Copyright Rev. Stanley L. Derickson Ph.D. 1992
INTRODUCTION TO THEOLOGY PROPER
Tozer said of his God, "O Lord God Almighty, not the God of the philosophers
and the wise but the God of the prophets and apostles; and better than all,
the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, may I express Thee unblamed?
"They that know Thee not may call upon Thee as other than Thou art, and
so worship not Thee but a creature of their own fancy; therefore enlighten
our minds that we may know Thee as Thou art, so that we may perfectly love
Thee and worthily praise Thee." (Tozer, A.W.; "THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE HOLY";
Lincoln, NE: Back to the Bible, 1961, p 7)
The term theology proper refers to the study of the true theology, the
study of God Himself. This section will deal with God, His attributes, and
His nature. Some state that it deals also with His existence, however if
a person is dealing with nature and attributes, there is existence.
Please define the term God for me. A hard task? Yes, a very hard task.
Let me share other people's attempts to define God.
I read in an Oregon newspaper of a pilot that told the newspaper that God
had licensed him. He did not need the government telling him if he could
fly or not. God told him he could, so that settled it. The story came to
light after the man had crashed his plane. He told the reporter that his
faith in God did not require him to have licenses, be it a pilot's, driver's,
Is this really God that this man serves?
Still, others see God in other ways. The United Presbyterian General Assembly
was introduced to a female God by The Rev. Wallace M. Alston, Jr. of Princeton,
N.J. He told the assembly of the God he serves using female pronouns.
I read a story by Danny Dutton where he described God as a God that makes
people, babies actually, so that there will be enough people here on earth
to take care of things. He figured that the babies could be trained by the
people down here, rather than take His time to do it.
He went on to describe his idea of God. It was the description of an eight-year-old
boy, but that description was quite practical and thought provoking. We grownups
ought to take God for what He is and not try to make Him over in our own
image. (Dutton, Danny, an essay "An Explanation Of God"; Sword of the Lord,
Feb. 1986, quoting Evangelical Press News Service.)
The thoughts of a Jewish man that lived in A.D. 1200 depict well the reverence
with which he discussed his God. It also depicts the God of the Word quite
well from the Old Testament standpoint. He mentions His creation, unity,
eternality, and many other attributes. "Thirteen Principles of Faith (Ani
Ma'amin) Lieberman, Leo/Beringause, Arthur, editors; "CLASSICS OF JEWISH
LITERATURE"; Secaucus, NJ: Castle, p 226-227. (I would have included it but
could not find an address so I could seek permission.)
Let us look at other definitions of God.
1. "By God we understand the one absolutely and infinitely perfect Spirit
who is the creator of all" (Pardington, Rev. George P. Ph.D. quoting the Catholic
Dictionary; "OUTLINE STUDIES IN CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE"; Harrisburg, PA: Christian
Publications, 1926, p 58)
2. "God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in His being,
wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth" (Pardington quoting
The Westminster Shorter Catechism, p 58)
3. "God is the infinite and perfect Spirit in whom all things have their
source, support, and end." (Strong, Augustus H.. "SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY"; Valley
Forge, PA: The Judson Press, 1907, p 52)
4. Bill Bright mentions that God is not a "cosmic policeman," nor a "dictator,"
nor a "big bully." He also mentions that "to know Him intimately is to love
Him supremely." (Bright, Bill; article from Worldwide Challenge, "Getting
to Know God")
5. Unger mentions, "He is purely spiritual, the Supreme Personal Intelligence,
the Creator and Preserver of all things, the Perfect Moral Ruler of the universe;
He is the only proper object of worship; He is the tri-personal - the Father,
Son, and Holy spirit constituting one God-head." (Taken from: "UNGER'S BIBLE
DICTIONARY"; Unger, Merrill F.; Copyright 1957, Moody Bible Institute of
Chicago; Moody Press. Used by permission. p 410)
He is distinct from any other God that might be fabricated in man's mind.
Scripture declares that God is a God among many gods. He is pictured as THE
GOD among other gods. He is the TRUE GOD among the gods of men's minds.
In Isa. 45:5,6 God declares that He is the only God. "I am the Lord, and
there is none else, there is no God beside me; I girded thee, though thou
hast not known me, that they may know from the rising of the sun, and from
the west, that there is none beside me. I am the Lord, and there is none
Yet, Ex. 15:11 and other texts declare Him to be The One God among other
gods. "Who is like unto thee, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like thee, glorious
in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?" Ps. 136:2 states, "Oh, give
thanks unto the God of gods; for his mercy endureth forever." (See also:
Ezra 1:2-4; Jer. 10:11; Ex. 18:1-12; Ex. 20:3; Ex. 23:24; II Kings 17:26.)
