  • Didache 7.1-3 (A.D. 90-150) – Conservatives place this close to 90 A.D. Baptism is by the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

  • Ignatius (A.D. 110) – He was hunted down and captured by the Romans. As he went to Rome, he stated he was going to the lions to be ground as wheat, but that his death would provide food for God’s people. On his way to the lions, he left letters that may be reliably dated. He calls Jesus God and writes of him as God incarnate.

  • Governor Pliny (A.D. 112) – Pliny was governor of Bithynia. Wrote that Christians met before dawn to recite hymns to Christ as if to God.

  • Athenagoras (A.D. 175) – He received an accusation that Christians were atheists. He explained that Christians were not atheists, but believed in God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

  • Irenaeus of Lyon (A.D. 130-200) – Before there were formalized creeds, there were rules of faith. He explicitly stated that there was God the Father and God the Son. He used imagery that depicted the Son and the Spirit as the two hands of God. In contemporary times, the hand imagery of the Holy Spirit given by Irenaeus has been used to advance religious pluralism (Bethel Seminary).

  • Tertullian (A.D. 160-225) – First to use the word “Trinity”. He was also the first to use the category of one substance in three persons. There are three coherent persons who are one in essence.

  • The Story of the Doctrine from Two Challengers

    It is possible that these early challenges were actually work by the theologians to figure out the issues.
  • Monarchianisms – Attempted to define monotheism.

    • Mono – “one”

    • Arche – “ruler” or “source”

  • Modalistic Monarchianism

    • Sabellianism –

  • Dynamic Monarchianism

    • Adoptionism – Jesus was a good man who was adopted by the Spirit of God. Just prior to the cross, Jesus ceased to be the adopted son.

    • Paul of Samosata – He started to develop a more sophisticated view in the 250s and 260s. His views were later condemned. Paul had a student named Lucian. Lucian kept the adoptionist teaching alive in a slightly different form. He exalted Jesus more, but did not quite bring him all the way equal to God the Father. His student was Arius. Arius would foment a revolution that would almost topple Trinitarianism entirely.

    The Story of Arianism
  • Arius was schooled by Lucian in monarchianism as an adoptionist.

  • The Antiochian school that he also followed emphasized the human side of Christ (Alexandrian school emphasized the deity of Christ).

  • Arius is sent to Alexandria to become the presbyter at the catechistical school. Upon arriving, Arius accuses Alexander the bishop of denying the humanity of Christ.

  • Controversy begins over these statements:
    “There once was when the Son was not.”
    “There once was when God was not a father.”

  • Arius depicted Jesus within a degree Christology. There is only a degree of difference, not in essence. Monarchianism had now traveled from Jesus only be adopted all the way to almost granting deity to Christ within its Arianism form.

  • A synod was called at Alexandria in 318. Arius was very capable and charismatic. Alexander was gentle and quiet. As a result of Arius’ charisma, there were rallies for his position in the streets of Alexandria during the senate. The synod, nonetheless, decided against Arius.

  • Arius had a friend by the name of Eusebius of Nicomedia. He objected to the decision made in Alexandria and gave Arius shelter.

  • The Council of Nicea (A.D. 325)
  • Overseen by Constantine. Constantine had a dream before a battle of a white cross on a field of blue. He had his men paint the white cross with a blue background just prior to the battle. As a result of the battle, he became Emperor of the Roman Empire.

  • Homoiousias vs. homoousias –

    • Homoi – Jesus was of like or similar substance to God the Father. Arians.

    • Homo – Jesus was the same substance as God the Father. This was the decision of the council.

  • Anathema to Arianism – Arius was condemned by the Council of Nicea.

  • They emphasized that Christ was begotten, not made.

  • Nicea was not the end of the story. Alexander is an old man at this time, but he has a young and capable assistant by the name of Athanasius. In 328, Alexander dies.

  • The Story of the Doctrine from Athanasius
  • Athanasius nickname was the “Black Dwarf”.

  • This man was a bishop of Alexandria for 40 years. 17 years of this were spent in exile. He stood up for homoousian (same substance) which was unpopular and was the main factor sending him into exile 5 times.

