Monday, June 30, 2014
Thursday, June 26, 2014
I believe that this article had a lot of truth in it. Churches that tend to lean to the left, in my opinion and observation, are dying off much quicker than those who do not. The author made a good point when he asked why would anyone go to a church with a bunch of people who do not really believe the Bible.
It reminds me of a video by Tim Hawkins about atheist Bible camp songs.
Tuesday, June 24, 2014
Monday, June 23, 2014
By: Dwayne Spearman
History of the Doctrine of God
There is no systematic theology equivalent to what there is today to be found in the Scriptures.  Instead, it has developed over a number of years as the church grew and transitioned. In the first century church, there was no need for a systematic theology per se. The church was pretty much contained to Jerusalem where the apostles lived and taught. They were always available to help the people when any kind of doubt or disagreement arose. For example, when the early church had their first dispute about the Hellenists who felt that their widows were being neglected in the distribution each day, the apostles were there to immediately step in to tell them what they needed to do to solve the problem (Acts 6:1:7).
As time passed, as a result of the first persecution at the hands of Saul in Acts 8, the church began to spread out beyond Jerusalem. False doctrines had already begun to creep into the church and the need for clarification became even more critical. However, when these times occurred, the apostles were still there to help just as they were when the question of what to impose upon the newly converted Gentiles in Acts 15 arose. They merely convened, came to a consensus and still continued to help lead the early church.
However, when the apostles passed away and the Jews were even further dispersed after Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 A.D., everything changed. The church began to develop theological traditions about God such as Platonism, Gnosticism, Neoplatonism, etc.  It was then that counsels began to convene in an attempt to settle disagreements instead of apostles (e.g. the Council of Nicaea in 325, the Council of Constantinople in 381, Chalcedon in 451, etc.)  All of these served to establish a systematic theology and the church’s basic understanding of the Doctrine of God.
Application to the Church Today
The application for the Doctrine of God to the church today is huge. For most people, the question is not the mere existence of God, but who that God is. According to statistics, nearly ninety-five percent of Americans say that they believe in God.  The problem is that most of them believe in a God that they know very little about. According to Stephen Prothero, “America is composed of Protestants who can’t name the four Gospels, Catholics who can’t name the seven sacraments, and Jews who can’t name the five books of Moses.” 
Froese and Bader suggest that in the church today, God is either viewed as authoritative, benevolent, critical or distant. The way the church defines that God affects everything in regards to the church collectively and the individual particularly (i.e. moral, political and social values.) 
Accordingly, those who believe in an Authoritative God believe in a God who is actively engaged in this world and very judgmental. Those who believe in a Benevolent God believe that God is definitely involved, but not judgmental. Those who believe in a Critical God believe in a God who is judgmental but not actively engaged. And then finally, those who believe in a Distant God see God as nonjudgmental and inactive. 
More than ever, the church today needs a clear understanding of who the God of the Bible is. Ultimately, without a proper knowledge of that God, there can be no basis for morality, hope or purpose. Without a proper knowledge of that God, there can be no answers to the deep questions of life and the purposes of man.
Introduction to the Attributes of God
An important part of the Doctrine of God is the attributes of God that are seen throughout the Scriptures. In Romans 1:20-22, it says, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse” (NKJV)  According to the Webster’s Dictionary, attributes are “that which is attributed; or considered as belonging to, or inherent in.”  It could also be said that they are characteristics of a person or thing. In essence, the attributes of God are the essential characteristics without which God would not be God. 
A.W. Tozer once wrote, “Man’s spiritual history will positively demonstrate that no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God. Worship is pure or base as the worshipper entertains high or low thoughts of God.”  This paper will argue that God does have natural attributes, what those attribute are, and that those same attributes are found in Jesus Christ and serve as proof of His deity.
Categorization of Attributes
As for categorization, there are many ways of doing this. Let it first be noted that there is much disagreement as to exactly how many attributes there are and how they should be divided. Tozer points out that some have insisted on as few as seven while others have suggested thousands.  According to Van den Brink, the only one mentioned explicitly in the Scriptures is the attribute of love.  All of the rest must simply be deduced from what the Bible itself says about God.  The exact number is debatable because they are so “intimately connected” (e.g. transcendence, immensity, eternity and immutability). 
