Russell Grigg – Unfolding the Plan

Skeptics, liberals, and others sometimes claim that man’s concept of God is something which evolved, and that the Bible is merely man’s efforts to provide himself with a religious prop to explain the otherwise unexplainable or to ease the burden of life.1 However, nothing could be further from the truth. The Bible is a book from God about God, His glory, and His plan of salvation for sinful humanity.

When we read the Bible, we find that God does not tell us everything about these things all at once. He gives us successive revelations. A name for this is ‘progress of doctrine’, which simply means that we learn more about God and His dealings with us from each book, as we read through the Bible.

This concept can be likened to the raising of a blind in a dark room. Outside the sun is shining. As the blind goes up, it does not increase the amount of light emanating from the sun, but it does let more and more light into the room. Let us see how this works out with regard to four things that God tells us about Himself in Genesis, thus affirming the crucial nature of this foundational book.

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Michael Boling – Creation: Why, How, and When Did God Create the Universe?

(This was my contribution to the recent issue of Theology for Life. To view or download the latest issue, click here.)

Genesis 1:1 – “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

Scripture begins with a simple, clear, and important declaration. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. There is no explanation of where God came from. We are simply told God did something, namely created all things. How one relates to that profound statement defines how they understand God, both intellectually and relationally, and how one approaches Scripture as a whole. Reject God as Creator and the door is opened for any number of philosophical ideologies that are eager to take root. Conversely, accepting God as Creator presents its own set of demands and realities.

Much debate centers on the how and when of God as Creator to include various positions concerning the Genesis creation account to include the age of the Earth, the length of the days of creation, whether the Theory of Evolution can be accepted as the means by which the universe was formed, and whether Adam was a real person. This debate not only rages between those who affirm God as Creator and those who affirm the Theory of Evolution, it also takes place between those, for example, who affirm a young earth and those who affirm a much older date for creation.

Why God created the earth is another perplexing question. Was He bored? For that matter, does Scripture provide a reason why God set everything into motion? While certainly the how and when of creation are vitally important in order to understand the Doctrine of God, understanding why He created all things is equally vital, given it provides an underlying reason for our existence. God must have had a reason for His creative act. If Adam was indeed a real human being created by God, then it can be argued that life has a purpose, one determined by the Creator. If God is not Creator and we are merely the product of the “from goo-to-you by way of the zoo” construct outlined by evolution, then not only does such a position impact how we understand God, it deprives mankind of any sense of purpose and meaning.

These are big and important topics that, if covered in all their possible detail, would take volumes. With that said, Scripture does have a tremendous amount to say about the why, how, and when of creation and each of these three issues relates directly to a biblically-sound Doctrine of God. This article will discuss the how, when, and why of creation and how those three issues relate to the Doctrine of God.

How Did God Create the Universe?

As noted above, Genesis 1:1 declares that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The first chapter of Scripture goes on to describe God’s creative act with each activity taking place within the confines of a day. Each day begins with God saying something with an action then taking place. Psalm 33:9 references the creation acts by noting, “For He spoke, and it came to be; He commanded, and it stood firm.” Moreover, Hebrews 11:3 declares, “By faith we understand that the universe was formed by God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.”

There are a couple of important truths that can be ascertained from Genesis 1, Psalm 33:9, and Hebrews 11:3. First, God spoke creation into existence. There was not a coalescence or random act of various particles in the pre-existing universe somehow smashing into each other at just the luckiest of moments. Scripture declares God spoke and creation came into existence. In fact, the Greek term used in Hebrews 11:3 is translated as word is rhema, a noun that means “the word by which something is commanded”. God spoke and the universe came into existence.

The Hebrew term used in Psalm 33:9 is even more descriptive. It is the Hebrew verb tsavah, which means “to command, charge, give orders, lay charge, give charge to, to order.” God commanded by giving an order for the universe to come into being and that is precisely what transpired. As noted by John Currid, “God’s creative work was effortless; he spoke, and the universe came into existence.”[1]

Second, God created everything by what theologians call ex nihilo or “out of nothing”. This is rooted in passages such as Hebrews 11:3, which state that God created the universe (and all things therein) not out of what was visible, but rather by His word/command. If Scripture is to be affirmed, the Theory of Evolution, with its demand for all things to have derived from pre-existing matter, cannot be true; and furthermore, it cannot be intermingled or combined with Scripture. The two perspectives on origins are diametrically opposed, thus leaving no room for positions such as Theistic Evolution to be considered a viable position on how God created the universe.

