The Doctrine of… God

After recent discussions and debates about what/who/why/when/how God is, I have decided to do a post on the Christian doctrine of God. This post is by no means an exhaustive doctrine of God. I’m learning just as much as anyone else is, and I am also a humble theology student with the vocation to be a Vicar. Having said all this, the common Bible believing Christian should be able to provide an adequate doctrine of God, with reference to scripture, theological discernment and analytical approach.

Before I start, I also want to make a disclaimer to Atheists/Agnostics. If you are reading this post, and you’re wanting to understand Christianity more, then it’s vitally important that you leave your Atheism/Agnosticism at the door for the sake of this article, to open your mind, and to hypothetically (in your mind) take it that God is fact. Only after the article, and after weighing up this doctrine can you pursue a conclusion, at which, might I add, you will probably be biased towards your atheism/agnosticism, just as I am biased towards theism. However, your view may change, and this would be the cause of much joy and celebration for Christians to know that someone has come to an understanding of God being real and present.

ANYWAYS! Onto the God stuff.

  1. When looking at the Doctrine of God, it’s important to understand that the Bible is the supreme source for knowing God and learning about him in the Christian faith. What’s more, the Bible never seeks out to try and prove God’s existence. The Bible takes God as fact, and therefore only looks at God’s attributes. So I’m kicking off this article by saying that this isn’t about proving or disproving God, it’s teaching about who God is.
  2. It’s important to ask which God we’re talking about: The answer is the Jewish God which is the Christian God, which is Yahweh. Which roughly translates I AM. There is no definite translation to Yahweh.
  3. Thirdly, it is important that one understands that many analogies and names are used for God within Biblical texts. He is described as Lord, Jehovah, Shepherd, Almighty, and so on. It also gives pictures for God. There are even pictures which describe the motherly nature of God. Let us take one of these pictures. I’ll go with Shepherd to make things simple. Why does the Bible describe God as a shepherd? 1. Because shepherds look after sheep (and the Bible describes humans as sheep) 2. Shepherds lead their sheep to food and water (food and water being teaching and discipline and life) 3. The Shepherd looks after the sheep and 4. Shepherds are human beings (This obviously refers to Jesus Christ, though this ventures into the Doctrine of the Trinity).
  4. Some people would argue that whilst God may be all these things, how can one explain why God punishes (especially in relation to hell) etc. Well, as God is also described as Father, we can deduce some further conclusions about God. A Father who really loves his child will teach him or her the right ways in life. He will not let bad behaviour go, as if he did, then he would be allowing the child to do bad things. Therefore, God punishes in order to show his complete goodness. His goodness then highlights his love for his children. And, it is worth mentioning that God provides many second chances, right up until the point of death. For the believer, God gives chances over and over again, as one who believes is in relationship with him. For those who don’t believe, God is not their Father, and so the chances run out at death. Please note that God is also described as Judge. A proper Judge would be Just, and therefore, God, but his nature as being just, has to punish sin, evil and badness.
  5. As God is a fatherly God, this then assumes that God is a relational God. Different to other faiths and religions, Christianity is the only faith/religion whereby God is an intimately relational being. Therefore, we can describe God as a personal God. Because God is personal, then that must mean that he is a person! Again, this links to Jesus Christ, which we won’t go into today. However, the reason why we say that God is personal is that throughout the Bible, both Old and New, God is seen to be working in the world to a point by which the individual human can be in father-son or father-daughter relationship with him. This therefore means that God reveals himself in a personal way to those who wish to know God.
  6. One doctrinal point within the larger doctrinal picture of God is his omnipotence, i.e, that he is almighty. Someone asks a question, “Can God create a stone so heavy that he is unable to lift?” This puts God’s omnipotence into question. If God cannot lift the stone, then there is something he cannot do. If he can lift the stone, then he cannot create a stone to heavy to lift. But if one considers it, this question involves logical contradiction. As one scholar, Alistair McGrath puts it, four sided triangles do not and can not exist. Therefore, this question is no problem to the Christian. The statement needs to be reworked: “God can do anything that does not involve logical contradiction”. Thomas Aquinas asked a different question, “Can God force someone who loves him to hate him?” Though on considering this question, one has to ask why God would do this. This would lead that person into questioning the character of God, which, as we have already stated, seeks to be in relationship with a human, and not force that human away. Similarily, if one asks whether God can break a promise, then the answer would be that he cannot, but does not mean he is not omnipotent. It merely means that God cannot contradict his character, because he is perfect in all his ways.

