“But since our discourse has now turned to the subject of blasphemy, I desire to ask one favour of you all in return for this, my address and speaking with you; which is that you will correct on my behalf the blasphemers of this city. And should you hear any one in the public thoroughfare, or in the midst of the forum, blaspheming God; reproach, rebuke him; and should it be necessary to inflict blows, spare not to do so. Smite him on the face; strike his mouth; sanctify thy hand with the blow, and if any should accuse thee and drag thee to the place of justice, follow them thither; and when the judge on the bench calls thee to account, say boldly that the man blasphemed the King of angels!”
– St. John Chrysostom
Job was a just and an upright man. Not merely living a life of personal moral purity, but practically and justly taking care of the poor and helpless. However, Job’s pursuit of justice did not protect him from raging tragedy and devastation. Where is the justice in a world where the just receive tragedy along with the unjust? Yet Job did not despair or turn from his life’s devotion. His own justness could not help him when his life was being destroyed.
Volf said, “the life of justice can only be meaningful if there is something beyond it.” If we have no God through whom we know justice and for whose sake we do justice, the pursuit of justice will not satisfy us and cannot save us.
What is God like, and what does he do? My second doctrinal statement looks at the Nature and Work of God. These are works in progress, but this is what I have thus far.
Nature of God
There is one true God who is eternal and exists in inherent relationship (Gen 1:26). God is a spirit (John 4:24) and exists in the three coeternal persons of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who are personally distinct, but essentially united, comprising one “What” and three “Who’s” (Gen. 1:2, Matt. 3:16-17, John 14:11, 16-17, 1 Pet 1:2). They are equal in character and essence, and thus are equally qualified to receive worship (John 4:24, 20:28). The persons of the Godhead are all knowing, wise, and powerful, and present everywhere (Ps. 139:1-10, Jer. 32:17, Rom 16:27, Dan 4:35). The first person of the Trinity is fully God in essence and character and is specially working his purpose and plan, by which we are elected and adopted in love to the praise of the glory of his grace (John 6:37, Eph 1:3-14).
As a relational being, God is personal (Gen. 3:9) and has chosen to come near and reveal himself to us as YHWH, calling himself compassionate, gracious, loving, faithful, forgiving, patient, yet justly judging evil (Ex. 34:6-7). God is eternal, unchanging and infinite in his being, character, power, purposes, promises and knowledge (Num. 23:19, Mal. 3:6) but does change his attitudes and actions in response to our prayers, and resistance or repentance (Jeremiah 18:6-10, Jon. 3:10). He is loving, faithful, good, holy, just, and true (1 Jn. 4:8, Deut. 7:9, Ps. 34:8, Isa. 6:3, Deut 32:4, 1 Jn. 5:20). These attributes are objective characteristics of his nature and are rooted in his essence.
Work of God
God’s plan is eternally and sovereignly based on his gracious character, such as his infinite wisdom, knowledge, and power (Eph. 1:4, Rom. 11:33, Ps. 139:1-6, Rom.16:27, Jer. 32:17, Ps. 115:3, Dan. 4:35) and thus is not arbitrary or capricious. He is at work in all things, and is in control and will bring his purposes and plan to pass for the sake of his glory, in spite of many who make decisions which are contrary to and resist his will and desire (Ps. 33:10-11, 1 Chr. 29:11-12, Eph. 1:11). God hates sin, and is not its author, nor does he approve it (Jas. 1:13, Jer. 44:4, Zech. 8:17). God commands righteousness and forbids sin, even promising judgment as a result (Mic. 6:8, Ex. 20:1-17), but allows people limited, contrary choice for which they are always responsible (Isa. 1:18-20, Isa. 6:8, Rom. 2:6). To bring about his perfect plan in this broken world (Gen. 3:16-19), God limits and frustrates evil and is loving and powerful enough to do good even in the worst evil and suffering (Gen. 50:20, Jn. 18:28-30).
God chose, before the foundation of the world, to give every spiritual blessing to certain people, who are those in Christ (Eph 1:3-4). God chose some because he foreknew that they would respond to his calling in faith, and chose others purely on the basis of his sovereign purpose (1 Pet. 1:1-2, Rom. 8:29, Acts 13:48, Gal. 1:15). Some are in Christ as a result of God’s irresistible redemptive grace (Acts 9:4-7, Gen. 12:1-4) and others as a result of God’s resistible redemptive grace that he gives to all mankind (Tit. 2:11, Rom. 2:4-10). Those responding by faith to God’s gracious offer of salvation in Jesus Christ in no way merit salvation by their acceptance of the free gift, as the entire debt was paid by Jesus (Eph. 2:8-9, Rom. 3:22-28). God desires that all would be saved (1 Tim. 2:3-4, 2 Pet. 3:9) and draws all people to himself, but his kindness is rejected by many (Jn. 12:32, Rom. 2:5, Rev. 20:12-15).
