Category: (01) What is theology proper / Paterology?

Theology proper is the study of God and His attributes. Theology proper focuses  on God the Father. Paterology comes from two Greek words which mean “father” and  “word” – which combine to mean “the study of the Father.” Theology proper  answers several important questions about God:

Does  God exist? God exists and ultimately everyone knows that He exists. The very  fact that some attempt so aggressively to disprove His existence is in fact an  argument for His existence.

What are the  attributes of God? In the words of the hymn writer, “immortal, invisible,  God only wise…most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days, Almighty,  Victorious, thy great name we praise.” Knowing God’s attributes leads to  glorifying and praising Him.

What does the  Bible teach about the Trinity? Though we can understand some facts about the  relationship of the different persons of the Trinity to one another, ultimately,  it is incomprehensible to the human mind. However, this does not mean it is not  true or not based on the teachings of the Bible.

Is  God sovereign, or do we have a free will? When we talk about free will, we  are usually concerned with the matter of salvation. Few are interested in  whether we have the free will to choose salad or steak for our dinner tonight.  Rather, we are troubled over who exactly is in control of our eternal  destiny.

Theology proper discusses God’s omnipresence, omniscience,  omnipotence, and eternality. It teaches us about who God is and what He does.  Paterology focuses on how God the Father is distinct from God the Son and God  the Holy Spirit. Only by knowing who God is and what He does can we properly  relate to Him. Many people have unbiblical perceptions about God that affect how  they understand Him. Some people see God as a brutal tyrant, with no love or  grace. Other people see God as a loving friend, with no justice or anger. Both  perceptions are equally incorrect. God is full of mercy, love, and grace – and  at the same time righteous, holy, and just. God grants mercy and sends judgment.  God punishes sin and forgives sin. God will grant believers entrance into Heaven  and send unbelievers to Hell. Theology proper gives us a more complete  understanding of who God is and what He does.

Romans 11:33 is perhaps a  good summary verse for theology proper / Paterology: “Oh, the depth of the  riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and  his paths beyond tracing out!”

When we talk about free will, we are usually concerned with the matter of  salvation. Few are interested in whether we have the free will to choose salad  or steak for our dinner tonight. Rather, we are troubled over who exactly is in  control of our eternal destiny.

Any discussion of man’s free will must  begin with an understanding of his nature because man’s will is bound by that  nature. A prisoner has the freedom to pace up and down in his cell, but he is  constrained by the walls of that cell and can go no further, no matter how much  his will might desire it. So it is with man. Because of sin, man is imprisoned  within a cell of corruption and wickedness which permeates to the very core of  our being. Every part of man is in bondage to sin – our bodies, our minds, and  our wills. Jeremiah  17:9 tells us the state of man’s heart: it is “deceitful and desperately  wicked.” In our natural, unregenerate state, we are carnally minded, not  spiritually minded. “For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually  minded is life and peace because the carnal mind is enmity against God, for it  is not subject to the Law of God, neither indeed can it be” (Romans 8:6-7). These verses  tell us that before we are saved, we are at enmity (war) with God, we do not  submit to God and His law, neither can we. The Bible is clear that, in his  natural state, man is incapable of choosing that which is good and holy. In  other words, he does not have the “free will” to choose God because his will is  not free. It is constrained by his nature, just as the prisoner is constrained  by his cell.

