"Doctrine of God"
Back to Basics Theology - Part 1
In the name of the Father, the Son and The Holy spirit, One God, Amen.
Glory be to the Father to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, both now and to the ages of all ages, Amen.
Good morning to everyone and it's a pleasure to see you all this morning in the church. It is a great blessing that we can assemble in the name of Our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ, to glorify His Name, and to focus on Him, for he is the center of our worship and our praises.
This morning through the Grace of God, we are going to start a new series which will take us right through the Holly Land, and it is entitles ''Back To Basics''. In the Seminaries, the same course is being taught under the title or headline ''Systematic Theology''. Now, whenever we hear the word Theology we always panic, we feel that it might be a ''dry'' subject, we would rather hear about spiritual virtues, we'd hear about love and care and compassion, which is very important and essential for our spiritual life and upbringing. Yet, if we follow right through the Holy Scriptures, we'll find that teaching theology and doctrine is very essential for our Christian faith, for our orthodox faith. The reason for that is that there were so many teachers who came about and started teaching various doctrines and beliefs, especially in the first century, but of course, it continues until our present days, to the point where people just don't understand or realize, ''What is it that I believe in?’’ That is the need to go back to the basics, to start to speak about the foundations of our faith, what we believe in and why we believe in it.
This is an eight-week-series which will start today, and today's topic is entitled ''The Doctrine of God (or Theology)''. Next week we're going to speak about ''The doctrine of The Holy Trinity’’, the following week “The doctrine of The Person of The Christ”, or what is also known as “Christology”, March 23rd, “The Doctrine of Salvation in Christ”, which is also entitled “Soteriology”(?), March 30th, “The Doctrine of Human Nature, Sin and Grace”, April 6th, “The Doctrine of The Church” or “Eglisiology”, April 11th, “The Doctrine of the Sacraments”, and then finally which is April 20th, we are going to speak about “Eschatology” , also known as “The Doctrine of The End of Times”.
Today we are starting our series with speaking about “Theology” which is also known as “The Doctrine of God”.
Why do we have to study Theology? We are going to go through some definitions, we are going to go through some philosophical as well as scientific discussions, we are going to learn about the names of God, allocated to Him, and the significance of the Names in the Holy Scriptures, and we are also going to speak about means of knowing God; how do we get to know God, how does He reveal Himself to us. Also we are going to go through some various proofs or discussions that we can refer to when we speak about God, which are more of the logical end of the spectrum.
Now, let’s just speak about Doctrine a little bit; is this a “dry subject”, or is it something that is essential for us? As a matter of fact, we find that The Holly Scriptures speak a lot about the importance of the correct faith, or otherwise known as The Right Doctrine. For example the Epistles of Timothy and Titus, refer to this word so many times; the word “Doctrine”, “The Right Doctrine”, “The Sound Doctrine”.
I Timothy 4:6: “If you instruct the brothers in these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the work of faith and of The Good Doctrine which you have carefully followed”.
Also he continues in the same chapter, verse sixteen by saying: “ to yourself and to your Doctrine. Continue in them for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you”.
Also he follows in II Timothy 3:16 by saying “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and it is profitable for Doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness”.
And finally in Hebrew 13:9 it says “Do not be carried about with various and strange and Doctrines“.
Before… we can see from these verses that God intents for us to have the right faith. Not just a faith; it is not just about having faith even though this world is marvelous and …it is used quite a bit in churches all over the world; “Just have faith”; What does it mean to have faith? Seldom do we go into any kind of details about what it means to have faith. What does it mean for us? How is it practiced? Is it just enough to confess that Jesus is Lord and Savior and that we are saved? The Bible says “No”; we need to know much more and go in depth into understanding and learning our faith and that’s from all this comes on salvation.
Let’s start our topic of the day entitled “Theology” which is also known as “The Doctrine of God”.
Some of you have heard or, I’m sure, you know, about the animated series called “The Simpsons”. It is the longest running animated series in the history of television. In it we see so many characters such as like Homer and Bart and Marge and Lisa and Maggie, and this particular have received a lot of attention from the media to the point that George W. Bush said that “this family does not (or he hopes it does not) represent the American family”.
Never the less, you will find that some of the struggles that they go through they are very contemporary, they are family they go through certain struggles with faith, as well as work and many other contemporary issues.
