Doctrine of God

DOCTRINE OF GOD: THEOLOGY 626

 LESSON 1

 DISTINCTION BETWEEN PROPOSITIONAL KNOWLEDGE AND RELATIONAL KNOWLEDGE

 Knowledge is the substance of ontological considerations concerning being and quizzical digressions of essence. In the pursuit of theological maneuverings and philosophical deliberations, the existence of that which is knowable becomes a primary focal point of examination.  The conundrum that the pursuit of knowledge creates becomes explicitly complicated when the subject of objective knowability enters into the intransigent realm of the unverifiable tangents of faith. This is the nature of theological consideration from the natural vantage point.  How does that which defies substantial quantification become a knowable proposition, in a verifiable and provable manner?

Applying the theories of knowledge into the field of theology has led to the division of the process of knowing, particularly when the issue of divinity’s reality is approached. The episteme of reason has directed the inquisitive learner to the appropriation of basic scientific assumptions when considering the parameters of knowing. Due to the broad expanse of data relating to the epistemological challenges of the thought process of knowing, rules have been established to help define the boundaries in order to advance meaningful dialogue in the arena of metaphysics and epistemology. The distinctions drawn between Propositional knowledge and relational knowledge, when applied to the subject of God theologically and His transcendent existence, become readily applicable in light of this understanding.

ESSE, according to: The Dictionary of Latin and Greek Terms literally means: “to be, viz. the act of existing, lat. actus essendi.”[1] This is the germane point of the argument of propositional knowledge, or truth related inquiries. Is the essence of that which extends beyond the borders of the tangible, knowable? Philosophers typically say yes, although with reservation. As Dr. Mortimer Adler states in The Great Ideas in an article on: Knowledge: “Not all things may be knowable to us, but even the skeptic who severely limits or completely doubts man’s power to know is usually willing to admit that things beyond man’s knowledge are in themselves knowable.[2]

Propositional knowledge of God is often found to be in the possession of the reticent philosopher as acquiescence to dubious ceding concerning the skeptical doubter’s propositions of belief can create a position of doubt relating to the opposition of the thought of God’s existence. This is seen in those who are forced to accept propositions that defy the traditional confinements of that, which has been known. These propositions form the basis of structural assumptions that verify the esse of substance beyond the recognized posit of veracity. These determinations are adjudicated via the process of deductive reasoning, whereby man utilizes rational thought to create new boundaries of understanding concerning that which is and that which appears to be.

The pursuit of “sapienta, or knowledge of first principles and the conclusions drawn from them,[3]” leads to conclusive assumptions of knowledge that relates to the essential substance of that which exists in goodness and truthfulness. Theological and philosophical questioning leads to the propositional assumptions of the knowledge of God, as nature verifies the necessity of the question: does God exist? Hegel’s Dialectic Theory exists well within the framework of this question. The imprints of probability, order, motion, existence, etc., point to the necessary dialogue of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis[4]. Orders thesis, coupled with doubts antithesis, leads to the probability of limited motion.

When these assumptions transcend the region of hypothesis and penetrate the realm of personal existence, Propositional knowledge transitions into the practical and applicable region of relational knowledge. This process of applying learning into the press of relational qualities, i.e., a connectivity of the seeker of intransigent wisdom and the One to whom the indelible clues point to, is the function of acquiring knowledge. As such, relational knowledge is vastly superior to propositional knowledge, in nature, in substance, and in measure. The elaborative quality of relationship concerning the intersecting variables of that, which is known, subverts the unknowable propositions, thus affecting the quality of faith, between God and those who seek Him, regardless of the barriers that may separate the two.                            

 LESSON 2

 HOW DOES ONE COME TO KNOW GOD?

The Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms defines: “Summum bunum(as) the highest good, i.e., “God as the source and end of all that is good.[5]” This is the essence of the quandaries presented by the discipline of theology proper. God is to be thought of as the ending point of all that is considered when good is pondered. Coupling this proposition with the biblical assertion that mankind was created in God’s image, has led philosophers and theologians alike to conclude that man’s goodness, however diminished and subjected to the layers of sins noetic, tainting presence, is a reflective element that draws man toward the end of goodness, when the necessary responsive actions are taken by man and the act of contrition is moved upon in repentance.

Biblical truth reveals a basic assumption about God’s essential character:  God is redemptive by nature. As such, God’s qualitative compulsion has been to negate sin’s devastation through the procedural qualifications of a relational nature. God as redemptive, reveals himself as the one who has extended that which he is into the arena of probable relationships. The vehicle of relational knowledge allows the substance of the unknown to be drawn back, like a curtain, revealing for the genuine seekers the God of creation, in an intimate fashion and format.

Although the basic assumptions of knowability between persons; persons and objects; and persons and knowledge is a field rife with dispute and contention, knowledge must settle into the intimate cradle of existence that is fashioned between the knower and known, if the question is to have credible possibilities when drawn into consideration.

Martin Buber’s assumptions in I and Thou, that: “The life of a human being does not exist merely in the sphere of god directed verbs. It does not consist merely of activities that have something for their object. For wherever there is something there is also another something… Whoever says you do not have something; he has nothing. But he stands in relation,”[6] fits well into the context of knowing in the particulars of the supra-relational qualities as applied to God.  Relationship exists in the matrix of connection. In this assumption, God is knowable, simply through the process of His personal desire to make Him known.

This subjective quantification of the compendium of knowable essence can be found in the realm of nature and in the penetration of the natural through supra-natural revelation. The transcendent quality of Scriptural revelation, prophetic voices, and the culminating manifestation of Incarnational truth are all undergirded by divine junctures of a historic nature, i.e., theophonies, angelic visitants and other inclusions that deny natural orders precedence.

General knowledge limitations are forced to submit to the prevailing divine turning points of God’s explicit manipulations within the machinations of man’s limited existence. The law of first reference is a primary focal point in this dialogue. The statement of God found in the Book of Beginnings that identifies God as saying:  “Let Us make man in our image,” affixes well to the revelation: “God walked with them in the cool of day,[7]” and presents the foundational formation for relational referents. As Buber states: “Relation is reciprocity…let the meaning of action…that of the creature and its contemplation, remain mysterious…in the beginning is the relation.[8]

Relationship as a possibility exists not because overwhelming proofs exist for God’s existence.  Rather, relational probabilities are possible only through God’s initiation. The normative essence of relationship is quiet possibly due to God’s self-revelation of grace, not man’s astute quest for self-actualization and discovery. By submitting to the boundaries created by God for relationship to exist with Him, is to become one who enters into communion with the divine. In this light, God as the initiator of compulsive and significant relationships is seen as the primary mover, causing the substantive essentials for this relationship to exist within the parameters of possibility for all who would submit to relationships exacting guidelines.

LESSON 3

DOES THE BIBLE ATTEMPT TO PROVE GOD’S EXISTENCE?

The Bible begins with an unpretentious proposition:  “In the beginning God created…[9]

With this simple, yet profound opening statement, Holy Spirit inspired the writer of the Book of Beginnings to open the historical presentation of man’s interaction with God from the divine perspective as opposed to the carnal or human place of understanding. With this angular contribution in mind, Genesis allows man to encounter God apart from factual analysis of data rendered in conceptual proofs or information garnished from experience.

Genesis postulates a hypothesis concerning God’s existence that resonates throughout the Sixty-six times that comprise the Holy Written Scripture. Rather than seeking to prove the articulation of God’s existence, Scripture opens with an assumption. The biblical account and record of God’s existence is a proposed assumption, not an argued, concise, logical presentation that is intended to coalesce into a synthesized whole. As such, the biblical revelation accepts the reality of God as existent without attempting to prove His existence.

Before the Hebraic understanding of God’s imminence and transcendent nature is dismissed as a primitive analogical endeavor, held in check by limited cognitive abilities, the modern theories of Negation or Reductionism as applied to the field of human behavioralism should be taken into consideration.  According to Dr. Mark Cosgrove, Associate Professor of Psychology at Taylor University, in an published article on Reductionism in Baker’s Dictionary of Psychology, states that reductionism is: “a fundamental scientific theory, which states that one can explain a phenomenon of nature at one level of inquiry by showing how its mechanisms and processes arise out of a lower or more microscopic level… Most psychology is built on reductionism, with metaphysical reductionism being frequently held by psychology’s leading scientists…[10]

As applied to human cognition and emotion, Reductionism as a science seeks to explain behavior through negative assumptions as proposed against positive interaction. By this, it is meant to infer that external proofs are under girded by internal combustions of thought interaction.  Man as a sentient being is known through the physiological responses rendered by the mind’s interaction with the substance of being. As Dr. Cosgrove states so eloquently, “In other words, reductionism believes that the whole of a person’s behavior is nothing more than the sum of its parts.[11]

This human behavioral adaptation fits the conceptual presentation of the biblical account of God as well.  God is not a random expression of thought, conceived by man through an absurd connection of unanswerable questions, or the application of logical assumptions in a concise pattern of referent thought. God is known and observed through the simplistic assumption of observational patterns that create a cohesive whole for the astute observer.

To present a comprehensive argumentation for God’s existence would be to utilize the platform of philosophy’s Emergent Mentalism, theoretical speculations, which is understood as, “The theory of…an explanation of the genesis of the mind or consciousness in the world[12]” Emergentism seeks to synthesize and organize components of thought or reality into predictable blocks of information that can then produce new blocks of information in ways that were not predictable through the rational observation of factual material. Attempts have been made to understand God rationally in the historical context of human understanding and experience. This has been the pursuit of philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, Augustine and Aquinas, among many, many others. The attempt to create a radical paradigm shift in perception, conceiving God through natural substance, is the essence of Emergentism and philosophical endeavors.

A problem arises when factual data of a natural substance is seen to exist as a secondary point of consideration, not as a primary focal point. The biblical assumption of God’s existence permeates the Scriptural record and sets forth the true criteria of knowing God’s existence: the simple equation of faith. The unknown writer of the Book of Hebrews states it well when he said, “In the past, God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at man times in various ways, but in the last days He has spoken to us by His Son…” Heb. 1:1,2a.[13]” Faith is the unequivocal leveler of data and assumption.  By its profound power, God is both seen and heard throughout the centuries.

LESSON 5

ARE THE ARGUMENTS FOR GOD’S EXISTENCE COMPATABLE WITH SCRIPTURE?

The philosophic arguments that seek to validate God’s existence are compatible with Scripture in a broad understanding only. As Millard Erickson states in Christian Theology: “The Bible or some other source of revelation seems to assume the existence of God.[14]”  Due to the limited nature of biblical revelation and its refusal to address the proof of God’s existence, the philosophical rationale as presented in the guise of argumentative formulae are tenuous in their ability to offer up valid proofs for the corroboration of God’s existence.

The referent to biblical revelatory limitations is not a denigration of Scriptural authority or veracity.  It merely addresses the dynamic nature of biblical truths premise: God exists. How God’s existence is perceived, accepted or rejected has no intrinsic bearing on the basic assumption. Biblical truth does not concern itself with the vast gamut of issues or concerns that may be deemed appropriate within the necessary framework of humanity’s existence. Rather, Scripture reveals the functional revelatory mechanisms of salvific relational qualities pertaining to the field of redemption’s necessary elements.

The Ontological argument, Cosmological argument, Teleological argument, Anthropological argument, Moral argument and the argument from religious experience all carry within them aspects of truth that can be of assistance in directing any objective inquiries toward the certainty of God’s existence in a rationalistic assessment of pertinent data. Rationalism’s approach to epistemological questionings and metaphysical undertakings can help in adjudicating various thoughts and relevant external evidences that point to the existence of God.  Although a conclusive proof may not be arrived at in the form of a “smoking gun”, knowledge can be deduced through the act of drawing conclusions in a logical and concise form through the process of analytical deliberation.

Dr. Dagobert Runes validates the utilization of Rationalism in the Dictionary of PhilosophyRunes states, “Rationalism (is) a method…a theory of philosophy, in which the criterion of truth is not sensory but intellectual and deductive.[15]” From a methodological framework, the philosophical/theological arguments carry their greatest value in creating anticipatory faith, helping the inquisitive seeker by answering objections to faith and being found within the context of the questions that rise when discussing the viability of God’s existence.

Difficulties form in this arena of thought however, when knowledge is deemed to be valid only through its acquisition on an empirical basis. As faith is the essential ingredient in truly encountering God, empirical evidences that conclusively prove his existence seem to be deliberately left out of the equation. When reality is based on tangible substance of a dense circumference, spirit, which cannot be measured quantitatively, is excluded from the dialogue.

These non-empirical arguments are invaluable in the proclamation of the gospel message to the non-believer who accepts the scientific method of investigation. Hypothetical suggestions for the existence of God can be rationally deduced through the utilization of sound argumentative, practice and good Christian Apologetics. As the Christian Apologetics Research Ministries website states in conjunction with the subject of Apologetic, which is derived from the Greek word “apologia”, and carries the meaning: “to make defense…of the faith”, covers many areas:[16]…who Jesus is…the reliability of the Bible…refuting cults, biblical evidences in the history and archeological discoveries of the biblical data, answering objections, etc.

Apologetics, writing from a defensive posture pertaining to the faith, witnessing to all who will listen about the Christ event: all are valid applications of the various hypothetical arguments for the existence of God. The arguments can and should be utilized by those who belong to the Christian faith, as they assist those outside the faith in understanding the reasonable nature of Christianity.

LESSON 6

TWO SIGNIFICANT OFFENSES TO THE MODERN MIND IN THE OLD TESTAMENT

In an age of relativism and non-binding moral dictums, the Old Testament depictions of God as both judge and initiator or wrath stand out as causal agents of confusion and rejection in conceptualizing God’s existence. Arbitrary judgment, particularly in areas of morality and practice, can create consternation and revulsion when discussing standards and conditions of life.  The bane of modern man, in relationship to the Western expression of civilization in particular, is found in a mindset that ruefully avoids the semblance of canons when considering conduct.  In this light of philosophic nihilism when evaluating human approbation relative to relational constraints, judgment in morality is viewed as extreme and conducive only to interpersonal conflict when dealing with the tangible differences of social stratification and interaction on a personal level.