  • In 332, Constantine switches to homoiousian. At this point, Arius is restored as a presbyter at Alexandria. Athanasius states that he can come back as soon as he accepts homoousian. He was banished to Germany for 3 years by Constantine. Athanasius was so beloved by the Alexandrians that they filibustered his replacement proceedings. In 336, just prior to his restoration, Athanasius dies.

  • The road to resolution. Only God can restore mankind to the original image. It is through Jesus as God that we are saved. The Son of God became man in order that men might become sons of God.

  • The Council of Constantinople and the final version of the Nicene Creed (A.D. 381). The Council affirmed the deity of Christ and the Nicene creed. Once the issue of Christ’s deity was settled, the deity of the Holy Spirit became much less controversial.

  • The Nicene Creed

      We believe in one God,
      the Father, the Almighty,
      maker of heaven and earth,
      of all that is, seen and unseen.

      We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
      the only Son of God,
      eternally begotten of the Father,
      God from God, Light from Light,
      true God from true God,
      begotten, not made,
      of one Being with the Father.
      Through him all things were made.
      For us and for our salvation
      he came down from heaven:
      by the power of the Holy Spirit
      he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
      and was made man.
      For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
      he suffered death and was buried.
      On the third day he rose again
      in accordance with the Scriptures;
      he ascended into heaven
      and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
      He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
      and his kingdom will have no end.

      We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
      who proceeds from the Father (and the Son. – late addition which split the Church).
      With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.
      He has spoken through the Prophets.
      We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
      We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
      We look for the resurrection of the dead,
      and the life of the world to come. Amen.

    The Doctrine of the Trinity

    The Essentials to the Mystery

    • God is one.

    • The Father is God.

    • The Son is God.

    • The Holy Spirit is God.

    • The Father is no the Son or Spirit.

    • The Son is not the Father or Spirit.

    • The Spirit is not the Father or Son.

    • These 3 are co-equal and co-eternal. These ideas are important so that one is not elevated over another.

    • These 3 share all and defer to each other. Parechoresis (circumincession) – Even though the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are distinct, they all share everything. They are individual in their persons; however, there is a perfect sharing of all knowledge, activity and being. The Father with the Son from all of eternity were in agreement with the plan of salvation and the subordination of the Son to die on the cross was the plan of the entire Godhead.

    Sunday, October 30, 2005

    DRAFT DRAFT DRAFT -- Theology Proper, The Doctrine of God

    Theology Proper
    The Doctrine of God


    Feuerbach – Perhaps the Father of Atheism. 1804-1872. In the beginning, Feuerbach wanted to do theology. He became exposed to Hegel. Hegel’s pantheistic influence moved Feuerbach offcenter and he turned to the Hegelian World Soul view. After overthrowing this, he moved to an anthropocentric view. His basic claim was that God was a mental projection of man’s highest desires and ideals.

    God is in essence a wishful thought; Goodness is God. Whatever is god to man, there is his heart and soul. Religion is the unveiling of a man’s hidden treasures. Romanticism and Schleiermacher’s version of Christianity gave rise to Feuerbach’s response to theology. Schleiermacher moved the emphasis of theology from God man’s experience. Schleiermacher defined religion as a feeling of absolute dependence on God. Feuerbach said that the experience was not of God, but an experience of experience. He called Schleiermacher’s bluff.

    Schleiermacher saw Jesus as a religious genius and therefore he became the Christ (he had utter dependence on the divine). Feuerbach said that the divine Jesus was merely the objectification and personification of our highest values. Tim Janiszewski states that we must go beyond experience, otherwise, we too are open to Feuerbach’s criticism.

    Faults with Feuerbach –
    *This is a claim. Not a proof. He has not disproved anything.
    *He did not deal with any integrity with the person and works of Jesus Christ.
    *He did not deal with the revelatory aspect and doctrinal beliefs of Christianity. While Schleiermacher was an easy target, orthodox Christianity would have made a tougher challenge to Feuerbach.

