BIBL 106 Regent University Christian Doctrine Organizing Principles and Sources Paper


A proper paper includes an “organizing principle” and an outline (Turabian style requires an outline following the title page). In this assignment you must also submit the full bibliographic data for 4 sources that you will use. An “organizing principle” is like a tour through your paper. It tells your reader how you will go about proving your point (claim). It should follow the proposed outline of your paper. For example, this next statement gives the organizing principle and then states the claim of the thesis. “We will first describe the Platonic view of the true God. Second, we will examine the Scriptural description of the true God. Third, we will compare the correspondence between the Platonic view of God and the Scriptural description of God. This will demonstrate that the sovereign, predestinating God is the only true God.”The outline includes the main points (and possibly sub-points) of your argument (as reflected in your section headings), the conclusion, and (for this paper) the application. Note that this encourages you to organize your paper with section headings. See the Turabian style manual, 9th edition, for the proper way to style section headings.Your sources should be scholarly books and articles. Web-based information is forbidden for this assignment. However, articles etc. downloaded from the Regent Library databases are acceptable.

BIBL 106 Christian Doctrine
The Doctrine of God
James M. Henderson
The Doctrine of God
In Trinitarian terms, the doctrine of God focuses primarily on God the Father.
However, we must understand that anything that can be said of divinity (God’s
divine nature) must also be said of God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.
I. Character of God:
A. “Incommunicable” Attributes.
Note the connection to Nicene Christianity.
Most of the doctrines that we will study in this course are those
hammered out in the first four centuries AD.
1st Century – the Relationship of the Law to Gentile
2nd Century – One God / the Cannon of Scripture.
3rd Century – The Divinity of Jesus
4th Century – The Divinity of the Holy Spirit and the Trinity.
4th-6th Centuries – Salvation & Election
1. Incommunicable attributes vs. Communicable attributes.
a. We typically divide our discussion into attributes that God does not
share with creatures (“incommunicable” attributes), and attributes that
God may share with creatures, especially humans (“communicable”
1] Incommunicable attributes are
A] Attributes of God’s nature/substance = what makes him
B] Attributes which God alone possesses
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BIBL 106 Christian Doctrine
The Doctrine of God
James M. Henderson
2] Communicable attributes are
A] attributes of God’s personhood/personality or moral
values = what makes him the kind of God he is.
B] attributes which people can have/share with God (see 2
Pet 1:3-9).
b. In Eastern Orthodox theology, these two kinds of attributes are often
referred to as God’s “nature” (essence, ousia) in distinction to his
2. The Names of God.
One fruitful way to understand who God is and what he is like is to look at the
names taken up by or given to God in the Old Testament.
a. In Hebrew thought name = character.
1] Personal names are thought to reflect character (i.e. Jacob =
“deceiver” changed to Israel = “prince with God.”).
2] The “Name” stands for the character and essence of God.
b. The “names” of God represent God’s nature or character.
1] “El” names represent God’s incommunicable attributes.
A] El (singular, Dt 32:4) Basic Semitic word for “Supreme
B] El Elyon (Gn 14:18) “God Most High”
C] El Olam (Ps 90:2) “God Everlasting”
D] El Shaddai (Gn 17:1) “God Almighty” (note that the
older translations of this as the “many breasted one,”
emphasizing God’s provision and care, is an incorrect
translation of the Hebrew “Shad”)
2] Yahweh / Yah
As the name of personal relationship through the Covenant He has
made with us, compound names of Yaweh (English Jehovah)
reveal truths and the provisions of this saving Covenant. Yahweh
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The Doctrine of God
James M. Henderson
is God’s “personal” name and so our name for the Father as
A] Jehovah-Elohim (Gn 2:4)
B] Jehovah-Jireh (Gn 22:14) = The Lord who provides a
C] Jehovah-Rapha (Ex 15.26) = The Lord who Heals.
D] Jehovah-Nissi (Ex 17:8-15) = The Lord our Banner
(Battle Standard.
E] Jehovah-Shalom (Jgs 6:24) = The Lord our Peace
F] Jehovah-Raah (Ps 23:1) = The Lord our Shepard.