This rejection of any appropriate semblance of God as judge containing a viable proposition is tenuous at best. As James Montgomery Boyce states in The Sovereign God: “The immutability of God’s judgments should be a warning to any who have not yet turned to the Lord Jesus as Savior…God’s purposes for the wicked will not change.  It is His purpose to judge them… God will by no means clear the guilty.[17]

To reject the concept of God’s judgmental nature is to defy the logic of biblical revelation.  Yet, man appears poised to walk within this perceptual dilemma. The question should be asked, why is God’s judgment necessary? A satisfactory answer may effectively abate the humanistic challenge. J.I. Packer more than adequately answers this difficult postulation by intrinsically connecting God’s judgment to his revelation of perfection in Knowing God. To not judge sin would be an act of imperfection, for, “(To) not judge the world would be to show moral indifference.  The final proof that God is a perfect moral being, not indifferent to questions of right and wrong, is the fact that he has committed Himself to judge the world.[18]

The doctrine of God’s positional placement of God as judge is a necessary component of Scriptural revelation, first formulated in the Old Testament and continued effectively in the New Testament. Judgment is a doctrinal truth that should cause a primal pause in the soul of man.  As Packer continues to elucidate, “Judgment…will be according to our works¾that is our doings, our whole course of life.” Within the framework of the skeletal understanding of judgment exists a greater revelation that would emerge as a counter to judgment’s harsh reality: gracious salvation for those who seek a buttress from judgment’s certainty and its partner: the wrath of God.[19]

Wrath as a revelatory understanding is the truth of a Holy God’s positional resistance to sin’s veracity. When discussing the wrath of God, and man’s reluctance to accept wrath’s inevitability concerning sin’s condition, wrath needs to be seen as more than a designation or “Description of the inevitable process or cause and effect in a moral universe…it is…a personal quality, without which God would cease to be fully righteous and His love would denigrate into sentimentality.” Simply put, wrath is necessary for love’s true expression to be both witnessed and experienced.  Man’s rejection of God creates the need for wrath. As author James Montgomery Boice states so succinctly in The Sovereign God: “the wrath of God is displayed against the natural man.[20]

Additionally, Boice argues that wrath by compulsion needs: “to be the first truth we have to learn about Him.[21]” From a doctrinal standpoint, wrath is the first step in the journey toward an awareness of the need for divine love and forgiveness. God’s wrath brings recognition of man’s spiritual inadequacies in correcting the significant discrepancies of sin’s pervasive flaws that have been superimposed upon humanity’s psyche. As such, wrath is not an emotional expression against improper actions undertaken by mortal human. “Rather, (it is) that necessary and proper stance (against)…all that opposes him… (It is) the idea of holiness (as an)…element of wrath.[22]

Although wrath and judgment create problematic difficulties in composing a view of God that is compatible with the natural man and his fallen philosophies and theological speculations, wrath and judgment are necessary components for truly entering into an understanding of God’s nature and character. To appreciate God in the essence of his being that has been revealed through Holy Writ, wrath and judgment must be causal considerations that are to be appropriated into the equation of both God’s existence and nature. The twin difficulties of wrath and judgment are the beginning arguments of love and mercy’s essential qualities.

  LESSON 7

THREE-FOLD CHARACTER OF THE SELF    REVELATION OF GOD AS SHOWN IN HIS NAMES      

Man has expressed a curious desire to control and manipulate his personal environment or domain. This character clause has helped mankind subdue natural conditions and affect his environmental surroundings. This propensity to create causal effective energies has led to the necessary revelation of God to man by means of nominative designations. Modern psychology has identified the innate need of man’s formative desire to understand and control the conditions of environmentally pressures cognitively in the guise of Attribution Theories[23].

In this developing field of study, the philosophic and natural structural range of questions is addressed.  Consequential ponderings, sensate understanding, emotive queries and relational questions become the focal point of considerations. H.H. Kelley, in an article entitled: Attribution Theory in Social Psychology, states: “People seek to understand the environment, particularly the personal environment, in ways enabling them to predict and control it.[24]” This is extended into the epistemological considerations as attributional theories present hypothetical variants relating to “intentions, self-perception, and perception of self and other(s).”  As such, it appears to be an extension of Martin Buber’s work in I Thou[25].

When the revelatory qualities pertaining to God’s names are taken into consideration, the necessity for nominative understanding takes on a primary role of deliberation. Dr. Steven McNeel makes a poignant connection between cognition and recognition of data’s importance in understanding. Mc Neel assumes that: “people search for a set of conditions associated specifically with the occurrence of that behavior.[26]” The assumption that is stated is simple.  People need familiar connective input, if sensory data is to be perceived as knowable. Under this umbrella of understanding, the names of God become tantamount in importance.  God’s names are personal, anthropic and analogical. This trivecial of prominence is critical to the expositional showcasing of the essence of his divine being in a modulated format that is relevant and a known commodity of mankind. There must be relational equivalency for knowledge to exist.

The personal nature of the various nomenclatures that have been attributed to God is essential to the process of connectivity between God and man. Nothing carries within its circumference a more personal designation than the individual’s nomenclature. Names can communicate both the person and what is known about the individual. God’s names, as revealed in Scripture, transcend even this quality. They describe and connote, extending beyond the denotative restrictions of language’s field of words as reference. Contained within the nominative valuations are found the essential elements of God’s energies exposed as both causative and respondent action. The names of God serve as the personal, apostolic, ambassadorial designations of His mission revealed. These names are transcendent and imminent, eternal and changing. The purposeful expressions are contingent upon God’s determinate intention to reveal himself in the moment of time that is afforded and available for the teaching moment.

God’s names also transcend the language restrictive designations that are anthropomorphic in nature as well. God’s nomenclature expressions are not merely human figures of speech, relegated to language’s abatements. His names are personal designations that express God’s character and nature. As such, God’s names confine Him relationally to that which God has spawned creatively in the known universal substance and in the vast unknown realms of existence in the physical revelation and in the spiritual frame of existence as well. Anthropic designative controls elicit respondent qualities from those who are known relationally. God’s names inspire awesome reverence by those who know him, thus expanding and surpassing the conceptual understanding of Attribution Theories that would attempt to domesticate or control what is known by man.

The last point to consider in this discussion of God’s names is the analogical qualities of the designative variety. Language typically designs words to exist within framed fields of understanding that are understood in two primary ways. The normal means of understanding are usually restricted to the univocal voice or the equivocal voice. The first designation implies a singularity of intent. Words or names are terminologies with a narrow focal point conceptually: they are meant to be understood in a singular fashion: only as the original author or communicant designed them to be utilized as. Equivocal designations transcend this narrow application by attributing variations in applicable usage.

The dilemma the theologian, or erstwhile philosopher, has in attempting to comprehend God, through his nomenclatural designations is found in the transcendent nature of God. God infinitely extends beyond the limitations of human language and more importantly, beyond man’s finite abilities to understand comprehensively both sensate information and spiritually perceived realities. As such, analogical equations are imperative in the attempt of God to relate to man. His nominative qualities express both similarities and vast differences at equal points in time and reference between eternality and the descendant nature of man. God is simplistic in his eternal being; man is complex in his temporality. These difficulties create the necessary need for names as common points of referral between God and his creative apex: mankind.

LESSON 8

FIVE NAMES OF GOD

For revelation to be relevant, revelation must be understandable. Communications primary key is connectivity. The names of God create pathways for communicative connections to exist between God and man. This is found primarily in the nominative value of designation over singular identification. In the varied expressions of God’s names as revealed in Scripture, God is known through his actions that are attached to the significant nomenclatures associated with him.

God’s names, as revealed in Scripture, lend themselves to the creation of a culture of shared values with the specific intent of communicating attributive qualities of nature and substance. Thus, God’s names are found to exist in the revelatory substance of God’s energies.  This vehicular characteristic allows the intransigent qualities of God to be reduced into a knowable, understandable matrix that facilitates appropriate bonding between God and man.

This field of words that expresses God’s superiority above creation is seen in the various designates, such as El, El-Shaddai, El-Quanno, YHWH, and YHWH Sabboth.  Each name presents a uniquely expressive aspect of God’s nature and character in a substantive posit.  Within this framework, God makes himself known. The following presentation examines then, the five previous designations concerning God’s nomenclatures, as revealed in Holy Writ.

1. El: The name El, in both its singular application, as well as El’s various multiple designations carries within its parameters a general revelatory examination of God. Dr. Thomas McCommisky in an article on: The Names of God, in The Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, states that: “El differs in usage from Elohim only in its usage in theophoric names and to serve to contrast the human and the divine.[27]” The El groupings of designative qualities convey the transcendent nature of God. He is the all-powerful One and is subservient to none. El conveys the eternality of God. He is not just the first being; He is El, the eternal being, who exists outside of creative substance. The extensive state of El’s being causes a respondent chord of fear, awe and respect to be sounded within creation’s comprehensive context.

2. Elohim: This multiple designation for El, the compound or plural form, conveys God in his majesty, and according to Dr. Dan Mitchell, is the common designation for God in the Old Testament. Elohim “describes God in his original relationship with creation.[28]” The power of God’s names in this context, El, Elohim, El-Shaddai, El-Quanno and others, function with the capacity of creating externally knowable paradigms. As energies, these name designations are not intended to reveal the interior aspects of God’s nature. God is known through his external expressions. The active ability of God demonstrates his superiority.

3. El-Shaddai: Etymologically, El-Shaddai’s meaning is obscured by the vast expanse of history’s shroud. “It has been connected with the Akkadian sadu (mountain)…with the word “breast”…and with the word sadad (to devastate) by others.[29]” Dr. Mitchell suggests the meaning of “covenant” with El-Shaddai[30]. This attaches readily with the Akkadian “mountain” designation[31]. God has covenanted with man contextually on mountains; Abram and Isaac, salvation via a sacrificial substitute, Moses and Law’s communicant, Jesus and the Sermon of Matthew 5:7: all connote God covenanting through the usage of mountainous environs. The allusions of height, superiority over nature and the ability to see beyond natural limitations are expressed through the designation El-Shaddai. The jealous character of loves’ protective boundaries is equally seen in El-Quanno. God protects His servants through His jealous love.

4. YHWH: Of all the nominative designations for God, none is held within the cradle of Judaism higher than YHWH. This definitive expression conveys the significant power of covenantal relationship. Although the Tetragrammaton was used prior to Moses’ encounter with the bush engulfed in flame and not consumed, the desert experience proved to be the primary teaching moment for the Jewish people in reference to God’s unique relationship with them as his people of promise. God is He who He is: the self-contained one. As an unpronounceable designate, the name YHWH implies the transcendent nature of God, in terms that convey his eminent qualities that defy description. Although God chooses to relate to humanity, humanity is restricted in appropriating actual knowledge pertaining to whom he exists as in his transcendent qualities.

5. YHWH Sabboth, or Lord of Hosts: McCommisky suggests a variant translation has been opined that may merit consideration. “He creates the Heavenly Hosts,[32]” has been suggested for this appellative. This rendition carries within it the power of the sense that: He who Lords over all that exists, whether human, angelic or demonic. God’s rule extends over each contingency. None can challenge the powerful expression of who God is in his greatness. As such, not only is his rule unquestionable, God exists as the only one who is worthy of honor, glory and worship, as he who administrates power over armies, or hosts.

LESSON 11

NATURAL THEOLOGY

Perceptions produce problems when that which is perceived as inaccurate or faulty is the basic prepositional assumption that is being advanced as a truth.  Perceived truth is every bit as true to those who perceive it as true as truth is, regardless of how false it may be.  The difficulty that surfaces in any examination of the value of natural theologies assumptions can be found in the improper starting point of natural theologies conjecture of deliberative queries surrounding the existence of God.  The Bible itself makes no attempt to prove the existence of God.  Why should a theory that nature proves God’s existence warrant a superceding enactment above the Scriptural presentation?

Natural theology’s greatest weakness is found in the overt confidence that this philosophical hypothesis places in the natural arena of man’s rationalistic abilities to construe truth objectively without outside aide being advanced on reasons foundations.  Sin, indeed, has tainted the ability of man to perceive truth in the ultimate variations and shades truth suppositions.  The very act of philosophic deliberation, refinement and potential change points to the fallacious nature of expecting humans to think in a purely rational fashion or attain sophisticated and complete pure reasoning abilities.  Contingent thoughts advancement, and at times, retreat, from that which consumes veracity’s substance, is a stark testament to the lack of substantive stability concerning human ruminations about truth.

With this intransigent nature identified, it becomes important to clarify natural theology’s value, as well as point out its inherent weaknesses.  Although natural theology fails in the positing of extemporaneous proofs for the existence of God independent of divine revelation, naturalistic arguments are still of value in pointing out natural starters for dialogues purpose apologetically.  Dr. William Lane Craig, in a rather personal expose of the internal conflicts he underwent in his pursuit of truth, comments on how he began to accept posits of natural theological assumptions as a base of intellectual operation. Craig states: “I hit upon a scheme that has proved to be very helpful to me personally in illuminating the relationship between faith and reason-namely, the distinction between knowing Christianity to be true and showing Christianity to be true.[33]

Moreover, that which is a demonstrable vantage may find its greatest place within the faith dialogue for believers, as opposed to convincing unbelievers of God’s verifying credentials.  Natural arguments can be seen as fortifications for the Christian community’s ponderous existential reality:  not the unbelieving persons.  An understanding of this sort would cast the cosmological proofs into a system of fortification or anti-doubt category, under girding already assumed assumptions that need further clarification.

Thus, natural theology strengthens dependency upon God by casting the believer’s acceptable patterns of conviction into the troupe of extensions, allowing creative thought to then adapt itself to the intricacies that allow the verification of order to proceed intellectually, embracing motion, transition, and the transigent vagaries of intellect in flux.  Law then, can be understood, not as a reflection of a Lawgiver specifically.  However, the problematic difficulties of lawlessness reflect the need for viable social networks to be brought into the equation that accept sociologically proper accommodations that are advanced throughout Holy Writ.  Fideists may not prove what they propose is provable, yet what they propose is acceptable, when what is postulated is agreeable as a contingency for faith’s concurrence nonetheless.

Faith and reason have existed in a seeming paradoxical existence of tedious tension throughout the history of philosophical deliberations as they pertain to the churches thought process.  Again, Dr. Craig asserts that a common tension exists between faith and reason that is difficult to reconcile. Using Plantinga as an authority, Craig contends: “Plantinga… does not object to the use of natural theology in showing one’s faith to be true. But he believes that ‘natural theology could be useful in helping someone move from unbelief to belief.[34]’”

How knowledge is attained and how one comes to know the unknowable / un-provable propositions concerning the esoteric dimensions of ideologies that concern themselves with the unknown conditions of tangible essence have been a primary pursuit of theologians and philosophers alike.  Questions concerning the existence of God, the creation of matter, and the soul’s durability:  all have been the major subjects of countless hours of deliberation and debate down through the ages.  Following these premeditated tangents focused implications; schools have sprung-up espousing theoretical postulations surrounding that which address the epistemological queries from these varying points of theological differentials.

