Monday, June 7, 2010

What a Squirrel Believes – Theology Proper

What a Squirrel Believes

I believe in one, and only one, true and living God. He is the Triune God; eternally existing in one essence and being, yet three co-equal persons share this same essence and being; the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God is, by His nature and works, worthy of all glory, honor, obedience, and praise, and God alone is worthy of worship. He is the Creator of all that exists in Heaven and Earth, and His sovereign decrees determine all that comes to pass, and the end of all things glorifies Him. In all of His attributes, God is absolute perfection. He has absolute knowledge, wisdom, and power and is perfect in holiness, righteousness, justice, love, grace, and mercy.

While all of Theology is the study of the things of God, Theology Proper is the study of God Himself; His nature and attributes as revealed in the Scriptures.

The Bible does not try to prove the existence of God.

In fact, the Bible clearly states that everybody possesses the knowledge of God’s existence (Romans 1:18-20). In other words, the Bible says that there are no atheists. Those who deny the existence of God must do so by willfully suppressing what they know to be true (Romans 1:21). While there are many philosophical arguments that set out to prove that God exists, I think that, for the most part, they’re just a waste of time, since it is hard to convince someone of the truth that they already know but are firmly in denial about.

We must also be aware of our own limitations. While we all have the knowledge of God’s existence, we must also accept that we are unable to totally comprehend God. We who are bound by time and space have no frame of reference for understanding that which is eternal and transcendent. In the ultimate sense, God is incomprehensible (Deuteronomy 29:29). We must accept what the Bible reveals to us, knowing that we will not understand everything; indeed, we will not understand anything in full. (1 Corinthians 13:12)

The Trinity:

The Bible reveals that God is Triune, a threefold unity. God is one, yet He exists as three co-equal and co-eternal persons; the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Christians are not tri-theists, we do not believe in 3 gods.

The Doctrine of the Trinity is a derived doctrine, meaning that it is not explicitly stated in the Bible, but is a conclusion derived from the clear teachings of Scripture. The Bible clearly states that there is only one God (Deuteronomy 6:4; Isaiah 44:6), yet the Father (Matthew 6:8-9; Matthew 7:21; Galatians 1:1), the Son (John 1:1-18; Romans 9:5; Colossians 2:9; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 1:8-10), and the Holy Spirit (Mark 3:29; John 15:26; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20; 2 Corinthians 3:17-18) are each identified as God.

The most concise statement in the Bible regarding the Trinity is, I think, Matthew 28:19, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” In this verse, the word for “name” (ὄνομα [onoma]) is singular, so, in effect, it reads “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the one name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

That the God revealed in the Bible is Triune in nature is a difficult concept to grasp, and it is totally impossible to fully understand. It should be believed, not because it is easy to believe, but because it is what the Bible reveals.

[I will address the deity of Christ and the deity of the Holy Spirit more fully in the posts on Christology and Pneumatology at a later date. For a more in-depth treatment of the Doctrine of the Trinity see James R. White’s The Forgotten Trinity]

The Sovereignty of God:

A sovereign is one who reigns, or rules. God’s sovereignty over His Creation is absolute, total, and independent (1 Chronicles 29:11-12; Psalm 115:3, Daniel 4:34-35). God is the ultimate authority, and all lesser authority is granted by God for His purposes (John 19:11; Romans 13:1). As Arthur W. Pink put it, God is “subject to none, influenced by none, absolutely independent; God does as He pleases, only as He pleases, always as He pleases. None can thwart Him, none can hinder Him.” (Isaiah 46:10; Psalm 135:6)

God, in His sovereignty, has decreed, in eternity past, everything which comes to pass, without exception. While God is not the author of sin, He does ordain the existence of evil, because if He had not ordained evil, evil would not exist (Isaiah 45:7). We have no right to question God’s decree (Job 40:2; Isaiah 45:9).

[For a more in-depth treatment of God’s sovereignty, see John MacArthur’s Answering Big Questions About the Sovereignty of God & Why Does Evil Dominate the World?]