G] Jehovah-Tsidkenu (Jer 23:6) = The Lord who
constitutes or provides our righteousness.
H] Jehovah-Sabaoth (Ps 24:10) = The Lord of Hosts.
I] Jehovah-Shammah (Ez 48:35) = The Lord who is There
(spoken of Jerusalem, applicable to both Church and
3. In Jn 8:58 Jesus, the Son as Redeemer, clearly identifies himself
as Yahweh. Other NT “I Am” sayings have the same significance
as OT “Jehovah” (Yahweh) compounds.
3. A Note on Anthropomorphic Language.
a. All of our language about God is “analogical” and so approximate.
1] Metaphorical. [How do you describe the indescribable?]
Ps. 91 uses the figure of a bird covering its young, but God
does not have feathers.
God is consistently spoken of as Father, yet God is neither
human or male.
2] Anthropological. [figures of speech using human analogies]
The “hand” or “arm” of God denotes his working or power,
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BIBL 106 Christian Doctrine
The Doctrine of God
James M. Henderson
but God does not have bodily parts.
When God “speaks” he creates or reveals or decrees, but he
does not expel breath through a larynx.
Even if approximate, we can trust what the Scriptures
reveal to us about God (where we ultimately cannot trust
human reason or experience).
3] Apophatic knowledge (reasoning from what God is not).
This means that our knowledge of God is often of what God is not.
God is true because he is not a liar.
b. All this means that God is “something like” us, or we understand who
God is in an approximate way, but also God is nothing like us and our
understanding is not the same as God in himself.
4. Incommunicable Attributes
a. God is Spirit (Jn. 4:24) (Definition: Westminster Catechism: “God is a
Spirit, Infinite, Eternal, and Unchangeable in His being, wisdom, power,
holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.”
1] God is not and cannot be confined in a physical body or SpaceTime.
a] God is not trapped in the Universe or in Space-Time
(1 Sam 2:8; Is 40:12; 42:5).
b] God is not merely a human drawn large.
(Num 23:19; 1 Sam 15:29.
c] God is not a “mind-sized piece of the divine” as some
say of the gods or the Goddess.
d] Therefore, changes in the universe do not change God.
(Mal 3:6; Jas 1:17).
e] O.T. “Theophanies” [appearances of God or the Angel of
the Lord in the likeness of a body].
[1] God is speaking our language; using terms we
Can perceive and understand.
[2] If God can take on humanity, then he can take
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The Doctrine of God
James M. Henderson
on the appearance of a body.
[3] The Word (the Second Person of the Trinity)
does take on real human flesh in the God-Man,
b. God is Perfect (Mat 5:48)
1] For God, TELEIOS means
a] Fulfilled; i.e. has the connotation of whole, mature
(having reached a goal, achieved completion).
b] Complete, lacking nothing.
2] So, for us as humans, Mat 5:48 =
a] Be whole, mature in faith and love.
b] Complete; perhaps completely consecrated
(cf. Jas 1:4; 1 Jn 2:5; 4:12, 17, 18)
c] NOT “perfect” in the sense of flawless.
c. God is ONE (unity) (Dt 4:35; 6:4)
1. The “Shema” (Dt 6:4) is true for us. We worship ONE God, not
three gods.
a] But most Christians do not understand this, leaving them
open to heresies such as LDS polytheism or Jehovah’s
Witnesses’ Monarchianism.
b] So, even many Christians see God
1] as a Big Human (the Old Man in the Sky)
2] a Great Spirit who isn’t involved, knowable, or
approachable, so we mess with the many little
spirits of horoscopes, the Ouija, etc.
2. We worship the ONE TRUE GOD (1 Cor 8:5, 6; Gal 4:8).
a] Many things are called “god” but only our God is God.
b] (Ro 1:20) Even most Polytheism acknowledges an
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The Doctrine of God
James M. Henderson
original “most high God.”
1] Although this is challenged by some Neo-Pagan
2] Almost all of history’s polytheistic or
shamanistic belief systems understands a Great God
or divine force to exist above and behind the other
d. God is Eternal.