Hopefully, I have provided my readers with a starting point for understanding the Doctrine of God. There are many things that I have missed out and I do not claim to have covered every aspect of the Doctrine of God.

Furthermore, I’m sure some of you have very deep and meaningful questions that you want to ask. If you do have any comments or questions, then I would encourage you to ask them. What I think I’ll do is then answer them by updating this blog post, to provide even more information on the same topic. Or I may write another blog post, and somehow link them all together.

 

So, fire away!

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Dean Roberts

Dean is a Minister in the Anglican Church. Currently he is Curate in the parishes of Bedwas, Machen, Michaelston-y-Fedw and Rudry in South Wales. He was born and bred in Wales, is married to Megan, and has two dogs called Taliesin and Melyn, and two cats named Sinsir and Hâf. He graduated from Cardiff University with a BA Hons. in Theology & Religious Studies, and has studied for an MA in Theology, Ministry & Mission at Trinity College Bristol. He also holds a Cert.RSCM from the Royal School of Church Music. He loves playing music, walking, reading, blogging and horse riding as well as going to the cinema and theatre. Read More @ http://deanroberts.net/about

  • Nick

    As an atheist, I have read this with an open mind and have heard many Christians present the reasons why they have faith in God’s existence.
    But one thing I cannot get my head around is the quoting of the Bible as the ‘supreme source for knowing God‘ – how can this be true when nobody who has ever lived on this planet has contacted Him?
    I understand when Christians say that it is the word of Jesus, the Son, (and I do not doubt a man named Jesus did exist in this era – whether he was the son of God is subject to debate), however none of the Bible is penned by Jesus nor was it even penned whilst he was alive.
    Please excuse me if I seem narrow-minded, as I did read your article bearing in mind that it IS possible for God to exist, but do you not agree that in the time after Jesus died and the Bible was written there was likely to have been a great deal of embellishment, exaggeration and elaboration?
    And my reason for saying this is that the Bible is riddled with contradictions which are beyond opinions. For example, who found the empty tomb?
    According to Matthew 28:1, only “Mary Magdalene and the other Mary.”
    According to Mark 16:1, “Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome.”
    According to Luke 23:55, 24:1 and 24:10, “the women who had come with him out of Galilee.” Among these women were “Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James.” Luke indicates in verse 24:10 that there were at least two others.
    According to John 20:1-4, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb alone, saw the stone removed, ran to find Peter, and returned to the tomb with Peter and another disciple.

    • Hey Nick, thanks for commenting 🙂 I completely understand what you’re saying.

      The answers to this are there:

      1. As for the Bible being the supreme source: The New Testament was written (especially the letters in the New Testament) within the lifetime of the first hand eyewitnesses who saw Christ. Many scholars date the earliest letters to be around 45AD. Considering Jesus was born about 6AD and therefore died around 39AD, there wouldn’t have been that much time for exaggeration etc. Apart from this, the rest of the New Testament was written well within one Generation of Jesus. To those who did believe, and to those who wrote the letters and the rest of the New Testament, it would be ludicrous to consider exaggeration in one way, because it was the very belief in Jesus as the Christ which got them martyred. I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t have exaggerated. They must have genuinely believed what they preached and wrote. And in order to believe that much, they must have had some pretty good reasons.

      2. As for the different resurrection accounts; the simple explanation is that they could have all happened! If you take it that they all did, or that the Gospel writers wrote down what they heard but didn’t get the whole picture, then it’s perfectly possible to tie the loose ends together. If you don’t take that idea, some scholars would teach that unfortunately, sometimes the writers don’t know everything, and details are inaccurate, but this only proves the authenticity of the Bible. Furthermore, the accounts which give information about who saw Jesus first don’t really matter in relation to the Bible as a whole, it’s merely a small descriptive, narrative detail.

      Personally, I go with the first hypothesis. There’s a great book by a guy called Lee Strobel called ‘The Case for Christ’. Strobel used to be an atheist then went on a quest to see if there was any mileage in Jesus being God. He since became a Christian after an 18month study, researching science, physchologists, theologians, physicists etc etc. Would highly recommend it.

  • Nick

    Ah OK, I see, that’s very insightful.
    I also didn’t realise that the earliest letter were written that soon after Jesus’ death so my mistake.
    So basically, it’s perfectly plausible that there are different accounts for lots of things in the Bible, whose differences can be easily accounted for? That’s interesting.
    And I don’t suppose an atheist would change their view after 18 months of research if there wasn’t any compelling evidence to support the existence of Jesus so I shall give it a read. I have never doubted the existence of Jesus as a person, but think that it is hard to put blind faith in God, without proof that He does exist. Thanks for explaining things :).