Dr. William Craig Lane approaches the subject of methodological understanding from the position of the classic stance of apologetically inclined inquiry[35].  As such, Dr. Lane supports the natural theological extension of determining the a priori existence of God that has been advocated by men such as Thomas Aquinas in the church, and Aristotle in the classic Greek philosophical vein[36].  The question of existence is determined through a series of arguments that work backwards logically, in order to arrive at an endpoint of conclusive determination.  Metaphysical in nature, probability analysis helps the inquisitive to formulate a conclusion based upon evidence, or proofs, that are intended to conclusively prove the viability of God’s existence, apart from scriptural testimony or data. Dr. Elmer Towns advances this understanding in Theology for Today, as he examines the usefulness and limitations of natural theology. Towns’ states concerning the ability to witness God’s presence naturally: “The self-revelation of God is evident in nature, or, as someone has observed, ‘the Creator is evident in His creation.’[37]

This theistic line of reasoning has come to be identified as Kalam’s argument historically according to Craig[38].  The prima fasciae point of this posture is found in the understanding of morality, law, motion and order, or the moral argument, as well as the prime mover argument coupled with the teleological argument.  Without belaboring the discussion, these points of determination seek to establish belief in an intelligent being outside of creation.  His essence would then be reflected within that which God brought into existence.  Mankind’s moral nature, rationality, reflective abilities, and other attributes that are considered germane to the human condition, point to the one who is the ultimate in law, reason and morality.  A super id, that expresses itself in an almost Platonic form of pure thought, could be a means of understanding this perspective.

Prime motion considers that action creates movement, which in turn initiates motion, ad infinitum extensionally.  Tracing motion in reverse however, theoretically leads the pondering individual back to the point of motion’s origin, ergo the prime mover.  Using reasonable inducements, the thought of motion’s origin determines the idea of a prime mover, which would then be advanced as the God of creation.

The teleological argument is similar in nature to the prime mover considerations.  In this guise, ordered existence, essentially determines that arrangement is a reflection of orderly ordure; vies a vie:  God.  Because continuity exists and chaos is a non-dominant factor in creation, a God of stability must be the singular, determinative factor in this equation for consideration.

Additionally, Dr. Craig includes a factor for consideration that is not always integrated into the natural theological perspective.  The existential qualities of Holy Spirit’s extraneous work are a stated point to the considerations that are advanced in proving God’s existence.  This deviation from the classic apologetic model has a corrosive function within this paradigm and may force a recasting to be assessed.  At any rate, there are problems in assuming the actuality of the kalamic reasoning for proving God’s existence.  These arguments are deficient in proving anything other than circular reasoning’s ability to prove the augmentatives functional worth in philosophizing.  A more appropriate approach may be to witness the strength of kalamic reasoning, not as proofs, but rather as indicators for consideration.

This would tend to restrict naturalistic evidence as a secondary support system for the evidentiary postulations found within Holy Writ.  Subordinating this field of inquiry to the role of assistance in strengthening faith’s supposition warrants clear consideration, which may recharge the naturalistic school with fresh vigor.  Allowances can then be made that in turn force the subjective intransigents of this system into the argumentative mix.

Although natural phenomena may not prove the existence of God, God’s activities can clearly be demonstrated through the activities known throughout Scripture that identify His sovereign manipulations of these considerations. From earthquakes to plagues, God has repeatedly used natural demonstrations to induce personal belief in his constituency as pertaining to his viability and superiority. At the command of God, the sun may stand still. With a word, a dead person may return to the land of the living. A warning can easily result in a universal deluge that has devastating consequences. The activities of the divine showcase the overwhelming greatness of God in the natural world. Even the ordinary and mundane exigencies of life demonstrate His excellent capabilities. The gentle rains of spring bring the harvest that feeds the crown of God’s creation. In all of these considerations God is seen as providentially caring for His creation in a beneficent manner.

All of these natural manifestations showcase the eminent domain of God. Each allows the astute observer to witness the glory of God, although a seemingly dearth of explicit evidence may not be readily verifiable to conclusively prove his activities among the creation. Whether in the miraculous or in the natural, historical manipulations or extraordinary events, it matters not. The eyes of faith allow a glimpse into the divine machinations of the sovereign actions of the eternal Logos. Observing God’s handiwork in the natural phenomena of nature and in the recounting of his interventions in history, such as in the Exodus and in the resurrection demonstrates God’s awesomeness to all who are willing to understand the nature of the explicit and implicit revelation contained in these manifestations.

LESSON 12

FOUR PARALLEL MANIFESTATIONS OF FATHER IN OLD TESTAMENT/NEWTESTAMENT

 Modern theological questioning has cast doubt on the continuity of the revelation of God in some circles of theological thought.  Liberal theologies, at times, replace the conceptual understanding of God as an intimate Creator who longs for relationship with his crown achievement, with an understanding of God that conceptually casts him as impersonal and separate from his creation.  Men such as Karl Barth and Emil Brunner have advanced a dialectic concept pertaining to the theological construct.  This perspective: “represents a remarkable reversal in theological thought, since the living God of biblical revelation is again confessed against the God-concepts of philosophical theology…Barth admittedly verges toward a Theo-pantheism and Christo-monism…[39]

This theological paradigm presents a distinct separation between the God of the Old Testament and Jesus, as God of the New Testament.  This is not unlike Manichaeism propositions of a duality of deity.[40]  Those who ascribe to this perspective risk great error in adjudicating the truth as presented in Holy Writ.  This inaccuracy is monumental and jeopardizes a proper understanding of God and the truths that become self-evident when the eternal concept of Fatherhood is embraced as an existent reality for belief.  Acquiescing to this revelation allows the semblance of continuity to exist between the Old and New Testament presentations of God as Father.

The Old Testament unquestionably identifies God as a father figure throughout the revelation of Scripture.  God is identified as the Father of the Jewish people in Exodus, (Ex 4:5); Isaiah, (Is 1:2): to cite a few of many Old Testament passages.  God is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  A personal solidarity exists between the Lord and His people that indeed, connote intimacy and depth of relationship.  This concept carries through into the New Testament revelation.  Mark identifies the Father in the same fashion (Mark 15:31).  The God who is witnessed in the New Covenant is the same God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Acts 5:30; Romans 3:29; Rev. 16:5).  This continuity is an important factor in establishing the greater perimeters pertaining to the household of faith.

This truth is also exemplified in the unfolding picture of God as creator.  Hebrews’ 12:9 make the declaration that God is the “Father of Spirits.”  As such, he is stipulated as the creator of humanity, for humans are constituted as spiritual beings in possession of physical substance.  This marks the unique fililioque relationship that exists between God and those who are bestowed with the privilege of addressing him as “our” or “my” God.  The application of personal pronoun enhances the awareness factor of special designations relating to the intimate relational qualities possessed by the church.

A further reference is stipulated in the New Testament that carries over the implications of contiguous revelation. This can be known as the Kurios factor.  With the Greek language operating as a dominant stream for communicative purposes in the old world, many Jews spoke Greek as a primary or singular language.  The YHWH Tetragrammaton concept is transformed into the Kurios label in the Septuagint.  Luke 1:16; Acts 7:37; Rev 4:8:  all connote this transference of qualitative attribution.  God as Lord in the New Testament is the YHWH designation in the Old Testament.

Another point of reference can be drawn between the Old Testament and New Testament unveiling within the framework of the Alpha/Omega revelation and the God of the burning bush in the wilderness who identified himself as:  “I am whom I am” (Ex. 3:14).  God is simply who he is.  Beginning and end, first and last:  the timeless one who even exists beyond timelessness.  This biblical image defines the lack of definition that applies to God.

LESSON 14A

THE HISTORICAL EVIDENCE OF THE RESURRECTION:

TAKEN FROM: THE CASE FOR CHRIST

By Lee Strobel[41]

Persuasive presentation of Gospel information composes the necessary portfolio requirements for the communicators of the divine Word.  Transformational enactment at the personal level of belief acquisition is the desired end of linguistic projections via biblical evidence.  Language values comprise Holy Writs propositions.  God has entertained languages limitations, overcoming the problematic contingencies and validating His Words empowerment.  God has acted historically, including Himself into the narrative of humanity.  Through inclusionary action, that which exists outside special considerations is referenced within the space/time continuum.  Equivocal expressions denounce theories of fabrication or mythological assumptions concerning Christianities origins.  To claim Jesus didn’t exist historically for lack of conclusive proof is to dismiss Plato, Aristotle, Euripides, and a host of other ancient figures, to the same fate, or even worse.

Emperors, historians and sages in or around the time of Christ allude to His veracity.  The Gospel accounts record the ruminations of followers of Jesus who had lost faith momentarily, only to undergo a reinvigoration following supra-naturalism’s incorporation into their tribal language.  Christ rose from the dead and they witnessed this present reality.  Jewish and Roman desires to extinguish the messages languages focus: God exists and lived among us could not be curtailed.  Ancient gullibility’s aside, those who encountered the Christ and acted errantly in an experiential modality would never be the same again.  Factual evidentiary composites exist for ruminations value in perpetuity.  The message of God’s language forces a merging of certainty.  His truth that transcends idealism has equivocally entered into the communal boundaries of all humankind.

Skeptical considerations of the essential nature of Christ do exist, yet the facts remain.  The enemies of Jesus could not advance plausible theories of deniability in their time period.  This is a significant factor in faith’s analysis.  Discrepancies function in the theoretical denigration of Jesus’ authenticity, in Word and in works.  Still, the irreducible essence of Christ’s qualities remains.  He rose from the dead.  Those who abandoned Him rejected Him and denied him at His moment of divine excellence in humiliation altered.  The qualitative realities of Christ morphed these men into irretractable apologists, with all but one of these disciples encountering martyrdom as the exiting stage from this reality into the next sphere of existence.  While faith’s acceptance is a matter of subjective variables, the objective validaters of Christian faith compose a presumption that is accurate and worthy of consideration.

LESSON 14B

 THE CORROBORATIVE EVIDENCE

Dr. Yamauchi’s persuasive argument for extra-canonical evidentiary support cannot be easily dismissed[42].  Though the examination of documentary support for the existence of Christ and evidence that confirms the events of the Gospels as far as is possible, Yamauchi concludes that there is evidence for Jesus outside of Scripture.  The historical allusions are not in an abundance of references relating to these external voices.  Those who do allude to Jesus date back to the very generation of Christ eyewitnesses.

Josephus makes two references to Jesus and the events that surround His life.  Although an apparent interpolation exists in this document, enough evidence exists to conclude that Josephus does refer to Jesus and the movement He spawned.  This is compelling indeed and is a powerful marker of the historical variety that provides corroborative evidence.

Tactius wrote at a slightly later date than Josephus (A.D.115).  His referrals to Jesus add a strong statement to the veracity of the historical reality of Jesus Christ.  Tactius blatant bias against Christianity is significant in the task of corroboration.  His authentication of the movement known as Christianity, while conversely denying its messages speaks poignantly to the true nature of the events recorded in Scripture.  Pliny the Younger could equally be attested to here, as could Thallus history (A.D. 52), which is referenced in A.D. 221 by Julius Africanus according to the author.  This reference is a powerful indictment that speaks of the solar eclipse around 33 A.D.

These historical references are amazing verifiers for the Christian faith.  Perhaps the most compelling argument for Christ’s existence and significant ability to perform feats that defied natural laws is found in the testimony of the Jews who opposed Christ.  Yamauchi refers the Talmudic referrals about Jesus.  Here Jesus is depicted as a deceiver who was a practitioner of the black arts.  As such, Jesus is acknowledged as a significant miracle worker, who many viewed as being a heretical magician.  It’s interesting to note that many who argued about Jesus were unconvinced as to His guilt among the Jewish transcribers.

LESSON 15

ANSWERING OBJECTIONS TO THE DEITY OF CHRIST

History has witnessed a theological battle concerning perceptions about the deity of Christ.  Controversies have raged almost from the churches inception concerning this profoundly important theological concept.  Was Jesus a mere man with elevated status of privilege through the adoptive agency, or is he indeed God the Son manifest in the flesh?  These questions, concerning the nature of Christ in redemptive work and eternal substance have proved to be the foil to many a theologian.

Among the earliest variations of this line of inquiry was that of the Ebionites.[43]  According to the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, this group was divided into two distinct camps.  One held to the virgin birth doctrine while the other viewed Christ as a Prophet who was sired by Joseph.  Both rejected the pre-incarnate existence of Jesus, viewing him as a created being.  This perspective clearly allowed Jesus to exist as an ongoing voice in the Jewish community.  Many who held this view were Jewish and wanted to accept in a partial format, the ministry and teaching of Christ without being required to stipulate deity to Jesus.

The Evangelical Dictionary’s article on: Ebionites further elucidates that:  “Eusebius associated the Gospel of Hebrews with them.”[44]  The article continues by elaborating that a belief among early Christian theologians and writers, such as Epiphanius, was held that stated this sect began immediately after the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD.  These quasi-believers appear to have held a high regard for the Mosaic Law and a covert desire to see Jesus confined to the Judaic experience alone.  Ebionitism is a peculiar belief system.  Raising objections to the deity claims of Christ, while still maintaining a loyalty to Jesus, casts this group into an unusual light.

By accepting Jesus as the Prophetic successor to Moses, regardless of the Fatherhood considerations, yet denying the provisions of eternal existence, the Ebionites must be classified as an early Cult, with a Christian expression.  Accepting Christianity as a superior venue to Mosaic Law is an insufficient proposition.  This anti-supernatural conception and pre-existent belief system fails as it waters down the essential elements of Christianity, mitigating the importance of the Christ event.

Scripture clearly points to the truth about the origin of Jesus.  As God, He knows no beginning (Jn 1:1).  Jesus is God incarnate (Jn 1:14), manifested in the flesh in order to reconcile man to God through His efficacious sacrifice upon Calvary’s tree.  Eternity has witnessed what could be termed as a heavenly exemption, as God who is eternal has humbled himself, becoming one who is identified with humanity for redemptive purposes (Phil 2:1-18).  The Son is like the Father and Holy Spirit.  He knows no point of inception and will know no point of extinction.  Jesus is God in human flesh.

Romans 10:9 bears witness to one of the earliest creedal declarations of Christianity:  “Jesus is Lord.”  Kurios in Greek, Adonai in Hebrew, the designation Lord as a title was one of absolute reverence.  To the Jewish person, Kurios and Adonai were used as the exchange term for the holy name of God:  YHWH, once the Jewish experience no longer sought to pronounce the Tetragrammaton.  As such, the designation Lord, as applied to Jesus, carries a strong implication concerning the deity of Christ.  The title Lord implies the elevated status of Jesus as being the equal of the Father.