Scripture puts the how of creation quite plainly – God spoke and all things came into being. This creative act speaks to attributes of God, such as His eternality, omnipotence, omniscience, and transcendence, just to name a few.

When Did God Create the Universe?

Those who adhere to an evolutionary ideology declare the universe is billions of years old with how many billions shifting to the left or right a few billion at a time as needed. Within the camp of those who believe God created, or at least was involved to some degree in creating all things, there is also a wide spectrum of dates attached to the age of the universe. How one lands on this issue is often rooted in two main issues – how the days of creation are defined and how much evolutionary ideas are inculcated into a position on origins.

The disagreement between Old Earth Creationism and Young Earth Creationism centers largely on the respective interpretations and usage of the Hebrew word yom, typically translated by scholars as meaning day. Old Earth Creationists allege yom denotes a much longer period of time than a 24 hour solar day. Support for this assertion is found by relating the various uses of yom within Scripture, which contextually indicate varying lengths of time such as Psalm 90:4, perhaps the most popular argument against a young earth. This verse, cited by the Apostle Peter, in 2nd Peter 3:8 states, “A day (yom) is like a thousand years…” Creationist and author Terry Mortenson notes that instead of referring to the days of creation, Peter is instead “saying something about the timeless nature of God and that He does not work in the world according to our timetable of when events should occur.” [2]

Old Earth Creationists also look for support for their assertions concerning the interpretation of yom by claiming that the days depicted in the Genesis creation account were “God’s days” and should not be viewed within the parameters of the modern day concept of a 24 hour period of time. In support of his position, Hugh Ross writes “the same author of Genesis (Moses) wrote in Psalm 90:4, ‘For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch [4 hours] in the night.’ Moses seems to state that just as God’s ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:9), God’s days are not our days.”[3] Such a viewpoint ignores that God meant “day from our perspective, since we are the creatures in the created space-time dimension who experience time. He even told us that they were ordinary days by the comparison in Exodus 20:8-11 in the same Decalogue”[4] as Genesis.

Old Earth Creationists also point to what they claim is vast scientific evidence which supports an old age for the universe. Supporters of this view, such as Robert Newman, note the distance between galaxies and the extreme lengths of time it takes for light to travel from distant galaxies to our own place in the universe. Newman comments that the “most distant galaxies and quasars we can see seem to be over ten billion light-years away, which suggests that the universe is at least that old.”[5] He goes on to comment that “when we look at the star Sirius we see what it was doing twelve years ago…as most of the universe is more than ten thousand light-years away, most of the events revealed by light coming from space would be fictional (under the view of Young Earth Creationism)…I prefer to interpret nature so as to avoid having God give us fictitious information.”[6]

Such statements make it quite obvious that the proponents of Old Earth Creationism fall prey to the influence of evolutionary dogma. Their continued attempts to interpret yom from within their presuppositions rather than from a holistic hermeneutical approach to Scripture is an overt attempt to merge billions of years with scriptural teaching, an activity which rejects authorial intent resident within the pages of Scripture. Jason Lisle comments, “It is perfectly acceptable for us to ask, “Did God use natural processes to get the starlight to earth in the biblical timescale? And if so, what is the mechanism?” But if no natural mechanism is apparent, this cannot be used as evidence against supernatural creation. So, the unbeliever is engaged in a subtle form of circular reasoning when he uses the assumption of naturalism to argue that distant starlight disproves the biblical timescale.”[7]

The interpretation of yom in the periscope of Genesis 1 as a literal 24 hour period of time is further strengthened by the continuous usage of the phrase “And there was evening, and there was morning” leaving little doubt the author intended to describe a single day rather than an elongated period of time.