The next item to examine is the question, "How do we know God exists?"
There are four indications of God's existence that I would like to mention
at this point.
INTUITION: We know God exists due to man's intuition. All men of all ages
have had a sense of God. There have been burial sites of hundreds of civilizations
that have shown the people prepared their dead for the afterlife. Intuition
is ". . .what the normal natural mind assumes to be true." (Reprinted by
permission: Walvoord, John F. editor; "LEWIS SPERRY CHAFER SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY";
Wheaton: Victor Books, 1988, Vol. I, p 111)
Romans 1:18-20 tells us that God will hold all mankind responsible based
in part upon this intuitive knowledge of Him. Nature itself reveals God and
the book of Romans is clear that, based on these two revelations, the lost
are without excuse.
TRADITION: We also know that God exists due to tradition. Tradition comes
from those things that man knew from ages past that were handed down through
the ages. There are also the Scriptures that contain this earlier tradition
and they record for us those things we can know of God from times past.
REASON: By viewing the creation and using the mind, man can know that God
exists. We will cover this in detail later.
REVELATION: We have just studied the doctrine of the Bible which is God
revealing Himself to us. He tells us much of Himself in His Word.
God is one. God is three. There is one God and within God are three personalities.
There is one essence and there is one nature. There are three persons.
The term "God" normally in Scripture relates to, not a particular person
of the Trinity, but to the essence and nature of God. It refers to "deity."
There are times when "God" is used and elsewhere in the context the Word identifies
"God" as one particular person of the Trinity.
ESSENCE: Essence is that which gives attributes residence and is the proof
of existence. Thiessen mentions of essence, ". . .that which underlies all
outward manifestation; the reality itself, whether material or immaterial;
the substratum of anything that in which the qualities of attributes inhere."
(Thiessen, Henry C.; "LECTURES IN SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY"; Grand Rapids: Wm.
B. Eerdmans, 1949, p 119)
BEING: Being is a state of existence and essence.
PERSON: Person is a term that defines the totality of essence and being.
NATURE: Nature is the outworking of essence and attributes. It is the total
of all that a being is.
ATTRIBUTES: Attributes are the qualities of essence.
PERSONALITY: Personality is that which causes distinctness between different
Take some time to consider these terms as they relate to God.
We want to study God so that we can know more about the Lord, but also
that we might know the Lord. There is a vast difference between knowing about
God and knowing God. I trust that not only will you learn facts about your
God, but that you would also get to know Him in a more special way.
Tertullian said, ". . .the knowledge of God is the dowry of the soul."
(Warfield, B.B.; "CALVIN AND AUGUSTINE"; New York: 1931, p 147) Knowledge
of Him should be of great importance to each of us.
I trust that in years to come that you might well fit into the category
of man that Theophilus mentions. "If you say, 'Show me thy God,' I reply,
'Show me your man and I will show you my God.'" (Warfield. B.B., p 147)
Strauss mentions, "The nature of God is not fully comprehensible by the
human, finite mind; however, we must pursue that which is apprehensible and
which God himself has been pleased to reveal." (Strauss, Lehman; "THE FIRST
PERSON"; Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux Brothers, 1967, p 43)
Tozer indicates that we can know a nation by knowing it's concept of God
(p 7). We can also know a church by it's idea of God. Likewise we may know
a man by his concept of God.
As you converse with a person or observe the actions of a church or nation
you may gain knowledge of what that person, church, or nation thinks of God.
That is an awesome thought, that people can know what we feel and think
about God by observing us. What do you tell by your lifestyle to the people
around you? What does your church tell the neighbors about God by their lifestyle?
I met a man when working as a janitor. He knew that I was a preacher and
talked to me from time to time. He swore, drank, and smoked each night after
work with the other men. He would talk to me of knowing the Lord, and knowing
that he was not living correctly. He also mentioned how important it is to
affect those around you spiritually. The problem with his affect on others
was that it was not a Godly affect.
We must, as believers, portray the God that we serve. We cannot reflect
our God if we are abusive, if we are nasty, if we are short tempered, if we
are dishonest, if we are unpleasant, if we are ____________ . You fill in
the blank with your improper personal traits.
Consider daily how you have portrayed your God as you lay down to sleep.