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Topic 14 Christian Theology. I. How Can We Know God?. Revelation General revelation – in nature Creation reveals the Creator: Psalm 19:1-4 – “ The heavens are telling the glory of God...” Romans 1:19-20 – “ what can be known about God is plain to them... through the things he has made.”

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i how can we know god
I. How Can We Know God?
  • Revelation
    • General revelation – in nature
      • Creation reveals the Creator:
        • Psalm 19:1-4 – “The heavens are telling the glory of God...”
        • Romans 1:19-20 – “what can be known about God is plain to them... through the things he has made.”
      • Basis for classic arguments for the existence of God.
      • Limitations of general revelation: awareness of God’s existence is not same as knowing God’s character.
    • Special revelation – in history
      • Exodus – reveals God as caring, redeeming, liberating.
      • Christ-event – reveals God as unconditional, self-giving love.
        • For Christians, the Christ-event isthe central event of revelation.
        • All other revelatory events are measured/interpreted through Christ.
i how can we know god1
I. How Can We Know God?
  • Faith
    • Revelation requires human response of faith.
    • Revelatory events must be seen with “eyes of faith.”
    • Otherwise, no revelation takes place.
i how can we know god2
I. How Can We Know God?
  • Authority
    • How can we have access to revelatory events of long ago?
    • Bible is church’s main authority in matters of faith.
      • Bible’s authority derives from its witness to Christ (and other revelatory events).
      • Revelation does not occur primarily through Bible; Bible is written record of the revelatory events.
    • “Word of God” refers to Christ first and to Bible second.
      • Christ is the “living Word” – primary event of revelation.
      • Bible is the “written Word” – main authority which witnesses to Christ.
    • Inspiration
      • Human books bearing revelation of God (“Word of God in words of men”).
      • Theories of inspiration
        • Plenary-verbal theory
        • Dynamic theory
ii god the father
II. God the Father
  • Trinity
    • One God in three “persons”:

Father, Son, Holy Spirit.

    • Bible
      • No explicit concept of Trinity.
      • Idea is implied (cf. 2 Cor. 13:13; Matt. 28:19).
    • Church formulated doctrine.
      • One “substance” – not three gods.
        • Oneness of Father, Son, Holy Spirit.
        • Co-eternal and co-equal.
        • One in will and purpose.
      • Three “persons” – distinct ways God works in world.
        • Each has distinctive work.
        • Each participates in work of the others.
ii god the father1
II. God the Father
  • Attributes of God
    • God is holy.
      • Transcendence (distance, separation); otherness.
      • Qualitatively different from things in our experience.
    • God is personal.
      • Seeks to be in relationship.
      • Immanence (presence, nearness) of God in world.
      • Paradox of transcendence vs. immanence – need to keep in balance.
        • Deism (God is totally removed) – overemphasizes transcendence.
        • Pantheism (everything is God) – overemphasizes immanence.
ii god the father2
II. God the Father
  • Attributes of God – cont.

3. God is love. (“central unifying feature of God’s nature”)

      • Personal
      • Unmerited, unconditional
      • Self-sacrificing
        • Not eros – love that desires something for oneself.
        • But agapē – self-giving love; acts for good of another.
    • God is righteous.
      • Capacity for wrath against sin and evil.
      • Does not contradict love but supports it – God opposes whatever is harmful to his creatures.
    • God is powerful.
      • Not brute force but power of love.
      • God’s power is revealed in the weakness of the Cross (1 Cor. 1).
ii god the father3
II. God the Father
  • Activity of God
    • God as Creator.
      • The Creator is distinct from Creation.
        • All that we have/are is gift from.
        • Do not worship things of creation, but thank God for them.
      • The Creation is essentially good.
        • Material world is not evil (as in Gnosticism).
        • We have permission to use world and responsibility to care for it.
      • The Creation is “fallen” because of sin.
        • Sin has perverted the goodness of God’s creation.
        • Creator is also the Redeemer.
    • God as Judge.
      • God opposes evil; judges sinners.
      • Judgment is intended to discipline and lead to salvation.
    • God as Savior.
      • “Salvation is the primary/proper activity of God’s love.”
      • Sin alienates, separates us from God – destroys fellowship.
      • God’s love seeks to the restore relationship.
psalm 19 1 4
Psalm 19:1-4

The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.

Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge.

There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard;

Yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.


romans 1 19 20
Romans 1:19-20

For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.

Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made.

So they are without excuse.


iii jesus christ the son of god
III. Jesus Christ, the Son of God
  • The Human Condition Apart From Christ
    • Human creation
      • Created “in the image of God.”
        • Capacity for relationship with God.
        • Capacity for moral decision.
      • “The Fall” – Sin perverts the created order.
    • Nature of sin
      • Sin is basically rebellion against God.
        • Deeper than specific acts of wrongdoing.
        • Condition of the soul – human will is in bondage to sin.
        • Sin is like a disease, of which acts of wrongdoing are symptoms.
      • Sin expresses itself in immorality or self-righteous pride.
      • Sin alienates us from God (spiritual “Death”).
      • Sin is inevitable but voluntary.
        • “Original” sin – All are born with “inherited” guilt and a sinful nature; or born into world so twisted by Sin that we inevitably sin.
        • “Actual” sin – our own act of sinning.
      • Sin is “corporate” as well as individual – infects structures of society; creates systemic evils of poverty, injustice, oppression, etc.
iii jesus christ
III. Jesus Christ
  • Christ, the Means of Redemption
    • Person of Christ
      • Incarnation (= “enfleshment”)
        • In Jesus, God was embodied in human form.
        • What is accomplished in Christ is the work of God.
      • Two misunderstandings to avoid:
        • Ebionism – Jesus was human being, not divine.
        • Docetism – Christ was purely divine; only semblance of human form.
      • Truly God, truly human
        • Truly human – real human being; shared in all types of suffering, pain, temptations, etc.
        • Truly God – God the Son; of one essence with the Father; God’s love was perfectly embodied in him.
iii jesus christ1
III. Jesus Christ

2. Work of Christ

  • Prophet – work of teaching
    • Final, definitive proclamation of God’s will: love God & neighbor.
    • Discipleship means following Jesus’ teaching and example.
  • Priest – work of “atonement”
    • At-one-ment (coined by Wm. Tyndale) = reconciliation
    • Accomplished primarily by Christ’s death on Cross.

Three theories of atonement:

    • “Christus Victor” theory – Christ’s death and resurrection win a victory over powers of Sin and Death.
    • Satisfaction theory – Christ’s death has paid the penalty for our sins. (“Penal substitution” is one version of this theory.)
    • Moral influence theory – Christ’s self-sacrificial love elicits a response of love; his love draws us, makes us want to be like him.
  • King – work of ruling as Lord
    • Christ reigns now as Lord over lives of believers.
    • Will reign over all in the end.
iii jesus christ2
III. Jesus Christ
  • Process of Redemption
    • Justification
      • “Justified by grace through faith.”
        • Judicial image: “pronounced righteous” through God’s grace in Christ.
        • God’s acquittal restores right relationship.
      • Grace – God’s unmerited favor; free gift of salvation.
      • Faith – human response of receiving God’s grace.
        • Intellectual assent – believing that…
        • Personal trust – dependence on God; putting oneself at his disposal; sense of obedience.
    • Sanctification
      • Being purified of sin and set apart for God’s service.
      • Justification is beginning point of salvation (conversion).
      • Sanctification is process of growth in Christian life. Involves:
        • Life-long struggle with sin.
        • Life of service to God and others.
    • Glorification – final completion of salvation in heaven.
iv holy spirit and communion of saints
IV. Holy Spirit and Communion of Saints
  • Holy Spirit
    • Resurrection of Christ enables the coming of Holy Spirit.
      • Jesus’ resurrection vindicates his work as work of God – Cross is not defeat but victory over sin/death.
      • Resurrection exalts Christ to heaven as Lord/King.
      • Holy Spirit takes the place of Christ’s bodily presence.
    • Holy Spirit is the invisible, powerful “presence” of God/Christ in world.
      • Holy Spirit = Spirit of God = Spirit of Christ.
      • Spirit continues the work of Christ in the world.
    • Functions of the Holy Spirit:
      • Pricks conscience and convicts of sin.
      • Illuminates reading of Scripture and hearing of preaching.
      • Guides/ empowers righteous living of believers.
      • Enables the work of the church through gifts of the Spirit.
iv holy spirit and communion of saints1
IV. Holy Spirit and Communion of Saints