If we take Scripture for what it says, then at the beginning of time, God created everything within the span of six literal days. Moreover, if we affirm that yom refers to an actual 24-hour day, then we can also affirm the genealogical records provided in Scripture which leave us not with a billions of years old universe, but a much younger creation in the realm of 6-10,000 years. Evolution is dependent on billions of years for chance to take its course. Biblical creation is only dependent on God said and an acknowledgement of the truthfulness of Scripture. The when of creation speaks to the attributes of God such as His eternality, omnipotence, omniscience, transcendence, and veracity.

Why Did God Create the Universe?

This question is arguably most important. Why did God create all things? What is the purpose of bringing all things to be and how does that relate to that which God created? Scripture provides an amazingly clear answer to this question in Revelation 4:11, which declares, “You are worthy, ADONAI Eloheinu, to have glory, honor and power, because you created all things yes, because of your will they were created and came into being!” This passage reveals God created all things for His glory and so that His creation in response might give Him the glory and honor due His holy name.

Concomitant to that reality is the fact man was created in the image of God for a purpose. John Piper states, “The point of an image is to image. Images are erected to display the original. Point to the original. Glorify the original. God made humans in his image so that the world would be filled with reflectors of God. Images of God. Seven billion statues of God. So that nobody would miss the point of creation.”[8]

Furthermore, God created all things because it was the outworking of His eternal divine plan of redemption, established before the foundation of the world. This truth is found in passages such as Ephesians 1:4, which states, “In the Messiah he chose us in love before the creation of the universe to be holy and without defect in his presence.” God did not just decide one day to create the universe just to have something constructive to do with His eternal time. He created all things because He had chosen a people to be His from before the time He declared the universe to come into being. Creation is the outworking of God’s divine plan of redemption, established in eternity past.

Finally, God created man so that He could pour out His love upon them within the bond of loving relationship and communion. This truth is expressed in the means by which God created man. Genesis 2:7 describes this act by stating, “Then ADONAI, God, formed a person (Hebrew: Adam) from the dust of the ground (Hebrew: adamah) and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, so that he became a living being.” The Hebrew word yatsar, which is translated as “formed” means literally to form or fashion something in the same manner as a potter creates a beautiful masterpiece out of clay. Isaiah 64:8 reflects this relationship between Creator and man by noting, “But now, ADONAI, you are our father; we are the clay, you are our potter; and we are all the work of your hands.” God spoke the universe into existence. He fashioned man with His hands. The why of creation speaks to the attributes of God such as His eternality, omnipotence, omniscience, love, mercy, and grace.

So What Does This All Mean?

So what is the big deal? God created everything by His word speaking the universe into being and fashioning man with His hands. Creation took place 6-10,000 years ago. God did all this for His glory, to reflect His image on earth, and as part of His plan of redemption.

What does that mean for me? Such a question is a necessary one. In fact, if that question is not asked, this discussion is nothing more than an intellectual exercise. God desires something more than for us to have head knowledge of how, when, and why He created. These facts have to translate into action and they must have an impact on how we understand and relate to God.

Jonathan Edwards states enlighteningly, “God communicates himself to the understanding of the creature, in giving him the knowledge of his glory; and to the will of the creature, in giving him holiness, consisting primarily in the love of God: and in giving the creature happiness chiefly consisting in joy in God. These are the sum of that emanation of divine fullness called in Scripture, the glory of God.”[9]

God established a plan of redemption from before the foundation of the world. The reason for creating all things is for His glory shone most brightly through the cross. As image bearers of God who have been given this marvelous gift of grace, we are to be a people who not only intellectually understand the how, when, and why of creation, but also to be a people in love with our Creator, who desire with every fiber of their being to glorify Him through obedience to His Word. We are to desire to share the how, when, and why of why God created to a world that so often rejects those truths for the lies of the godless Theory of Evolution.

As John Piper so brilliantly reminds us, “All things are created and guided and sustained for the glory of God, which reaches its apex in the glory of his grace, which shines most brightly in the glory of Christ, which comes to focus most clearly in the glory of the cross.”[10] To properly grasp the Doctrine of God, we must begin within Him as Creator since, after all, Scripture begins with “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”, and it concludes with God completing His divine plan of redemption with a restored universe with man once again abiding with His Creator on earth as it was in the beginning.

This article first appeared in Theology for Life Winter 2016-2017 Issue. To download the rest of the issue click here.