    Marx – Marx was inspired by Feuerbach. He was a materialist that believed the ills of the word were caused by inequity. If everyone had an equitable share of goods, there would be harmony and the world would progress in its evolution. In capitalism, there is the haves and the have-nots. The haves wish to remain where they are and leverage the resources at their disposal to keep the imbalance.

    The strongest card in the hands of the haves was religion. The have nots are told that if they rock the boat, then there is eternal damnation awaiting them. If you simply play the roll that God ordained for you to play, then you are to be rewarded in the next life. At the moment, you are where God has called you. In the words of Marx, “Religion is the dopa/opiate of the masses.”

    Marx desired to get rid of religion. He preached action to acquire equity in goods. People are not called to read history, but to make history via the revolution.

    Faults of Marx -
    *He was overly optimistic about the human condition.
    *He neglected to address the positive value of religion and its flexibility. Christianity has survived communism.
    *Marx makes an assertion with no evidence to support it. He does not make it logically incoherent to believe in God.
    *Marx never addressed the beliefs of the Church.

    Protest Atheism – In the late 1800’s the state of western culture and many of the advances made mankind extremely optimistic about its innate nature. The world was being discovered and conquered like never before in the realms of science, transportation, etc. The Enlightenment ideals were coming into full bloom. Adolf Harnack stated, “The fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man.” There was a rosy tinge to the world. Even the Protestant orthodox were flirting with postmillennialism.

    World War I and II destroyed this optimism. Protest Atheism is a position that says, ‘Look at what has happened. Look at the carnage and genocide and the chapters of blood. What kind of God would allow this to happen?’ Whoever the gods are that have been trusted, they should be cast aside due to the history they have permitted. Protest Atheists wanted a new god or no god at all.

    Death of God – In the 1960’s Paul Van Buren, William Hamilton and others promulgated this viewpoint. There are two forms of it. In one, man has come of age and God has relinquished His being into the world because He is no longer needed. There is a more practical version that states that as we have mastered our circumstances, we no longer need God.

    Per the Death of God View those in the past were so uncomplicated and ignorant that they needed a god figure. There is less conscious need of God. Deus ex machina – God from the machine. God of the gaps. People live there lives as if there were no God until they encounter the unexplainable. To these mysteries, they ascribe the work of God.


    Acts 16 talks about the dedication to "To an unknown God".

    The impact of Kant’s noumenal and phenomenal. 1724–1804. Many see him as the one that informed the end of the Enlightenment. He defined it as the “Courage to think your own thoughts.”

    Kant was the prototypical ivory tower philosopher. Born, studied and died in Königsberg, Prussia.

    Before Kant came on the scence there was the Correspondence theory of truth – What is in actuality is what you perceive it to be. There is a one-to-one correspondence between our perceptions and reality. Kant stated that Hume awakened him from his dogmatic slumber.

    Kant pioneered the turn to the subject. Our minds bring a lot to the table in understanding physical and metaphysical reality. The point that he emphasized that you cannot know the thing in itself. All you can know is your own personal, experiential grid as you perceive the thing in itself. Kant stated that you could not know God noumenally (God in himself). You only know God in the realm of what you think He is. All you have is your limited perceptions. The closest that you can get is the mysterium tremendum of Rudolph Otto (i.e. tremendous mystery).

    Kant missed the point of revelation and the incarnation.

    Agnosticism and Constructive Theology – Gordon Kaufman – Revered professor of theology at Harvard. He and others do constructive theology. He states that we cannot get to the noumenal or really know God, so we construct models of what God might be like. After we construct the model, we fine tune it in correlation with other things that we know in reality.

    Kaufman uses the coherence theory of truth – metaphysical truth is that which coheres internally and coordinates all the pieces of reality together. Kaufman is looking for a theory of God that coheres with what is seen in the phenomenal world.

    Models of Perceiving Truth -
    Three ways to call pitches in baseball –
    *I call them the way they are – There is a reality out there. Correspondence theory of truth.
    *I call them the way that I see them – Turn to the subject. They are there, but we cannot necessarily see them the way they really are. Kantian.
    *They are what I call them – This is a radical side of the coherence theory. We are limited to perception and there is no reality beyond what I perceive it to be. This is very narrow and subjective.