Let me quote one of the saying in the early episodes of the Simpsons, some sort of confused prayer that just shows us how some people now view the image of God, what do they believe in God. There is a confused image of God in the post-modern world. Here is how his prayer went, he said the following:
“Dear Lord, the Gods have been good to me, and I am thankful for the first time in my life; everything is absolutely perfectly the way it is, so here is the deal: you freeze everything as it is and I won’t ask for anything more. If that is OK, please give me absolutely no sign. (Pause). OK, Deal!
In gratitude, I present you this offering of cookies and milk. If you want me to eat them for you, please give me no sign. (Pause). Thy Will Be Done”.
You will find so many problems with this prayer: First of all, he starts out by saying “Dear Lord” in the singular tense, and then he goes on and says “The Gods have been good with me”, in the plural tense, and he is confused, he is praying to whomever is listening, it doesn’t really matter if this is The One God, or a multiple of Gods, or a host of Gods up there in the heavens, anyone could respond to his prayers. And he thinks of the silence as some form of assurance that he has heard his prayer. Then he goes on to make a deal with God, and says that he will present to him some sort of milk and cookies as if he is He is a Santa Claus figure, or some kind of Eastern god (with small “g”), from the of the (…) of the Hindu traditions, or from the Buddhism traditions who offer physical food to their gods to be con… it was believed that it will be consumed by them during the night hours, and he says that he will finally take on this offering and he will eat it for the god.
At any rate we see that this is a (…) confused idea of God and see (…) his wife as being a Christian (…) kind of confused, Bart who comes from the word “brat” who follows his dad sometimes (…) or his mom sometimes, Lisa who is a Buddhist and she is supporting the movement of Tibet, and little Maggie who basically doesn’t speak about it in the episode, again, a very confused image of God in the post modern world, it is the death of truth or the raise of relative truth, where no one knows exactly what it is to believe in God or (…) who is God.
Let’s go through some definitions first, and this will help us to clarify the subject that we are speaking about today.
Let’s start by defining the word Doctrine. What is the word Doctrine? It comes from the Latin “Doctrina”, meaning teaching or Instruction.
Who is God in the sense of… in the Christian sense? He is The Supreme and Ultimate Reality that being Perfect and Power, Wisdom and Goodness, who is worshipped as creator and ruler of the Universe.
The Christians believe in One God, not in multiple gods, not in so many separate Gods, and this will come again in the discussion, in our discussion next week, speaking about the Holy Trinity. How can we view God as One when He exists in a “Traiun” nature.
The word “Theology” comes from the Greek “Theologia” meaning the study of God and those God’s religions in the world. But also, it is a study of religious faith, practices and experiences, because now we can image the word Theology in so many different meanings, and it could be attached to anything that is Biblical or spiritual, we can speak of the Theology of mission or any other doctrine in the Christian faith. If you want to know the religious view of any subject in the word Theology; Theology is (…) and that comes as a new term or new meaning. Originally it is the study about God and of God’s religion to the world, and that is our focus for morning.
What are some of God’s names, and what is the significance of a name to any individual and also to God?
Names are more than numbers that are allocated. It’s not like Prison. You know, when you are in prison, you are known as inmate this number so and so, but you don’t have a name but… the advantage of having a name assigned or allocated is that it brings forth as to you character as who you are. It indicates the bearer and some kind of connection to the attributes which this individual has that are reviewed and to be known about him or her. So it clarifies exactly who this person, what are they all about, what are their virtues that will be known about them.
Scriptures give names and meanings to help us to understand significance of these individuals, so if we look from the beginning of The Holy Scriptures, we’ll find that God assigned Adam to give names to animals according to their nature, so if someone has a calm nature, this is how he will be named, or a wild nature also, this is how they will be named. Eve received a name because she will be the mother of all the creation, also the name “woman” because she was taken from man. Also if we search about Cain and Seth and Noah and Abel, and Ishmael, all of these will have a significant meaning of their names towards their characters and how they lived their lives. As well we find this in our Lord Jesus Christ, for Jesus just means “Savior”, because he would save people from their sins.
God’s names are not a revelation of His being, but (…) God made known to us and his relations to the creatures. It is what we call “Anthropomorphic”. What does that word mean? It just basically means ascribing human attributes to God. So, immediately we see that God has ears, and God can see, and God can speak, and this is what… this is what is so wonderful about our God and about our Savior, it that He has all these human attributes.
