Study of God – Part 1
By: John Ankerberg Show
(Prolegomena, from pro-lego, “Things said before”)
Since “the beginning of understanding rests upon precise definitions,” it is necessary to define what is to be discussed.
A. Theology This word is a compound of Theos, “God” and logos, “word” and means “the study of” just as in geology, ge is “earth,” the study of the earth; or in biology, bios is “life,” thus, the study of life. Therefore, theology is the study of God. A proper study of God will include His Person, His Works and His Purpose. These three comprehend all there is to know.
B. Theologian Though the word theology does not occur in the Bible, the word theologian does appear in some older Bibles (such as the original Scofield Bible) as an inscription at the beginning of the book of Revelation, “The Revelation of St. John the divine.” In its noun form “divine” means, “a priest, a clergyman, a theologian. So he is St. John the “theologian.” Anyone who makes a thorough study about God is a theologian.
C. Systematic Theology This is defined as the collecting, scientifically arranging, comparing, exhibiting and defending of all facts from any divisions are:
- Prolegomena: Introductory matters.
- Bibliology: Study of facts concerning the Bible.
- Theology Proper: Study of the Three Persons of the Godhead. Some theologies give entire volumes to the study of Christology, the Person and work of Christ, and Pneumatology, the Person and work of the Holy Spirit.
- Angelology: Study of Unfallen and Fallen Angels
- Anthropology: Study of man and hamartiology (sin),
- Soteriology: Study of Salvation.
- Ecclesiology: Study of the Church
- Eschatology: Study of “last things” or prophecy.
D. Doctrine This word comes from didaskalia, meaning “teaching, instruction Rom. 12:7; 15:4; 1 Tim. 4:13, 16; Eph. 4:14. It is a body of principles in a system of beliefs.
E. Natural Theology A study of God from nature (creation) and reason, irrespective of revelation. Also called Natural Theism.
F. Biblical Theology A study which draws material from the Old and New Testaments by direct exposition and attempts to be faithful to the biblical norm.
G. Historical Theology A study which traces the historical development of doctrines, and deals with numerous sectarian variations and heretical departures.
II.Sources of Knowledge about God
As the Christian faces the world he is confronted with “How do you know there is a God?” This must be answered and settled for ourselves before we can confront the unbeliever with the claims of such a Person. Just what can we know about God, and from what sources of information? Even from the earliest biblical records men have asked the same question; Job 11:7-9. Unregenerate man often comes to the conclusion that God does not exist; Ps. 10:4; 14:1. This is because the natural man does not welcome the things of the Spirit of God; 1 Cor. 2:14, since he has been blinded by Satan; 2 Cor. 4:4. God cannot be known in His fullness apart from revelation; Isa. 40:28.
A. Intuition as a source of knowledge about God.
In the mind of man there is a body of knowledge which he assumes to be true; such ideas as time and eternity (Ecc. 3:11 NASB), space, cause and effect, right and wrong, the existence of matter, self-existence, and the Person of God. All of these are universally accepted by man in every race, culture and nation. Whether or not philosophers will admit it, this is universal knowledge and men act upon this knowledge which is self-evident and requires no explanation; Acts 17:28. There is born into every person the idea of God and the capacity for belief in the revelation of God.
B. Tradition as a source of Knowledge about God.
Even before there was a Bible, man knew God. This knowledge was traditional, that is, passed down from generation to generation; Job 8:8-10. When Adam sinned he became totally depraved, but he did not cease being a man, with the ability to hear the voice of God; so this knowledge was passed on. However, through the generations, this tradition became more and more corrupt as man became widespread, until God destroyed them in the Flood. Even after this man was dispersed at Babel for the same corruptness, for when he knew God he refused to retain this pure knowledge (Rom. 1:19-32), so that tradition became unreliable, and the error was passed down through generations. Only through men like Abraham and Melchizedek was the truth preserved. Tradition works in the present, too, as children are taught truth or error, and this is passed along to future generations; Prov. 22:6. The value of tradition as a source of knowledge about God is in this basic fact: A human being can only comprehend what is within his ability, or the tradition would soon die. How, then does finite, imperfect man even think about infinity or perfection unless there is a God?
C. Reason as a source of Knowledge about God.
Reason is man’s power to comprehend, to infer, to think systematically and come to proper conclusions. All normal humans have this ability to a greater or lesser degree. Reason makes possible logical deductions from systematic observation of realities. Now, what are observable realities?