While Angels, those who are Saved, or some things such as Paradise are
everlasting, all of these had a beginning. God had no beginning and will
have no end.
e. God is Omnipotent (All Powerful) (Jer 32:17, 18)
Note: this is not a name given to a concept such as the sum of all power
(as in Pantheism) but an attribute of the Personal God.
1] The expression or use of His power is limited only by his
A] Nature and
B] Covenants (e.g. Could God destroy the earth by a flood?
No, for he has covenanted not to do so. See Gen 9:9-17)
2] His power is seen in his Works. What we see in Nature (order,
“laws”) are the pathways of his power and wisdom (Nature is not
just a machine running independently of God).
3] His power seen in his rule. God is still sovereign even when we
pray; he gets to choose his answer (Yes, no, or “trust me, my grace
is enough”).
4] His power is seen through his Church.
a] In the resurrection life of Christ in the believer.
b] in the power and extension of the Gospel to transform.
c] In the believer’s power over sin and the Devil or evil
[1] We share a delegated authority (exousia) in the
Name of Jesus.
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The Doctrine of God
James M. Henderson
B] We experience a dynamic power (dunamis) as
we are filled with the Spirit.
C] As humans, we can call nothing into being, but
we can call upon a powerful, loving Father, who
5] Power seen in His resurrection of Jesus. Death has been
conquered and restoration is advancing.
f. God is Sovereign (Dt 4:35)
1. The Bible asserts that God is sovereign, that there is no limit to
his power to rule, or to ordain/decree what will happen in every
A] This brings up the question of the Problem of Evil
(“Theodicy” = the answer to the problem of how evil can
exist in a world created by a good, and almighty God).
Does God cause all events that occur, evil as well as
1] Many Reformed/Calvinist (“Augustinian
orthodox”) thinkers say “Yes,”
[a] God must control all events or he is not
truly sovereign.
[b] Therefore, God causes evil events (or
“allows” them to happen by secondary
agents, even though he could stop them).
[c] But God does so for the benefit of the
greater Good (i.e. the optimum good for the
2] If so, is God the cause of all moral and physical
evil in the world?
[a] Some Reformed say “Yes,” but what
God does cannot be evil in the ultimate
[b] Some Reformed say “No,” because evil
is the result of secondary agents (Angels,
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The Doctrine of God
James M. Henderson
humans), and not directly the result of God’s
acts (although God foreknows these acts and
chooses to allow them to happen).
2. Yet, the Bible teaches both God’s sovereignty and human free
will (within limitations).
Question: How can these be reconciled?
Answer: God’s sovereignty has been self-limited in 2 areas.
A] God has self-limited his sovereignty by delegating some
sovereignty to humans.
1] Humankind was given a FREE MORAL
AGENCY (“Free choice”).
“In His absolute freedom God has willed to give
man limited freedom.” (Tozer The Knowledge of the
Holy, p. 118). This freedom brings with it the “law
of choice and consequences” (Tozer 119).
2] Although this freedom was lost after the Fall (our
will was corrupted and is now unable to stand
against our appetites, fears, etc.), the Holy Spirit
enables us to make moral choices as he encounters
us and draws us to God (“nascent” grace or
common grace which is also prevenient grace).
3] This plays out in 2 different forms: WesleyanArminian, and Semi-Augustinian.
[a] Wesleyan authors say that God restores
an absolute freedom of will at birth.
[1] When one is born, the Holy Spirit
repairs the damage of sin on the will,
making it “free.”
[2] Therefore, every human has an
“autonomous free will,” able to
choose good or evil without any
further need of grace.
[3] Wesleyans identify this “gracious
ability,” or “nascent grace,” with the
prevenient grace that God grants
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The Doctrine of God
James M. Henderson
every person through the work of the
Holy Spirit.
[4] “Classical Arminians” such as
Roger E. Olson also affirm an
autonomous free will.
[5] In my view, this grants humans
too much autonomy and separates us
from the need of grace.
[b] Semi-Augustinians assert that
“Common” grace comes to every person as
the Holy Spirit works on them to draw them
to God.