    We are now going to build a case for theism that will contend with atheism and agnosticism.

    Natural Theology

    Humans can obtain particular knowledge about God by focusing on reason and the observation of the world.
    Five views on demonstrating God via Natural Theology
    1. John Locke – died 1704. Full confidence. He had full confidence that we could very close to God by using our minds and observing reality and the created order. He also valued human experience as somewhat revelatory.

    He did not intend to set the history of thought in the direction that it went, but… Locke’s view was that the Bible was the affirming point of confirmation of what we were able to perceive through natural means. Locke was a believer, but set the groundwork for the thought that perhaps we do not need special revelation to know God.

    The Bible and Christ are a republication of what may be discerned through empiricism. An American Congregationalist minister who founded Pittsburgh Xenia Seminary, Henry Ward Beecher – “The great world is but another Bible.”

    2. Thomas Aquinas – Analogia entis – There is an analogy of being between the being of God and the cosmos He created. Per Aquinas, nature could take you part of the way toward God. This is Guiding confidence. It can lead you toward him, but not take you all the way. Nature is perfected by grace.

    Bruce Demarest – “Special revelation completes, not negates, the special revelation of God in nature and conscience.”

    3. John Calvin – Convicting confidence. Calvin chides Aquinas’ analogy of being. Apart from special revelation, human beings have failed to create satisfactory gods. He stated that the Catholic scholastics had failed to account for the impact on sin and how it has radically undermined our ability to use nature to find God.

    Calvin did state that people have a sense of the divine. By and large, what you can get from a natural theology is the sense that there is a divine something out there (a seed of religion). Most religions contain a sense of the divine and the idea of accountability to God.

    4. Karl Barth – Misguided confidence. There is no point of contact between natural theology and an understanding of God in Christ.

    Emil Brunner and Karl Barth squared off over this issue. Brunner wrote that there was a point of contact in every human being that God could use to bring redemption. Barth wrote to Brunner, “Nein”.

    Natural theology tells us nothing about God unaided by special revelation. Barth stated, “Apart from Jesus Christ, I would be an atheist.”

    On Romans 1 and 2 and Psalm 19, Barth would say that this is from the believer’s perspective (even though the passage is speaking about unbelievers). Barth said “no” to apologetics and “yes” to proclamation.

    5. Tim Janiszewski – Eclectic confidence. Tim is with Calvin quite a bit. Sin clouds our perception of reality. He also has a weak affirmation of the Aquinas view. We should not adhere to the fallacy of either/or.

    Natural Theology

    Proofs or Testimonies to God
    Barth would totally skip this section. Calvin would be weakly supportive. Locke would have a party. Hebrews 6:1, Romans 1 and other passages talk about the existence of proof.

    A posteriori and a priori. A posteriori – Have the experience and reason from it. A priori – This is prior to experience. There is only one proof that is a priori.

    Picking a taxonomy
    Arguments based on the nature of the cosmos are called cosmological arguments.

    Cosmological Arguments

    *Cause and effect – Aquinas’ based on correspondence theory of truth. Look at the cause and effect in nature. Where does it go back to? There must be a first cause or uncaused cause.
    *Motion – Things that are in motion must have been moved originally. If this is followed far enough back, we must have an inception point of motion. Aquinas used Aristotle who said that God was the Unmoved Mover.
    *Contingency – We are contingent beings. We are dependent on other things. Aquinas believes that there must be a Necessary Being, not merely a contingent being. This Necessary Being has created all contingent beings.
    *Teleological – This is the argument from design. If things are in order, there must be someone who has ordered them. God is the grand systematician.
    *Degrees of Being – eminentiae. Don’t we all see things in order of degrees of perfection/value. Follow the trajectory from good, better, best, superlative, etc. and you arrive at God. God is the best that we could every possibly conceive of.
    --Feuerbach would say that this view is aligned with his own. God is merely an emanation of our greatest hopes and aspirations.

    Arguments based on human beings specifically
    *Why do people have conscience? Why does the sense of moral oughtness exist. God puts this sense of oughtness into us.
    *Moral argument. Immanuel Kant stated that when we look at the universe in which we live, do the just always succeed? At the end of the day, is life fair? There must be a God out there, that at the end of the world, would bring justice.
    *Pragmatic argument. This is extremely weak. Belief in God makes people healthier, happier and better adjusted.