References:

[1] John Currid, “Genesis,” in A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the Old Testament, ed. Miles V. Van Pelt (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2016), 50.

[2] Terry Mortenson, Coming to Grips With Genesis (Green Forest: Green Leaf Publishing Group, 2008), 366.

[3] Hugh Ross, Creation and Time (Colorado Springs: NavPress Publishing Group, 1994), 45.

[4] Jonathan Sarfati, Refuting Compromise (Green Forest: Master Books, 2004), 87.

[5] Robert Newman, “Progressive Creationism” in Three Views on Creation. Ed. by J.P. Moreland and John Reynolds. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1999), 108.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Jason Lisle, “Does Distant Starlight Prove the Universe Is Old?,” Answers in Genesis, December 13, 2007, accessed November 5, 2016, https://answersingenesis.org/astronomy/starlight/does-distant-starlight-prove-the-universe-is-old/.

[8] John Piper, “Why Did God Create the World?,” Desiring God, September 22, 2012, accessed October 30, 2016, http://www.desiringgod.org/messages/why-did-god-create-the-world.

[9] Jonathan Edwards, “A Dissertation Concerning the End for Which God Created the World,” Monergism, accessed October 30, 2016, https://www.monergism.com/dissertation-concerning-end-which-god-created-world-jonathan-edwards.

[10] Piper.

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Louis Berkhof – The Doctrine of God

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I. The Existence of God

A. Place of the Doctrine of God in Dogmatics

WORKS on dogmatic or systematic theology generally begin with the doctrine of God. The prevailing opinion has always recognized this as the most logical procedure and still points in the same direction. In many instances even they whose fundamental principles would seem to require another arrangement, continue the traditional practice. There are good reasons for starting with the doctrine of God, if we proceed on the assumption that theology is the systematized knowledge of God, of whom, through whom, and unto whom, are all things. Instead of being surprised that Dogmatics should begin with the doctrine of God, we might well expect it to be a study of God throughout in all its ramifications, from the beginning to the end. As a matter of fact, that is exactly what it is intended to be, though only the first locus deals with God directly, while the succeeding ones treat of Him more indirectly. We start the study of theology with two presuppositions, namely (1) that God exists, and (2) that He has revealed Himself in His divine Word. And for that reason it is not impossible for us to start with the study of God. We can turn to His revelation, in order to learn what He has revealed concerning Himself and concerning His relation to His creatures. Attempts have been made in the course of time to distribute the material of Dogmatics in such a way as to exhibit clearly that it is, not merely in one locus, but in its entirety, a study of God. This was done by the application of the trinitarian method, which arranges the subject-matter of Dogmatics under the three headings of (1) the Father (2) the Son, and (3) the Holy Spirit. That method was applied in some of the earlier systematic works, was restored to favor by Hegel, and can still be seen in Martensen’s Christian Dogmatics. A similar attempt was made by Breckenridge, when he divided the subject-matter of Dogmatics into (1) The Knowledge of God Objectively Considered, and (2) The Knowledge of God Subjectively Considered. Neither one of these can be called very successful.

Up to the beginning of the nineteenth century the practice was all but general to begin the study of Dogmatics with the doctrine of God; but a change came about under the influence of Schleiermacher, who sought to safeguard the scientific character of theology by the introduction of a new method. The religious consciousness of man was substituted for the Word of God as the source of theology. Faith in Scripture as an authoritative revelation of God was discredited, and human insight based on man’s own emotional or rational apprehension became the standard of religious thought. Religion gradually took the place of God as the object of theology. Man ceased to recognize the knowledge of God as something that was given in Scripture, and began to pride himself on being a seeker after God. In course of time it became rather common to speak of man’s discovering God, as if man ever discovered Him; and every discovery that was made in the process was dignified with the name of “revelation.” God came in at the end of a syllogism, or as the last link in a chain of reasoning, or as the cap-stone of a structure of human thought. Under such circumstances it was but natural that some should regard it as incongruous to begin Dogmatics with the study of God. It is rather surprising that so many, in spite of their subjectivism, continued the traditional arrangement.