[1] Because of the active help of the
Holy Spirit, a person may choose to
good, or refuse to do evil, in any
particular instance (apart from
constraint of his or her physical or
soulish/emotional being) .
[2] That we cannot do good all of the
time is evidence of our depravity.
[3] This grace restrains evil and
empowers good, lest the human race
fall into a horrible state.
[4] By this aid of the Spirit, secular
societies can establish good
laws/customs and prosper, and
individuals can do some relative
[5] This concept of “Common”
Grace is the same grace as
“prevenient” grace.
4] Prevenient grace is “grace that goes before,” and
comes to every person in order to help them allow
God to rescue them, the Holy Spirit working upon
each one’s conscience and will in order to enable a
free choice for or against salvation.
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The Doctrine of God
James M. Henderson
[a] prevenient grace enables us to choose for
or against Christ, and either allow the Holy
Spirit to rescue us, or allow us to resist the
work of the Spirit.
[b] The Holy Spirit presses back our
“sensibility” (emotions, lusts, drives, fears,
[c] The Holy Spirit enlightens the intellect in
its understanding of God and the Gospel.
[d] The Holy Spirit empowers our will to
5] “Predestination” to Justification is based on
God’s foreknowledge of our receiving Christ by
faith, or not. (cf. Ro 5:17; 8:29, 30; 1 Pet 1; 2).
6] But God’s foreknowledge is not causative.
(2 Pet 3:9; 1 Tm 2:4; Jn 1:12; Ac 17:27, 30; Heb
3:5; 10:26-29).
B] God has limited himself by making an original covenant
with human kind (this is not the same idea as the
“Covenant” theology of Reformed thinkers).
1] Humankind was given DOMINION OVER THE
[a] Dominion = stewardship, with the
freedom to govern/do as one wills with
[b] Therefore, God limited his freedom to
govern every event on earth.
2] Humans were given dominion over a good earth
(Gen. 1:26, 28, 31. cf. 2:19, 20), but lost that
dominion by trusting Satan’s words (= worship)
(Gen. 3:1-7, cf. Lk. 4:5,6; Jn. 12:31; 2 Cor. 4:4;
Eph.2:2; 1 Jn. 5:19).
[a] Satan gained that dominion, and
[b] Creation was subjected to the
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frustration” of demonic rule (Rom. 8:20;
Eph. 6:12; cf. Col. 2:18, 19).
[3] Both Man and Creation became
corrupted (Rom. 7:14, 23; 8:23).
3] Christ been given dominion by the Father as the
obedient Second Adam, but his rule is not yet
complete over this Age.
[a] Christ is regaining control by
Redeeming humans now (the Kingdom is
breaking into this Age through the Church),
Col. 1:13.
[b] Redeeming all creation in the end
(Rom. 8:19-21, 2).
[c] However, at present, not all powers are
submitted to God.
4] Because these spiritual forces are not yet
completely conquered, they still cause evil. Until
the End of the Age:
[a] Earth is ruined, and the world decays
(Rom. 8:19-23),
[b] Humans and angels /spiritual forces
persist in doing evil (1 Cor. 15:25-27;
Heb. 2:8).
[c] People (even good
people) suffer evil.
B. Communicable Attributes (Moral Attributes).
1. God is personal.
God is not just “out there” (transcendent), but also “in here” (immanent). God is
not a “divine principle” or force in/behind the universe. As a Person, God has a
personality, consisting of Intellect, Sensibility, and Will.
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BIBL 106 Christian Doctrine
The Doctrine of God
James M. Henderson
a. Intelligence (Is 1:18) (Intellect, rational or intuitive).
1] He knows (2 Ki 7:17)
2] He plans ahead (Jer 29:11)
3] He speaks (Heb 1:1, 2) [And God speaks Human
language, not Zen]
b. Feeling (“Sensibility”).
1] God loves; enough to create, lose, and then redeem us
and all creation. (Ho 11:1; Jn 3:16; Ro 5:8)
2] God is offended by sin and the destruction it causes to
what he loves. This makes him sad and even angry (Ex 4:14; Dt
c. Will (Jn.5:30)
1] God chose to reveal himself, choosing Israel out of the
other nations (Is 41:8-9)
2] God chose to redeem us by absorbing the penalty of sin
(Heb 9:28; 1Cor 5:7; 2 Cor 5:21)
2. God is Holy (Ex 15:11; Rev 3:7)
a. Holy is the way God is.
