I. Major Terms Briefly Defined
Atheism is the disbelief in or denial of the existence of God. The two different types of atheism that are a part of the world today are dogmatic, and practical atheism. Dogmatic atheism is a very staunch belief that lives, teaches, and promotes disbelief in God. They not only live like there is no God, but they search for “evidence” of there being no God. On the other hand, practical atheists are not as staunch in their beliefs. This type of atheist mainly lives his/her life as though there is no God. Practical atheists do not consciously seek to produce followers.
Agnosticism is the belief that God cannot be known personally, nor can humanity
possess any true, real, or valid information about Him. All that humanity is able to discover of God are impressions of Him as a result of Him being totally “Other” than humanity. Therefore God is unknown, and unknowable. There are two main types of agnosticism that are present in the world today which are, personal and universal agnosticism. Personal agnosticism states that while the individual cannot have valid or true knowledge of God, it is not all-inclusive because someone else may have valid or true knowledge of God. So, personal agnostics do not completely rule out knowledge of God, they simply rule out themselves as being able to possess knowledge of God. Universal agnostics state that no individual or people group is able to have true or valid knowledge of God. For them God is completely unknowable and unknown to everyone. The difference between agnosticism, and atheism is that atheists state that there is no God, and agnostics state that there is a God but He cannot really be known.
Naturalism is the belief that all phenomena is the result of solely natural causes,
as opposed to supernatural causes. Naturalism tends to fit well together with atheism because naturalists believe that everything is the result of natural causes. Atheists do not believe that there is a God, so neither group believes that things result from God. Naturalism is also closely related to monism. Monists believe that the universe, world, and everything in it is all one substance. Naturalists believe that everything evolved happening by chance, atheists believe there is no God, and monists believe everything is one substance, so they all believe in the theory of evolution.
Deism is the belief that God created the world and set it in motion, but then
stepped back and is completely uninvolved with the affairs of the world He has fashioned allowing it to be governed by the laws of nature. Biblical theism differs greatly from the worldview of deism, as a result of relying on the testimony of the Word of God for evidence of God’s activity throughout history. Biblical theism sees God as very active in the creation of everything, and continuing activity in His creation from that point onward forever.
E. Monism & Dualism
Monism is the belief that the nature of everything in the universe is one substance
or being including God. In regard to humanity, monists believe that there is no distinction between body and spirit. Dualism is the belief that everything in the universe is comprised of mind and matter or body and spirit. So as a result of this belief, every man has not only a body but also a spirit, distinct from one another. Biblical theism states that God has made man distinct from the rest of creation. The Bible gives the account of God creating man to rule over creation, he is not interconnected with it. God made man to have a relationship with Him, and allowed man to be able to interact with others and the physical world.
Pantheism is the portion of monism that believes mind and matter are one
universal or absolute substance or being. They believe that the Universe is self-existent, and self-developing. Pantheists believe that the Universe is God. Pantheism and monism are very closely related, because they both believe that everything is one substance or entity.
Panentheism is the belief that God is in everything that is in the Universe.
Process theology is very closely related to Panentheism, because the god of process theology is so closely involved with his creation that he is present in everything, and everyone at every moment (which is what panentheism claims), but he cannot do anything to change the events at hand, nor know what will occur in the future. Pantheism parts ways with panentheism because pantheism claims that everything is God, while panentheism claims that God is in everything. Biblical theism differs from both of the above mentioned views. Biblical theism sees God as very separate from His creation in majesty, power, and holiness. But, Biblical theism also sees God as very much involved with His creation, but not dependant upon it. Panentheism is also very similar to open theism in that God is present at every time and in every place. The god of open theology is very dependent upon creation and the creatures within it for the success of his plans. So both groups see interdependence between God and creation.