We find that God identified Himself in the Old Testament with various names. He proclaimed that he is “El” or “Elohim”, he is The Powerful One. This is the meaning of “El” or “Elohim”; means The Powerful One. He was also known as “Adonai” He is The Ruler, or “El Shaddai”, The Omnipotent One. He was known as “Yahweh”; which is, translated “I will be that I will be”, or “Ever The Faithful One”. He was also known as “I Am Who I Am”. And in the New Testament, our Lord Jesus spoke about Him as “Father” which means “He Who Loves Us”.
Now comes a question; How do we know God? We refer to two verses from scriptures which say the following; from Mathew 11:27 “All things have been delivered to me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except The Father, nor does anyone know The Father, except The Son, and the one to whom The Son wills to reveal to him”.
Before, some people looked at this verse and said “Well, no one can know God”; “No one can know The Father, except possibly The son”.
In a sense this is true because god’s knowledge is infinite and it is beyond our comprehension, but sometimes The Son wills to reveal The Father to us, therefore knowing God is possible, it is not completely impossible.
Also, our Lord adds in John 17:3 by saying “And this is eternal life, that they may know you The Only True God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent”. Therefore God’s knowledge is not only limited to our presence here on earth, but it is infinite and unlimited as we live with God in eternity, we continue to learn something about Him, each and every day.
There are several ways that we can know God. (…) as the verse about Doctrine in the beginning which we have red together and shared together, that we can know God through the Holy Scriptures.
We read in II Timothy 3:16 “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and it is profitable for Doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness”. Therefore the first means that we can know about God is definitely revealed to through The Holy Scriptures. In it we see God communicating with His creation, and holy men of God speaking His word and being inspired to write it down and leave it for us so that we may benefit from it. Therefore we look at The Holy Scriptures as the inspired word of God, and God’s means of communicating with His creation.
But we don’t stop there at knowing God or understanding how God is revealed for us. Of course, the church fathers and the apostles are an important part of learning and knowing God. There are interpretations, and there are speeches (…) The church is the body, the official body that has authenticated The Holy Scriptures. Therefore the holy church has the authority also to give teachings and doctrines, which are bounding for the faithful to observe and to live by them, and this is another means that we can see God, or have God revealed to us through the teachings of the early church fathers and the era.
Certainly we look at the Holy Synod and the Holy Synod is the body that also convince up to our present day to look at the modern day changes, right through the church history, any challenge that would come about in the church to convene together, to face heresy and to make canons that all the believers would have to abide by.
Fourthly, if we want to learn about God, we have to look at nature, for nature itself is revealed, or it reveals itself God’s knowledge, and this is what David the prophet said in various places, but especially in Psalm 19, the following “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the chose his handy work. Day and today and night and tonight after reveals knowledge. There’s no speech, no language where their voice is not heard and their words to the end of the world”. So these simple verses that, as we look around us, we can see God and have Him revealed to us, we can understand Him through His creation and through nature. It is amazing the universe functions around us in so much order and according to a plan, and this is what is amazing about creation, and about nature, and even though there is not any other voice or sound, and it is silent, yet it does speak volumes about God’s handy work, the heavens declare the glory of God, the show His handy work.
Firstly we can look at reason, and reason when used in proper manner can definitely lead us to God, because there are people who have misused reason, and God is the Logic, He is the “Logos”. He is the source of inspiration and definitely when we use our minds, and we use our reason, this is something that will help us to look at the amazing order of creation to help us seek and see the hand of God in every single creature, and definitely this is something that could lead us to God.
Lastly is it is experience; God has revealed to us, or His knowledge is revealed to us through our own experiences. In each person’s life, there are so many stories that we can say and tell concerning how God has been working in us and with us and through us, and when we just have them written down or looked at or kept somewhere where they can be handy in weak moments, moments that we are feeling down, God will come back to us and remind us of all His amazing work in us and through us throughout the years, so definitely experience is really important to keep us on the right path.
In the middle ages, there were certain western theologians who had thought about the existence of God; does God exist or not? And they struggled with the idea so much that they had to come up with some kind of reasonable suggestions in order to prove God’s existence. So one of them is Thomas he was a medieval western theologian, and he came up with what is called (…) the argument of the existence of God can be proved in five ways basically called “The argument analysis of Five Ways”, so he has basically five ways or means that he sees that God must have existed and he was the cause of this particular happening.
The first way is entitled “Argument for motion” , and he says that basically there is motion around us, in the firmament and all around us here, and nothing can move itself, therefore, each thing in motion is moved by something else, and the sequence of motion can not just exist to infinity. Therefore it is necessary to arrive at the first mover who put in motion by no other, and this everyone understands to be God.