How then can anyone be saved? Ephesians  2:1 describes the process. We who are “dead in our trespasses and sins” have  been “made alive” through Christ. A dead man cannot make himself alive because  he lacks the necessary power to do so. Lazarus lay in his tomb four days unable  to do a thing to resurrect himself. Christ came along and commanded him to come  to life (John 11). So it is with us. We are spiritually dead, unable to rise.  But “while we were yet sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).  He calls us out of our spiritual graves and gives us a completely new nature,  one undefiled by sin as the old nature was (2  Corinthians 5:17). God saw the desperate and helpless state of our souls,  and in His great love and mercy, He sovereignly chose to send His Son to the  cross to redeem us. By His grace we are saved through the gift of faith which He  gives us so that we can believe in Jesus. His grace is a free gift, our faith is  a free gift, and our salvation is a free gift given to those whom God has chosen  “before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians  1:4). Why did He chose to do it this way? Because it was “according to the  good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace” (Ephesians 1:5-6). It’s  important to understand that the plan of salvation is designed to glorify God,  not man. Our response is to praise Him for the “glory of His grace.” If we chose  our own salvation, who would get the glory? We would, and God has made it clear  that He will not give the glory due to Him to anyone else (Isaiah 48:11).

The  question naturally arises, how do we know who has been saved “from the  foundation of the world”? We don’t. That is why we take the good news of  salvation through Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth, telling all to repent  and receive God’s gift of grace. Second Corinthians 5:20 tells us we are to be pleading  with others to be reconciled to God before it is too late. We cannot know who  God will choose to release from their prison cells of sin. We leave that choice  to Him and present the Gospel to all. The ones who come to Jesus He “will in no  way cast out” (John  6:37).

The most difficult thing about the Christian concept of the Trinity is that  there is no way to perfectly and completely understand it. The Trinity is a  concept that is impossible for any human being to fully understand, let alone  explain. God is infinitely greater than we are; therefore, we should not expect  to be able to fully understand Him. The Bible teaches that the Father is God,  that Jesus is God, and that the Holy Spirit is God. The Bible also teaches that  there is only one God. Though we can understand some facts about the  relationship of the different Persons of the Trinity to one another, ultimately,  it is incomprehensible to the human mind. However, this does not mean the  Trinity is not true or that it is not based on the teachings of the  Bible.

The Trinity is one God existing in three Persons. Understand that  this is not in any way suggesting three Gods. Keep in mind when studying this  subject that the word “Trinity” is not found in Scripture. This is a term that  is used to attempt to describe the triune God—three coexistent, co-eternal  Persons who make up God. Of real importance is that the concept represented by  the word “Trinity” does exist in Scripture. The following is what God’s Word  says about the Trinity:

1) There is one God (Deuteronomy 6:4; 1  Corinthians 8:4; Galatians  3:20; 1 Timothy  2:5).

2) The Trinity consists of three Persons (Genesis 1:1, 26; 3:22; 11:7; Isaiah 6:8, 48:16, 61:1; Matthew 3:16-17, 28:19; 2 Corinthians  13:14). In Genesis 1:1,  the Hebrew plural noun “Elohim” is used. In Genesis  1:26, 3:22, 11:7 and Isaiah 6:8, the plural pronoun for “us” is used. The word  “Elohim” and the pronoun “us” are plural forms, definitely referring in the  Hebrew language to more than two. While this is not an explicit argument for the  Trinity, it does denote the aspect of plurality in God. The Hebrew word for  “God,” “Elohim,” definitely allows for the Trinity.

In Isaiah 48:16 and 61:1, the Son is speaking while making reference to the  Father and the Holy Spirit. Compare Isaiah 61:1 to Luke  4:14-19 to see that it is the Son speaking. Matthew  3:16-17 describes the event of Jesus’ baptism. Seen in this passage is God  the Holy Spirit descending on God the Son while God the Father proclaims His  pleasure in the Son. Matthew  28:19 and 2  Corinthians 13:14 are examples of three distinct Persons in the  Trinity.

3) The members of the Trinity are distinguished one from  another in various passages. In the Old Testament, “LORD” is distinguished from  “Lord” (Genesis  19:24; Hosea 1:4).  The LORD has a Son (Psalm 2:7, 12; Proverbs 30:2-4). The  Spirit is distinguished from the “LORD” (Numbers  27:18) and from “God” (Psalm  51:10-12). God the Son is distinguished from God the Father (Psalm 45:6-7; Hebrews 1:8-9). In the New  Testament, Jesus speaks to the Father about sending a Helper, the Holy Spirit  (John  14:16-17). This shows that Jesus did not consider Himself to be the Father  or the Holy Spirit. Consider also all the other times in the Gospels where Jesus  speaks to the Father. Was He speaking to Himself? No. He spoke to another Person  in the Trinity—the Father.