1] God does not follow a standard of righteousness; he is the
2] Holiness is what is “wholesome” or “healthy” (as well as good”)
for humankind and the cosmos.
b. Of God the basic idea is Separation and Exaltation.
1] Separated from all that is wrong or evil (this is why the Lake of
Fire exists).
2] Exalted as absolutely pure and good.
c. Of humans, this does not mean we are perfect/faultless, but separated to
God and consecrated to his service.
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BIBL 106 Christian Doctrine
The Doctrine of God
James M. Henderson
1] God’s Call separates us.
God’s call makes us saints from the beginning of our union with
Christ by separating us to God (Ro 1:7)
2] Thus we must live as those Dedicated/Consecrated to God’s
service (Ro 12:1).
a] Living life with God’s values (Ro 12:2; Col 3:5-17;
1 Pet 2:1.2; 2 Pet 1:5-11).
b] Which involves inward separation from corruption by
the “World” (= Satan’s value system as expressed in
cultures, not the mundane people who are our neighbors)
(1 Jn 2:15-17; Ro 12:2; 1 Cor 15:33; 1 Thes 4:3-8).
c] 1 Pet. 1:16 = be holy in the same way (direction/aim) as
God, not to the same degree. Only God
is/can be perfect.
3] Sanctified (made holy) at re-birth by the presence of the Holy
Spirit (the same way that the Temple was made holy. 1 Co.
3:16,17, 6:19; Eph. 2:19-22; 1 Pet.2:5).
a] The indwelling of the Holy Spirit meets
all the requirements of the Law in us (Ro 8:34; 10:4).
b] We are the New Jerusalem, the Holy City
[1] We are the Bride of Christ (Rev 19:7; 21:2,9;
[2] We are the true Temple of God (1 Cor 3:16, 17;
6:19; Eph 2:19f)
3. God is Righteous (Justice) (Dt 32:4; Rom 3:25,26)
a. Holiness in action = outward acts stemming from the inward state
1] God always acts in complete conformity with his nature (see
Ex 34:5-7 & Dt 32:4 for descriptions of his nature)
2] God always deals with us faithfully, in conformity with his
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The Doctrine of God
James M. Henderson
covenant (never deceitfully or whimsically).
b. ALL the requirements of God’s righteousness/justice have been
satisfied for the Redeemed through the Atonement of Christ (Rom. 8:1-8,
34; 10: 4).
1] The Atonement = a “penal, substitutionary atonement 2 Cor
5:14, 16, 21. Christ paid the price of sin for us by dieing in our
2] Ro 8:3, 4; Phil 2:12,13. The resurrection life of Christ in us
motivates and enables us to do the will of God, through the leading
and empowerment of the Holy Spirit.
3] But we must (Rom 8:12) act outwardly in accord with God’s
righteousness, in order:
A] to please God, make him happy in the relationship (1
Cor 7:32; 2 Cor 5:9; 1 Thes 4:1).
B] to be seen as righteous by people (Rom 12:17; Titus 2:68, 10-14).
4. God is Love (Mercy) (Goodness) (1 Jn. 4:7-16)
a. Love
1] “God is love” means love = an essential attribute of God (not a
passing “favor”).
2] Love means giving freely of oneself, even to one’s enemies.
a] God loves “the world,” i.e. sinners, and so must we
(John 3:16; Rom 5:8; Eph 2:4, 5; 2 Thes 2:16).
b] Hating sinners, showing disrespect or incivility to nonChristians violates God’s love.
2] God’s love is always undeserved and active.
a] Ahab (OT) = emotional delight, or emotional
identification, which gives freely to the object of affection.
b] Agape (NT, and used in LXX for Ahab) = Love
undeserved and active.
