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Systematic Theology: What Is Humanity To Believe Concerning God?

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Introduction

The Bible it is a book that deals essentially with God and his relationship with man, however, the Bible is not intended to prove the existence of God. The existence of God is an indisputable fact, therefore peaceful, throughout the entire biblical narrative.

Like the Bible, sound theology is not intended to dissect God’s being, but to present Him at the level of man’s understanding. Evidently, God as an eternal, omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, and holy Being cannot be fully assimilated by man whose capacity is very limited in itself. If the Bible says that heaven and even the highest heaven cannot contain God (1Kings 8:27), how could our smallest understanding soothe Him?

In the face of a statement by our Lord Jesus Christ to the Samaritan woman, which says that God is a spirit (John 4:24), we conclude not only how magnificent and limitless God is, but also how insignificant is our ability to explain God’s Being.

The philosopher Plato defines God as the beginning, the middle and the end of all things. He is the supreme mind or reason; the efficient cause of all things; eternal, unchanging, omniscient, and omnipotent; everything He permeates and everything He controls; He is just, holy, wise and good. The absolutely perfect, the beginning of all truth, the source of all law and justice, the origin of all order and beauty, and especially the cause of all good.

On the first page of the Bible we find the unambiguous statement: In the beginning God (Gen. 1: 1). Although theology has the existence of God as a fundamental fact, and fully reasonable and independent of faith, it is not intended to demonstrate it by logical arguments. The Bible is no diary of God, gathering all the inquiries of the human mind about Him. There is enough in Scriptures for the finite mind of the limited man to comprehend God in a human level.

The person who, to prove God’s existence, goes beyond what the Bible says, what creation testifies, what the Holy Spirit and the Bible reveals, can lead the inquirer to useless or unnecessary results. Useless, if the investigator does not believe because he “seeks” God only out of curiosity, speculation and even false pretense. This kind of faith is only of convenience, it does not honor God, since it does not come from Him. It is human faith that does not reach divine revelation

The God-fearing Christian accepts by faith the truth of his existence, according to the revelation contained in the Bible. It is not blind faith, but faith based on the Scriptures (Heb. 11: 6). The Bible not only reveals God as Creator of all things (Gen. 1: 1), but also as the sustainer of all things (Mt. 6:26; Luke 12:24; Heb. 1:3), and as the leader of the destinies of individuals and nations. (Psalms 22:28). The Bible states that God did all things according to the counsel of His will (Eph. 1:11), thus revealing the gradual realization of His great and eternal purpose of redemption.

God’s revelation according to the Bible is the basis of our faith in His existence. In turn, our faith is built when we heartily accept the content of the Bible as inspired by God, which accordir to J. I. Packer emphatically shows that:

  1. “God has spoken to man, and the Bible is his Word, given to us to make us wise unto salvation.
  2. God is Lord and King over his world; he rules all things for his own glory, displaying his perfections in all that he does, in order that men and angles may worship and adore him.
  3. God is Saviour, active in sovereign love through the Lord Jesus Christ to rescue believers from the guilt and power of sin, to adopt them as his sons, and to bless them accordingly.
  4. God is Triune; there are within the Godhead three persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit; and the work of salvation is one in which all three act together, the Father purposing redemption, the Son securing it and the Spirit applying it.
  5. Godliness means responding to God’s revelation in trust and obedience, faith and worship, prayer and praise, submission and service. Life must be seen and lived in the light of God’s Word. This and nothing else, is true religion.”

According to the Scriptures what is humanity “to believe concerning God?”

Scriptures present a strong reference to God as ‘Father”, that is, as creator of all things, as a source of life, both in the Old and New Testaments. It is interesting to note that God is also quoted with humanized characteristics (good, righteous, slow to anger, longsuffering, loves), for we have been made His image and likeness. However, this in no way indicates that He is human in His essence.

God’s sovereignty can be seen through His omnipresence, for there is no space or time for God. For example, He does not need to move to act, He is present all the time, everywhere. In the Christian environment it is common for someone to report that they feel the presence of God, or have felt something different during a time of prayer. It is noteworthy that this is a manifestation of the power of God, as a gift of intimacy and communion between God and the one who seeks him with all his heart.

Although one’s feelings are directly linked to the exercise of one’s faith, this is not a feeling. Faith is sure. By this it is understood that a Christian need not necessarily physiologically feel the presence of God to avoid sin or conduct that displeases God. In fact, the one who fears Him is aware that He knows everything and sees everything all the time, and is able to probe the human mind and heart. At this point we come to the understanding also of His omniscience.

Fear is very different from being afraid. Fear is the awareness of God as a reality, the consideration for all that He has done and continues to do in the present moment, and the supreme ability to have created the universe and continue to sustain it. God has acted and continues to act permanently, creating, determining, and giving the last word.

In the act of baptism, in deciding to become a Christian, one accepts Jesus Christ as Lord and savior of his life. Roughly speaking, salvation is usually a deliverance, a kind of withdrawal from a bad situation into a better context.

Salvation is welcomed by all people (even non-Christians), after all who doesn’t want to be “saved” and get out of a bad situation? Get rid of something that endangers your life? However, by accepting God in the person of Jesus Christ as his “Lord,” the Christian also has duties and responsibilities. He now has an owner, a Shepherd, a Father, and must submit to God’s will, obey Him, his Word, and strive to lead a fearful life to Him. That is, he acknowledges God as his Lord.

The Nature of God

How can something that is finite understand and express something that is infinite? The chosen people themselves sought to represent and describe God to their fellow men when in their weakness they made metal idols, something that is still man-made today (Ex. 32: 4; Rom. 1: 24-25).