    • No problem Nick.

      Yep, spot on!

      Like I said, really glad that you can comment on here and be open minded. You’re a credit as you’re able to be open to Christianity.

      Strobel is a good read, very easy reading. He does that book and there’s another book called The Case for Faith too.

  • From a http://www.christianityboard.com/ poster…

    I am working on a E = mc2 video… The keys to the universe I believe are in the formula E = mc2…

    In that three is the number of unity so E = mc2 dwells in a trinity:

    1. Matter – The sun is E=mc2 in the form of plasma.

    2. Spiritual Motive – Spiritual warmth, love, faith, and hope in a heart set to do creative things.

    3. Intelligent Form – What Plato called ‘The Child of the Good’ or the drive that caused the plasma to cool into the respective elements. So we have an abundant supply of life necessary calcium (Ca) for our bone and teeth structure; and magnesium (Mg) so chlorophyll can generate photosynthesis. Note how plants thrive after a volcanic eruption delivered the necessary elements for life. The power of the Good also left us things like the bible so we would not do foolish things such as overpopulating the planet. Much intellectual things had to come together to support the reality of a good life.

    TOO MANY PEOPLE HAVE THE MATTER AND THE INTELLIGENT FORM… AND NOT THE SPIRITUAL LIGHT! AND WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT IT?

    And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. – 1 Corinthians 13:2

    An abundance of metals may also be processed into useful material goods. All of which were created by intelligent design, otherwise there is no Mg for photosynthesis and no Ca for the formation of bones. When experiencing the true spiritual E/c2 one ought to feel the same power that went into the creation of the universe

    There is a spiritual light and energy that is akin to the same stuff that went into the creation of the universe; the light that we all live for that inspires our lives to do great things.

    Energy – Warmth, love, get up and go, motivation.

    Light – Faith, hope, joy, charity.

    So we have the E / c2 lets analyze the opposites…

    If m = E / c2 then the opposite is true …

    Nothing (n) = Absolute Zero (z) / Darkness (d)

    As the answer to this equation is undefined, so it is impossible for we who are alive to fully grasp. Yet we can feel the spiritual effect as E / c2 fades away.

    The inverse of c2 is d (hate, fear, and despair)

    Grab a hold of the spiritual E/c2 and you will find the same power that went into the creation of the universe!

  • I believe that there were seven church’s that came about in seven church ages… In which believe that the great country of England has ‘mothered’ two of them…

    Sardis – Begin with John Wycliff
    Philadelphia – Began with John Wesley

    Will we see anymore great men as these arise out of England before the Lord comes?

  • Well, my apologies… Will quit posting here.

    • Well there’s no pressure, but the topic in hand is on the doctrine of God. If it were on the theology in Revelation, I wouldn’t mind so much.

      • But… I was concentrating on the church ages of Revelation and not the events after the church ages. Of the churches in the church ages everyone of them thought that they had the ‘Doctrine of God.’ In which actual wars were fought and many persecutions followed. I think the seven church ages as I take them gives Jesus Christs input on what would unravel in time. You can understand the ‘Doctrine of God’ and still miss the spiritual things that make Christianity appealing.

        In the Thyatirean age King Phillip II of Spain thought he had the doctrine of God and went to defeat England over religious issues. So my question to you is… Will we see anymore spiritual greats come out of England such as John Wycliffe, John Bunyan, john Wesley, and Smith Wigglesworth… Or has the nature of revival died in England along with the Sardisean and Philadelphian church ages?

        • Im pretty sure those individuals wouldn’t call themselves Spiritual Greats for one! 🙂

          But I don’t know, only God knows. Anyone whos preaching Christ is a spiritual great in my eyes. Just sometimes God raises individuals up to do a little bit more in the public sphere.

          • In which I am an ardent studier of English religious history… Especially in what I have called the Sardisean and Philadelphian church ages. I have read John Bunyans entire library. I believe that John Bunyan was researching the English roots as coming from Elishah, who was a son of Javan, who was a son of Japheth, who was the son of Noah.

            I believe the Laodicean age is an American one in which most of the evangelists are either from Texas or North Carolina. I have not heard very many English evangelists since Spurgeon (and I don’t mind correction if you find me in error).