Biblical theism is the belief that the Bible is the final authority on all matters, God
is the God of the Bible, and that He has done all of the things recorded in the Bible. Biblical theism differs from deism because the Bible recounts God being actively involved in the events of not only creation, but all throughout history. Biblical theism differs from pantheism because the Bible shows God as being distinct from His creation, not the same. Biblical theism differs from panentheism because the Bible describes God as being distinct from His creation, not in His creation. Biblical theism differs from open theism because the Bible describes God as being omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, and He is not bound by time.
II. The Nature of GodA. The existence of God
God is incomprehensible because He is the Creator and we are His creatures (Rom. 9:20); He is holy and we are sinful (1 Peter 1:14-16); He is infinite and we are finite (Rom. 11:33-36), His ways are above our ways (Isa. 55:8-9); He is Spirit and we are flesh (John 4:24; 1 Cor. 15:58-59). God is knowable because He has chosen to reveal Himself to mankind from the beginning (Gen. 2:15-18). God has also communicated with man, and chosen to reveal His commandments to man (Exo. 20:1-17). He has also chosen to speak through prophets, and the apostles to reveal the Scriptures to man (2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21). God has also revealed Himself to man through the Lord Jesus Christ (Heb. 1:2-4). So God is incomprehensible in that He is so amazing it is difficult to describe and completely understand Him, but He has made it possible for us to have a relationship with Him through the Lord Jesus (Heb. 2:10-11). We are able to know things about God through His Word (2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21), and we are able to see God through His creation (Rom. 1:19-20). We are able to know things about God that He has chosen to reveal to us. Our knowledge of God from nature is limited compared to our knowledge of God from Scripture. We are able to ascertain certain characteristics of God from looking at nature, but they are all interpreted through Scripture. Nature gives us no insight into how God deals with man.
B. The Essence and Nature of God
God is a Spirit. He is living and personal, differing from all else as a result of His
characteristics, actions, and Trinitarian nature. God is a living being completely independent from all others, and from which all other beings receive their life (Acts 17:25). God is a Spirit, which means that He is not limited to a specific location (Lk. 24:39), or limited in power (Isa. 31:3), and He is invisible (John 1:18). God is a personal being who is self-conscious, reasoning, volitional, and has personal relationships within the Trinity as well as with man.
C. The Attributes of God
There are two categories of attributes that God possesses: communicable and
incommunicable attributes. The incommunicable attributes of God are: omnipresence (Acts 17:24; Matt. 28:19-20), omnipotence (Ps. 145:3; Gen. 18:14), omniscience (Ps. 147:5; Rom. 11:33), eternality (Ps. 90:4; 1 Pet. 3:8), immutability (Ps. 102:27; Heb. 1:11-12), and unity (John 1:14-18; Heb. 1:1-2). The communicable attributes of God are: holiness (1 Pet. 1:15-16), righteousness (Ps. 5:12; 11:7; 34:15; Jer. 9:24), truth (Titus 1:2; 2 Cor. 1:18), love (1 John 3:18; 4:11), grace (Col. 4:6), and mercy (Rom. 12:8).
D. The Transcendence and Immanence of God
God is transcendent; exalted above the Universe, without limitation, and perfect.
This means that God is in some aspects “removed” from His creation. God is immanent; abiding, active, and involved. This means that God is very involved in many aspects of the events that occur throughout history. God is not only transcendent (Isa. 55:8-9), but He is also very immanent (Heb. 2:10-11). God is greater than all of His creation, but He is very much in control of, and involved with the events in history (Eccl. 7:14).
III. TrinitarianismA. Statement of the Doctrine
There is one true God, but within the Godhead there are three co-equal and co
-eternal Persons, with the same essence, but distinct in existence. We see in Scripture that God is one, there are three Persons who are God, and all three Persons are equally God.
