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God (Theology Proper)

God

 

 

God’s Existence

 

     Ryrie states that traditionally there have been two lines of argument used to demonstrate the existence of God, the naturalistic and the biblical arguments.[1] Here I will evaluate those arguments that fall within both the naturalistic as well as the biblical arguments.

 

Naturalistic Arguments

 

Cosmological Argument

 

     The cosmological argument is the argument from cause and effect which simply states that every effect must have a cause. Something cannot come out of nothing and since the cosmos (world) exists then there must be an original cause. A simple illustration will help make the point; you have a vehicle parked in your driveway, you have never seen the people who built that vehicle yet you know they exist because the vehicle is there. Since there is an effect (the vehicle) there must be a cause (the people who built it). This argument simply states that every effect must have a cause. Since an effect has never been proven to be uncaused, or in other words, since something created has never been proven to come from nothing, the only logical and reasonable explanation is that an original cause, a supremely intelligent and powerful Being created all that is. God is that Cause, the only One who could produce such a complex and magnificent effect as the universe or the human body (cf. Heb. 11:3; Gen. 1:1).

 

Teleological Argument

 

     The teleological argument is the argument from order and design. Thiessen writes, “Order and useful arrangement in a system imply intelligence and purpose in the organizing cause. The universe is characterized by order and useful arrangement; therefore, the universe has an intelligent and free cause.”[2]

Everywhere you look in this universe, all you see is design, order, usefulness, harmony, and purpose which must be accounted for. Let’s go back to the vehicle illustration; that vehicle parked in your driveway is not just a heap of metal and plastic. That vehicle has design, functionality, and purpose; did that just happen, or was there a designer behind it? We have been eye witnesses to God’s magnificent creation; the universe declares the glory of the Master Designer (cf. Ps. 8:3-4; 19:1-4).

 

Anthropological & Moral Arguments

 

     Chafer writes, “There are philosophical and moral features  in man’s constitution which may be traced back to find their origin in God…A blind force…could never produce a man with intellect, sensibility, will, conscience, and inherent belief in a Creator.”[3]

Essentially, what this argument states is that intelligence, emotions, conscience, and so on in the nature of man demands an intelligent Cause with similar attributes. Scripture is clear in teaching that man is not just a biological being but that there is an immaterial part, which is that part of man created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-28; Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10).

 

     The moral argument, which is often combined by theologians with the anthropological argument, simply states that since man has a sense of obligation, an awareness of right and wrong along with a feeling of responsibility to do good and a feeling of guilt when doing evil, all this presupposes that there is a Lord and Sovereign. The sense of right and wrong, of morality, of moral justice, of moral obligation cannot be attributed to any evolutionary process, therefore, the question that begs to be asked is, where did it come from? The only logical and reasonable answer is God (cf. Rom. 2:14-15).

 

Ontological Argument

 

     The ontological argument is the argument from idea to reality. This is a philosophical argument. Enns states, “The argument reasons: ‘If man could conceive of a Perfect God who does not exist, then he could conceive of someone greater than God himself which is impossible. Therefore God exists.’ The argument rests on the fact that all men have an awareness of God. Because the concept of God is universal, God must have placed the idea within man.”[4]

This argument finds proof for the existence of God in the very idea of God. Let me explain, since we have an idea of God and that idea is far greater than ourselves, then the idea must have been placed within us by God since such an idea could not have had its origin in us. Some would argue that this argument has limited value; nevertheless, it is an argument that helps prove the character and nature of God, the God that the cosmological, teleological, and anthropological/moral arguments have proven exist.

 

Biblical Arguments

 

The biblical argument can be presented simply by enumerating a number of Scriptures that clearly teach the existence of God. A Bible student would do well to study these passages and even commit them to memory. This list is not meant to be exhaustive but rather a sampling of verses: Gen. 1:1; Ps. 8:3-4; 19:1-4; Isa. 40:26; Acts 14:17; Rom. 1:18-20.

 

God’s Revelation

 

     I will not spend considerable time here since the theme of revelation was already discussed on the article dealing with the doctrine of the Bible.