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The Doctrine of God
James M. Henderson
[1] The stress is on an active, giving love
demonstrated in the outward flow in deeds of a
living faith (Jas 2:14-17, 26; Rom 122:9, 10;
Heb 13:1f)
[2] In this, NT love is much like the OT hesed.
3] God’s justice and love are brought together in the Atonement of
a] Christ suffers the curse in our place (1 Pet 2:24).
b] What Love!; the innocent and holy becoming a guilt
offering for us (Is 53:10,12; Ro 3:25,26).
b. Mercy
1] Mercy is “an inexhaustible energy within the divine nature
which disposes God to be actively compassionate.” (Tozer, 97),
and so mercy merges with love.
2] Eleos (N.T.), Hesed (O.T.) = lovingkindness or “covenant love.”
3] God’s love (Ahab) for us leads Him to take us into his covenant,
then his hesed continues toward us forever (Ps 106:1; 107:1;
118:1-4; 136).
4] Where grace is getting what we don’t deserve, mercy is not
getting what we do deserve.
5. God is Truth (Dt.32:4; Ti.1:2)
a. God is always true to his nature –without hypocrisy- and so always
speaks the truth.
Metaphysical truth is not known by the use of human reason alone.
We can only know metaphysical/spiritual truth as God gives it
(though some limited knowledge of spiritual truth is accessible
without the Scripture Rom 1:19).
b. Three applications of this truth.
1] Scripture = Humankind’s primary source of truth.
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BIBL 106 Christian Doctrine
The Doctrine of God
James M. Henderson
2] Yahweh God is not some abstract philosophical idea, but the
Only living God and true object of our worship.
3] God will keep all of his promises.
a] Humans become unfaithful because of some strong
influence –fear, covetousness, etc.- or from a defect in
moral character. None of these affect God. He is always
faithful (cf. Tozer, p. 85).
b] Therefore, the covenants are trustworthy.
b] But, note that
[1] Many promises are conditional upon obedience.
[2] Some of the things which we call “promises” are
not promises.
[a] E.g. Phil 4:19. This verse is conditioned
by verse 18 and applies only to those who
support the work of God financially.
[b] the promise is in Luke 6:38 – with
whatever measure you use it will be
measured back.
For Further Reading:
Interested Students will find the following systematic theologies helpful in pursuing a
greater, deeper understanding of the topic here discussed.
Duffield, Guy P. and Nathaniel Van Cleave, Foundations of Pentecostal Theology. Rev.
Ed. 1983, Los Angeles: LIFE Bible College, 2008.
Grudem, Wayne, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Grand
Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994.
Horton, Michael. Pilgrim Theology: Core Doctrines for Christian Disciples. Grand
Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013.
Oden, Thomas. Classic Christianity: A Systematic Theology. New York, NY: HarperOne,
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McGrath, Theology: The Basics, Chapter 3
1. Two district but related concepts about God as creator
can be seen in the Old Testament.
• First in contexts that praise the God of Israel
• Second that stress that the God who created is also the God
who liberated Israel.
BIBL 106 Christian Doctrine McGrath Chapter 3 Creation
2. The OT portrays creation in terms of an engagement with
and victory over forces of chaos.
3.This “establishment of order” is represented as
• The imposition of order on a formless chaos.
• God’s victorious conflict with chaotic forces
4. The most important differences from other ANE texts are:
• The forces of chaos are not seen as Divine
• Nature is not divine.
BIBL 106 Christian Doctrine McGrath Chapter 3 Creation
1. The doctrine of creation arose partly as a response to the Gnostic teaching
• an inferior god created the world in the first place,
• and a different, greater God redeemed humanity.
• 2 The prevalent Greek idea was that God simply re-ordered pre-existing
BIBL 106 Christian Doctrine McGrath Chapter 3 Creation
• Christian thinkers insisted that God had to have created
everything; nothing pre-existed God’s act of creation.
• Irenaeus argued that the Christian doctrine of creation
affirmed the inherent goodness of creation [since it was
created by the good God] against the Gnostic idea that
matter is evil.
• Tertullian affirmed that the existence of the universe is itself
due to God’s freedom and goodness.