Second he argues from what is called “Efficient causes”. He says that nothing exists prior to itself, so if you keep tracing existence, it can not again just go on to infinity, all things must have had a beginning to their existence, and the person who caused this existence to happen, this we know as God.
Thirdly it is, the third way it is the argument from what is called “Possibility and necessity”. And he says that we find in nature things that are possible to be and not to be, that come into being and go out of being, what he calls “Contingent beings”, and he says that for each continuous being, there is a time it does not exist. Therefore, at the time it would have been nothing to bring their current existing contingent beings into existence therefore, nothing would be in existence now. Therefore not every being is a contingent being, and he concludes this point by saying therefore something exist from its own necessity and there is not receive its existence from another being, but rather cause them this is God.
The fourth argument is what is called “The Gradation of Being”. There are so many grades of different values that are acquired by each being; not everyone is exactly the same, not all beings are exactly the same; there is a gradation to be found in things. Some are better or worse. For example he gives the amount of genius, a maximum of any genius the cause all that exists, therefore he says that there must also be something which is to all beings the cause of their being, goodness and every other perfection, and this we call God.
Fifthly, this argument he says that it is an argument from Design. We see that natural bodies work towards some goal, and do not do so by chance, most
natural things, like knowledge; and then as an arrow reaches its target, because it is directed by an archer, what lacks intelligence achieves goals by being directed by something of intelligence, therefore some intelligence being exists by whom all natural things are directed to their end, and this being we call God.
Now, very quickly we have two issues to discuss, namingly, God and Philosophy, and God and Science, and we may not have a lot of time to allocate to this particular discussion, yet we will just merely scratch the surface.
I have been in the University myself, I have taken some courses where the professors who are primarily not very much prepared or trained to respond to them, and say the following; and I’ve also had numerous discussions with some of our youths about the same concepts or ideas. They go up and say something like “Do you believe that god is Omnipotent?” The word Omnipotence meaning, having a limited authority or influence, or otherwise they go to them and say “Can God do anything?” The first immediate reaction of every believer is that “yes, of course, God can do anything, because He is the Almighty God!” Then the second question will as follows, “Well, if God is Omnipotent, or he can do anything, can God sin? Can God lie? Can God prevent justice? Can God cease to exist? Can God create a rock that He can not carry?” These are all the arguments that confuse students just because the reason that they are contradicting each other, and it is a loose-loose situation. Just imagine if it was me, any answer any response, would just yield the result or the conclusion that God is not Omnipotent, and this is the proof therefore God cannot exist. But here we want to say or clarify something that is really important; God can not do that which is inconsistent with the divine nature. God can not do that which is inconsistent with the divine nature. What does that mean? He can not do something that is illogical. Let’s take for example, if God can create the rock that He can not carry. And we say that a Rock by definition is something that is physical, and it has a mass, and it has a weight, and God by definition, in His nature, He is infinite. Therefore we must examine the question “Can a rock be infinite? And even if it is infinite, how is it possible for it to be bigger than God?” It is illogical! Also we want to say that God will not do something which is against His divine nature, and Omnipotence does not mean that God can not to do something regardless of His nature. Therefore, God can not Sin, and this does not contradict with His nature, or being Omnipotent. God can not lie. God can not prevent justice, and God can not cease to exist, and all these things do not contradict His Omnipotence; He’s still the most Omnipotent, He can not do all things, but He can not do all things that are inconsistent with His nature.
It is like asking a question to an individual and saying; can I as a human being outrun myself? It is not possible, it is illogical! In the same manner also God can not sin and can not lie and can not prevent justice, etc… and by definition, God is infinite, therefore there is no other creation that will be bigger than Him, and He is still omnipotent and He can still do all things.
Another issue which comes about so much in our is the whole idea of God and science. One of the nice books that we can actually read, that can give us more in-depth study in this subject, is a book by Liz Trouble entitled “The case for The Creator”, he has also written so many other books such as “The case for Christ”, etc… In it he quotes a scientist by saying the following “Science has become identified with the philosophy known as materialism known as or scientific naturalism. This philosophy insists that nature is all there is, or at least the only thing about which we can have any knowledge. It follows that nature had to do its own creating, and that mean of creation must not have included any role for god”. Basically he is saying that science is slowly becoming the new god, and this is not possible. Says that “Sound science supports sound religion, and sound religion supports sound science”.