    Based on God
    *Ontological argument. This is the only a priori argument and it is from Anselm. Anselm wrote Pros Logion as a devotion to God, but developed the ontological argument within it. Are we able to think about the idea of an absolutely perfect being? Whatever that absolutely perfect being is, is that being more perfect if that being is only an idea or if that being actually exists? For Anselm, the more perfect being actually exists. God is that being about which nothing greater can be conceived.

    Value of proofs or testimonies
    These proofs are not bulletproof. They should be used to move someone towards the probability of God’s existence rather than as definitive proofs.

    Limits of proofs or testimonies
    It is better to call them testimonies than proofs. The limitation that Tim would impose on this is that these arguments might tell us that there is a God, but they tell us nothing about what kind of God. You might be able to get beyond thinking atheism and agnosticism is the way, but we then need to move to God’s character and works. Natural theology dead ends before reaching this point. Is God limited or unlimited, finite or infinite, loving or cruel, etc?

    In The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God, D.A. Carson believes that the Openness of God people are dangerously close to creating a finite god.

    Revealed Theology

    Special revelation and personal illumination.

    The need for “Revealed” Theology.
    *Illumination of human beings – There is a both/and between human illumination and Scripture. Scripture is the word of God, but personal experience with the Word brings it home.

    A rightly situated special revelation in regard to knowing God.
    *Divine incomprehensibility – We can comprehend God a whole lot better with personal illumination and Scripture, but God is ultimately and finally incomprehensible. Augustine – “To have a very slight knowledge of God is a great blessing. To comprehend Him is utterly impossible.” John Calvin – “It is a vain speculation to attempt an examination of God in essence, but we can know God in His revealed character and actions.”
    *Uses and limits of language – God, by necessity, communicates Himself by using our language. Calvin called this accommodation. Even by using special revelation, God has to stoop to speak a language we can understand. “For who is so devoid of intellect as not to understand that God, in so speaking, lisps with us as nurses are wont to do with little children? Such modes of expression, therefore, do not so much express what kind of a being God is, as accommodate the knowledge of him to our feebleness. In doing so, he must, of course, stoop far below his proper height.”

    God uses anthropomorphisms to communicate. God also use anthropophatic or emotion centered words to reveal Himself. Scripture does not contain a few antrhopos, but all Scripture is anthropo (Bovick). God is condescending to our vehicle of language to explain Himself. The greatest anthropomorphism is Jesus Christ.

    Models and their nature – There are models of God from the Bible and theology, but God is complicated. He is not readily reducible by a single model or even many models.

