Theology 101 Notes: Doctrine of God
These are the notes from the third week of Theology 101:
DOCTRINE OF GOD
There is one true God.
Does God Exist?
Since we have adopted a “faith seeking understanding” posture for this class, we have basically assumed the existence of God because the Bible assumes his existence. However, from the Middle Ages and into the Enlightenment, Christian thinkers developed three basic types of theistic proofs:
- Ontological Argument- the idea of God must exist; his nonexistence is inconceivable. Man cannot consider the finite without at the same time thinking of the infinite which bounds and determines the finite. Devised by Anselm. (Georg Hegel, The Phenomenology of the Mind; Stanley Grenz, Theology for the Community of God)
- Cosmological and Teleological Argument- God must exist as the cause of the world or as the cause of what we observe in the natural world. Thomas Aquinas used this argument in Summa Theologica.
- Moral Argument- the practices of all social communities reveal a universal code of morality. Immanuel Kant was the first major philosopher to use the moral argument. The moral argument has been popularized in modern times by C. S. Lewis.
Because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.
“May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” (2 Corinthians 13:14)
“The concept of tri-unity lies at the heart of the Christian understanding of God and therefore is necessary in order to maintain the central message of the Bible.” (Stanley Grenz, Theology for the Community of God, p. 54)
Trinity: The term designating one God in three persons. Although not itself a Biblical term, “the Trinity” has found a convenient designation for the one God self-revealed in Scripture as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It signifies that within the one essence of the Godhead we have to distinguish three “persons” who are neither three gods on one side, not three parts or modes of God on the other, but coequally and coeternally God. (Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, p. 112)
Trinity: the doctrine that God eternally exists as three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and each person is fully God, and there is one God. (Wayne Grudem, Bible Doctrine, p. 494)
“The only distinctions between the members of the Trinity are in the ways they relate to each other and in the ways they related to the creation.” They have “ontological equality but economic subordination.” In other words, “equal in being but subordinate in role.” (Wayne Grudem, Bible Doctrine, p. 117)
Presence of the Trinity in Scripture
The concept of the Trinity is not clearly spelled out in Scripture. However, this truth is revealed in various parts of Scripture. The following passages illustrate the Trinity:
- The Creation- Genesis 1:26: Then God said, “Let us make man in our own image, according to our likeness.” The Holy Spirit was “hovering over the face of the waters” according to Genesis 1:2. In John 1:3, Jesus’ role in creation is revealed: “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.”
- Birth of Jesus- Luke 1:35: The angel answered and said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.”
- Baptism of Jesus- Matthew 3:16-17: After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like dove and settling on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, and I am fully pleased with him.” **See also Mark 1:9-11, Luke 3:21-22, John 1:32-34
- Great Commission- Matthew 28:19: Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
- Pauline Blessing- 2 Corinthians 13:14: The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
- Salvation- John 14:26: But when the Father sends the Counselor as My representative—and by the Counselor I mean the Holy Spirit—He will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I myself have told you. The Trinity is revealed in the salvation process- the election of the Father, the sanctification of the Holy Spirit, and the sprinkling of the saving blood of Christ. See also Ephesians 1:13-14: In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation--having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God's own possession, to the praise of His glory.
- Book of Jude- Jude 20-21: But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.
Content of the Doctrine of the Trinity
- God is one- Deuteronomy 6:4, Isaiah 44:6, 1 Corinthians 8:6, Romans 3:30, Ephesians 4:6, 1 Timothy 1:17
- God is three- John 1:1-4, John 20:28, Colossians 2:9, Hebrews 1:8 (Jesus is God); Acts 5:3-4, 1 Corinthians 2:10-11, 1 Corinthians 12:4-6 (Holy Spirit is God)
- God is a diversity- Matthew 11:27, John 14:26, Hebrews 7:25, 1 John 1:2
- God is a unity- John 17:22-23
Historical Development of the Trinity
- Deity of Christ- First Ecumenical Council of Nicea, 325 AD
- Deity of the Holy Spirit- Second Ecumenical Council of Constantinople, 381 AD
Three Trinitarian Heresies
- Tritheism- there is not one God. God is three persons and each person is fully God.