We as a church community we are indebted to scientific endeavor and we support it so much, but it will never and it should never exceed God’s love and His knowledge. This is something that we should always be aware of, that we don’t mix and match. God is still God, he is The Almighty, He is the only Creator, He is the one who has so much order to this earth; if you look at the genes, and… when you look at the DNA and its make-up, when you look at the variety of the creation, there is no way on earth, and we are lucky because, in this DNA age, we have, beside the scientific endeavor, we have also statistics, and we have also the mathematics field which is on the rise, that can show us that some of these things that also some scientists take through faith, especially the whole idea of Bing Bang, and Macro-Evolution, we find that these things, no one has seen, and no one can prove for certain. It is taken for granted, also by faith, but we know that the chance for these things to happen is very slim to the point of “nellyism”. There is no way that it could have happened, and this is what some of the modern-day mathematicians can do for us to help us realize that indeed there must have been an intelligent designer behind this world to come about in so much order, and so much specificity, so specific, everything to the point of amazement, and in that sense, nature glorifies God.
In conclusion, we might ask ourselves the following question: How is this all relevant to my spiritual life? Well, it is quite important in these day and age, living in the scientific age, the age of philosophy, the age of atheism, the age when if you have ten people walking down the road, none of them believes in the same basic believes, or have the same faith, faith has become in a post-modern world just about a personal, not so much corporal, but when we review accurately the word of God, and we believe in it, we find that God wants us to have the correct doctrine, and the correct faith, and the correct theology, in understanding Him, that He is the One and Only true God and we have definitely certain means of knowing Him and understanding Him and abiding Him, and living in Him, so I see this as a very relevant subject to me, because unless I fully try to understand more about God and learn about Him, how can I pray to Him when I don’t fully know Him or understand Him?
I want to share with you, in conclusion this day, what is called “God’s reasoning”, how do we introduce Him now in His full knowledge in to our lives, and it starts with a covered letter that says the following:
“To whom it may concern: I heard you were considering a new manager in your life. I would like to apply for the job. I believe I am the most qualified candidate. I created the heavens and the earth. I am. I am The Only One that has ever done this job successfully. I was the first manager of human beings. In fact, I made them; so naturally, I know how humanity works, and what is best to get people back in to proper working condition. It would be like having the manufacture as your personal mechanic. If this is your first time considering me, I would just like to point out that my salary has already been paid by the blood of Jesus Christ on the cross of What I need from you is the acknowledgement that the price is sufficient to pay for all of your sins and your independence for me. I need you to believe this in your heart. To live a righteous life. Partake of the holly mysteries, and to tell somebody else about your faith.
The next thing I ask is the right to change and fix your life, so you can learn how to stay close to me. I will make some measure changes and revisions. They are not for you to worry about. I need your permission to execute these changes my way and in my time. I will change your desires and give you the strength to make the changes.
Don’t try to resist me. I really do need your full commitment and cooperation. If you give me those, the process can go smoothly.
Without delay, my résumé is included below.
Yours sincerely, God.”
And here is the résumé. It is an impressive one, I may say:
Address: Everywhere. Omnipresent.
City: All over.
State: Every place.
Four numbers: 123456 pray.
Experience: From the beginning before the beginning of time. From everlasting to everlasting. I made time.
Ability: All powerful or omnipotent.
Prior employment: Created the universe. Put the galaxies in place. Formed man and women and animals and all of the creation. Established heavens and earth by my spoken word, and I am currently holding the entire world by my power.
Training: I am and I have all the knowledge: Omniscient.
All the character references, we look in the Holy Scriptures and find that He is Love and Light and Life. He is wisdom, He is truth, strength, and He is provider of all good.
Availability: Willing and ready to take over your life. Able to put your live together again. Will bring all of who I am into your life. Can start now and transform your life if you let me.
Salary requirements: Work in your life has already been paid, for through the son of my son Jesus. The only responsibility is to commit initially and on a daily basis to trust and obey that Jesus has done and wants to do in your life.
Other references available upon request.
My brothers, let us stick to author of faith our Lord and God of heavens and earth. The one who came and incarnated for us in order to deliver us and to redeem our souls. To know Him that He is The One and Only God to be worshipped on this entire universe, and no other gods that are made up by human beings even come close to our Loving and Caring God.
May The Lord strengthen us today and every day, and Glory be to Him forever and ever, Amen.