    Revealed Theology
    Unity of God

    Theism – A Case from Biblical Theology
    Biblical models of God
    God as a shepherd - Ezekiel 34:1-17
    What does this passage tell us about God?
    · God cares about the flock.
    · God is concerned about neglect of the flock.
    · God holds people accountable. He expects them to follow a code of conduct. He is willing to intervene when that does not happen.
    · God is willing to remove those who are inadequate leaders.
    · God has a plan for human life. He has ordered it a certain way and deviations from this are considered wrong.
    · God is a protector. God understands our human weaknesses and what must be done to care for them. God is not impassive to the human condition.
    · God gives strength and prosperity to be expended on others.
    · God has social concern. Inequality draws His attention.
    · God is a judge.
    · God expects leadership and a multitude of leadership capable individuals.
    · God does not allow his people to be lost.
    · God is able to discern human intent and actions.
    · God is a healer.
    · God is sovereign; He is the over-shepherd.
    God as spirit
    Biblical names for God
    What is in a name? Names often were descriptive or connotative. They revealed identity.
    OT names
    Yahweh – The covenantal name of God. I am that I am. The tetragammatron. It is based off of the Hebrew word for “to be”. Most scholars agree this is as close to a proper name for God that may be found. This name is given first at the burning bush with Moses. The two predominant ideas are constancy and immutability. II Timothy 2:13 – If we are faithless, He remains faithful because he cannot deny Himself (constancy). The word also points to God’s aseity or self-existence.
    El – God is “almighty”, “strong” or “revered”. This also carries the connotation of fear. Underlying fear is the idea of obedience being requisite.
    Adonai – Means “Lord” or “Master”. The one who rules over or to whom we submit. The way that Yahweh got vowel pointed was through dots and points. The vowel pointing was done in the 12th century. Pronunciation in the OT times was done through tradition. This was God’s secret or sacred name (per tradition). Traditionalists replaced YHWH with Adonai in an attempt to keep the 3rd commandment. Best way to not take the name in vain is to never say it.
    NT names - Repetition of OT names in NT. For example, Revelation 1:8 is loaded (alpha, omega, lord, almighty, etc. go back to OT derivatives).
    Father -
    The matter of maleness in God
    There are Roman Catholic theologians that play with the Sophia or female aspects of God.
    Mainline denominations have met and prayed to the goddess Sophia.
    The Presbyterians, in 1991, talk about God caring for us like a mother.
    Princeton Theological Seminary – Students are not allowed to write using male pronouns for deity. They are forced to use “God”.
    Central objections to male language.
    Patriarchical. It treats women as second class citizens. It is too exclusive.
    It is injurious to certain people who have had abusive fathers.
    Response to objections.
    We should not get rid of God as father, but we should uphold God as the father that can heal the wounds inflicted by human fathers. We should not eschew an image of the father God merely because there have been bad fathers.
    God has revealed Himself using this male language and identification. God does not clearly identify Himself as female.
    The Jews in Jesus’ times even refused to use the name Yahweh. They feared to invoke the name of God. Jesus turns around and calls God “abba”. This would have broken cultural rules of intimacy with God. To throw out the imagery of a father God would be to throw out one of the most precious endowments given to the Church.
    God’s relationship to the cosmos. Most world religions had male and female deities. Judaism and Christianity stood out for their exclusion of a female deity. The birthing of the world was portrayed in other religions as being out of the female womb. The created world was seen as an extension of the divine substance. If the cosmos is organically linked to the female deity, then you get into pantheism and panentheism. The God of Israel did not birth the world, but all creation was brought into existence ex nihilo.
    God is personal. God wants to be seen and recognized as personal. God did not want to be identified as a it or a she.