4) Each member of the Trinity is God. The  Father is God (John 6:27; Romans 1:7; 1 Peter 1:2). The Son is God  (John 1:1, 14; Romans 9:5Colossians  2:9; Hebrews 1:81 John  5:20). The Holy Spirit is God (Acts 5:3-41  Corinthians 3:16).

5) There is subordination within the Trinity.  Scripture shows that the Holy Spirit is subordinate to the Father and the Son,  and the Son is subordinate to the Father. This is an internal relationship and  does not deny the deity of any Person of the Trinity. This is simply an area  which our finite minds cannot understand concerning the infinite God. Concerning  the Son see Luke 22:42John 5:36, John 20:21, and 1 John 4:14.  Concerning the Holy Spirit see John 14:1614:26, 15:26, 16:7, and  especially John  16:13-14.

6) The individual members of the Trinity have different  tasks. The Father is the ultimate source or cause of the universe (1 Corinthians 8:6; Revelation 4:11); divine  revelation (Revelation  1:1); salvation (John  3:16-17); and Jesus’ human works (John 5:17; 14:10). The Father initiates  all of these things.

The Son is the agent through whom the Father does  the following works: the creation and maintenance of the universe (1 Corinthians 8:6; John 1:3; Colossians 1:16-17);  divine revelation (John 1:1, 16:12-15; Matthew 11:27; Revelation 1:1); and  salvation (2  Corinthians 5:19; Matthew  1:21; John 4:42).  The Father does all these things through the Son, who functions as His  agent.

The Holy Spirit is the means by whom the Father does the  following works: creation and maintenance of the universe (Genesis 1:2; Job 26:13; Psalm 104:30); divine  revelation (John  16:12-15; Ephesians  3:5; 2 Peter  1:21); salvation (John 3:6; Titus 3:5; 1 Peter 1:2); and Jesus’  works (Isaiah 61:1Acts 10:38). Thus, the Father  does all these things by the power of the Holy Spirit.

There have been  many attempts to develop illustrations of the Trinity. However, none of the  popular illustrations are completely accurate. The egg (or apple) fails in that  the shell, white, and yolk are parts of the egg, not the egg in themselves, just  as the skin, flesh, and seeds of the apple are parts of it, not the apple  itself. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are not parts of God; each of them is  God. The water illustration is somewhat better, but it still fails to adequately  describe the Trinity. Liquid, vapor, and ice are forms of water. The Father,  Son, and Holy Spirit are not forms of God, each of them is God. So, while these  illustrations may give us a picture of the Trinity, the picture is not entirely  accurate. An infinite God cannot be fully described by a finite  illustration.

The doctrine of the Trinity has been a divisive issue  throughout the entire history of the Christian church. While the core aspects of  the Trinity are clearly presented in God’s Word, some of the side issues are not  as explicitly clear. The Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is  God—but there is only one God. That is the biblical doctrine of the Trinity.  Beyond that, the issues are, to a certain extent, debatable and non-essential.  Rather than attempting to fully define the Trinity with our finite human minds,  we would be better served by focusing on the fact of God’s greatness and His  infinitely higher nature. “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and  knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing  out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?” (Romans 11:33-34).

Is there evidence for the existence of God?

The existence of God cannot be proved or disproved. The Bible says that we must  accept by faith the fact that God exists: “And without faith it is impossible to  please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that  He rewards those who earnestly seek Him” (Hebrews  11:6). If God so desired, He could simply appear and prove to the whole  world that He exists. But if He did that, there would be no need for faith.  “Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are  those who have not seen and yet have believed’” (John  20:29).