B. Ontological Trinity
Those holding to an ontological Trinity believe that God the Son derives His deity
from God the Father, and the Holy Spirit derives His deity from God the Father through God the Son. As a result, God the Son and the Holy Spirit are subordinate in order under God the Father, making them of a “lesser” deity. According to those ascribing to an ontological Trinity, God the Father is the source or cause of deity in the Son and the Spirit. So, it seems as though at some point (according to them) the Son and the Spirit were not deity. The doctrines of the eternal generation of the Son and the eternal procession of the Spirit are not Biblical. The Son is God and was never created, but He Himself was involved in creation (John 1:1, 10, 14, 18; 5:18; 2 Cor. 5:19; Col. 1:16-19; Heb. 2:1-4). The Holy Spirit is God and was never created, but He Himself was involved in creation (Matt. 28:19; 2 Cor. 13:14; Eph. 4:4-7). All three members of the Trinity are equally God, and all of them are eternal (none of them have been created or received deity from the other members of the Trinity).
C. Economic Trinity
Those holding to an economic Trinity believe that God the Father is God alone,
and that He has throughout history manifested Himself in the Son, and also in the Holy Spirit (even though to some, the other two members of the Trinity have always been there with the Father as part of Him). They believe that the Son came out from the Father, and that the Holy Spirit came from the Father by way of the Son. According to this viewpoint God the Son is subordinate to God the Father, God the Holy Spirit is subordinate to the Father and the Son. The Bible portrays the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as equally God, and they work together to accomplish the purpose of God (Eph. 4:4-6). God the Son said His purpose was to glorify the Father (John 7:28; 8:28-29; 12:28). The Son willingly submitted to the Father and His will. The Holy Spirit came from the Father just as the Son said He would (John 14:16; 15:26). So there seems to be willing submission at certain times between members of the Trinity, but there is still complete equality in all aspects (submission is never forced).
D. Trinity in the Old Testament
There is much evidence for the unity of God in the Old Testament (Exod. 20:2-3;
Deut. 6:4). God is repeatedly mentioned as being one, and there are to be no other gods besides Him. There is also evidence for the plurality of God in the Old Testament (Gen. 1:26; 3:22; 11:7-8; Isa. 6:8). God is seen to speak to Himself in a “plural” manner. This gives credence to the progressively revealed doctrine of the Trinity. There is also evidence for the three persons of the Trinity in the Old Testament. The Holy Spirit of God is said to rest on the Messiah (Isa. 11:1-2), the LORD says that His Spirit will rest upon the Messiah (Isa. 42:1), the Messiah says that God has sent Him, and His Spirit (Isa. 48:16), and the Messiah says that the Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Him, because the LORD has anointed Him with His Spirit to bring good news (Luke 4:16-21). All of these passages speak of three divine persons, which are: Yahweh, the Messiah, and Yahweh’s Spirit (Ps. 110:1).
E. Trinity in the New Testament
There is much evidence for the unity of God in the New Testament (Rom. 3:29
-30; 1 Cor. 8:4-6; 1 Tim. 2:3-5; Jas. 2:19). So God is also spoken of as being one in the New Testament. There is also a great deal of evidence for the plurality of God in the New Testament (the Father is God: Matt. 6:26, 30; Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 8:6; 1 Pet. 1:3; the Son is God: John 1:1, 14; 20:28; Rom. 9:5; Titus 2:13; Heb. 1:8; 2 Pet. 1:1; 1 John 5:20; and the Holy Spirit is God: John 1:13; 3:8; Acts 5:3-4; 1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19; 12:6, 11). The New Testament evidence for the Trinity is clearer than the evidence in the Old Testament. This makes sense, as a result of God giving revelation to man progressively. The doctrine of the Trinity is logically coherent, and would have to be purposely ignored to be able to overlook the evidence for it. There are illustrations such as an egg, the three different forms that water takes, but in the end there is nothing really that is able to clearly mirror the divine Trinity (they overemphasize either the oneness or the Triunity).
IV. CreationA. The Method of Creation
God created all things from nothing by speaking them into existence (Gen. 1:1
31; Prov. 8:22-31; Isa. 55:11). Scripture clearly states that when God created, there was nothing there (Gen. 1:1, cf. Jer. 4:23;Eccl. 11:5; Isa. 44:24; Jer. 10:16; John 1:3; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:2).