When we speak of God’s revelation, we are simply making reference to how God has revealed Himself. The point here is to make sure that we understand that God revealed Himself and that whatever we know about God, we know because He unveiled or disclosed it to us and not because we discovered it. Without God’s revelation we would know nothing about Him. How did God reveal Himself? In two ways, through general and special revelation.

 

General Revelation

 

     General revelation is preliminary to salvation since man cannot procure salvation through this form of revelation. General revelation simply reveals the character and nature of God, His attributes, and brings awareness to all men of His existence. It communicates to all humans the reality of His Being. General revelation is manifested in nature (Ps. 8:3; 19:1-6; Rom. 1:18-21), in providence (Matt. 5:45; Acts 14:15-17), and in conscience (Rom. 2:14-15).

 

Special Revelation

 

     Unlike general revelation, not all men are recipients of special revelation. The emphasis of special revelation is twofold: the unveiling or disclosing of Himself through the Bible and through Jesus Christ. This revelation is accurate and authoritative since the Holy Spirit superintended its writing. The Bible does not simply contain the Word of God; it is the Word of God because it has been inspired by God’s Spirit (2 Tim. 3:16;

2 Pet. 1:21). As such, The Bible (original autographs) is inerrant—free from any error in whatever it affirms, and infallible. Christ is the most complete revelation of God and the Scriptures clearly teach that Jesus both through His words and works explained the Father to mankind (John 1:18).

 

God’s Attributes

 

     Strong defines the attributes of God as, “those distinguishing characteristics of the divine nature which are inseparable from the idea of God and which constitute the basis and ground for his various manifestations to his creatures.”[5]

Theologians tend to classify God’s attributes into two categories. Attributes that only God possesses, or that belong to God alone, are often referred to as absolute, incommunicable, non-moral, or infinite attributes. The attributes that God can transmit and that man has to a certain degree, are often referred to as relative, communicable, moral, or personal attributes.

A couple of points need to be made at this point; first, no one attribute should be elevated or exalted over another because doing so could provide a distorted view of God. Second, in order to gain a proper understanding of the nature of God, all His attributes need to be taken together, for by doing this we gain a complete “picture” of God.

 

Incommunicable Attributes

 

Unity – This attribute teaches two things, (1) God is one numerically (Deut. 6:4), and (2) He is unique, there is none other like Him, He is incomparable (Ex. 15:11).

Immutability – God is unchanging and unchangeable, this is the quality of being unchanging (James 1:17; Ps. 102:25-27; Mal. 3:6).

Omnipresence – This attribute teaches us that God is present everywhere at once or everywhere present (Ps. 139:7-12). Strong defines it as “God, in the totality of His essence, without diffusion or expansion, multiplication or division, penetrates and fills the universe in all its parts.”[6]

Omnipotence – This attribute teaches that God is all powerful. He can do whatever He wills as long as it is in harmony with His perfections. God’s will is limited by His nature (Gen. 17:1; Rev. 4:8; Job 42:2; Jer. 32:17; Matt. 19:26).

Omniscience – This attribute teaches that God is all-knowing (Ps. 139:1-6; 147:4; Matt. 6:8; 10:28-30; 11:21; 24:24-25; Dan. 2:36-43; 7:4-8; Rev. 6-19). Thiessen states that God is infinite in knowledge. He knows Himself and all other things perfectly from all eternity, whether they be actual or merely possible, whether they be past, present, or future. He knows things immediately, simultaneously, exhaustively, and truly.”[7]

Infinity – This attribute teaches that God is unbounded, He is limitless and unconfined, God transcends space (1 Kings 8:27).

Eternity – This attribute teaches that God not only transcends space (infinity), but He also transcends time. In other word, He is not limited or bound by time. Unlike us, who are bound by the temporal succession of events, God is not, since for Him there is no such succession because He is above temporal limitations (Ps. 90:2).

 

     Other incommunicable attributes are self-existence, simplicity, immensity, spirituality.

 

Communicable Attributes

 

Holiness – This attribute teaches that God is not only separate and exalted above all His creatures and distinctive from the universe (Isa. 57:15; Ps. 113:4-6; 1 Sam 2:2), but that He is also completely separate from all evil and sin (Hab. 1:12-13; Isa. 6:1-5; 1 John 1:5).

