Theology Proper

From the Archives – He Is God and We Are Not

Casting Crowns popularized a song titled, “In Me.” Some of the lyrics follow:

How refreshing to know You don’t need me.
How amazing to find that You want me.
So I’ll stand on Your truth, and I’ll fight with Your strength
Until You bring the victory, by the power of Christ in me.

I was impressed at the depth of these lyrics. They serve as a jumping board for my topic: He is God and we are not. Hopefully, these thoughts will serve as a tonic to remedy a popular—but weakened—view of God.

Our Need

The first principle suggested by the song is that God does not need us, but we need Him. The Scriptures are clear on this:

The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. (ESV, Acts 17:24-25)

God urges us to serve Him, and His love for us is great; but He does not need us. Your church needs you. The Kingdom of God summons you to loyal service, and your absence affects the Body. But God’s throne is assured—with or without your cooperation!

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How Might We Glorify God in His Attributes? (Part 2)

Read Part 1.

As we contemplate God’s perfections, we need to pay attention to what God has disclosed about Himself, linking these qualities together as they are linked together in His person. The perspectival aspect that is so important to grasp when we are dealing with the attributes should be remembered.

Millard Erickson actually criticizes the great Puritan Stephen Charnock for seeming to compartmentalize the attributes of God. When we are dealing with the perfections—whether it be the power of God, the presence of God, the holiness of God, or His patience, love, justice, grace, mercy, truth, eternality, immutability, omnipotence, etc.—we should see the attributes wrapped up in each another; that they are different perspectives on the unity of the one God, not parts of God, but rather perspectives on God.

We have been saved by God’s grace and mercy and love and power and truth and justice, so this places us under an obligation to glorify Him. I Corinthians 10:31 declares,

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

But how can we do that truly if we have not made ourselves familiar with the way God has disclosed Himself in the Bible?

The Glory of His Name

Psalm 29 reminds us to,

Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness. (Psalm 29:2)

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A Guy Named Sihon

Christians can get tangled up when they consider the knotty conundrums of God’s divine sovereignty and man’s free will. How do these things go together? Well, we’re not quite sure, because our perspective is a bit limited. But, both are true.1

God is in charge. He does what He wants, and everything He does flows from His character, which means it’s all holy, righteous and good, and nothing can happen without His permission and consent. People do make their own decisions and do what they want to do, and are rightly held accountable for them.

So, where does that leave us? It leaves us with the concept of compatibilism, which simply means that God uses means (like you and I) to do what He wants, and works in and through our own innate desires to accomplish His will. We see this in Scripture over and over again, if we look for it:

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From the Archives: God Is Sovereign!

Of all of the theological issues that have arisen in the last couple of decades, the matter of what God is like has to be one of the most crucial. As A. W. Tozer has written, “[T]he most portentous fact about any man is…what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like. We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God” (A. W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy, 7).

Of course, all orthodox Christians agree that God is a Trinity, three persons in one essence. But just how powerful is this God? Does He control all things, even the details of life? Does He even know all things past, present, and future? Some evangelicals seem to be unsure.

Other evangelical theologians are passionately arguing the negative: God is neither in full control of the world, nor does He even know the details of the future. According to these Open Theists,

God knows a great deal about what will happen….he knows everything that could happen and what he can do in response to each eventuality. And he knows the ultimate outcome to which he is guiding the course of history. All that God does not know is the content of future free decisions, and this is because decisions are not there to know until they occur. (Richard Rice, The Grace of God and the Will of Man, ed. Clark Pinnock, 134)

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Differences Between the God of the Qur’an & the God of the Bible

An 11th-century North African Quran at the British Museum

Reposted with permission from The Cripplegate.

You’ve probably heard it said. “All of the Abrahamic religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—they all worship the same God.” More and more today, we hear such things from the mouths and tweets of idealized and uninformed westerners.

However, such thinking is a hazardous ignorance. The Qur’an does not believe that Allah (the God of the Qur’an) and the God of Christianity are the same. Many Qur’anic teachers do not believe that they are the same. And neither do biblically thinking Christians.

Last week the Cripplegate began a series on the differences between the Qur’an and the Bible. We looked at a brief introduction to Islam as well as the textual origin and transmission of the Qur’an. Today, we compare the God of the Qur’an with that of the Bible. As we do, it will become clear that the Qur’an and the Bible are talking about two entirely different deities.

As noted last week, there are some similarities between the deities presented in the Qur’an and the Bible. Both the Qur’an and the Bible teach monotheism. Both teach that God is sovereign and the creator of all things. Beyond that, there are few similarities. Here are a few of the major differences.

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Why You Should Love the God of the Old Testament

"One of the earliest places we see His character is when He passed by Moses in the rock. Of everything God could proclaim about Himself, He chooses this—'The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness' (Ex 34:6)." Rooted Thinking

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How Biblical is Molinism? (Part 2)

Reposted from Analogical Thoughts, with permission. Read Part 1.

In this short series I’m considering the question: How well is Molinism supported by the Bible? In the first post I summarized how I plan to approach the question, before looking at two biblical teachings which Molinism seeks to accommodate: (1) comprehensive divine providence and (2) God’s knowledge of counterfactuals of creaturely freedom. I concluded that while the Bible does indeed affirm (1) and (2), and Molinism is consistent with the Bible on those points, Augustinianism also affirms those points. So Molinism holds no advantage over Augustinianism with respect to (1) and (2). I then added:

If we want to show that Molinism has better biblical support than Augustinianism (or vice versa) then we need to find some proposition p which is affirmed by Molinism and denied by Augustinianism (or vice versa) such that p enjoys positive biblical support (i.e., there are biblical texts which, on the most natural and defensible interpretation, and without begging philosophical questions, assert or imply p).

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How Biblical is Molinism? (Part 1)

Jacobus Arminius

Reposted from Analogical Thoughts, with permission.

Molinism is a theory that purports to reconcile a robust doctrine of divine providence and foreknowledge with a libertarian view of free will by appealing to the notion of divine middle knowledge: God’s eternal knowledge of the so-called counterfactuals of creaturely freedom, that is, contingent truths about what possible creatures would freely choose if they were created by God and placed in particular circumstances.

Molinism is most often criticized on theological or philosophical grounds, mainly because it’s most often championed on the basis of its supposed theological and philosophical virtues. And there’s nothing wrong with that; I’ve objected to Molinism on theological and philosophical grounds myself. (So it must be okay, right?) Nevertheless, for the Christian who takes the Bible to be the Word of God and the final authority in theological matters, the preeminent question ought to be: How well is Molinism supported by the Bible? (I don’t propose to defend the underlying methodological principle at this time; I’m simply going to take it for granted.)

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