At times, it appears as though the muddled understanding of the deity of Christ comes from the difficulty of accepting the concept of Homoousios.  God incarnated as man, retaining the aspects of deity that intrinsically relates to Jesus as God.  Conversely, Jesus as man equally retains that which identifies him as uniquely human.  Jesus is indeed 100% God and 100% man.

LESSON 16

SON OF GOD

 This identification of the Son of Man as he who overcame sin’s persuasive power, may shed light on one of Hebrews main mysteries: the need for Heaven’s cleansing (9:18-23). It is possible that the cleansing of heaven’s most holy place, the reality through which the temporal exists, signifies the cleansing of the new Tabernacle’s position: the human heart (seat of the soul). Pursuit of this as a possible point of theological research may prove to be a worthwhile endeavor. This substitutionary sacrifice links well with the greater concepts of Hebrews. He who overcame sins subtle power as Son of Man now enters the true Holy of Holies as Son of God, thus, effectively navigating the transitional phase of salvations necessity.

In this light, the kenosis limitations and shrouding are reversed, as Jesus re-emerges, not as a suffering man under the discipline of learning’s strict tutelage. Rather, Jesus assumes his previously abrogated positional authority, having successfully performed the task of salvations elucidation perfectly. This may shed a different understanding on the significance of the heavenly Tabernacles lack of a Holy Place. The substitutionary work of atonement pre-empts its necessary inclusion. Christ’s solitary sacrifice, by its eternal nature, and implied durative application, renders a Holy Place as unnecessary and unwarranted. There simply is no further warrant for any sacrifice for sin (Hebrews 9:11-14, 23-28). The kenosis shifting of valuations, adding material substance into the energies of God, creates a new paradigm whereby the essence of God becomes more knowable, thus more accessible. In this configuration, Christ is indeed the superior revelation.

The transitional nature of Hebrews depiction of Christ as Son of God, seated at the right hand of the Father, implies the resumption of Christ’s pre-incarnate essence, existing as he truly is: infinite, eternal, incomprehensible, incomparable. Yet, as one who existed in the form/morphe of man as servant, he remains as one who is both knowable and accessible: one who sympathizes. The hypostatic union of Christ, God coupled with humanities essence, appears to co-exist in the Trinitarian concept. God is both independent and dependent upon the self-revelation of the Three who exist as one. This contributes greatly to the equations understanding.

Hebrews author sets the stage for the later appreciation of the churches conceptual perception as to man’s ability to know God. This hypothesis restricts mans ability to be familiar with God exclusively to the realm of metaphysical considerations. This limitation expresses itself in the epistemological pursuit of God’s energies, not His essence. By this it is meant that God in his character and expression exists in a vortex of unknowable substance. This is witnessed by the impossibility of finite substance comprehending infinite essence. The two negate interaction, as a conciliatory consideration:  finite and infinite exist in diametrically opposite polar extremes.

This characterization means, in essence, that man can never truly know God for all he is:  as God is in perpetuity. But man can know God as he is through the revelation of his energies, or actions. The knowledge of God is thus reduced to the substantive actions of God as he expresses Himself through motion as He actively participates in creations boundaries.  By this it is to be understood that man only knows God in a limited way: revealed through the revelatory inclusions of God interacting with men by way of divine interdiction. The matrix of Son of God and Son of Man becomes essential in the unfolding revelation, as this is the substantive form of material unveiling God has chosen to utilize for this revelation.  Kenotic limitations serve as the divine vehicle whereby infinite devolves into the realm of the finite: unknowable immensity becomes knowable and touchable through essential substance.

The superiority ideologies of Hebrews context allow this progressive nature of limitation/revelation to exist in a quantifiable, incremental, format. Jesus is superior in revelation and superior to both angels and Moses. Jesus is a superior high priest who has authored a superior covenant and Jesus will forever exist as a superior model of faith for the believer to emulate, and, conversely, to exalt. These actions of a superior servant who exists as exalted kurios creates both the dilemma and blessing of obedience to those who cling to the profession of faith and navigate successfully the risk factor of the warnings of the author of Hebrews.

The solemnities of the warning passages take greater significance when viewed through the restrictive prism of the Christ event. God is only knowable to man on divine conditions and terms.  Hebrews unveils this Mysterion by showing humanity that God has quantitatively performed an act of self-revelation, unfolding his essence through the nature of knowing him as he is, through this self-disclosure. Hebrews carries within itself the truth of Jesus own incisive testimonial: “He who has seen me has seen the Father (Jn 14:9).” As such, the designation Son of God is best seen as God the Son, allowing the messianic designation of Daniel 7:14 to further convey the mystery of God incarnating as man.

When God is made known through his energies by way of the Christological manifestation, the unknowable becomes known. This disclosure allows God to be acknowledged through a limited constraining element of knowledge. However, even in this cognitive phenomenalism, logic dictates restrictiveness in God’s epistemological understanding from the human vantage point. God is known through the superiority of the One who exists perpetually in Sonship: but he is never known in totality. The kenotic limitations preclude complete action through energies. The union of God and man restricts the knowable nature of God into the essential criterion of causality and disclosure: God is known through that which he reveals himself ontologically and empirically through.

H.D. McDonald, in Jesus: Human and Divine elucidates this significant understanding of the divine necessitation of human disclosure by way of natural substance. McDonald states: “The figure of Jesus as it is presented to us in the Gospel story and interpreted to us in the rest of the New Testament is that of one who was no unearthly angelic visitant, no demigod in human shape. It was a real man who lived a perfect life amid the human realities of our common way.[45]” Disclosure came through the One who relates to the human experience via the pathway of suffering. But the hardships endured are only a small part of the equation. Hebrews author lent theological language that would develop the untenable theological consideration as Flusser states: “It is unthinkable that an unassuming, local, idealistic (sic) rabbi could later become an object of divine honor.[46]”  Flusser’s difficulties reflect well the dialogue of the discouraged followers of Christ, who were tempted to restrict their understanding of Jesus to that of a simplistic Rabbi who was charismatic and inspiring. If kenotic relegation were the end, net result, faith would be a pointless exercise, worthy of abandonment.

McDonald forces enlightenment and understanding of the transitional nature of Hebrews Christology by highlighting attention and focus upon the titular use of ‘Lord’ (kurios) and ‘Theos’ (God) in Hebrews (1:8, 10).[47] Murray Harris disparages those who attempt to denigrate the importance of these designations in Hebrews. Harris states:

“It is scarcely adequate to claim, as V. Taylor does (Essays 85), that ‘the divine name is carried over with the rest of the quotation’ and the writer ‘has no intention of suggesting that Jesus is God’ so that ‘nothing can be built upon this reference.’ Even if the author was not consciously applying a divine title to Christ, one cannot assume that he failed to recognize the theological import of such an incidental application…that the ‘deity of Christ, which is relevant but not necessary to the argument, is only mentioned in passing’ fails to do justice to the significance of this address in the flow of the argument.[48]

These two pillars of understanding, kurios/Theos, and their importance, should not be neglected in considering the message of Hebrews. As Dr. John Draine, Directory, Center for the Study of Christianity and Contemporary Society, University of Stirling, UK states in an article entitled Son of God in the Dictionary of the Latter New Testament and its Developments:

“Hebrews represents an important transition from early images of Sonship to later metaphysical beliefs. Jesus as Son of God is a key theme and a basic confession of faith (Heb 4:14).  Sonship can almost be synonymous with the perfection and totality of salvation (Heb 4:14, 5:9, 6:6, 7:3, 28:8-9), rooted in the assumption that Jesus achieved this status through suffering and resurrection (Heb 5; 8, 6:6, 10:29) and with the language of divine begetting (Ps. 2) providing the frame of reference.[49]

Sonship then, is a supercedent in discussion of the significance of energies as applied by God in the creative nature of existence. Hebrews author possibly includes philosophical language that frames the Platonic understanding of divine logos that perhaps influenced Augustine and other apologists who endeavored to incorporate philosophical ideas into the language and expression of the Book of Hebrews. Ontologically, Jesus form validates His superiority over the creation that he framed (v. 3), utilizing the Christian experience of language and knowledge.

Dr. Seyoon Kim, Professor of New Testament, Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena CA, in an article entitled Kingdom of God taken from the Dictionary of the Latter New Testament and its Developments, refers to the Lordship phenomena of Hebrews as well. Kim states: “A similar phenomena takes place with reference to Jesus Christ…it belongs to the central theme of Hebrews…(and) functions prominently to substantiate the Lordship of Kingship that the exalted Jesus Christ has come to exercise on God’s behalf.[50]” Jesus, as Son and Lord, exerts dominion over the created order of nature and of revelatory functionality. This positions Christ as the one who is worthy to receive all worship and honor.

LESSON 17

 IMMPECABILITY

Even from its infancy, the discipline of theology has been forced to confront the complexities of the nature of Christ. Churchmen have long held to a belief in the duel nature possessed by the one God/man Jesus Christ. From the great Apostle Paul as previously cited to John the beloved in John 1:14; “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us”[51] or one of Paul’s other assertions as recorded in 1 Timothy 3:16; “god was manifested in the flesh.”[52] There also exist numerous other First Century references and allusions to this integral belief of the Christian faith.

The early Apostolic Fathers also weighed in on this crucial subject matter as they carried on the tradition of commenting on Christological matters. Listen to their testimony as they speak down through the annals of history; “…there is one physician who is possessed of both flesh and spirit… both made and not made… both of Mary and God” (Ignatius, c.105)[53]; “truly of the seed of David according to the flesh… Son of God according to the will and power of God” (Ignatius, c.105)[54]; “though the Son was incorporeal, He formed for Himself a body after our fashion… He is God” (Melito, c.170)[55]; “(the Gnostics) therefore, who allege that He took from a virgin nothing, do greatly ere…” (Irenaeus, c.180)[56]; “He Himself declared… of what substance He is, man and God” (Tertullian, c.197)[57]; and finally, Hippolytus, c.205; “…although as man He became one of the dead, He remained alive in the nature of His divinity”[58]. These and many other similar statements by the Nicene Fathers which are to numerous to cite under the present constraints, and other’s also considered to be Father’s within the Church act as the foundation from which the doctrinal understanding of the Hypostatic Union would rise from.

All of these refer to the dual nature: none deal directly with the issue of Christ’s relationship to the human sin nature and its consequences. This area of concern has been the subject of a long and bitter debate over “how to reconcile proper deity and true humanity”[59]. It has given rise to a diversity of opinions and speculation, none of which was more contentious than the historical period following the Nicene Council. Many well-intentioned scholars were reduced to fracturing faith and fellowship in their personal insistences over an “unwillingness to surrender what they could not immediately rationalize”[60]. Thus the issue of Christ’s sinless character and its implications as to action: could he or could he not actually sin? This question would be let without resolution: to be addressed for the era of the Reformation and beyond.

In one camp there are those who hold to the theory (doctrine) of impeccability (impeccabitas, Latin)[61], which revolves around the idea of Christ’s sinlessness (anamartesia)[62]. According to The Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms, light is cast on the subject of what constitutes sin by stating, “Sinlessness is to be without sin” (anamartetos).[63]Both of these terms are applicable to Jesus Christ in His human/divine nature that had not yielded to temptability, which is the ability to be tempted, and in the case of Jesus only from external sources according to Elmer towns[64]. John Walvoord in Jesus Christ Our Lord addresses the issue of impeccability from a Reformed perspective. He states; “orthodox theologians generally agree that Jesus Christ never committed any sin… [It’s] a natural corollary to His deity and an absolute pre-requisite to His work of substitution on the cross.”[65]

Dr. Walvoord goes on to write about the division among theologians within the ranks of orthodoxy as to whether or not Christ’s sinlessness is the same as Adam’s prior to the fall, or did Christ possess a unique character/nature influenced and controlled by the divine nature, thus making it (Christ’s human nature) intrinsically different than the rest of humanity[66]. In deference to this argument over the division as to whether or not Christ could sin in being tempted, Dr. Walvoord argues for the uniqueness and impeccability of Christ.

The presence of a human nature by virtue of its character implies an ability to be tempted. The question is: does temptability by itself constitute enough force to produce a real ability to sin. Theologians almost certainly agree with the supposition that Christ did not sin. The problem is, even among Reformed circles, there is not a general consensus. In other words, not everyone agrees on this subject. Charles Hodge in his famous work Systematic Theology states that the “sinlessness of our Lord… does not amount to absolute impeccability… if he was a true man He must have been capable of sinning”[67].

Dr. Walvoord as well as his strong influence, Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer in Major Bible Themes[68], sharply disagrees with Hodge. They assert that a firm conviction must be held in two critically important areas within incarnation theology; “(1) Christ became at the same time and in the absolute sense very God and very man and (2) in becoming flesh He, though laying aside His glory, in no sense laid aside His deity”[69]. This is a powerful and salient point that must always be kept at the forefront of all-theological questioning in particular when the nature of Christ is being examined. This is an important statement relating to the issue at hand although it may not readily appear so at first blush. This is seen in the primacy of unio personalis[70] or personal union between Christ’s human nature and the divine pre-existent Word nature combined into the one man Christ Jesus. Dr. Walvoord, J.I. Packer, James Boice and a host of others argue that any other view exposes Christ’s work to a form of reductionism, reducing deity to the arena of possibility as opposed to the firmness of a conclusive end. This is a compelling argument indeed that utilizes the Hegelian model of a dialectic argument, thesis, antithesis, and synthesis as a support. This can be seen in the following model:

 

Word

                       

Sinless eternally

Christ

________________

Sinless/temptability

 

Jesus

_______________

Temptable

The unresolved complexity can be seen in the opposite camp of peccability (ability to sin). The term again is derived from the Latin term peccata[71]. There is no debate as to humanities susceptibility to sin, particularly when original sin and its effects are weighed. Further examination is appropriate however, in dealing with sins potential. Theologically; “a basic distinction can be made between (1) peccata voluntaria, voluntary sins, which are the result of positive human willing, and (2) peccata involuntaria, involuntary sins, which do not arise out of malice but out of ignorance, fear, and the like”[72].

Philippians 2:7, which are presented in a hymn/song format[73], identify the importance of the Hypostatic Union. Jesus had to have a Divine Father and a human mother for these two natures to be combined into a real person. This truth is also seen in the favorite self-designation used by Jesus: Son of Man. No other doctrine is as important for a basic understanding of the Hypostatic Union and consequently the area of peccability as is the subject of God, the Son of Man. To deny the reality or the place of peccability concerning Christ is to run the risk of falling into the error of Doceticism. Docetic heresy, as expounded by Dr. Shirley Guthrie in Christian Doctrine asserts that the understanding of Hypostatic Union was necessitated not simply as a response to Gnosticism, but of equal importance, as a counter-balance against Docetic error[74]. This error can be encapsulated by examining the Greek verb from which it’s meaning is derived. Literally it means ‘to seem’. This teaching asserted that Jesus is only divine and only appears to be human. That is, He is hiding behind the mask of His humanity, hiding the true God-self underneath, thus never necessitating a risk of sinning. According to this view the divine Logos attempted to walk incognito in the midst of mankind.