    The Unity of God
    · Divine Attributes – A Taxonomy
    o Westminster Catechism – 1643-1649 - Question and Answer 4 – “God is spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in His Being, Wisdom, Power, Holiness, Justice, Goodness and Truth.” Charles Hodge boasted that this was the best definition of God ever penned by man.
    § God is spirit – God is not material. God is spirit and those who worship Him must do so in spirit and in truth. Deut. 4:15-16 – Watch yourselves that you do not make an idol. Lex orandi, lex credendi – The law of our creed needs to define the law of our worship. The way we worship must correlate with God’s invisible spirit nature. This disallowed icons, etc. Calvin – “Man is a factory of idols.” The idols of our day are still here. Many of the idols of our day are human beings. We have a culture of celebrity.
    · All the properties of God are indivisible. They cannot be separated from one another. The simplicity argument states that all attributes cohere in God. Many have tried to identify a suman bonum or highest attribute. However, it is probably best to leave them all as indivisible.
    § God is personal – The God who is a spirit is a “He”. Tillich defines God as the “abyssive silence” and the “ground of being”. This idea is destroyed by personal pronouns.
    § God is infinite – This is the idea of omnipresence. An infinite being can be in all places all of the time. Sometimes people get mixed up with ubiquity, divine manifestations and omnipresence. How can He be locally manifested and also omnipresent?
    § God is eternal – We are speaking from our human frame of reference. We are spatio-temporal and have never been not so. There is a heated debate behind this. Is God timeless or is God eternal? The difference is whether God transcends time or is subject to it.
    · Per the Eternal position - If God is in time, then He is actually involved and real in our lives. If God is out of time, then He must not be able to relate. Time in the future does not yet exist, therefore, God does not know it. This does not compromise the greatness of God if He is not part of something that is not real.
    · Per the Timeless position – They claim that God knows the future because He transcends time. If God is in time, He knows all past events. If God is in time, He knows the present moment.
    · There is a third possibility. God is both in time and out of time. As God, He is subject to nothing. Nothing, even time, exists independent of God. We see God operating in both spheres. God is not within time, but time is within God.
    § God is immutable
    God is a Being
    God is infinite, eternal and unchangeable in his Being
    Immutable – Unchanging.
    Impassable – Not subject to passions or vulnerable to passions. Number 23:19 – “God is not a man that he should lie or change his mind”. Psalm 102:26 – “God remains the same”. Malachi 3:6 = “I do not change, therefore you are not consumed.” James 1:17 – “God does not change like shifting shadows”. ETC
    The influence of Greek philosophy was important to developing these ideas about God. Aquinas came along and said that God is the greatest possible being (Anselm), but what implications did this have for God changing? If you change for the better, you were not God in the first place. If you changed for the worse… The attempt to say that God doesn’t change was an attempt to protect God. Unfortunately, it might fall into the realm that God is impersonal/apotheia. If God doesn’t change, then God might be indifferent to the human condition. Does this logically and necessarily follow? Many point to the Scriptures that talk about repenting and relenting. Can you have a relationship which does only involves a one way “interaction”? Perhaps the most stunning question surrounds Christ and the cross. If God is unemotional, etc how can Christ on the cross be a part of God? Are we in danger of making God so transcendent that we have no way of relating to Him?
    Proposed ways that attempt to keep God as the greatest possible being:
    God is immutable and impassable in His transcendent self, but he accommodates us by revealing Himself through anthropomorphisms, etc. God is transcdentally immutable and impassable, but he relates in such a way that this seems to be not the case.
    The ontological Trinity is immutable and impassable. The economic Trinity is relational and encounters emotion and changes in relationships.
    God is impassable in His character, attributes and person. God knows all things (spatio-temporal), but God actually does experience these with us. God knows from all time that we would be in this class.
    Proposed attempts that do not hold that God is the greatest possible being
    Process theology – They celebrate the change of God. God has a primordial fixed pole, but He also has a temporal pole that changes with us. They believe that immutability is an illegitimate Platonic concept. Alfred North Whitehead – ‘We want a God who is a fellow sufferer with us.’
    Open Theism – There is some truth to the way that the Hegelian dialectic comes true. There is a dialectic going on here. The thesis is classical theism. The antithesis is process theology. The Evangelical Theological Society is debating this. Open Theism claims to be the synthesis. They want to affirm that God is immutable in His character, purpose and attributes. God does not know the future and must risk to accomplish His purposes. Our free will choices must be negotiated to achieve His purposes. All Open Theists are Arminians, though this group itself is experiencing division over the issue.

    Open Discussion
    D.A. Carson – The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God
    Memorize the 5 categories of love (Tim mentioned them several times and had committed them to his own memory).
    (i) The peculiar love of the Father for the Son and of the Son for the Father;
    (ii) God's providential love over all that he has made;
    (iii) God's salvific stance toward his fallen world;
    (iv) God's particular, effective, selecting love toward his elect;
    (v) God's provisional or conditional love toward his own people.
    All of the attributes of God must be kept in play at the same time. None can become ascendant over the others. If love ascends, the wrath of God totally disappears, etc.
    God’s wrath is on the sinner, not just the sin! Carson says that we must equally and firmly say that God’s wrath and love are on the sinner.
    God’s love and wrath are summarized in the cross.

    Saturday, September 03, 2005

    The Culture's Last Stand

    "This petition demands nothing else than that God's honor be sought in all, before all, and beyond all else, and that our whole life rebound forever only to God's glory."
    --Martin Luther

    This blog is dedicated to discusions regarding the reformation of culture. Human events are moving so swiftly and with these massive leaps have come critical issues that often pass Christians by the wayside before they discover their significance.

    Here we will discuss the Church, culture and the events of our time. I am unabashedly Christian; believing that the Word of God is inerrant and timeless. There is no area of human endeavor where God should not be and where His word may not be applied. This blog will reveal His glory and spread His eternal message of reconciliation.