God created from nothing and then formed that which he had made into the universe that exists by his word and for his glory (Gen. 1:1, 2:7, Ps. 33:6-7). God is transcendent and distinct from his creation, but his creation is entirely dependent on him and his immanent interaction with it. In his active providence he governs, preserves and upholds all things by his Word (Ps. 103:19, Col. 1:15-17, Heb. 1:3). He lovingly provides in order to bring about his redemptive end through the course of history and gives people a degree of partnership in ruling the world.
Your thoughts on God, or on what I’ve written?
Take a look at my first doctrinal statement which explores the doctrine of Revelation.
My first doctrinal statement looks at the question of where and how God speaks. These are works in progress, but this is what I have thus far.
We know God as YHWH because he has chosen to reveal himself. Revelation is both possible and necessary because God created humans in his image (Gen. 1:26-27) and to live in relationship with him (Gen. 2:16). God did not stop speaking when man violated his trust (Gen. 3:9) but told the story of Messiah (Gen. 3:15).
This Revelation is General in that it is communicated to all people at all times (Ps. 19:4; Rom. 1:20). The means God used to speak to all people everywhere are creation (Rom. 1:20; Ps. 19:1) and conscience (Rom. 1:32, 2:14-15). In creation, God makes plain (Rom. 1:19) his glory and creativity (Ps. 19:1), his power and divinity (Rom. 1:20), and his goodness and kindness (Rom. 2:4; Acts 14:17). In conscience, God reveals his righteous standard and his justice towards the breaking of that standard (Rom. 2:14-15). God purposed that humans would seek him (Acts 17:27) as he made himself known to them in these varied ways, but most, though coming to real knowledge of God (Rom. 1:21) suppress the truth (Rom. 1:18) and reject him and are without excuse (Rom. 1:20). Others are led towards repentance by God’s kindness (Rom.2:4; Acts 1:8).
This Revelation is Special in that it is communicated to certain people at certain times. God’s purpose was to restore fellowship between humans and himself by revealing more fully his nature and plan. God spoke directly (Gen. 12:1-3), through angels (Matt. 1:20-21), through prophets, visions and dreams (Isa. 6:1-10; Gen. 37:5-7), and through the words and works of Jesus Christ (Jn. 1:14, 13:49), as recorded in the Bible.
God’s words and works in history are recorded in the Bible, made up of the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments, which claim to be from God (Deut. 18:17-18;1 Cor. 15:37), tell the same story (Lk. 24:25-27), and are recognized as Scripture by Jesus (Matt. 5:17-19), the apostles (2 Pet. 3:16) and the Church through the ages.
The Scriptures have their origin in the Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 1:20-21) whose work is confluent with the diverse human authors so that every word of Scripture (Gal. 3:16; Jn. 10:34-35), its entirety and its parts (2 Tim. 3:16), is God-breathed (inspired) and communicates truth about God while maintaining the individual characteristics, cultures, and languages of the human authors.
The Bible, as originally written, is inerrant (Ps. 19:7, Jn. 10:35), meaning that what the Holy Spirit intended to communicate is in every way trustworthy and true, when properly understood. As God’s true word to us today, the Bible is our supreme authority (Acts 4:18-20, 17:11) is sufficient for salvation and relationship with God (2 Tim. 3:15-17), and its central message is clear and simple for all to understand (Deut. 30:11-14, Ps. 19:7-8).
Our understanding and acceptance of the Bible’s teaching as revelation is made possible by the illumination of the Holy Spirit (Jn. 14:26; 1 Jn. 2:27), through a consistent commitment to seeking authorial intent, accounting for genre, grammar, cultural, historical and literary context, and letting scripture interpret scripture.
Your thoughts on Revelation, or on what I’ve written?
One of the requirements for my Theology class this semester was to put together a Doctrinal Statement for the different things we covered in class. In this course, we covered Prolegomena, Revelation, Theology Proper, and Person of Christ.
One of the two of you who read this mentioned you’d like to see them, so I’ll be posting what I’ve done so far in the next couple of days. The final one covering the Person of Christ will have to be finished before I post it.
Please feel free to interact or criticize (constructively would be ideal).