Found within the boundaries of this belief system was the idea that the purpose of Christ was not to help us in the world, but rather to help us escape the world. As such, Jesus as man was not dissimilar to any modern mythological comic-book type hero who would only appear as God on certain special occasions to right wrongs or other assistances to humanity. Look out Spider-Man!

Dr. Rodney Decker, Associate Professor of New Testament at Baptist Bible Seminary, Clarks Summit PA, comes dangerously close to lapsing into this form of error in an unpublished internet document on the Philippians 2:5-11 on the Kenosis passage[75]. In his zeal to counter the Liberal German Kenotic theologians, including Gottfried Thomasius (1802-75), Dr. Decker states “Jesus did not empty Himself of anything” and “the text says nothing about attributes”. He follows this with an assertion that Jesus still possessed the morphe of God during the incarnation, thus relegating the body of Christ to a “likeness of humanity… in that condition He did not manifest the morphe outwardly. That He still possessed (it)… may be seen in the transfiguration”. He concludes his observations by stating, “The morphe doulou [only] served as a temporary veil cloaking the morphe theou” This extreme view is also under girded by others, however, it is modified by Walvoord in Jesus Christ Our Lord as he claims Christ surrendered no attribute of deity, but that He did voluntarily restrict their independent use in keeping with His purpose”[76]. Henry C. Thiessen surmises the same conclusion in Lectures in Systematic Theology[77]. Dr. Decker’s allegations reveal the veritable mine-field of exegetical complexities that surround the subject of Christ’s attributes as pertaining to His being God in the flesh.

It is important to deal with the anthropological implications of Christ’s humanity if there is to be a full appreciation of the sacrificial nature of His divine work in securing a functional model or vehicle for salvation to have a platform from which it was/is to operate in its substitution nature. God the Son of Man doctrinally can be seen as the hub of the wheel, giving meaning and expression to all the other doctrinal content found in scripture. From this vantage point the initiate learns who Jesus is by observing what He does. It is impossible to separate the two, the person Jesus from the work He performs. To do so would send the inquirer into a downward spiral, ending in a dualistic approach to the Christ event, creating a modified Appolonarianism (another early heresy that held Jesus was 2/3 human, 1/3 divine). There are distinct problems associated with the veiled humanity belief. It can lead to a subtle acknowledgement of a theology that accepts a divine deception mode as part of its belief system. Granted, there are distinct challenges surrounding the seemingly irreconcilable attributes of immutability and peccability’s broad spectrum of influence. This problem pales in comparison to the ones created within a belief system that accepts a thesis and inherent acceptance of the idea that God would deliberately deceive out of His own volition and character. If error were to be embraced, it would seem better to stray on the side of God’s truthfulness and integrity, than to hold to the alternative postulations.

Another point, which should be considered in any dialogue relating to the incarnation, as presented in scripture, is the birth story of the Christ. This account of the arrival of Jesus supports the non-severability of Jesus and His work[78]. The focal point of Christianity is the reality in a very present sense that ‘God is with us’. The God with us principal isn’t addressing a mere masquerade, feeling or spiritual presence. It is the essence of reality, of geography, of politics, of economics and of history. In other words it encompasses the human experience, as it exists in a fallen world[79]. Jesus was a real man, not a divine idea as supporters of a Platonic philosophical exclusionary model would suppose i.e. ideas supersede the physical as the ultimate in reality.

Some, including Walvoord and Chafer (Jesus Christ Our Lord; Major Bible Themes) concur if reluctantly, that the incarnation is meant to preserve the deity of Christ.[80] Again, this moves perilously close to the realm of Doceticism, which also held that Jesus was not a real man but was a spiritual being concealed to look or appear to look like man. To help clarify this matter, it should be noted that the difficulty appears to be formulated in a basic adherence to a type of cosmological dualism as presented by Plato. This is important to note, as philosophy has long been seen as the handmaiden of theology[81], as the saying goes.

The early theologians established a primary acceptance of philosophical ideas that appears to continue to be used quiet handily and readily to this day. The problem surfaces when Paul’s views are only expressed in a Greek format or one that is dominated by this framework. As Dr. Eldon Ladd notes in A Theology of the New Testament: “Paul’s view of creation [and anthropology] is typically Hebrew and not Greek…”[82] The implications are easily seen as Ladd goes on to say; “whatever the morphe theou is, whatever Jesus emptied Himself of in His incarnation, one fact is clear… something new has been bestowed upon Him-a new name indicating a new role and status: Kyrios”[83]. Ladd continues his train of expositional thought by asserting; “the significance of the title Kyrios is found in the fact that Kyrios is the Greek translation of the Tetragrammaton, YHWH, the covenant name of God in the Old Testament”[84].

This is an important consideration in the peccability debate as the argument is based on a syllogism seen as such: God is unchanging. God cannot sin. Jesus is God. Therefore Jesus cannot sin. The difficulty again revolves around the discussion of the Kenosis passage, which many theologians connect to the issue of sin concerning Christ. To hold that Jesus as God could not lay aside divine prerogatives such as His natural attributes and still remain God is a syllogistic anomaly. To accept this view from a Greek formula holds that the taking away through limitation voluntarily or otherwise changes or detracts from god’s basic essence, thus exposing him to a theological framework that would cause Him to cease to be God. This is a basic formulation concerning Christology and impeccability.

The doctrine of impeccability revolves around the idea of how human was Jesus really? As Dr. Alva McClain points out in a published article taken from the Spring 1998 issue of The Master’s Seminary Journal concerning the Kenosis; “if metaphysical difficulties arise, they must yield to the moral requirements of the incarnation… better a thousand times give up our conception of an absolute God than admit He is incapable of real moral heroism”[85]. He continues with the addition; “no supposed metaphysical problems should be permitted to reduce the doctrine of our Lord’s Kenosis to the point where it becomes a mere shadowy, Docetic semblance”[86].

The area of kenosis reflects readily the problem of discounting what constitutes change as articulated by Paul in Philippians Chapter 2. To simply fall upon an assertion that Paul never identifies what Jesus emptied Himself of fails to grasp the reality of the scriptural statement. As Ladd stated earlier, “He was emptied of something”[87]. To deny that Christ’s powers were not limited in any way and to then insist that the significance is found in what is referred to as the humiliation of Christ, the taking on of a servant form as verse 7 indicates is to express the same argument that has been contended as being erroneous. To take on a morphe that is truly human as the Christological Creeds demand, truly God and truly human, is to subject the incorporeal nature of God who is Spirit to change, thus the syllogism doesn’t hold up to a philosophical inquiry. Does not the addition of human form imply change to that which had been intangible as divine Word? Even the most ardent anti-Kenotic theologians hold to the view that Christ now exists in a glorified morphe that will forever be identified with Him throughout eternity. The point of this area of discussion about change in morphe and its titular designation is to bring light upon the discrepancy of insisting that change can only be viewed as acceptable in one form and not in any other way.

The dilemma posed in this narrow approach to interpretation of scripture is in its tendency to lead the interpreter down the path of error that D.A. Carson addresses in Exegetical Fallacies. “By adopting a model of theology that has difficulty in addressing certain key biblical passages, the temptation arises to ignore the guide of dissociations in the interpretive process[88]. This in turn can lend itself to changing the meaning of words in order to subject a passage of scripture to the theological school of thought in question”[89]. The Greek verb Kenoo is a good example. In every instance of usage, two in the New Testament and eight totals in the LXX altogether, the word means to empty. It is used of water, grain, emotion etc. But it is always used in the context of subtraction, never with the implication of addition. This poses a problem of enormous proportions by exposing prejudicial treatment of scripture, subjecting it to personal biases in theology, thus violating rules governing first use, the self-interpreting nature of scripture, cultural considerations, word study problems, etc., etc[90]. The list could go on and on. To appeal to unknown or unlikely meaning should be minimized at best. As to the issue of peccability/impeccability, the inference exists. If scripture indicates a emptying, it is appropriate to conclude as Dr. Carson does in modifying Dr. Walvoord’s “independent exercise of attributes”[91] by asserting “[Jesus] abandoned some substantial measure of independence in the use of His divine prerogatives”[92].

To accept partial abandonment, limited use, or non-independent use of non-communicative attributes opens up the limited access to very human responses on the part of Christ. These limitations which apparently were agreed upon in the pre-determinative Council of God (Ephesians 1:4-7) grants access, not to sin but to the reality of possibility if indeed there is to be a perfect real substitution sacrifice for sin (Hebrews 10:1-10), and a merciful and faithful high priest in things relating to God (Hebrews 2:16-17; 8:1; 9:1-2,24).[93] For temptability to be true, temptations end had to be possible, just as in the first Adam. Matthew 4:1-11 and its corollaries in the synoptics identify the strength of temptation leveled against Jesus as Son of Man. He indeed was tempted, tested, tried and enticed to commit evil action[94] and yet He overcame here and in each successive attack leveled against Him up to His ignoble death upon Golgotha’s tree. In every instance Jesus as a pristine man never wrestled with the internal impulses of inherited sin or sin that had been yielded to as the human race is wont to do. His temptations were always external in their manifestation. Internally His impulses would have been pure.

Some have argued that these internal impulses only allowed conflict within the arena of doing the divine will. This is a point that can readily be conceded in the area of peccability, as this was the all-encompassing mission of Christ: to do the will of the Father. Thus the area of temptability far supercedes that of normal sentient human beings. It is cosmic in nature, not temporal, as Dr. Ladd would say[95].

LESSON 18

THREE REASONS WHY IT IS IMPORTANT TO AFFIRM THE PERSONALITY OF

THE HOLY SPIRIT

 Humans walk within the sphere of paradoxical equations when the subject of faith is addressed.  These ideological challenges make understanding difficult at times, particularly in the conveyance of faith’s posits of truth.  This does not however, mitigate the necessary need for the advancement of key doctrinal and practical truths that are central characteristics of being within the context of Christianity.  These cardinal extrapolations are essential elements of understanding for the Christian matrix of truth to exist within.

One of these points of truth that has been misunderstood at times, and yet stands as an essential pivotal revelation of Christianity, is the distinct personality of the Holy Spirit.  The Early Christian milieu had an abundant variety of views concerning what was meant by the term Holy Spirit, according to Dr. Levison in an article entitled:  Holy Spirit, in The Dictionary of New Testament Background.[96]  Levison states:  “In the first century the expression Holy Spirit was not a terminus technicus but an expression that could be construed in a variety of ways, from nepes to an eschatological agent of purification” (p 507).  Diversity added to the complexity of analysis during the early years of the churches existence.  These variations undoubtedly led to some of the controversies and doctrines that related to the understanding of Holy Spirit’s presence, deity and work.  Arius heretical teachings on Holy Spirit and Christ’s creation and substance were reflections of this anomaly in comprehension that was in need of clarification in the 325 A.D. Nicene Council.[97]

As lucidity was advanced in the churches new understanding of the unified persons in the Godhead, a distinct perspective was postulated concerning the third person of the Trinity:  Holy Spirit.  In order to avoid the error of Hellenistic and pantheistic ethereal existence, conversation about Holy Spirit’s personality emerged.  This is a necessary and essential component of comprehension when Holy Spirit is contemplated.  Personality carries within itself the natural expression of individuality.

Pneumatological considerations attach distinct personal attributions to Holy Spirit as the third Person of the Trinity.  As a member of the unique Godhead, equality of position and prominence becomes a shared quality based upon inclusion, not ranking.  The essence of being creates positional necessity for limited illustration and conveyance of thought.  Attaching personal designations of function and expression are critical accoutrements in the discussion of being.  As personhood is assigned to the Father and God the Son, for equanimity to be enjoined, and Holy Spirit to be understood as anything other than a sentient force, distinct affixations must be understood in light of the progressive nature of revelation found in scripture.

Personality includes attachments that can be viewed as gendered or non-gendered associations.  God as Father and Son carries anthropomorphic designations that are more readily identified within the human conversation.  Although the Greek designation for spirit, pneuma, is normally rendered neuter,[98] Scripture often attaches personal pronouns, creating a new description for Spirit that is identified as consisting of personality, albeit without corporeal substance.

Further designations that imply personality, and convey this idea, can be found in the nomenclatures attached to Holy Spirit.  As the comforter, there is the significance of advocacy (Jn 14:26; 15:26). As a guide (Jn 16:13), Spirit assumes directive ability, and as intercessor, Spirit intervenes in the condition of need expressed through prayer (Rom 8:26-27).  Each of these functional affixations imputes the significant meanings that are associated with personality.  These designations of personalities continue to manifest in the annals of Scripture as Holy Spirit is represented as possessing will (1 Cor 12:11), mind (Rom 8:27), and emotions (Eph 4:30).

Holy Spirit’s additional designations of speech, sensibilities, such as being grieved, lied to, quenched, resisted, blasphemed and insulted are further stipulations that are commonly associated with personality.  Teaching, restraining, loving, and commanding: all speak of personhood.

Finally, all of these facts point to the primary reason of embracing the personal aspect of Spirit’s nature.  As a person of the Godhead, Spirit is personally God, possessing the attributes of deity.  Acts 5:34 calls Spirit, God.  He is also labeled as Lord (2 Cor 3:18).  Equality with the Father and Son is granted to Spirit (Matt 28:19).  Along with the ongoing works, Spirit’s personality places Him as God.

LESSON 21

ATTRIBUTES AND CHARACTERISTICS OF GOD:  DISTINGUISHING POINTS

Any discussion of God by necessity must examine that which has been designated as the attributes of God.  Methodological communication forces those who ponder the inextricable components that are identified as characteristics that are germane to God, to be observed for understanding to be granted in the divine dialogue.  As Dr. Towns states in Theology for Today, concerning the attributes of God:  “God is a being…a substantive entity, an eternal Person who exists in Spirit with certain absolute attributes…God has an existence that is real, measurable and to a certain degree, knowable” (p. 69).[99]

Examining the unavoidable characteristics of God that can be observed in Scripture, and in a significantly lesser degree in nature, is what has been construed as attempting to discover that which is attributed to the nature and being of deity.  The attributes of God are those qualities that are self-possessed by God and distinguish him in essence and being.  It is in the observable manifestations of action and comprehendible qualities of uniqueness that God reveals himself through that, which have become known as the attributes of God.