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God can be revealed and believed to the extent of our faith, but He cannot be analyzed in a laboratory test tube to be dissected by anyone. The fourth question of the Westminster Catechism concerning God says that ‘God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.’

In spite of God’s infinitude, there are certain things we can know about him, for he reveals himself with the help of Scripture and the operation of the Holy Spirit. God can be considered, not fully, through his natural and moral attributes. Louis Berkhof argues that the moral attributes of God are “generally regarded as the most glorious of the divine perfections. Among the many moral attributes of God, we will address a few, discussed below.

Veracity

Veracity is one of the many aspects of God’s perfection. That is, God is both truthful and perfect. “God is not man, that he should lie,” (Num. 23:19). The lie is incompatible with the divine nature. Therefore, we must always keep in mind that when we are dealing with God, we are dealing with a true Being who is willing to fulfill His holy and good words (Jer. 1:12). That is why we owe all our trust in Him (Psalms 125:1), in the certainty that He will establish our right and lead us into all truth.

Justice

Also called relative justice, is the execution of righteousness or the expression of absolute justice. Righteousness is the source of God’s Holiness, justice is the demonstration of His holiness.

God’s justice can be retributive and remunerative. Retributive justice is divided into punitive and corrective. Punitive justice is that by which God punishes sinners for transgressing His laws. This righteousness of God requires the execution of the penalties imposed by His laws (Ps. 3:5; 11:4-7; Deut. 32:4; Dan. 9:12-14; Ex. 9:23-27; 34:7). Corrective justice is that by which God ‘punishes’ His children to correct them (Heb.12:6-7). Those who are not His children, God punishes as a Severe Judge (Rom. 11:22; Heb. 10:31), but to His children, God punishes, or in different He corrects as a loving Father (Jer. 10:24; 30:11; 46:28; Psalms.89:30-33) Remunerative justice is that by which God rewards, with His blessings, to men for the obedience of His laws (Heb.6:10; 1 Co.4:5; Rm.2: 6-10).

Grace and Mercy

Grace it is the goodness of God exercised for the unworthy person. Therefore grace is the divine action f bestowing upon the sinner all the goodness of God which he does not deserve to receive (Ex.33: 19).

In mercy God suspends deserved suffering, in grace God bestows undeserved blessings. Every sinner deserves to go to hell; thus God exercises His mercy by freeing the sinner from condemnation. No sinner deserves to go to paradise; thus God exercises His grace by giving the sinner the privilege of going free to paradise.

This difference between mercy and grace is noted in relation to the angels who did not fall. God never exercised mercy on them, since they never needed it, for they did not sin or fall under the effects of the curse. Yet they are objects of the free and sovereign grace of God by which they were elected (1 Tim. 5:21) and eternally preserved from sin and placed in a position of honor (Dan. 7:10; 1 Pet. 3:22).

Wisdom

The wisdom of God is his eternal plan for the material and spiritual world, visible and invisible, encompassing all his eternal purposes and decrees, including creation and redemption, taking into account man’s free choice and performance (Is. 40:13-14; Eph. 1:11).

Man’s understanding of eternal divine wisdom is very limited, but it pleased God to reveal to man his plan, albeit in part. Wisdom, or divine purpose, encompasses not only the effects but also the causes; not only the ends to be achieved, but also the means necessary to achieve them.

As for its application, God’s counsel is concerned with all things in general (Isa. 14:26-27; 46: 10-11; Dan. 4:25); 2) things in particular, such as the permanence of the material universe, the affairs of nations, the period of human life, the time of man’s death, and human actions, whether good or bad (Gen. 50:20; Job 14: 5-14; Acts 17:26; Eph. 2:10); and to spiritual things such as the salvation of man, the kingdom of Christ, and the work of God in and through the believers (1 Cor. 2:7; Eph. 3:10; Psalms. 2:6-8; Mat. 25:34; Phil. 2.12-13).

Holiness

God’s holiness is the sum of all his moral attributes, and expresses the majesty of his nature. It is the emphatic moral attribute of God. If there is any difference in the degree of importance between their moral attributes, God’s holiness ranks first. In the visions God bestowed upon his saints in Old Testament days, and in the explanation of the biblical doctrine of the New, what stands out most is divine holiness. God reveals Himself in His Word as the Holy One.

About thirty times the prophet Isaiah refers to Jehovah calling him “The Holy One”, declaring in conclusion the meaning of those visions that most impressed him. God desires to be known essentially in His holiness, for that is the attribute by which He is glorified par excellence. God is indeed holy. This is the supreme statement of Scriptures.

Conclusion

We come to conclusion that God cannot be defined by a word or phrase but he can be accessible to our hearts. French reformer Jean Calvin argues that the knowledge of God to which we are called cannot be rooted in shallow speculations because this knowledge will be immensely fruitful and useful once we truly understand it.

Therefore, we need to try, even in a limited way, to describe the qualities of God or his attributes. This description is immensely limited because God is incomprehensible to us. Therefore, we described it based only on what he has revealed to us about him. Such descriptions point equally to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Bibliography

  1. Berkhof, Louis. Systematic Theology. Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust. 2012.
  2. Bray, Gerald. The Doctrine Of God. Illinois, United States: InterVarsity Press. 1993.
  3. Calvin, John. Institutes Of The Christian Religion. Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust. 2012.
  4. Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Nottingham, England: InterVarsity Press. 1994.
  5. Horton, Michael. The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on The Way. Michigan, United States: Zondervan. 2010.
  6. Morley, Brian. Accessed online via: https://www.iep.utm.edu/god-west/
  7. Packer, J. I. Knowing God. London: Hodder & Stoughton. 1984
  8. The Westminster Shorter Catechism. Accessed online via: https://www.apuritansmind.com/westminster-standards/shorter-catechism/

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