Continuing our series: Brief Overviews of Critical Doctrines (if you haven’t read A Brief Doctrine of Scripture, check it out here), we will now dive into the Doctrine of God.
Doctrine of God
Let’s return again to Millard J. Erickson’s book, Christian Theology: 3rd Edition. Here we find that Mr. Erickson has set out to explain several key doctrines of our faith and when he addresses the Doctrine of God, Mr. Erickson separates his thoughts into four parts.
Using three of these four parts, I’ve written our brief summary. The three parts are: Studying God, Knowing God, and What God Does.
In our study of God, we must understand two forms of revelation. General revelation and specific revelation. Let’s start by looking at specific revelation. Specific revelation includes the Scriptures, which then points us to general revelation and what it intends to say.
In Scripture, the existence of God is assumed by each writer. From Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning God,” to Exodus 3:14, “I AM that I AM,” to countless New Testament references, God’s self-existence, his absolute self-sufficiency, independence, and autonomy is assumed. Special revelation does not make an argument for God’s existence because it acts under and expects the belief that God exists.
However, special revelation does point to general revelation as evidence for God’s existence. We see an example of this in Paul’s letter to the Romans. In Romans 1:20, Paul wrote, “For since the creation of the world His [God’s] invisible attributes, His eternal power, and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they [human beings] are without excuse.”
Take a moment to notice that the context of Romans 1 is not an argument against unbelief. Rather, it is an argument for God’s righteousness. Even those who disobeyed, according to Romans 1, didn’t necessarily deny God’s existence.
To accurately know God, we must study His attributes. These attributes can be derived from both special and general revelation and include, God is Spirit (John 4:24), God is love (1 John 4:8), God is omniscient (1 John 3:20, Isaiah 46:9-10), God is omnipotent (Job 42:2, Psalm 33:6), God is omnipresent (Isaiah 57:15), and God is eternal (Romans 1:20).
From here, we can go on to God’s moral attributes, such as his holiness, righteousness, and mercy.
Knowing about God is one facet in the glittering Doctrine of God, but knowing Him in a personal way is vital. Scripture portrays a God who longs to dwell with His creation. Looking at the Bible’s bookends, Genesis and Revelation, we see that the way this story began is precisely how it will end as God brings the restoration of all things.
What God Does
When we understand that God is self-existent (his aseity), when we wrap our minds around who He is (his attributes), then we come to this beautiful conclusion that what God does is contingent upon who he is and the fact that he alone self-exists.
When we say that God is righteous, we must also realize that he must judge righteously. When we say that God is merciful, we must also realize that he loves mercy. When we say that God is Holy, we must also understand that He is altogether set apart.
The mere principles of God’s character are one thing but how they play out in creation reveals to us a more expansive meaning. For example, Scripture tells us that God is love and the actions that show us this love is that He laid down His life for His creation.
This pushes our understanding of love. It goes far beyond what we assume in human terms. In a manner of speaking, what God does is shaped by what Scripture says of Him.
I’d love to read your thoughts down in the comment section below. Want to talk this out? Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.