These intrinsic characteristics convey in human terms concepts that help in the activities of comprehending that which in essence is beyond knowability.  Communicating the essential elements of God’s expressiveness is generally classified as consisting of either absolute definitions or comparative attributes (Towns p. 619)[100].  These minor classifications dictate the communicative essentials that are either exclusive to God alone, or are in possession of common elements that can be witnessed in human expressions, such as love, goodness and holiness, respectively.

In any study of the attributes of God, the discussion centers on that, which is essential to deity, as shared elements of commonality among the members of the Trinity.  These functional expressions can be viewed as consisting of permanent and intransigent qualities that are enduring attributions of the godhead, shared, common designations that are binding elements that are distinguished in the Three as One, and as consisting of uniquely self possessed characteristics.

A further point of consideration is the view of the ability to communicate the attributes in unique formulations that are individualistic to the solitaire personalities of the Trinity (Communicatio Idiomatum).2  This perspective has also been identified as the unique properties of God as individual manifestations that are unique to the person and not the united configuration. Classifying these distinctions in this manner distills the uncommon activities of the unique members of the Godhead that are not fortuitously shared amongst the three, other than vicariously.

Distinct out workings of  activity becomes the norm in this focused study.  The unique configurations of divine energies presented through Father, Son or Spirit are the relevant concerns of any arbitrary discussion of properties.  In the nature of being, these considerations of individual attributions are essential elements of uniqueness in personality.  Dr. Dan Mitchell, in a lecture for the course:  Doctrine of God[101] gives a primary understanding of the distinction of properties as opposed to attributes in Lesson 20, as the suffering of Christ on the Cross is presented as a solitary function of Jesus as Deity incarnate.  This suffering affliction even leads to the humiliating act of death:  an anomaly in the considerations of God who knows no beginning or end.

LESSON 22

HOW GOD CAN BE DESCRIBED AS UNCHANGING WHENCHARACTERIZEDASREPENTING, REGRETTING, ETC.

Quandaries are presented as viable statements in Scripture and in the language of theology.  At times that which is postulated creates conflicting patterns of thought as the subject matter is pondered.  This is particularly complex when the ideological conundrums broach ideas that are seemingly impossible from the human vantage point of experiential conformity.  At times, the biblical record appears to offer conflicting paradigms that are irascibly impossible to coalesce into a harmonious ideal.  The immutability factor concerning God and the fluid structure of history and human experience appear to be two such ancillary venues.  James stipulates that “…the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (Jamess 1:17, KJV), is the releaser of abundant and good endowments.  Yet, Genesis projects:  “The Lord was sorry that He had made man” (Genesis 6:6, KJV).  Each passage speaks of the same God, with two distinct perspectives relating to the abilities of stability and change, or uncertainty.  Is one wrong to the exclusion of the other, and if so, what does this do to the doctrine of inerrancy?

James Montgomery Boice amply illustrates at least a cursory answer to this dilemma in:  The Sovereign God, when he states: “The fact that God is eternal has two major consequences for us.  “The first (proposition) is that He can be trusted to remain as He reveals Himself to be[102],” (p. 131) according to Boice.  Boice sets up a counterpoint argument that allows for an interchange between eternality, immutability and the use of human language, which is far from comprehensive in order to due away with the apparent discrepancies.  In this light, God’s character and attributes are viably perceived as existing outside of the sphere of human capacity.  With this in mind, the unique aspects of God are accepted as non-communicable in a pristine fashion in a modified Anselmian syllogism.  Instead of ‘I think of Him, therefore He is,’ it can be construed as ‘He is more than can be comprehended, therefore accept what is unknowable.’  The limitations of linguistic inadequacies are presented as modifiers for the challenging passages of Scripture.  As Boice surmises:  A human word is being used to indicate God’s severe displeasure with human activities,” (p. 131-2)[103].  Contrary Scriptural passages are presented as counteracting elements to the anthropic voice.

Although Millard Erickson concurs concerning the anthropic designation (p. 381)[104], this interpretation appears to have serious problems in relationship to the consistency factor of Scripture and inerrant authority configuration.  Does this role of explaining away troubling areas in one school, leave open as a possibility for the dismissal of other aspects of troubling doctrine in other formats as well? Over all, the viability of inspiration and authenticity is damaged.  It is true that human languages carry certain intrinsic weaknesses in conveying absolute truth, but this cannot be viewed as an effective means for interpreting problematic passages.  Boise’s foray into the eternal nature of God appears to be a proper resolution to this interpretive difficulty, particularly as Millard Erickson in: Christian Theology, articulates it.  Erickson concurs that the eternal aspect of God, as he is free and unrestrained by the restrictions of time, offers an effective solution to the dilemma of immutability and change.  The Scriptural designations of changelessness and variables must coalesce somehow.

The solution, according to Erickson, is found in the plan of God as expressed progressively.  God’s changes are more accurately described as greater modes of revelation of God’s intentions through a “working out of God’s plan… (Even though it) may seem to be changes of mind…although it represented a rather sharp break with what had preceded the action historically”.  Another salient point is that:  “Some apparent changes of mind are changes of orientation resulting from humans move(ing) into a different relationship with God” (p. 305)[105].  Thus the agent of change isn’t God, its man.

LESSON 2 RESOLVING THE APPARENT TENSION BETWEEN GOD’S JUSTICE AND HIS LOVE USING THE

CRAIG-BRADLEY DEBATE:  DR. CRAIG’S OPENING ARGUMENTS AS THE BASIS[106]

The issue of a loving God who created an eternal Hell and then condemns the “crown jewel” of His creation to Hell’s unthinkable terminative extremities of torment is a most troubling and perplexing question that has haunted theologians of the Judeo-Christian variety for multi-millennia.  For many whom live outside the containment walls of Christianity, this is the mea culpa place of rejecting the Judeo-Christian concept of God.  How it is possible for a being of His magnitude exist as the self-proclaimed revelation of love, yet condemn mercilessly people to eternal punishment, in a seemingly capricious manner?

This is the crux of the debate between Doctors Craig and Bradley.  Bradley insists the proposition is a surd, a nonsensical paradox that produces an irresolvable dilemma that negates the possibility of God’s existence.  Dr. Craig defends the Christian position, attempting to remove the argument from the nature of God’s character, thereby placing it into the understanding of freewill rejection of relational comportment between man and God.  Through a concise presentation, Craig builds a case for the justice of God as a method of enacting punishment for personal disobedience.

In the act of equivocating, a distinction between individual sins and the greater expressions of lifelong infractions, Craig argues that the self-perpetuating rebellion of mankind justifies the extent of the punishment.  Utilizing syllogistic rhetoric, straw men presentations are erected before being systematically dismantled.  A significant difficulty arises when Craig utilizes these argumentative functions to attack the objection of Hell’s reality and those who have yet to hear the Gospel’s message of redemption. Does this constitute an action that justice facilitates, or is a more sinister event being enacted in the offing?

Following the trail that leads to Natural theology’s logical conclusions, a defense is made by Dr. Craig for a modified universal application of salvific grace, as represented to those who have died in sins without having the opportunity to repent and trust in Christ Jesus’ redemptive work.  Dr. Craig asserts that people in this classification will be judged not on the merits of Christ, but rather on the merits of the self-revelation of God in nature and God in law.  This is a hermeneutically troubling and potentially unsound representation that places the Natural view of theology’s revelation squarely outside the sensible application of implicational validity.  Instead, Natural theology takes on the greater burden of explicating revelatory power.  The problem with this view is not in logic or assumption.  Graciousness motivates the normal response of its proponents.  The difficulty lies within the lack of evidentiary theorems contained in Scripture.  They simply do not exist. Thus, an extra-biblical theory must be formulated to account for the need to placate this hard expression of the reality of sins devastating effects.

A more plausible utilization of natural implication would be to possibly draw referential inferences for illustrative convenience rather than establishing non-verifiable signatures.  The natural occurrence of cancer and its treatment for the advancement of life for the holistic survivability of the sensate unit may be a better utilization of natural tools for comprehension.  Simply because a cancerous growth is removed/treated/destroyed does not mean one hates their body or is unjust in treating that which is cancerous in such a callous manner.  Although the cancerous tissue belongs to the individuals proportioned essence, to allow the cancer to remain would be disastrous.

This same argument could be made for the mad scramble to find a cure for the AIDS virus. To ignore the disease would mean the spreading of the infection that is oscillatory to life’s existence.  Love of self allows the harsh removal and treatment in order to preserve existence.  This probably is a better explanation of the supposed conflict between a God of love and Hell’s reality.  The spread of sin must be effectively dealt with for the betterment of the individual and the creation that individuals live within corporately.

LESSON 25

DOES PRAYER EVER CHANGE THINGS (A)

 Viewing the interchange of activities between deity and creation has, at times, provided a difficult and complex series of perplexing dilemmas to the erstwhile theologian.  At the crux of the problem is the issue of communication and direction.  Providence addresses how God, in a beneficent fashion, directs creation for the good of God’s glory.  It is in this function that the idea of preservation surfaces.  This line of reasoning has deduced that God continues to act as sovereign, overseeing the governance of that which God has called into existence.

A germane focal issue that exists within this discussion is the overarching plan of God.  Conceptually, this is the vantage point of theology that postulates the theory that nothing that exists, or happens, occurs outside of the purview of God’s direction.  The additional view of known guidance is embraced as well.  Most theologies that acknowledge the providential activities of God’s benevolent guidance equally accept the ideological proposal of a divine plan that is unalterable.  Within this frame of thought, the expressed understanding of God’s explicit knowledge stands as an accepted given.  Pre-knowledge, knowledge and knowledge of that which is yet to be, resides within this paradigm.  That which is known leads to the issue of governance when creation is witnessed.

A natural difficulty arises out of these discussions, however.  When the providential guidance of God is discussed, the natural question as to human will and direction must rise, if honest appraisals of biblical data are to be arrived at.  In observing the interaction of God’s plan and man’s freedom as a free moral agent, one must ask:  Just how free is mankind?  Does the doctrine of providence preclude freedom of choice, and if this is the true posit, does the function of prayer have any meritorious value attached to its enactment?

Erickson attempts to resolve these issues of conflict in Christian Theology, (p. 430-31)[107] as he discusses the problem of providence and prayer.  Approaching the dialogue from the Calvinistic perspective, Erickson accepts the doctrine of Providence as a pivotal point of truth.  Christian Theology espouses a firm belief in the plan of God as existing within the confluent understanding of definite outcome and unalterable reality.

This view eliminates any constructive acceptance of human change or direction.  Yet, Erickson acknowledges that in Scripture:  “We are commanded to pray and taught that prayer has value (James 5:16), (p. 430).”[108]  An attempt is made to resolve these ideological activities that appear to exist in a non-harmonious, paradoxical state.  Erickson advances the notion that somehow:  “God works in a sort of partnership with humans (p.430).”[109]

A view is advanced that may be perceived as inadequate, raising clouds of disagreement from the Calvinists and the Armenian camps alike.  In this perspective, man is allocated at least cursory activity of independence, while still embracing providential direction.  Prayer then is viewed from the human element as affecting only that, which is predetermined by God.  In other words, human will is brought into the language of eternity in the vocative sense.  Any deliberative activity for effective impact of any substantive value is precluded from this vantage point.

As a means of communicative function, prayer can be viewed as an activation of God’s will directed toward man’s will.  As divine providence is entered into, the language constrictions of faith are super-imposed upon the human agent, creating a module of conforming substance.  Thus, prayer molds the person into the image and the exclusive vantage point of the God who providentially acts as the guide of creative essence.  Prayer then accomplishes much in the arena of conformity, changing the creature’s impulsive nature and fallen desires into a molded expression that walks in the dynamic relationship revealed by God.

 LESSON 25 (B) DOES PRAYER CHANGE THINGS (B)?

AN ANALYSIS OF: PRAYING THE LORDS PRAYER[110]   

As an addendum to the discussion on prayer, Dr. Towns makes a magnificent contribution in his book: Praying the Lord’s Prayer. In the midst of the multitude and complex issues that the church faces in today’s modern world, the believer is left to ponder whether or not simplicity of life would be a preferable alternative.  Computers and the Internet, cars and the interstate: both have combined to increase the difficulties of ascertaining ease of life.  The world and its societies have become critically complicated in expressions of information and understanding.

The church has not been left immune to these societal changes.  Shifting information has been coupled with a recalibrated focus of intent, which has left many churchmen wondering where interaction ends and faith begins: in the task of influencing society.  Elmer Towns has postulated a simple starting point in this arduous task, in his work, Praying the Lord’s Prayer (Regal Books, Ventura, California, 1997). In a world that suffers from a postmodern case of social neurosis, Dr. Towns offers a simple remedy: incorporate the Lord’s Prayer into the personal dynamic of daily interaction, through the vehicle of prayer and implementation.

Society appears to be in the business of shaping independent people.  This can be witnessed in the solitary expressions of life and occupation.  But is this a correct assumption, or direction, for those caught in the vortex of societal pressure?  Not according to Dr. Towns.  There is a beautiful statement found in the chapter concerning the fourth of seven distinct petitions, which eloquently sums up the focus of: Praying the Lord’s Prayer.  Dr. Towns states: “God did not create self sufficient people…God created people to have needs… to glorify God and enjoy Him forever,” (Lords Prayer, Pg. 128).  The last part of the quote is taken from the Westminster Catechism, according to Dr. Towns.

Through the process of redirection, the reader is confronted with personal priorities and their place in the field of discipline.  “Time is the currency of today’s world,” states Dr. Towns, (Page 29).  The importance of this consideration cannot be overstated.  Can the follower of Jesus do without prayer and live without trust in the Savior?  Again, the answer needs to be a resounding no.  Guiding his readers into deeper intimacy through the Lord’s Prayers powerful expression of basic, germane, human need, Dr. Towns introduces simplistic steps that can enable and act as assistors for the believer in the task of drawing near to God.

Dr. Town’s focuses upon: Worship, Principles, Submission, Dual Reality, Need, Forgiveness, Victory and Protection, in: Praying the Lord’s Prayer. This book could be considered as a fire starting spiritual enhancer that is as timeless as God, and as immediate as those who experience its power, each time the petition is presented anew and fresh. The whole impact of this simple, yet direct prayer, that Jesus taught his disciples to pray, may never be known this side of eternity. Magnanimous in breadth, and potent in width, the summation of the Christian faith appears to be encapsulated within its bountiful confines. Dr. Towns does an excellent job in reconciling the theological dilemma of prayers power to change conditional variables while maintaining the needed balance of appropriating prayers potential to cause the submissive to bend to the divine mandates as revealed in the will of God.