BIBL 106 Christian Doctrine McGrath Chapter 3 Creation
1. Dualism holds that reality is divided into two distinct spheres, usually “light”
and “darkness,” “good” and “evil” [the light side and the dark side].
2. For example, Gnostics believed in two distinct realms,
The Spirit/spiritual world, which was good, created by the Supreme Deity.
The material world, which is evil, created by an inferior god.
3. Against this, the Church affirmed that God created the material and
spiritual realms (the visible and the invisible) at Nicaea (325) and Lateran IV
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1. Creation is not God. A central task of Christian theology of creation is to
distinguish God from creation, while affirming that it is God’s creation.
• We affirm the world as good,
• But we do not treat the world as if it were God.
2. Creation implies God’s authority over the world
• Humans are meant to be God’s stewards [managers] of creation
• In contrast to the secular idea of ownership of the world.
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3. The doctrine of God as Creator implies that creation is good.
• Although fallen and broken by sin
• The world itself is capable of redemption.
• This avoids the suggestion that God is responsible for evil in the world.
4. The doctrine of God as Creator affirms that human beings are created in
the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27).
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Various models cast light on the idea of God as creator [although they each
have their weaknesses]
1. Emanation
• speaks of creation as the organic result of God’s overflowing
• Weaknesses include
• the idea of an unconscious creation (Christian faith sees
creation as a deliberate choice)
• and the idea that creation is impersonal
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2. Construction
• God as a master builder planning and building a creation
full of order and beauty.
• Thus the world demonstrates the insight and character of
• The weakness is that this model can imply that God
created from existing material.
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3. Artistic expression: creation is an artistic expression of God.
• This corrects a potential deficiency in the other models, their
impersonal character.
• The image of God as artist
• Conveys the idea that creation is a personal expression by God
• Encourages us to see the beauty of creation as a self-expression
of God.
• One potential weakness is the idea of creation from
preexisting matter.
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1. Although not divine, humans have a unique relationship to
God, beyond all other creatures.
2. Three models can help us understand this.
a) Sovereignty: God has authority over humanity and we are
accountable to him.
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b) Human Correspondence to God
• There is an intrinsic resonance between the physical
structures/rational order of the world and human
• A “resonance” or “harmonization” between the
ordering of the world and the capacity of the human
mind to discern and represent it (Polkinghorne).
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3. Image and relationality: the image is about the capacity
to relate to God.
• God has created humanity with the specific goal of relating
to himself.
• There is a “God-shaped gap” within us, and his absence
causes a deep longing in us.
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1. Aquinas argued that there is a causal dependence of the
creation on God as creator.
• There are physical and metaphysical “fingerprints” of God on
• So a general knowledge of God can be discerned from the
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2. Two main grounds of a natural knowledge of God: one
subjective and one objective.
3. The subjective is a “sense of divinity” (sensus divinitatus)
• God has built into humans a sense of himself.
• This inbuilt sense has 3 consequences:
• Universality of religion
• A troubled conscience in everyone
• A servile fear of God.
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4. The Objective ground of a natural knowledge of God is rational
investigation of the created world.
• God wills his presence, nature, and attributes to be known under
the form of created and visible things.
• The Scripture both reiterates and clarifies what may be known
about God through nature.
• God may only be fully known through [the incarnate God-Man]
Jesus Christ.
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5. The idea of a Natural Theology (understanding God by
studying the world) is controversial.
• Emil Brunner thought that there is a ready-made point of
contact for divine revelation.
• Karl Barth countered that humans have no capacity to
know God without the revelation of the Holy Spirit.
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1. “Creationism” means that humans were brought to our
present form by a direct act of divine creation (in
contradistinction to the “standard evolutionary model”).
2. At least 4 positions on this within North American
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3. “Young Earth” Creationism
• Creation was accomplished in 7 24-hour days about 6, 000 to
10,000 years ago.
• There were no living creatures before Eden and no death of
any kind before the Fall.
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4. “Old Earth” Creationism
• The Earth is very ancient
• “Day” (yom) in Genesis 1 refers to long ages of history.
• There may be a long gap in time between Gen. 1:1 and
Gen. 1:2.