- The order, system and purpose in the universe. This order and reasonableness in the universe demands infinite and perfect reason behind it. The only real explanation is the fact of a personal God, all wise and all powerful; Rom. 1:19. This will be considered further under the section on Natural Theism.
- The fact of human conscience sends man back to a consideration of God. “Conscience” in Greek is suneidesis, “to know with.” Here, the idea is that our reason, coupled with moral standards, possesses an authority over us, whether saved or unsaved. This authority points to God, even among the heathen; Rom. 2:13-15.
- The possibility of comparison. When reason brings God into focus, it does so by means of starting from that which is known and experienced to that which is possible, but not experienced. Three lines of reasoning are usually followed in the search for God through reason:
- If there is a God, He must have no imperfections. Therefore, unlike man, God cannot lie (Num. 23:19), cannot change (Mal. 3:6), or cannot fail (Lam. 3:22-23). Even apart from Scriptural revelation, reason demands such a God.
- If there is a God, He must possess all human excellencies known to man; Ps. 103:13; Matt. 7:11.
- If there is a God, He must possess these qualities infinitely, and must be the creator and sustainer of the universe as well as the source of all good; Acts 17:29. He must be a God of love since man loves. He must be essentially and wholly good, and not evil; Isa. 40:18-28. Such a God must be more than a dumb idol; He must be high above His creation (v. 22); He must be all-powerful (v. 26), all wise (v. 28), and completely aware of the needs of His creatures (v. 29). All this is possible to conceive of apart from Scripture, though Scripture may also state the same truth.
D. Revelation as a source of Knowledge about God.
Revelation is the act of God whereby He manifests Himself to those who would otherwise not know Him. There are two primary kinds of revelation.
- General revelation comes through nature (Rom. 1:20), providence (Acts 14:15-17) and history (Dan. 2:21).
- Specific or particular revelation comes when God makes Himself known through special acts or appearances. The list includes miracles, such as the Long Day of Josh.10; signs, such as those given through Moses to Pharaoh in Ex. 4-12; fulfilled prophecy; Deut. 18:20-21; 2 Chron. 36:15-21; the written revelation in the Bible; 2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:20-21; and finally, through the Person of His Son, Jesus Christ; John 1:18.
III.Natural Theism: The Study of God from Reason
This includes all extra-biblical sources of investigation concerning God. The order followed here is from the general to the particular, from a consideration of the entire universe to a contemplation of the human mind
A. The Cosmological Argument: The Existence of the Universe; from cosmos, “order, arrangement.” Biblically stated, in Heb. 3:4 “Every house is builded by someone, but he that built all things is God.” Every effect must have a cause. The universe is an effect; thus, it did not come into being accidentally, or of its own accord.
- The atheist says: The universe has always been; matter is eternal; there is no such thing as cause and effect; events simply follow one another, but there is nothing in the former which determines the latter, and it will always be so.
- Answer to atheism (cf. Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, Vol. 1, pp. 208-209)
- A cause is a real substance, not a mere relation. If that which does not exist as a real entity can be a cause, then you are facing the absurdity that nothing can produce something, and this is a contradiction. Out of nothing, nothing can arise.
- A cause must not only be something real, but it must have power to produce an effect.
- This power must be sufficient and appropriate to the effect which it produces.
- Support for Hodge’s view.
- Individual human experience. We are real; we have power to produce effects; power appropriate to the effects we produce.
- Collective human reasoning. All men define the word “cause” as that which produces something, not merely that which follows something. We ask, “What caused that?” but we do not say “Winter caused summer.”
- Conclusion. It thus follows that the reverse is true; every effect must have a cause; no change can come about without the exercise of power. “I exist: I did not always exist: whatever begins to exist must have a cause: the cause must be adequate: this adequate cause is unlimited; it must be God.” (John Locke.) God, therefore, is the uncaused cause!
- Proof that the world is not eternal.
- All the individual parts of the universe are dependent and changeable.
- A whole cannot be essentially different from its parts. A chain of three million links cannot support itself any better than one of three links. If we are not self-caused, our ancestors were not self-caused, no matter how far back we go.
- Thus the mind demands an all-sufficient First Cause, a Being with power to produce all the parts of the universe.