 LESSON 26

 A MODERATELY CALVINISTIC MODEL 

In describing the substantive actions of God as they relate to will and intent toward free expression, Calvinism as a philosophical means of interpreting Scripture usually advances into the arena of discussion.  As such, the prevailing tenants of Calvinistic thought must be examined for dialogue to occur.  Predestination, foreknowledge, and total depravity:  all fall under the umbrella of Calvinistic theological presentations.  The decrees of God become foundational points of truth from this perspective.  What God has decreed to be His pre-determinative plan functions as the maintaining force of God’s sovereign rule in creation.  Scripture accepts the advancement of an ideological thought that views God as acting consistently within the maintenance perspective of His eternal objectives.

A paradoxical conundrum evolves out of this radical view of complete control.  This is seen in the governance of God over the universe as standing in tension with the freedom factor of morally enabled intelligences.  Humanity typically understands the need of freedom.  To be morally accountable, man must be morally free.

Freedom is not efficacious when those who are deemed to be free are forced to perform through externally imposed acts of coercion.  This conflict of reality is not simply an existential exercise of mental gyrations.  The issue of freedom directly relates to the existence of evil.  If mankind is devoid of freedom of choice, how did evil and sin come into existence?  When restrictions of freedom are accepted as viable alternatives theologically, the natural outcome becomes problematic to many in the ongoing discussion of God.

If man is not truly a fee-acting creature, God must, by necessity, be the author of evil.   Erickson alludes to the extreme Calvinist camps that hold to this form of radical sovereignty.  This is observed in an eloquent fashion when Leibniz’ Theodicy is discussed (p.385).  Leibniz advances a summary belief in God as the author of evil, advancing the concept of the fall existing as a preordained function through a process of creating individuals who would act within the constraints of activities that in turn are actualized through the function of knowing what will be performed amongst all of the infinite possibilities.

Providential direction extends into the selection of individuals who will be known to act in a particular fashion according to the predetermined constraints of God’s plan.  Erickson’s view of providence fits within this theological perspective, with modification.  This is observed in Erickson’s statement that:  “What we are saying is that God renders it certain that a person who could act (or could have acted) differently does, in fact, act in a particular way (the way God wills)” (p. 383).[111]  The difference in these two theological assumptions is viewed in the initiation of action.  Leibniz accepts God as the manipulator of possibilities through a process of selective creation of agents who will act freely in a disposed fashion.  Erickson views the manipulative mannerisms of God within the circumstance of activity.  Environment, interactions, external stimulation:  all combine to create an intricate composite, molding the free agent into a predetermined course that directs the activities in such a way that no other possibilities are enforceable through a process of selective creation of agents who will act freely in a disposed fashion.  Erickson views the manipulative mannerisms of God within the circumstance of activity.  Environment, interactions, external stimulation:  all combine to create an intricate composite, molding the free agent into a predetermined course that directs the activities in such a way that no other possibilities of existence exist.

The means of understanding Erickson’s view is found in how the function of foreknowledge is performed within the constraints of the plan of God.  Erickson allows for limited freedom, postulating that humans freely choose within a predetermined plan.  As such, Erickson identifies with B.B. Warfield (p. 385)[112], as a moderate when accepting Calvinistic views of predestination.

Although this seems to be a modification of standard Armenian views, true Armenians would sharply disagree with this novel presentation that attempts to placate the distinctions that exist amongst Calvinists and Armenians.  Armenianism would advance:  “predestination since the Scripture writers do, but it understands that this pre-decision on God’s part is to save the ones who repent and believe” (Evangelical Dictionary, p. 79).[113]  Predestination becomes a conditional clause that rests upon the individual activity of rejection or acceptance of the vehicle of salvation.  Sovereignty exists, but so does human freedom.  God has sovereignly created human freedom and accepts the consequences of possibilities many variations, as they manifest through the expansive plan of God.

LESSON 27

RECONCILING THE DOCTRINE OF CREATION AND EVOLUTIONARY THEORY ACCORDING TO ERICSON AND THE PROBLEMS POSED USING THE GAP THEORY:  UNDERMINING THE BIBLICAL CREATION ACCOUNT[114]

Christian Answers.net presents an intriguing article on the problematic approach to the Genesis account of creation known as the Gap Theory.  In this view of earth’s derivation, the original creative act of God is viewed as being in possession of components that in turn accommodate the scientific postulations concerning evolutionary theorems, and the chronological strata, of geological fossilization.

This compartmentalization of acts in evaluation and faith presents the fall as the casual motion that brought the first creation to an end.  According to this exaggerated theory, a world consisting of humanity pre-existed, or antedated, the falls effectual corruption of essence.  The ramifications of this reconstitution become the complex explanatory ideological extrapolations that make up the gap theory.  According to the theorem, Satan’s fall initiated a universally destructive flood that destroyed the earth and the planetary residents who lived upon terra firma.  Following the cause/effect continuum, the gap theorists then speculate that a second creation was necessary for humanity’s reintroduction into creations sphere of existence.

The gap theory creates certain insurmountable problems when viewed through the biblical explanation of creation, sin, the fall and God’s personal dealings with humanity historically.  This can be seen in the deliberate attempt to present a dual flood postulation, with the latter expressions evidentiary remnants being lost in the cataclysmic forces of destruction.  According to the gapologists, any propositional data that indicates a flood’s occurrence on a universal scale proves Satan’s flood, not the biblical Noahic occasion.

Additionally, gap theorists make allowances for concessionary spans of time for an ancient aging of the earth.  This evolutionary accommodation supposedly makes allowances for the evolution theory to remain intact.  By distilling the Genesis account into a form that fits the scientific speculative thought concerning the age of earth, species extinction, species mutation and morphing into alternate species, among other theories, creates a plausibility gap in reference to the factual data that has been advanced within Holy Writ.

Theological stretches become necessary components of the gap perspective, in order to close the gaps this theory creates for the formulation of the Gap theories posits.  This is readily viewed in the dilemma of death.  Thanatological ruminations cause a separation to occur between spiritual extinction and physiological endings.  Biblically, the dual aspects of death’s consequence are inseparable.  However, this is not the case with gap theorists.  By negating the antecedent value of sin’s ramifications, the gap theologians unwittingly create an irresolvable problem with the Christ event.  Are two deaths necessary for redemption to be effectual?  Herein lays the crux of the problem:  one sacrifice was all that was necessary, one sacrifice was all that was mandated, for salvation to be granted to those who live under death’s curse.  As such, this above all the other problems that are contained within the gap theory, make this speculative compromise untenable and incompatible with historic Christianity’s doctrinal truth.

Erickson’s view of theistic evolution falls into this trap of non-biblical speculation. By aligning himself with the theories that accommodate evolution as an viable alternative to the literal creation ideology, Erickson can be seen as one who attempts to accommodate the field of Natural Science and the theories of progressive evolution that have proliferated since the first speculations about evolution were advanced. Problems exist within the purview of geological data, genetic data and the biblical data that is presented in a very biased way that offers the assumption of God fashioning creation.

LESSON 28

 SEVEN VITAL ASPECTS OF THE DOCTRINE OF CREATION

 God in his self-expression embodies a multitude of moral and non-moral attributes.  Through his choice and free demonstration, God has extended himself into the role of creator, acting in a beneficent format toward his object of God’s creative focus:  humanity.  In this relational quality, God exists for himself and for his creations care and sustenance.  Meaning of being attaches to the corporeal world of creative actives as God interacts with that which he has brought into being.  Millard Erickson draws attention to seven primary aspects of creation’s doctrinal importance in Christian Doctrine (p. 400-4)[115].  The following is a summation of these seven vital aspects concerning the doctrine of creation:

1)  Of primary consideration when approaching the doctrine of creation, is the nature of the reality of God.  Creation’s assumptions from a biblical worldview assert the supremacy and uniqueness of God in his essence.  God exists independently and prior to all points of creation.  As such, there is no tangible or intangible essence that is equal to God, nor is there anything that exists that owes its existence to anything apart from God.

2)  The theological doctrine of creation equally assumes that the act of divine creative activities is a uniquely solitary occurrence that cannot be replicated on an equal basis within creation, apart from God’s direct activation.  Although created beings can reflect God’s creative nature in a lesser degree through procreation, architectural constructions, creative thought, artistic expressions, etc., these enactments are merely reflective considerations that refashion what already exists substantively.  Creation is dependent upon what has been brought into the realm of being.  God, however, exists in independence, whose only limitations are those that exist as self-imposed considerations.

3)  The doctrine of creation also asserts the assumption of innocence.  Creation in its inception bore no corruptive elements, nor was sin or evil present.  In its pristine state, creation was pure and undefiled.  Within this frame of reference, creation is seen as bearing responsibility for its own corruption, thus alleviating God of moral responsibility for evils existence.

4)  Far from blaming nebulous elements of creation on evils existence, the doctrine of creation assigns blame for evil upon humanity.  Sin is viewed as a secondary reflection of creative ability.  As such evils manifestation resides in the free exercise of human freedom.  Further, this intrinsic blame resides as an individual reality that exists outside of the constraints of society.  A corrupted civilization, whether primitive or advanced, does provide ample opportunity for sin to abound.  The entertainment of sin is due to individual acquiescence, however.

5)   A critical strength of the doctrine of creation is additionally seen in its unique ability to assist in the preservation of the doctrine of the incarnation.  If the material substance of creation existed independently apart from God with a corrupted core, the incarnation of Christ would have introduced natural evil into the Godhead’s essence.  This is an unacceptable postulation that is fraught with profoundly difficult end results.  Owing to the ‘good’ label, as designated by God, the material realm is protected as well.  Reality of substance carries a standard of acceptability due to God’s original proclamations of good and very good.  Excessive denigrations or indulgences are averted in this view.

6)  The doctrine of creation generates a symbiotic association among all that exists apart from God in His independence.  A shared affinity subsists that point to connective dependence among the created order of being.  This is both a positive and negative attribution.  Negatively, sins pervasive presence has corrupted all of creation.  Positively, salvation’s efficacious power will restore all that exists under its inclusive banner.

7)   The doctrine of creation not only extinguishes a dualistic view, it also exterminates the heresy of monistic thought.  God exists apart from creation.  That, which is, in essence, is not simply an ethereal emanation from God’s essence.  Creation exists in dependence from God substantively and qualitatively:  not providentially.  Ex Nihilo implies the need for existence apart from the created perspective; however, this does not infer that creation is somehow an integrated part of the Creator.

LESSON 29

 GOD’S GOVERNING DEALING OF PROVIDENCE

Christianity at the outset rejects any understanding of theology that espouses dualism as a position.  Equally, correct doctrinal stipulations will do away with any pantheistic statements of faith that endorse any form of monism or multiple deities.  A proper view of creation narrowly defines God as the source initiator for all that is.  A natural segue is created from the doctrine of creation into the doctrine of providence, bridging the two formats of theological discussion.  The former aspect of doctrinal concern deals with the act of being while the latter issue focuses on the action of the creator as he formally intercedes within the affairs of his creation.

Providence, by virtue of its nature, draws attention to two primary aspects of God’s dealing with that which exists substantively.  God can identify phase one as the governmental interdiction of the universe.  The second condition of providence is witnessed by God’s maintenance and sustaining actions concerning the universe.  Louis Berkhof, in Systematic Theology, astutely points out that historically, the doctrine of providence shows that:  “the church took position against both, the Epicurean notion that the world is governed by chance, and the stoic view that it is ruled by fate.”[116]

As long as theologians have been issuing edicts about The Faith, the doctrine of providence has been at the forefront.  Theologically, the concept of forethought becomes a key concept in the discussion of providence.  The idea that is advanced is one that identifies the concerns of God for his creation, both in provision and care.  Providence casts God into the role of beneficent caretaker:  not dispassionate maker.  Providence provides understanding into the maintenance factor.  God is seen as not merely allowing that which is to exist.  Rather, God makes that which is, to exist through divine intervention.

Providence has a very practical application to the life of the believer.  As Erickson so eloquently states in Christian Doctrine:  “Providence is in certain ways central to the conduct of the Christian life.  It means that we are able to live in the assurance that God is present and active in our lives.”[117]  This activity has not always been perceived as being explicit in activation.  It would generally be alleged that most of God’s providential dealings within the creation would come through natural machinations.  It must be emphasized however, that providence advances the notion that “everything that happens in the spiritual and physical universe happens as the result of God’s will.”[118]

Providence as a doctrinal statement of truth deals with the oversight issues of sustenance and governance concerning the divine dealings of God.  In this matrix, providence carries the implied weight that views God as the controller of the natural laws that exist in order to ensure conformity and uniformity concerning the relationship of creation to itself.  God enforces his activity in a personal fashion, arbitrarily moving within his creation.  The overwhelming instances of God’s direct intervention into the affairs of creation would be through the realm of natural order, rendering his control as existing in the essential, unseen activities.

A second and primary aspect of providence transcends the general constrictions into the aspect of the special involvement of God into the direct care of humanity.  Experientially, the believer can be confident that God is capable and willing to intersect into the individual lives of the believer.  This aspect of the care of God can be witnessed in the smallest of details of life.  But more importantly, God’s providential care is demonstrated in the sacrificial offering of himself, as God the Son ascended Golgotha’s shame for humanities salvation.  Throughout all of God’s interventions, salvation is revealed and God is glorified.

 LESSON 30

FIVE DISTINCT APPROACHES TO THE PROBLEM OF EVIL

      

The problem of evil’s existence in a universe that had been pronounced good, by God initially is one of unique interest to the field of theology.  Evil raises a distinct specter into the discussion of goodness and omnipotence as concepts that are germane to the dialogue of God.  Several distinct approaches have been developed theologically in order to satisfy the debate of God as being both just and strong, yet allowing evil to exist in the midst of His creation.  Theodicy’s have ranged from theories that allow God to be the author of evil, to God is accountable to no one, so each act of God, good or evil, becomes good by simple divine decree, to the abject denial of evil as a probable reality.

One approach to the problem of evil has been to dismiss evil as a propositional consideration.  This theory accepts the reality of good and evil as substantive realities, yet dismisses any true possibilities for reconciling the existence of evil.  Evil is viewed as a surd.  Within this framework, the only viable solution is a retreat into fideism.  The need to explain evils existence is not embraced as a necessary proposition.  What is evil must be accepted without justification or explanation.

A second consideration concerning the problem of evil has been designated as finitism.  This theological construct approaches evil from the perspective of omnipotence.  As a constrictive model, finitism views God as being incapable of affecting the outcome of creation.  Dualistic theologies hold much in common with this perspective.  A sense of uncertainty prevails when the ultimate outcome of creation is discussed.  Moral freedom, not divine will, becomes the catalyst of determination concerning creation’s parameters.  Modifications do exist within this theological construct in order to mitigate a dualistic reference.  This ideological vantage point allows voluntary limitations concerning that which is possible to exist as imposed by God.  This self-imposition creates a framework for freedom, sovereignty and evil to co-exist in a substantive fashion.  Most Armenian theologies would concur with this view.