• [Creation came about in a series of creative events,
establishing new “kinds” of creatures. Cf. Hugh Ross,
Creation and Time]
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5. “Intelligent Design”
• Does not deny biological evolution as such,
• But criticizes Darwinism’s idea that creation has no goal.
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6. “Theistic” Evolution.
• Creation is an ongoing process v. a single event.
• God initiates the process of evolution that leads eventually to
the emergence of humanity.
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The Gallic Confession of 1559 states:
First, in [God’s] works, both in their creation and their preservation and control.
Second, and more clearly, in his Word, which was revealed through oracles in the
beginning and which was subsequently committed to writing in the books which
we call the Holy Scriptures.
What two ways of knowing god does this confession express?
Which way of knowing god is considered clearer and fuller than the other?
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McGrath, Theology: the Basics, Chapter 2
1. Introduction
Part of the task of Christian theology is ot identify the God
in which Christians believe.
The basic ideas is that Christians worship and know the
same God as Israel.
Nevertheless, this God is revealed supremely and finally in
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2. Analogies in Theology
The image or metaphor presented in an analogy helps us
think about God and allows us to gain insights into his
But God is never identical to the image/metaphor
All analogies [even biblical ones] break down at some
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Analogies in theology
Why, then do we use analogies instead of more concrete
or abstract ideas?
The human mind cannot cope with the full glory of God.
Scriptural models appear to reveal God in manageable
Revelation is “accommodated” to our ability to reflect,
using images that we can relate to.
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3. God as Father
 What does the image of God as Father convey?
God is our originator; we are completely dependent on him.
God is often compared to human fathers, stressing his care and
guidance for his people (Hosea 11:1-4).
[But, God does not reflect human fatherhood; his fatherhood does
not come out of an analogy with human fathers.
Human fathers should understand what fatherhood means by
studying the ways of God.]
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God as Father
 God’s love and compassion can also be expressed as the
compassion of a mother (Is. 49:15; 66:12-13;Ps. 51:1; 1 Jn 4:10)
 Neither male nor female sexuality can be ascribed to the Father (he
is not merely a god of fertility). God the Father is not a male.
 [However, God consistently reveals himself in the Scripture as
Father, and never as “mother.”
 We may nuance our understanding of God with female metaphors
 But we cannot rightly refer to God as Mother or Goddess.]
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4. A Personal God
The basic idea is that the Christian God is a God with
whom we can have a personal relationship.
This suggests a reciprocal character to God’s dealings with
Only a personal concept of God, not impersonal concepts
(pantheism) can make sense of such relational language.
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A Personal God
Love and the promise/fulfillment pattern in the Scripture
shows that God enters into and keeps covenants with us.
A covenant is a personal commitment by God to his
people, and a commitment of God’s people to their
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A Personal God
 Martin Buber distinguished between subject-object
relationships (“I-It”) and relationships between persons (“IThou”).
God cannot, then, be reduced to a concept or neat formulation
Revelation is a self-revelation of God as a person (and not just
facts about God).
 Christ is the mediator, the go-between, restoring our
relationship with God
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5. God as Almighty
“To say that God is almighty means that God can do
Discuss the meaning of this phrase.
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God as Almighty
Does this mean that god can create a triangle with four
sides or create a rock that is too heavy for him to lift?
No. God can do anything that does not involve logical
contradiction, but cannot do things that cannot be done.
[Since God cannot violate his nature, some things he cannot
For example, God does not break his covenants (although we
often do).]
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God as Almighty
“Can God cause someone who loves him to hate him?”
God does not violate his character (which is love [1 Jn 4:8]).
God’s character is trustworthy and reliable.
We know a God who could do anything, but chose to
redeem us.
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God as Almighty
Divine self-limitation is the notion that God freely chooses
to behave in certain ways, and so places limits on his
divine actions.
God does not act arbitrarily
God’s omnipotence must be set within the context of
his righteous and faithful nature.
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6. Engaging with a Text
What are the two main points that the Catechism sees
about using the image of God as Father? (see page 35).
In what way does the Catechism us maternal imagery?
What does the Catechism mean by saying that “no one is
father as God is father”?
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