That does not mean, however, that there is no evidence of  God’s existence. The Bible states, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the  skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech;  night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where  their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words  to the ends of the world” (Psalm  19:1-4). Looking at the stars, understanding the vastness of the universe,  observing the wonders of nature, seeing the beauty of a sunset—all of these  things point to a Creator God. If these were not enough, there is also evidence  of God in our own hearts. Ecclesiastes 3:11 tells us, “…He has also set eternity in  the hearts of men.” Deep within us is the recognition that there is something  beyond this life and someone beyond this world. We can deny this knowledge  intellectually, but God’s presence in us and all around us is still obvious.  Despite this, the Bible warns that some will still deny God’s existence: “The  fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Psalm 14:1).  Since the vast majority of people throughout history, in all cultures, in all  civilizations, and on all continents believe in the existence of some kind of  God, there must be something (or someone) causing this belief.

In  addition to the biblical arguments for God’s existence, there are logical  arguments. First, there is the ontological argument. The most popular form of  the ontological argument uses the concept of God to prove God’s existence. It  begins with the definition of God as “a being than which no greater can be  conceived.” It is then argued that to exist is greater than to not exist, and  therefore the greatest conceivable being must exist. If God did not exist, then  God would not be the greatest conceivable being, and that would contradict the  very definition of God.

A second argument is the teleological argument.  The teleological argument states that since the universe displays such an  amazing design, there must have been a divine Designer. For example, if the  Earth were significantly closer or farther away from the sun, it would not be  capable of supporting much of the life it currently does. If the elements in our  atmosphere were even a few percentage points different, nearly every living  thing on earth would die. The odds of a single protein molecule forming by  chance is 1 in 10243 (that is a 1 followed by 243 zeros). A single  cell is comprised of millions of protein molecules.

A third logical  argument for God’s existence is called the cosmological argument. Every effect  must have a cause. This universe and everything in it is an effect. There must  be something that caused everything to come into existence. Ultimately, there  must be something “un-caused” in order to cause everything else to come into  existence. That “un-caused” cause is God.

A fourth argument is known as  the moral argument. Every culture throughout history has had some form of law.  Everyone has a sense of right and wrong. Murder, lying, stealing, and immorality  are almost universally rejected. Where did this sense of right and wrong come  from if not from a holy God?

Despite all of this, the Bible tells us  that people will reject the clear and undeniable knowledge of God and believe a  lie instead. Romans 1:25 declares, “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served  created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.” The Bible  also proclaims that people are without excuse for not believing in God: “For  since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—His eternal power and  divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made,  so that men are without excuse” (Romans  1:20).

People claim to reject God’s existence because it is “not  scientific” or “because there is no proof.” The true reason is that once they  admit that there is a God, they also must realize that they are responsible to  God and in need of forgiveness from Him (Romans 3:236:23). If God exists, then  we are accountable to Him for our actions. If God does not exist, then we can do  whatever we want without having to worry about God judging us. That is why many  of those who deny the existence of God cling strongly to the theory of  naturalistic evolution—it gives them an alternative to believing in a Creator  God. God exists and ultimately everyone knows that He exists. The very fact that  some attempt so aggressively to disprove His existence is in fact an argument  for His existence.

How do we know God exists? As Christians, we know God  exists because we speak to Him every day. We do not audibly hear Him speaking to  us, but we sense His presence, we feel His leading, we know His love, we desire  His grace. Things have occurred in our lives that have no possible explanation  other than God. God has so miraculously saved us and changed our lives that we  cannot help but acknowledge and praise His existence. None of these arguments  can persuade anyone who refuses to acknowledge what is already obvious. In the  end, God’s existence must be accepted by faith (Hebrews  11:6). Faith in God is not a blind leap into the dark; it is safe step into  a well-lit room where the vast majority of people are already standing.