However, it is usually agreed that they can be generally divided up into two groups (e.g. natural and moral, incommunicable and communicable, passive and active, absolute and relative, positive and negative, etc.). Frame says that they should be possibly divided between transcendence (e.g. eternity, infinite, etc.) and immanence (e.g. justice, love, grace, etc.).  Still others such as Elwell chose to divide them between metaphysical, intellectual, ethical, emotional, existential and relational.  However, for the sake of this paper, they will be referred to as natural and moral. However, the focus of this paper will only be the natural attributes.
Finally, it has also been asserted that there are three methods to determine exactly what the divine attributes should be. Hodge believes that the first method is to attribute to God every “excellence that we have any experience or conception of in an infinite degree” and deny every imperfection and limitation.  The second is to infer His characteristics from what we see Him doing around us, and third is to take heed to the “didactic statements of Scripture.” 
Natural Attributes of God
Natural attributes are those attributes of God that are at the very nature of His being and are His and His alone. There is nothing about them found “in a created spirit”.  For example, the Bible says in 1 John 3:2, “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” It must be noted that when the Bible says, “we shall be like him”, it is not saying that man will have God’s natural attributes, instead, it is saying that man will have His moral attributes. Of course, there are disagreements over what each attribute is called and exactly how many there should be in totality, but most will agree that God’s natural attributes should be: transcendence, immanence, eternality, infinite, immutable, omniscience, omnipresence and omnipotence.
The first natural attribute is transcendence. The Bible speaks of this in Isaiah 46:8-10, “Remember this, and show yourselves men; Recall to mind, O you transgressors. Remember the former things of old, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, 'My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure.” This attribute speaks of the fact that God is independent of and above His creation. It is also referred to by some as immensity. It takes into consideration that God transcends all spatial limitations and is present “in every point of space with His whole being.”  This is what God meant when He told Moses that his name is I Am That I Am(Exodus 3:14).
This same attribute can be found in Jesus Christ as well. The Bible says that Jesus played an active role in creation; therefore He had to have been with God in the beginning.  John 1:3 says that, “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made”. Also, in John 1:10 it says, “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.” The Bible also says that Jesus claimed to be one and the same with God through his infamous seven “I Am” statements, thus declaring Himself to be self-existent.  The first of which is in John 8:24 when he said, “Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins." Jesus is transcendent.
The second natural attribute is immanence. Although God is above His creation, He is also “wholly present in every part and moment” of His created universe.  The Bible says in Psalms 33:13-14 that “The LORD looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men. From the place of His dwelling He looks on all the inhabitants of the earth.” Of course, the climax of God’s immanence was His coming to earth in the incarnation, living for thirty-three years among us, and dying on a cross for man’s sins. Matthew 8:17 says that “HE HIMSELF TOOK OUR INFIRMITIES AND BORE OUR SICKNESSES." He became one of us! Jesus is immanent.
The third natural attribute is eternity. This means that God has no beginning or ending. In other words, there never was a time when He did not exist.  He is eternally present. Psalms 90:2 says, “Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.”
This is also true of Jesus. He said in John 8:56-58, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad." The Jews responded, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?" To which Jesus said, "Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM." Another verse that is very familiar to most that also confirms His eternity is Micah 5:2 which says, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting." The Word everlasting actually means eternity and speaks of the “eternality and the pre-existence of the Son of God.”  Jesus is eternal.
The fourth natural attribute is infinity. It means that God is free from all limitations and in no way limited by “this time-space world”.  The Bible says in Isaiah 55:8-9, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Another way of saying it is that God is measureless (i.e. if He could be measured, He would obviously have limitations).
This attribute is also seen in Jesus Christ in the New Testament when Paul tells the Ephesians that grace has been given to him to “preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:8) and further says that to comprehend “the width and length and depth and height…of Christ…passes knowledge” (Ephesians 3:18-19). Jesus is infinite.
The fifth natural attribute of God is immutability. To say that God is immutable means that He is unchanging. Malachi 3:16 says, “For I am the LORD, I do not change; Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob.” Again, in the New Testament, James 1:17 says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” In other words, not only does God not change, but He is incapable of change.