B. Church

  • Three“images” of the Church
    • “The people of God.” (Not a building!)
      • Ekklesia = “gathering/assembly” – gathering of those reconciled by God’s grace.
      • Go out again as agents of reconciliation.
    • “The body of Christ.”
      • Church is the visible expression of Christ in world.
      • Hands/feet through which Christ continues to minister.
    • “Fellowship of saints.”
      • “Saints” – not super-Christians but “saved sinners;” persons “set apart” for service to God.
      • Koinonia = “fellowship; communion; partnership; sharing something in common” – saved into community of faith.
      • Share faith in Christ; joy of new life; work of Gospel; suffering.
iv holy spirit and communion of saints2
IV. Holy Spirit and Communion of Saints
  • Church – cont.
    • Tasks of the Church
      • Worship – primary task of Church.
        • Giving to God the honor properly due him.
        • Worship on Sunday in recognition of Resurrection.
        • Ideally whole life should be devoted as worship to God.
        • Worship typically includes: confession (recital of creed); prayer; song; reading of Scripture; sermon; sacraments.
      • Proclamation (preaching).
        • “Word of God” spoken definitively in Christ (“living Word of God”) speaks again through sermon.
        • Because Christ is known to us through Scripture (“written Word of God”), Scripture is normative in preaching.
        • To extent that preaching is faithful to Scripture’s witness to Christ, it too becomes the “Word of God” for us (“spoken Word of God”).
iv holy spirit and communion of saints3
IV. Holy Spirit and Communion of Saints
  • Tasks of the Church – cont.
    • Sacraments (some prefer term “ordinances”).
      • Catholics/Orthodox have 7: baptism; penance; confirmation; communion; marriage; ordination; extreme unction.
      • Protestants only two: baptism and communion.
      • Do not mechanically convey salvation in themselves, but are “outward/visible signs of inward/spiritual grace.”
      • Baptism – rite of entrance into Church.
        • Symbolizes purification from sin and entrance into life of sanctification.
        • Or, dying to the old sinful self & rising again to new life in Christ.
        • Infant vs. adult (believer’s) baptism:
          • Infant baptism emphasizes initiative of God’s grace.
          • Adult baptism emphasizes importance of conscious commitment and public profession of faith.
        • Pouring/sprinkling vs. immersion
          • Immersion was earliest form (baptizo = to immerse).
          • Pouring was early allowed; became dominant form in West.
iv holy spirit and communion of saints4
IV. Holy Spirit and Communion of Saints
  • Tasks of the Church – cont.
    • Sacraments – cont.
      • Communion/Lord’s Supper/Eucharist – rite of renewal.
        • Grew out of Jesus’ meals with followers, esp. Last Supper.
        • Recalls sacrificial death of Christ as basis for coming of God’s Kingdom (Mk. 14:22-25).
          • Bread symbolizes body of Christ.
          • Wine symbolizes blood of Christ.
        • Looks forward to Christ’s future coming to bring God’s Kingdom in its fullness (1 Cor. 11:23-26).
        • Reenacts God’s grace revealed in Cross; becomes occasion for renewing our forgiveness; eat only after examining our lives for anything unworthy of Christ (1 Cor. 11:27-29).
    • Ministry.
      • “Ministry” = “service” – task of whole Church, not just clergy.
      • Jesus commissioned Church to help meet the needs of people – sick, hungry, homeless, poor, oppressed, etc. (Mt. 25:35-36, 40).
      • And to take Gospel to whole world (Mt. 28:19-20).
iv holy spirit and communion of saints5
IV. Holy Spirit and Communion of Saints

C. Eschatology and the Church

  • Eschatology deals with “last things.”
    • Kingdom of God is final goal of history.
    • Evil is destroyed; the world is set right; God rules unopposed.
  • The Church viewed in light of eschatology:
    • Church is now in conflict (“church militant”).
      • Church belongs to a Kingdom which is present but not yet in its fullness.
      • Christians have foretaste of salvation but live in world where evil still exists.
      • Through Church, Kingdom of God invades this world and does battle with evil.
      • Power of God’s love does battle with injustice, hatred, poverty, hunger, oppression, war, violence, etc.
    • Church will one day be at rest (“church triumphant”).
      • Final victory of God’s Kingdom is Christian hope (Rev. 11:15).
      • At Christ’s return, Sin and Death will finally be defeated; Church will enjoy unbroken fellowship with God.
      • Debated issues:
        • Kingdom of God at close of history vs. Heaven at death.
        • Exact shape of end-time events.