Saturday, June 9, 2007

Thinking Like a Christian, Week 1: Theology

Is there a God? What is God like?

Among the most profound of all questions are the two above. It is evident with just minimal thought that one's view of God's existence and person will effect one's thoughts, decisions, and actions every day.

Take, for example, those who hold an atheistic view—there is no god. They will see no purpose in life, since we simply came to be by chance. They will see no ultimate right or absolute good, and therefore will view law as something to be determined by majority vote, or even by caprice. Those who are pantheistic or those who hold to the teachings of another "god" (e.g., Allah) will have their own views on these and other questions.

How do we learn about God? The first way we learn about God is through special revelation, which includes the Word of God (the Bible) and the Person of Jesus Christ. We can learn more about God through these than any other avenue. Of course, to believe in God, we must believe that His Word is "inspired": That it is His very Word, communicated on purpose to us, and that it is entirely true to the very last word. "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works" (2 Timothy 3:16-17). The inspiration of Scripture is fundamental; no one can deny it and still claim to be a Christian. To claim that the Bible is not God's Word is, in essence, to call the God of the Bible a liar. Faith cannot allow that.

For the Bible to be true and accurate, it must be divinely inspired! There is certainly plenty of evidence to support this view: Its exceptional unity, despite its diverse "authorship" (God authored all of it, of course, but used many different men in many different circumstances to pen the words [2 Peter 1:20-21]); its ability to change the lives of individuals for the better; its profound moral truth; its prophetic accuracy; and, certainly, so much more. An open-minded study of the Bible can leave no other conclusion.

The person of Jesus Christ is not a myth. He was a real human being (fully man and fully God—my finite mind can't understand that completely, either) who really lived, died, and rose again on this earth, as the Gospels record. The Holy Spirit, who lives within each Christian from the time of salvation, plays a role in revealing the truth of Scripture and of Christ to us.

This gives us so much more reason to make the study of Scripture an important and daily part of our lives.

Another way we learn about God is through general revelation: The Creation. What we observe in the Creation speaks of a Creator God Who designed it all for a divine purpose. We learn about that purpose in the Bible. A classic example of this: A person, walking on a hike through the woods, finds a watch. It is in working order, appears clean, and shows the correct time. Does the person conclude that the watch has lain there forever? Does the person conclude that the watch both came into being and "found its way there" by mere vagaries of chance? No. He concludes that not only did someone make the watch, but also that the watch was brought to that point (probably unintentionally, of course) by someone. He may not know all the details, but he knows that the watch did not get there by itself. The presence of design implies the existence of a designer. C.S. Lewis said,

“Suppose there were no intelligence behind the universe…In that case nobody designed my brain for the purpose of thinking. Thought is merely the by-product of some atoms within my skull. But if so, how can I trust my own thinking to be true? But if I can’t trust my own thinking, of course, I can’t trust the arguments leading to atheism, and therefore have no reason to be an atheist, or anything else. Unless I believe in God, I can’t believe in thought; so I can never use thought to disbelieve in God.” (From the book, p. 25; quoted from Broadcast Talks [London: 1946, p. 37-38])

God's revelation, particularly the special revelation of His Word, tells us much about God. No single blog entry or Sunday School lesson can do more than scratch the surface of Who God is. But several important worldview points stand out:
  • There is only one God. God makes this exceptionally clear in many passages, including Deuteronomy 4:35, 38; 1 Kings 8:60; Isaiah 45:5, 6, 14, 18, 22, and 46:9. He refers to Himself in Exodus 3:14 as the I AM THAT I AM. The very first of the Ten Commandments makes it very clear how we are to respond to this: "Thou shalt have no other gods before me" (Exodus 20:3).
  • God is a personal God. He has what we humans might refer to as "personality," though His bears only faint resemblance to our own. He communicates and reveals Himself to men, as the Scriptures indicate in many places.
  • The characteristics of God are found in the Bible. Again, entire books could be written on every one of these (and they have been), but they include: He is sovereign (Daniel 4:34-35); He is moral (note that there are many passages, for example, where He distinguishes between good and evil, or between right and wrong); He is longsuffering, patient, and faithful (1 Corinthians 1:9); He is a Trinity (Matthew 28:19); He is powerful (Genesis 1:1 speaks adequately to this); He is holy (Leviticus 11:44-45, quoted in 1 Peter 1:15-16); and He is a judge (2 Timothy 4:1; Hebrews 10:30).
  • And just an extra word about God being a judge: The judgment of God is not a popular preaching topic. But that doesn’t matter: The holiness of God necessitates the judgment of God. His holy nature is antithetical to sin. God must judge people because people are sinners. God does not take pleasure in judgment (Ezekiel 33:11), but He must judge because He is holy (Jude 15). Live, think, and act, knowing that the Judge sees you every moment.
  • God is a Redeemer. This is the great promise to mankind, the reason we can all rejoice, since it means that our eternal destiny doesn't have to be condemnation in hell. God is a loving and merciful God, "not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9). His love is universal—available to all men and women of every nation, people, or demographic polling group. His love is gracious—He loved us "while we were yet sinners" (Romans 5:8), sending His Son to die for us. His love is sacrificial—God willingly gave His own Son (John 3:16-17) to die for us. His love is beneficial—both in the benefit of eternal fellowship with God in Heaven (Romans 6:23b) and in the earthly benefits we enjoy every day as His children.
These truths are not merely an academic review exercise in theology! Study them, to be sure, but remember that every day, you will think thoughts, make decisions, and take actions. Think, decide, and act based upon Who God is, what He has done and will do, and knowing that He is a Holy Judge. Let these impact your life totally.

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