Unfortunately, some confuse immutability with impassability which says that God is incapable of emotion. The thought process is that if God has emotions (i.e. love, happiness, sadness, grief, etc.), then He is no longer immutable because these emotions would represent a need for change. However, God must be open to influence in order to “take account of the world” and if He were unable to do that He would not be able to “enter into a relation to that world.”  It is a throwback to Plato’s argument that a perfect being does not need feelings and to even say so is the strip them of their perfection, at which point they would cease to be gods.  However, Hebrews 4:15 says that “we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” This attribute is also seen of Jesus Christ in Hebrews 13:8 where it says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Jesus is immutable.
The sixth natural attribute of God is omniscience. It means that God is all-knowing. He knows the future as well as the past. His “intellectual capabilities are unlimited” and He “uses them fully and perfectly.”  The Psalmist said, “O LORD, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O LORD, You know it altogether” (Psalms 139:1-4).
Everitt said of this that God’s omniscience “must be contained to propositional knowledge in that He knows of every truth that it is true and thus knows of every falsehood that it is false). 
Omniscience means that God knows the future as well as the past is indicated in Isaiah 46:10-11 when he said, "I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please. From the east I summon a bird of prey; from a far-off land, a man to fulfill my purpose. What I have said, that will I bring about; what I have planned, that will I do."
Jesus Christ also has this attribute. John 2:24-25 says, “But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man.” Also, Peter said of Jesus in John 21:17 in response to His question about his love for Him, "Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You." The Bible even says that Jesus knew that Judas was the one who was to betray him (John 6:64). Jesus is omniscient.
The seventh natural attribute of God is omnipresence. That means that God is everywhere present. Thomas Aquinas believed that omnipresence and timelessness had to necessarily go hand-in-hand because in order for God to be everywhere present, He also had to be timeless.  The prophet Jeremiah wrote, "Am I only a God nearby," declares the LORD, "and not a God far away? Can anyone hide in secret places so that I cannot see him?" declares the LORD. "Do not I fill heaven and earth?" declares the LORD” (Jeremiah 23:23-24).
The Psalmist also declared God omnipresence when he wrote, “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there” (Psalms 139:7-9).
The Bible also declares that Jesus is omnipresent. When speaking of fellowship and the His presence, Jesus said in Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them." That means that no matter where or how many present, Jesus is there. Ephesians 4:10 proves that Jesus is everywhere when it says, “He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things. Jesus is omnipresent.
The eighth natural attribute of God is omnipotence. It speaks to the fact that God is all-powerful. “God is able to do whatever he wills in the way in which He wills it.”  “Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for You (Jeremiah 32:17). Wierenga put it this way, “Omnipotence is to be understood in terms of the ability to bring about states of affairs.”  Jesus made a familiar statement in Matthew 19:26 when He said, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."
From Scripture, we can also deduce that Jesus is omnipotent as well. John Walvoord agrees when he says that the evidence that Christ was omnipotent is decisive and it “sometimes takes the form of physical power, but more often refers to His authority over creation” (i.e. He forgave sins (Matthew 9:6), had power of nature (Luke 8:25), power over His own life (John 10:18), the power to give eternal life (John 17:2), etc.” Jesus is omnipotent.
Using the Scriptures, the attributes of God are evident throughout. He is indeed transcendent, immanent, eternal, infinite, immutable, omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent. Not only does He uniquely possess each of these attributes, but He does so in an unlimited quantity. They are essential characteristics without which, He would not be God. 
Again, using the Scriptures, these same attributes that uniquely belong to God are also to be found in the Lord Jesus Christ and serve as proof of His deity. He too is transcendent, immanent, eternal, infinite, immutable, omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent.
The church desperately needs to embrace this essential doctrine again. Maybe there needs to be another great council with the goal of returning the church back to a basic understanding of the God in which she confesses to serve. There are far too many conflicting views that are contrary to the clearly revealed facts as found in the Holy Scriptures. The end result is confusion and a loss of direction for the church. Tozer said that in order for the church to regain her lost power, “she must see heaven opened and have a transforming vision of who God really is.”  It will be then and only then, that the church will truly understand the words that were uttered so many years ago by the prophet Isaiah, “For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).
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