Attributes of God:

An attribute is a characteristic, property, or quality of someone or something. Attributes are what we use to describe things; “The box was 10 inches long and 5 inches wide,” and, “He is 5 feet, 9 inches tall and weighed 168 pounds,” are descriptions of physical attributes. If we say that someone is “nice” or “honest,” we are describing attributes of character and personality. So, when we speak of the attributes of God, we are attempting to describe what He is like.

God’s attributes are generally divided into His incommunicable attributes and His communicable attributes. His incommunicable attributes are transcendent characteristics which belong to God alone. His communicable attributes are characteristics which God’s creatures may share with their Creator in some limited degree. Where the creature shares an attribute with the Creator, the creature’s attribute is a poor and incomplete reflection of the perfection that is God.

The attributes of God are not parts of God, but are aspects of the whole being of God. All of His attributes are always consistent with each and every other attribute. Because one of God’s attribute is His infinite nature, any list of the attributes of God will be incomplete.

Some of God’s attributes are:
God’s existence is not dependent on anything outside of God Himself. (Exodus 3:14)

Infinitude & Eternality
God is completely unbound by space or time (Psalm 90:2; 1 Timothy 1:17; Revelation 4:8)

God’s being, nature, and character is unchanging. (Malachi 3:6; James 1:17; Heb. 6:17) God’s unchanging nature does preclude Him from performing different actions. (Jeremiah 31:31)

God does not need anything. He does not need food or water to sustain Him. He needs no air to breath. He needs no one to advise Him. (Psalm 50:12-13)

God is perfect in His wisdom. Everything He does is wise, and He is never foolish. (Isaiah 55:8-9; Romans 11:33; Ephesians 1:11-12)

There is nothing that God does not know. He has perfect and complete knowledge of the past, the present and the future. (Psalm 147:5; Romans 11:34; Hebrews 4:13; 1 John 3:20) God’s perfect knowledge also extends to what might have been; He perfectly knows all possibilities. (Matthew 11:23) (God’s perfect knowledge of possibilities is not to be confused with error of Molinism, as even that which is possible is subject to God’s sovereign decree.)

God, not being in anyway limited by space and time, is always present everywhere. (Jeremiah 23:24; Psalms 139:7-10; 1 Kings 8:27)

God is all-powerful and is able to do whatever He wills. (Genesis 18:14; Jeremiah 32:17; Psalm 115:3; Matthew 19:26)

Love, whether used of God or man, is the desire for and actions taken to insure the well-being of the one loved. (Deuteronomy 7:9; Romans 5:8; 1 John 4:8)

To be holy is to be set apart. God is set apart by his absolute perfection in all things. (Isaiah 6:3; 1 John 1:5; Revelation 15:4)

God’s righteousness refers to His morality and justice. All matters of right and wrong are a reflection of God’s righteousness. (Genesis 18:25; Daniel 9:7; Revelation 16:7)

God is a promise-making and promise-keeping God. (Genesis 6:18; 9:9; 17:7; Deuteronomy 4:31; 7:9; 1 Peter 4:19)

Mercy is seen most clearly in such qualities as compassion and patience. God’s mercy is expressed by His long-suffering with, and forgiveness of, sinners.(Exodus 34:6-7; Psalm 52:8; Micah 7:18; 2 Corinthians 1:3; Ephesians 2:4; James 5:11))

God’s grace is distinct from but inseparable from His mercy. Where mercy is seen in pardon for wrongs done and mitigation of deserved punishment, grace is seen in the bestowal of undeserved blessings. (Matthew 5:44-48; Ephesians 2:8-9)

[For a more detailed look at the attributes of God, I recommend A. W. Pink’s Attributes of God.]

God, by His absolute perfection in all things, is worthy of worship, honor, glory and praise (Deuteronomy 6:13; Psalm 2:11; Psalm 96:9; John 4:23; Romans 12:1-2; Revelation 14:7; Revelation 22:9).

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