Theology Proper: The Doctrine of God
The Being of God
I believe God is who He is (Exodus 3.14)—unique among all beings, largely by virtue of the fact that His being is not contingent upon any other (Acts 17.24-25). God has always existed and will never cease to exist (Psalm 90.2). He does not change in His attributes or character or essence (Malachi 3.6).
I believe there is only one true God. All other so-called gods are pretenders (I Corinthians 8.4; Isaiah 44.8-17) or on occasion lesser beings—usually humans who are being described in connection to relationship to God Himself (John 10.34-35). However, this one God exists in three Persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28.19). This doctrine is a mystery that cannot be fully explained or even comprehended (though I believe that with illumination—see Part 1—some understanding can occur even if it cannot be well-expressed in human terms).
The three Persons of God are not the same as each other, but they are qualitatively the same (John 10.30; 14.9). No one person within the Trinity is, in any qualitative sense, subordinate to another. God is not three in the same way in which He is one, so the contradiction in the assertion “God is three and God is one” is only apparent and not a real contradiction (Erickson, 363).
This three-in-one unity in which God has always existed is both the reason for His self-sufficiency and also the catalyst for His creative acts. As popular Christian writer Donald Miller says, “I know this makes God sound like a terrible narcissist, but my friend John MacMurray said to me recently that the most selfless thing God could do, that is, the most selfless thing a perfect Being who is perfectly loving could do, would be to create other beings to enjoy Himself” (Miller, Searching for God Knows What, 108). I believe this. I believe that the perfect love-relationship existent between the members of the Trinity is the reason for and the power behind true unity between humans and each other, and between humans and God. I believe that, in a perfect world, human relationships of love (particularly marriage) would reflect the loving unity within the Godhead (1 Corinthians 13).
The Attributes of God
God in His fullness is often described and worshiped according to His attributes of greatness and goodness (Psalm 47.2). His attributes encompass such things as omniscience (Romans 11.34) and omnipotence (Jeremiah 32.17) as well as wisdom (Romans 11.33) and faithfulness (Lamentations 3.21-23). His attributes can be divided into two types, described by some as Communicable and Incommunicable (Erickson, 292-3). God’s communicable attributes are those which, though on a lesser scale, humans may also possess, like love and trustworthiness. His incommunicable ones are those we cannot really “mirror,” like omnificence (we can create things, but not all things out of nothing) and omnipresence.
Some of God’s attributes are moral ones—the qualities He comprises which show us that He is good, as well as what goodness is. Others of His attributes are more descriptive of His power and authority over all of creation. Both sets of attributes are true of God and His character and quality never change (Malachi 3.6; Hebrews 13.8).
God is both immanent within and transcendent over His creation. His immanence means He is close at hand, working in and through His creation and communicating through it to those who are listening. He has also made Himself available to His people by filling them with His Holy Spirit and communicating through His written Word (Deuteronomy 30.11-14). He Himself is not created, however; therefore, He is not His creation. He transcends it, being “other” than it, uncreated, infinite (Jeremiah 23.23).
God is also talked about and described according to His works, which flow out of who He is. As uncreated, a separate entity from all else that is, God is omnificent—that is, He has created all things (Revelation 4.11). In the original creation, before the fall of humankind, all that was created was good (Genesis 1.31).
By saying God has created all things, I imply and believe that everything external to God that exists was made by Him—all three Persons of the Trinity involved in the act of creation as they are in all of the Godhead’s attributes (I Corinthians 8.6; John 1.3; Genesis 1.2)—out of nothing that had previously existed (Colossians 1.16).
I believe God is not as the Deists used to proclaim Him—a watchmaker who set the world running and then went away; His immanence precludes that. Nor do I think there is any good reason to believe that God is constantly re-creating things at every instant—this belief is somewhat arbitrary and not logically necessitated by any of God’s attributes. On the other hand, I do believe that God continues His act of creating even to this day. I believe His creative acts at this stage in the history of Earth at least, are primarily in terms of the “new creation” and “new birth” within people’s hearts (Isaiah 43.19) when they are regenerated by faith in Christ (2 Corinthians 5.17). I also believe that God continues to make modifications in the existing physical creation, in part through the work of evolution.
Creation and Evolution
I believe in science’s “doctrine” of evolution up to a point. I do not believe that all creatures evolved out of one single-celled organism, although I believe God could have created that way, had He so chosen, and that it would not diminish His power and creativity. However, I believe that He did intentionally create different types of creatures, different species and families of plants and animals and even minerals, and that He is glorified by this diversity (Genesis 1.11-12, 20-25). I also believe, however, that creatures do evolve, not into completely different creatures, but into different sorts of the same creature. I suspect, however, that God is even directly and consciously involved in this type of evolutionary process, creating the genetics and the external circumstances to elicit the changes.
Creation and Providence
I believe God is still at work sustaining His creation (Hebrews 1.3; Colossians 1.17), because without His active sustenance, it would cease to exist. I believe that, as a loving, perfect, Triune being who selflessly created, He continues to selflessly maintain His work of creation until and through the creation of the New Heaven and New Earth (Revelation 21.1).