B. The Age of Creation
Creation is approximately 6,000 years old. The reason for this is that the
Scriptures taken at face value (implementing a normal reading of the text) attest that from the time of creation till the time first coming of Christ about 4,000 years had passed, and from the time of the first coming of Christ till now about 2,000 years have passed. The six days of creation were six 24-hour solar days. The testimony of Scripture carries more weight than the “discoveries” of fallible human scientists (2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:21).
C. Creation versus Evolution
The theory of evolution states that the planets and stars resulted from an explosion
(the big-bang) of rotating protons and neutrons that were compressed. Life resulted completely by chance when a single living cell appeared from completely nonliving matter that resulted from the big-bang explosion. All other living organisms have resulted from that single living cell, gradually becoming more complex. This process eventually produced mankind. Theistic evolution states that God controlled, directed, and used the process of natural evolution to “create” the world and everything that is in it. Those that hold this belief usually state that the “days of creation” are actually evolutionary ages, not actual 24-hour days. Biblical creationism stands in stark contrast to theistic evolution, as a result of holding to the Word of God as the foundation for truth. Biblical creationism agrees with the Scriptural account of creation, with six 24-hour solar days, instead of buckling under the pressure of modern day “science” and culture. The Gap theory proposes that there was a creation long before Adam and Eve, which was corrupted by the sin of Satan, and ultimately judged by God with a flood and ice age. This view fits very conveniently with naturalistic evolution and theistic evolution, and in direct opposition to Biblical creationism. The Day-Age theory states that the six days of creation were not literal 24-hour solar days, but rather were long periods of time or “ages” which would make this theory compliant with the “findings” of evolutionary scientists. Only Biblical creationism stands upon the truth and authority of Scripture, the others are perversions and comprises of the truth of God’s Word.
V. The Decree of GodA. The Directive Will of God
The decree of God is the eternal plan, in which God has ordained everything to
occur, or proceed according to His will (Isa. 46:10; Eph. 1:11). Scripture teaches that there are two aspects to God’s will in this world, which are: His sovereign will, and His permissive will. God’s sovereign will is the plan that He desires or commands to be carried out. Within the realm of human choice, God’s sovereign will is accomplished in-spite of human reluctance to obey. In Scripture there are many examples of God’s sovereign or directive will, one of which is evidenced in the salvation of the unsaved (2 Pet. 3:9). God desires that all people repent of their sins and accept Christ, but not all do. God did not want Adam and Eve to fall, but they did (Gen. 2:16-17; 3:6).
B. The Permissive Will of God
The permissive will of God is that which God allows to occur, which many times
includes disobedience on the part of man. An example of God’s permissive will is seen in the life of Joseph (Gen. 37). Joseph’s brothers sinned being very deceitful, but God allowed it to fulfill His purposes (Gen. 50:20-21). Another example of God’s permissive will is seen in the history of Israel, and their demand for a human king (1 Sam. 8). The nation rejected God as their King, but God still allowed it to happen to fulfill His purposes, with Messiah ultimately being the King to rule over God’s people (1 Sam. 9:15-16). Evil being allowed falls under the area of God’s permissive will. The Scripture says that God is not the author of sin, and He does not tempt anyone to evil (Jas. 1:13-14; 1 John 3:8-9). God allows sin to occur, but He uses it to accomplish His righteous purposes.
C. The Providence of God
The providence of God is that sovereign ability of God by which He is able to
cause His will to be carried out and accomplished in-spite of all opposition (Isa. 55:11; Rom. 9:15-20). Scripture states that God’s providence is as specific as His plan has stated (Isa. 46:10; 1 Cor. 1:21; Eph. 1:4, 5, 9; Col. 1:19; 2 Tim. 1:10). God’s plan will be carried out just as He has planned it, and it will not be changed (Ps. 33:11; Isa. 46:10; 14:24, 27).