- Modalism- one person who appears to us in three different forms or “modes”
- Arianism- Jesus and the Holy Spirit are not eternally and fully God.
Attributes of God
”What comes to mind when you think of God is the most important thing about you.” (A.W. Tozer)
The characteristics of God are sometimes divided into two categories: incommunicable attributes and communicable attributes.
Incommunicable attributes: aspects of God’s character that he less fully shares with us. (Grudem, Bible Doctrine, p. 486). These can include self-existence, immutability, infinity, and unity (Grenz, Theology for the Community of God, p.90)
Communicable attributes: aspects of God’s character that he more fully shares or “communicates” with us. (Grudem, Bible Doctrine, p.481). These arise out of God’s spiritual, intellectual, and moral nature and include knowledge, wisdom, truthfulness, goodness, holiness, righteousness, and sovereignty (Grenz, Theology for the Community of God, p.90-91)
We can also divide the attributes into categories of eternality and goodness.
Attributes of Eternality
“God is present in all time, and therefore all time is present to God.” (Grenz)
“God, being eternal, has no beginning or end or succession of events in his own being.” (Grudem)
“God is the one and only reality that is without beginning, middle, or end.” (Williams)
Psalm 90:2, Psalm 102:27, Isaiah 57:15, 1 Timothy 1:17
God does not need us or the rest of creation for anything. (Grudem)
John 5:26, Acts 17:24-25
God is unlimited, unbounded. There is no confinement, no limitation. He transcends everything in his creation. (Williams)
Genesis 14:18-22, 1 Kings 8:27, Psalm 145:3, Nehemiah 9:5, 1 Corinthians 2:10-12, Romans 11:33
God is unchanging in his being, perfections, purposes, and promises, yet God does act and feel emotions, and he acts and feels differently in response to different situations. Also called immutability (Grudem, and Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, p.58) There is dependability, constancy and stability in all that he is and does. (Williams)
Malachi 3:6, James 1:17, Hebrews 13:8
God exists as a being that is not made of any matter, has no parts or dimensions, is unable to be perceived by our bodily senses, and is more excellent than any other kind of existence. (Grudem) The Bible doesn’t give us a definition of “spirit,” but it does give us descriptions- immortal, invisible, eternal. (Horton)
God’s total essence, all of his spiritual being, will never be able to be seen by us, yet God still shows himself to us through visible, created things. (Grudem)
Exodus 33:20, John 1:18, John 6:46, 1 Timothy 6:16
God does not have size of spatial dimensions, and is present at every point of space with his whole being, yet God acts differently in different places. (Grudem) All things are present to God in of themselves, whether they be events past, present, or future. (Grenz)
1 Kings 8:27, Psalm 139:7-10, Jeremiah 23:23-24, Colossians 1:17
God fully knows himself and all things actual and possible in one simple and eternal act. (Grudem) The divine mind perceives the entire temporal sequence—all events—simultaneously in one act of cognition. (Grenz)
Job 37:16, 1 John 3:20
God is able to do all his holy will (Grudem). The word “Almighty” (el sadday) occurs in the Old Testament 48 times; thirty-one of those times are in the book of Job. (Williams) Omnipotence is God’s ability to bring completion to his design for creation. (Grenz)
Genesis 18:14, Jeremiah 32:17, Matthew 19:26, Ephesians 3:20
Attributes of Goodness
“God is, by his very nature, inclined to act with great generosity toward his creation.” (Stanley Horton, Systematic Theology, p. 127)
God is separated from sin and devoted to seeking his own honor. (Grudem)
Exodus 3:5, Leviticus 11:44, Psalm 71:22, Isaiah 6:3, Isaiah 43:3, Luke 4:34
Rather than being ruled by some moral concept, God is the standard by which we will be judged and we are to judge all human conduct. (Grenz)
1 Peter 1:16, 1 John 3:16
Humanity will never be able to fully comprehend God. However, he has shown himself at different times and in various ways, indicating that it is his will for us to know him and to be in right relationship with him. (Horton) He wills to be known by personal names, he shows himself to be the one who enters into personal relationships with man, he is revealed uniquely in the person of Jesus Christ, and his character is deeply personal. (Williams)
Psalm 46:10, Jeremiah 9:23-24, John 1:18, John 17:3, Philippians 3:10, 1 John 2:13, 1 John 5:20
God always chooses the best goals and the best means to those goals. (Grudem) The Hebraic understanding of wisdom was both intellectual and practical.