A third theological frame of reference that has been developed to explain the problem of evil deals with the omniscience factor.  This belief system explains the problem of evil by proposing the theory that God simply is incapable of knowing the ultimate outcome of activities within creation.  Reasonable prognostications are all that can be expected from God when the future is considered.  Evil was a probable possibility, yet it may or may not have occurred.  God simply took a chance in creation, hoping for the best of all possible outcomes.  As such, action is a conditional variable, forcing a constant reassessment of the endless possibilities, as long as creation exists.  In this view, God is seen as a dynamic agent who is responsive to the endless variables that are possible amongst freely acting moral agencies.

A fourth theological school of thought exists concerning the problem of evil. This ideology attempts to solve the problem of evil by changing the conceptual understanding of the goodness of God.  Extreme Calvinists would gravitate toward this theological premise, as it espouses a separation of the ideological concept of God’s will.  Under this purview, law and mandated activities operate prescriptively, whereas everything that happens in activation occurs declaratively.  Sin, evil, good:  all exist as direct decrees of God.  This view would accept God as the active and deliberate agent for evils existence.  The only distinction between God’s activities and creations are matters of degree, and more importantly, accountability.  God in his absolute ability is accountable to no one.  As such, God can declare his personal activities as good while conversely declaring equivalent activities among the creation as evil.  This dichotomy is expressed as a restriction of free will and as the inability to challenge God.

A final alternative to the problem of evil can be seen in the belief that evil simply does not exist.  Eastern mysticism, cultic variations and mind over matter philosophies would embrace this concept.  It is a foreign view Scripturally, far removed from the boundaries of Biblical Christianity.

Millard Erickson’s approach to the problem of evil is interesting[119]  (pp. 436-456).  Viewing God as the victim of evil raises unique possibilities, as does the view of eternity’s impact.  Can good come out of what has been deemed as evil?  Calvary is a resound affirmation.  Free exercise of will has brought about the consequences of sin and evil’s existence.  The substitutionary atonement of Christ is a telling activity of God’s personal involvement in answering this dilemma.  Eternity will resolve the problem of evil’s activation.  Humans may not fully understand the complexity of this problem until then.  As such, Erickson may be right in his assumptions.

 

[1] Muller, Richard, Dictionary of Latin and Greek terms, Baker Book House, 1985, p.105

[2]Adler, Mortimer, The Great Ideas: Vols. 2&3, Article: Knowledge, Encyclopaedia Britannica Inc., Robert Hutchins Gen. Ed., Chicago ILL, 1952, p.880

[3] ___ Ibid: Dictionary of Latin and Greek Terms, p.271

[4] Hegel, Friedrich, Great Books of the Western World, Robert Hutchins, Ed., Vol. 46, Britannica,

Chicago, ILL, 1952, p.47

[5] ___ Ibid, Dictionary of Latin and Greek Terms, p.290

[6] Buber, Martin, I and Thou, trans. Walter Kaufmann, Charles Scribner’s Son’s Press, NY, 1970, p.54, 55

[7] Bible, New King James Version, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville TN, 1991

[8] _____ Ibid, Buber, Martin, I/Thou, p.67, 69

[9] _____ Ibid, Holy Bible,

[10]Cosgrove, Mark, Baker Dictionary of Psychology, Benner, David, Gen. Ed., Baker Books, Grand Rapids MI, 1985, pp.981-2

[11]Angeles, Peter, Dictionary of Philosophy, Barnes & Noble, NY, 1981, p.89

 [12]_____ Ibid, Cosgrove, Mark, p.982

[13]_____ Ibid, Holy Bible

[14] Erickson, Millard, Christian Theology, Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI 1983, p.30

[15]Runes, Dagobert, Dictionary of Philosophy, Littlefield, Adams & Co., NJ, 1964, p.263

[16]Groothuis, Douglas, Christian Research Institute Internet website: Apologetics, April 3, 1994 (accessed 5-30-02)

http://www.equip.org

[17]Boice, James Montgomery, The Sovereign God, IVP, Madison, WI, 1979, pp.189-90

[18]Packer, J.I., Knowing God, IVP, Downers Grove, Ill, 1973, p.130

[19]_____ Ibid, Packer, J.I., Knowing God, p.131

[20] Boice, James Montgomery, The Sovereign God, IVP, Madison, WI, 1979 p.29

[21]_____ Ibid, The Sovereign God, p.35

[22]_____ Ibid, The Sovereign God, p.165

[23] _____ Ibid, Baker Dictionary of Psychology, p.878

[24] _____ Ibid, Baker Dictionary of Psychology, p.86

[25]_____ Ibid, Buber, Martin, I/Thou

[26] _____ Ibid, Cosgrove, Attribution Theory in Social Psychology, p.88

[27]Thomas McCommisky, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, Baker Books, Walter Elwell, Gen Ed., Grand Rapids MI, 1984, p.465

[28]Dr. Dan Mitchell, Unpublished lecture notes, The Doctrine of God, THEO 626, Liberty University, 1986

[29] _____ Ibid, McCommisky, pp.465-6

[30] _____ Ibid, Dan Mitchell

[31]_____ Ibid, Dan Mitchell

[32]_____ Ibid, McCommisky, p.465

[33]Cowan, Steven, Five Views On Apologetics, Zondervan’s, Grand Rapids MI, 2000, p.28. This is a synopsis of Craig’s presentation in Five Views, which has been cited. The original work was performed for APOL 500, Liberty University, by the author of this paper, 2002. This has been modified for the current course, THEO 626.

[34] _____ Ibid. Five Views, p. 45

[35] _____ Ibid, Five Views

[36] Adler, Mortimer, The Great Ideas: Vols. 2&3, Article: Theology, Encyclopaedia Britannica Inc., Robert Hutchins Gen. Ed., Chicago ILL, 1952, p.886

[37] Towns, Elmer, Theology for Today, Harcourt College Publishers, Orlando FL, 1999, p.22

[38] _____ Ibid, Five Views, pp.48-51

[39]Donald Bloesch, Essentials of Evangelical Theology, Prince Press, Peabody, MA, 1978, p. 44-5

[40]www.geocities.com/Athens/Rhodes/3991/Neo

[41] Strobel, Lee, The Case For Christ, Zondervan Publishing, Grand Rapids MI, 1998

[42] Strobel, Lee, The Case for Christ, Zondervan Publishing, Grand Rapids MI, 1998, pp.73-91 Dr. Yamauchi gives a very concise picture of the evidential information that exists outside of the Scriptural record. This is a synopsis of his presentation in Lee Strobel’s work, which has been cited. The original work was performed for APOL 500, Liberty University, by the author of this paper, 2002.

[43]Elwell, Walter, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, Baker Books, Grand Rapids MI, 1984, p.339

[44]_____ Ibid, Elwell, p.339

[45] McDonald, H.D., Jesus: Human and Divine, Baker Books, Grand Rapids MI, 1968, p.41

[46] Flusser, D., Hillel and Jesus, Fortress Press, Minneapolis MN, 1997, p.120

[47]McDonald, H.D., Jesus: Human and Divine, op. cit. (Baker Books, Grand Rapids MI, 1968), pp.64-5

[48] Harris, Murray, Jesus as God, (Baker Books, Grand Rapids Mi, 1992), pp.222-3

[49] Draine, John, Dictionary of the Later New Testament and its Developments, Evans, Craig & Stanley Porter, Gen Eds. Op. cit. Article: Son of God, (IVP, Downers Grove Ill, 1997), p.1112

[50] Kim, Seyoon, Dictionary of the Latter New Testament and its Developments, Martin, Ralph & Peter Davids, Gen. Eds. (IVP, Downers Grove Ill, 1997), Article: Kingdom of God, p.632

[51] NKJV, Nelson Publishers, 1991

[52] _____Ibid. Nelson, 1991

[53] Nicene Fathers, 38 Volumes, Ignatius, Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1, Roberts, Alexander & James Donaldson, Eds. Hendrickson Press, MA, 1994, p.52

[54]_____Ibid. Vol. 1, Ignatius, p.86

[55]_____Ibid. Vol. 8, Melito, p.756

[56]_____Ibid. Vol. 1, Irenaeus, p.454

[57]_____Ibid, Vol. 3, Tertullian, p.252

56____Ibid, Vol. 5, Hippolytus, p.164

[59]Journal Article, The Master’s Seminary Journal, Spring, 1998, Kenosis, Dr. McClain, p.86

[60]_____Ibid, McClain, p.86

[61] See B.B. Warfield, the Lord of Glory, pp. 247-261, as well as Murray J. Harris in Jesus as God for excellent perspective on this subject.

[62]_____ Ibid, Dictionary of Latin and Greek Terms, Richard Muller, p.148

[63]_____Ibid, Muller, p.33

[64]_____ Elmer Towns, Theology for Today, p. 152

[65]_____ Walvoord, Jesus Christ Our Lord, pp. 145, 6

[66]_____Ibid, P.145

[67]Systematic Theology, 3 Volumes, 1877 original print, Vol. 2, p.457

[68]_____Ibid, Major Bible Themes, p.56

[69]_____Ibid, Walvoord, p.56

[70]_____Ibid, Muller, p.316

[71]_____Ibid, Muller, p.219

[72]_____Ibid, Muller, p.219

[73]For an interesting and narrow interpretation of the Kenosis passage as a simple hymn only, refer to a published article (The Preacher’s Magazine, 1986) by Kenneth Bratcher concerning the poured out life: The Kenosis Hymn in Context. This article alleges the Pauline reference is exclusively limited to the citizenship nature of imitation, calling upon Philippi’s intense pride in belonging to the Roman Empire. It can be viewed at The Christian Research Institute web site: www.cresourcei.org/kenosis

[74]Christian Doctrine, Shirley Guthrie, John Knox Press, 1946, p. 52

[75]_____Ibid, Rodney Decker, 9 pages, Internet article at: www.faculty.bbc.edu/rdecker/rd/ken.com.  Dr. Decker represents the more extreme Calvinistic/Reformed viewpoint concerning the Kenosis and impeccability. The above quotes are various excerpts taken from the article.

[76]_____Ibid, Walvoord, p.144

[77]See Lectures in Systematic Theology, Henry C. Thiessen, pp. 215- 218

[78] See H.D. McDonald’s insightful treatment of Jesus humanity and progressive revelation and self-disclosure/awareness in Jesus: Human and Divine.

[79] For a variant view see A.J.B. Higgins, Jesus and the Son of Man. Higgins presents the liberal view as perceived by the German Kenotic field.

[80]_____Ibid, Walvoord and Chafer, Jesus Christ Our Lord and Major Bible Themes, p.144

[81] Adler, Mortimer, The Great Ideas: Vols. 2&3, Article: Knowledge, Encyclopaedia Britannica Inc., Robert Hutchins Gen. Ed., Chicago ILL, 1952, p.880

[82]Ladd, George, A Theology of the New Testament, Zondervan Press, Grand Rapids MI, 1974, p. 397

[83]_____Ibid, Ladd, p.416

[84]_____Ibid, Ladd, 416

[85]_____Ibid, McClain, TMSJ, p.88

[86]_____Ibid, McClain, TMSJ, p88

[87]_____Ibid, Ladd, 416

[88]D.A. Carson, Exegetical Fallacies, 1996, p. 45

[89]For an interesting variation of the importance of proper usage genre, grammar, etc. see Linguistic and Biblical Interpretation, IVP. The authors, Peter Cottrell and Max Turner, arrive at many of the same conclusions, as does Dr. Carson, although from a Liberal perspective, thus making it an interesting read.

[90] Refer to Milton S. Terry, Biblical Hermeneutics and Sidney Greidanus, The Modern Preacher and the Ancient Text for a full and fair analysis of the governing rules and principles relating to the field of Hermeneutics, as well as Bernard Ramm’s Protestant Biblical Interpretation.

[91]_____Ibid, D.A. Carson, this is a third person reference taking a quote from Dr. Decker’s article on the Kenosis passage.

[92]_____Ibid, Walvoord, p. 144

[93]_____Ibid, Chafer/Walvoord, Major Bible Themes, pp.57, 8

[94]_____ Ibid, Holman Dictionary of the Bible, Trent Butler, Ed. Article on Temptation, p.1333

[95]_____ Ibid, Dr. Ladd His examination is insightful and germane to the issue at hand. For further study on this topic, the cosmic nature, see pages 397-407.

[96] Evans, Craig & Stanley Porter, Dictionary of New Testament Background, IVP, Downers Grove ILL, 2001, p. 257

[97] Deke, Richard, Bible Doctrines for Today, A Beka Books, Pensacola FL, 1996, p. 169

[98] Dr. Dan Mitchell, Unpublished lecture notes, The Doctrine of God, THEO 626, Liberty University, 1986

[99] Towns, Elmer, Theology for Today, Harcourt College Publishers, Orlando FL, 1999, p. 69

[100] _____ Ibid, Towns, p.619

[101] Dr. Dan Mitchell, Unpublished lecture notes, The Doctrine of God, THEO 626, Liberty University, 1986

[102] Boice, James Montgomery, The Sovereign God, IVP, Madison, WI, 1979, p. 131

[103] ____ Ibid, Boice, pp. 131-2

[104] ____ Ibid, Erickson, p. 381

[105] _____ Ibid, Erickson, p. 305

[106] http://www.leaderu.com, internet article, copyright 1997-98, Craig, William Lane, William Bradley, last accessed on 09/07/2002

[107] ____ Ibid, Erickson, pp.430-1

[108] ____ Ibid, Erickson, p.430

[109] ____ Ibid, Erickson, p.430

[110] Towns, Elmer, Praying the Lord’s Prayer, Regal Books, Ventura CA, 1997

[111] ___ Ibid, Erickson, p.383

[112] ____ Ibid, Erickson, p.385

[113] Elwell, Walter, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, Baker Books, Grand Rapids MI, 1984, p.79

[114] http://www.christiananswers.net, internet article, no author, no date, last accessed on; 09/07/2002

[115] ____ Ibid, Erickson, pp.400-4

[116] Berkhof, Louis, Systematic Theology, Eerdman’s, Grand Rapids MI, 1939, 1941, p.165

[117]____ Ibid, Erickson, p.413

[118] Holcroft, L. Thomas, The Doctrine of God, Western Book Co., Oakland CA, 1973, p.48

[119] Erickson, Millard, Christian Theology, Baker Books, Grand Rapids MI, 1983, 1984, 1985, pp. 436-456

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.