Righteousness – This attribute teaches that God is not only righteous in character (Dan. 9:7, 16), but in actions as well (Ps. 145:7, 17).

Justice – This attribute teaches that since God is righteous, He is therefore fair with all His creatures (Deut. 32:4). Righteousness and justice are often viewed together since in the Hebrew and Greek there is only one word group behind these two terms. It is in English that these two terms are different words, not so in both the Old Testament and New Testament.

Goodness – This attribute teaches that God, morally speaking, is excellent, and that in His dealings with His creatures, He deals with them well (Luke 18:19; Ps. 100:5; 106:1; 107:1). Grudem defines it as follows, “The goodness of God means that God is the final standard of good, and that all that God is and does is worthy of approval.”[8]

Love – Grudem states, God’s love means that God eternally gives of Himself to others…This attribute of God shows that it is part of His nature to give of Himself in order to bring about blessing or good for others.”[9]

This is whom God is (1 John 4:8).

 

     Other communicable attributes are mercy, grace, freedom, glory, faithfulness, benevolence, wisdom, and veracity.

 

 

The Doctrine of the Trinity

 

     Warfield defines the Trinity as follows, “There is one only and true God, but in the unity of the Godhead there are three coeternal and coequal Persons, the same in substance but distinct in subsistence.”[10]

Chafer states, “the Trinity is composed of three united Persons without separate existence—so completely united as to form one God. The divine nature subsists in three distinctions—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”[11]

Geisler, in giving the meaning of Trinity, he states, “It means that God is a triunity: He is a plurality within unity. God has a plurality of persons and a unity of essence; God is three persons in one nature. There is only one ‘What’ (essence) in God, but there are three ‘Whos’ (persons) in that one What. God has three ‘I’s’ in His one ‘It’—there are three Subjects in one Object.”[12]

 

The Athanasian Creed clearly sets forth the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity,

 

“That we worship one God in trinity and the trinity in unity, neither blending their persons nor dividing their essence. For the person of the Father is a distinct person, the person of the Son is another, and that of the Holy Spirit still another. But the divinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is one, their glory equal, their majesty coeternal…

Thus the Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Spirit is God. Yet there are not three gods; there is but one God.

Thus the Father is Lord, the Son is Lord, the Holy Spirit is Lord. Yet there are not three Lords; there is but one Lord.

Just as Christian truth compels us to confess each person individually as both God and Lord, so catholic religion forbids us to say that there are three gods or lords.”[13]

 

     There are three common misinterpretations of the Trinity: (1) the teaching that there are three God’s rather than three Persons within the Godhead (Tri-theism), (2) the teaching that there is one God with three modes of existence or manifestations—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Sabellianism or Modalism), and (3) the teaching that denies the deity of Christ by teaching that He was a created being below God (Arianism).

 

     Several points need to be emphasized if we are going to have a proper understanding of the Trinity:

(1) As to His essence, God is one (Deut. 6:4). This verse speaks to the uniqueness and unity of God (cf. James 2:9). God is a single God rather than three God’s. Enns states, “It means all three persons possess the summation of the divine attributes but yet the essence of God is undivided.”[14]

(2) With respect to Persons, God is three.

(3)  The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are equal in attributes, nature and glory.

(4) They are coequal and coeternal.

 

 

The Biblical Basis for the Trinity: Five Propositions[15]

 

1. There is one, and only one, God.

Deut. 4:35, 39; 6:4; 32:39; 2 Sam. 7:22; Ps. 86:10; Isa. 43:10; 44:6-8; 46:9; John 5:44; 17:3; Rom. 3:29-30; 16:27; 1 Cor. 8:4; Gal. 3:20; Eph. 4:6; 1 Thess. 1:9; 1 Tim. 1:17; 2:5; James 2:19; 1 John 5:20-21; Jude 25.

2. The Person of the Father is God.

John 6:27; Eph. 4:6; Col. 1:2-3; 2 Pet. 1:17.