Job 9:4, Psalm 104:34, Romans 8:28, Romans 16:27, James 1:5
God is the true God, and all his knowledge and words are both true and the final standard of truth. (Grudem) God’s truthfulness means he also demonstrates complete integrity, dependability, and faithfulness. (Williams)
Numbers 23:19, Psalm 141:6, Jeremiah 10:10, John 1:14, 1 Thessalonians 1:9
God is the final standard of good, and all God is and does is worthy of approval. (Grudem)
Psalm 100:5, Psalm 106:1Luke 18:19
God eternally gives of himself to others. (Grudem) God is centrally the God of love. Love is the very essence of the divine nature. (Williams)
John 3:16, Romans 5:8, 1 John 4:8
Righteous and Just
These two terms are actually the same word in both Old Testament Hebrew and New Testament Greek. God always acts in accordance with what is right and us himself the final standard of what is right. (Grudem).
Deuteronomy 32:4, Psalm 25:8, Psalm 89:14, Psalm 97:2
God continually seeks to protect his own honor. (Grudem)
Exodus 20:5, Deuteronomy 4:24, Isaiah 48:11, Revelation 4:11
God intensely hates all sin. (Grudem)
Exodus 32:9-10, Deuteronomy 9:7-8, Romans 1:18, Romans 3:25-26, Colossians 3:6, 1 Thessalonians 2:16, Revelation 6:16-17
The Creator God
God first revealed himself to us as Creator (Genesis 1:1)
- God created out of nothing (ex nihilo)- Psalm 90:2, John 1:3, Colossians 1:17
- God created by speaking it into existence- Genesis 1, Psalm 33:6,9, Hebrews 11:3
- God created Adam and Eve in a unique way- Genesis 2:7, Genesis 2:21-23
- Jesus and the Holy Spirit played a role in the creation- Genesis 1:2, Job 26:23, 1 Corinthians 8:6, Colossians 1:16
- God is distinct from creation, but he is involved in creation and creation is dependent upon him- Ephesians 4:6, Acts 17:25, 28God created the universe to show his glory- Isaiah 43:7, Psalm 19, Revelation 4:11
What is the relationship between Scripture and the findings of modern science?
Creation theories seek to answer two basic questions regarding creation: 1) Age- how old is the earth? 2) Method- how was the earth created?
- Young Age View- the days are literal, successive twenty-four hour periods of time. Therefore, the world is no more than 10,000 years old.
- Day-Age View- the “days” in Genesis are best understood as indefinite periods of time.
- Restoration View- also called the “gap theory,” this theory argues that a large gap of time occurred between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2. The original creation, therefore, may be very old and the “days” of Genesis may be literal twenty-four hour days or more indefinite ages.
- Literary Framework View- this theory proposes that a literal reading of the text as a chronological order of events is not the purpose of the text. Rather, the purpose of the creation account was to establish monotheism in a polytheistic context. The creation account is organized thematically, not chronologically.
- Theistic Evolution- God directed the evolutionary process to bring about all life forms on earth.
A good overview of these theories can be found in the book Across the Spectrum.
The Providential God
- Preservation- an aspect of God’s providence whereby he keeps all created things existing and maintaining the properties with which he created them. Hebrews 1:3, Colossians 1:17
- Concurrence- an aspect of God’s providence whereby he cooperates with created things in every action, directing their distinctive properties to cause them to act as they do. Ephesians 1:11, Psalm 148:8, Matthew 6:26, Matthew 10:29
- Government- an aspect of God’s providence that indicates that God has purpose in all he does in the world and that he providentially governs or directs all things so they accomplish his purposes. Psalm 103:19, Romans 8:28, Romans 11:36