3. The Person of the Son is God.

John 1:1; 5:17; 8:58; 10:30; 20:28; Phil. 2:6; Col. 2:9; Titus 2:13; Heb. 1:8; 2 Pet. 1:1.

4. The Person of the Holy Spirit is God.

Gen. 1:2; John 14:26; Acts 5:3-4; 13:2, 4; 28:25; Rom. 8:11; Eph. 4:30.

5. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are Distinct and Simultaneously Distinguishable Persons.

Matt. 28:19; Luke 3:22; John 15:26; 16:13-15; 2 Cor. 13:14.

 

 

Biblical Support for Deity of the Three Persons[16]

 

1. All Three Persons are Referred to as God.

Father (1 Pet. 1:2), Son (Heb. 1:8), Holy Spirit (Acts 5:3-4)

2. All Three Persons Possess Divine Attributes or Qualities.

Self-existence: Father (Acts 17:25), Son (John 5:26), Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:2)

Eternal existence: Father (Ps. 90:2), Son (John 8:58), Holy Spirit (Heb. 9:14)

Immutability: Father (James 1:17), Son (Heb. 13:8), Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 3:18)

Omnipresence: Father (Jer. 23:23-24), Son (Matt. 28:20), Holy Spirit (Ps. 139:7)

Omniscience: Father (Isa. 40:28), Son (Col. 2:3), Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 2:10)

Omnipotence: Father (Jer. 32:17), Son (Col. 1:16-17), Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 2:10-11)

Truth: Father (John 7:28), Son (John 14:6), Holy Spirit (1 John 5:6)

Holiness: Father (Lev. 11:44), Son (Acts 3:14), Holy Spirit (John 16:7-8)

Wisdom: Father (Ps. 104:24), Son (Col. 2:3), Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 2:10-11)

3. All Three Persons are Engaged in the Works of God.

Creation of the World: Father (Gen. 2:7), Son (John 1:3), Holy Spirit (Gen. 1:2)

Incarnation of Christ: Father (Heb. 10:5), Son (Heb. 2:14), Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35)

Resurrection of Jesus: Father (Acts 2:32), Son (John 2:19), Holy Spirit (Rom. 1:4)

 

     The Trinity is an historical, orthodox doctrine of the Church. It is what the Church has historically believed and it is the clear teaching of Scripture. The denial of this doctrine is the denial of one of the essential, fundamental, non-negotiable doctrines of Christianity. The denial of this doctrine is the result of the denial of other fundamental doctrines of the Faith such as the inspiration, inerrancy, and infallibility of the Bible, and will without a doubt result in the denial of most, if not all, of the fundamental doctrines of the Faith such as the deity of Christ, the deity of the Holy Spirit, the biblical doctrine of salvation, and so on. If I deny the fundamentals, I’ve succeeded in doing one thing; I’ve confirmed the fact that I am not a Christian at all, even if I believe myself to be one.



[1] Charles C. Ryrie, A Survey of Bible Doctrine (Chicago: Moody, 1972), pp. 11-15.

[2] Henry C Thiessen, Lectures in Systematic Theology, revised by Vernon D. Doerksen (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979), p. 28.

[3] Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology, 8 vols. (Dallas: Dallas Seminary, 1947), 1:155, 157.

[4] Paul P. Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology (Chicago: Moody, 1989), p. 184.

[5] A. H. Strong, Systematic Theology (Valley Forge, PA.: Judson, 1907), p. 244.

[6] Strong, p. 279.

[7] Thiessen, p. 81.

[8] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), p. 197.

[9] Ibid., p. 198.

[10] Benjamin B. Warfield, “Trinity.” The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, ed. James Orr (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1930), 5:3012.

[11] Chafer, 1:276.

[12] Norman Geisler, Systematic Theology, 4 vols. (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2003), 2:279.

[13] Athanasian Creed, in Ecumenical Creeds and Reformed Confessions (Grand Rapids: CRC Publications, 1988), 9-10.

[14] Enns, p. 200.

[15] Kenneth Richard Samples, Without A Doubt (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004), p. 67.

[16] Ibid., p. 70.

Copyright 2006 by Dr. Miguel J Gonzalez

 
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