Some, however, sensed the incongruity and struck out in a different way. Schleiermacher’s dogmatic work is devoted to a study and analysis of the religious consciousness and of the doctrines therein implied. He does not deal with the doctrine of God connectedly, but only in fragments, and concludes his work with a discussion of the Trinity. His starting point is anthropological rather than theological. Some of the mediating theologians were influenced to such an extent by Schleiermacher that they logically began their dogmatic treatises with the study of man. Even in the present day this arrangement is occasionally followed. A striking example of it is found in the work of O. A. Curtis on The Christian Faith. This begins with the doctrine of man and concludes with the doctrine of God. Ritschlian theology might seem to call for still another starting point, since it finds the objective revelation of God, not in the Bible as the divinely inspired Word, but in Christ as the Founder of the Kingdom of God, and considers the idea of the Kingdom as the central and all-controlling concept of theology. However, Ritschlian dogmaticians, such as Herrmann. Haering, and Kaftan follow, at least formally, the usual order. At the same time there are several theologians who in their works begin the discussion of dogmatics proper with the doctrine of Christ or of His redemptive work. T. B. Strong distinguishes between theology and Christian theology, defines the latter as “the expression and analysis of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ,” and makes the incarnation the dominating concept throughout his Manual of Theology.
B. Scripture Proof for the Existence of God.

For us the existence of God is the great presupposition of theology. There is no sense in speaking of the knowledge of God, unless it may be assumed that God exists. The presupposition of Christian theology is of a very definite type. The assumption is not merely that there is something, some idea or ideal, some power or purposeful tendency, to which the name of God may be applied, but that there is a self-existent, self-conscious, personal Being, which is the origin of all things, and which transcends the entire creation, but is at the same time immanent in every part of it. The question may be raised, whether this is a reasonable assumption, and this question may be answered in the affirmative. This does not mean, however, that the existence of God is capable of a logical demonstration that leaves no room whatever for doubt; but it does mean that, while the truth of God’s existence is accepted by faith, this faith is based on reliable information. While Reformed theology regards the existence of God as an entirely reasonable assumption, it does not claim the ability to demonstrate this by rational argumentation. Dr. Kuyper speaks as follows of the attempt to do this: “The attempt to prove God’s existence is either useless or unsuccessful. It is useless if the searcher believes that God is a rewarder of those who seek Him. And it is unsuccessful if it is an attempt to force a person who does not have this pistis by means of argumentation to an acknowledgment in a logical sense.” [Dict. Dogm., De Deo I, p. 77 (translation mine — L. B.).]

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David Hall – The Doctrine of God Affects the Practice of Prayer

Skyscraper RESIZED_0 Think you can live without doctrine? Try that with prayer. Far from being an obstacle to godly living, doctrine helps. Specifically, when we pray we should be clear to WHOM we’re praying. For example, if you think of God as a syrupy and sentimental you might pray that your feelings be changed or charged.

Or if you think of him as a Drill Instructor you would pray that he give you endurance or meet you for Boot Camp early in the morning.

Or if God were only the Great Watchmaker, who wound up the universe but never again intervened, wouldn’t you be discouraged from praying or reaching out?

Or if God is presumed to be Allah, would you not live and worship differently?

In this teaching by our Lord in Matthew 6, several attributes of God are depicted that are key.

The true believer must be motivated in prayer by the heavenly Father’s goodness and care.

We see this at the end of v. 6 and also in verse 8. “Your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. So do not be like them for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” Here, Jesus ties our prayer directions to our Lord’s character and care for his children.

There are many scriptural incentives for prayer. However, the Lord Jesus reminds us of several of the motivations or reasons that God gives us to come to him in prayer. They revolve around the Fatherhood of God and his character.

The first of those reasons is because God the Father knows everything. Notice the phrase, ‘your Father sees in secret,’ and then in verse 8 again, the phrase, ‘for your Father knows what you need.’

The first reason that the Lord gives us to go to the Father in prayer, is that God knows everything his children need. One may pause and ponder, “if God already knows everything that I need, why should I go to him in prayer?” That is the way we normally ask that question. The biblical answer is that since God already knows all things—and perfectly so—thus, I am animated and motivated; God’s attributes affect my prayer attitudes.

God’s knowledge extends even to the small matters of life, and that truism moves me both downward to my knees and also upward, knowing the sovereignty and majesty of God’s character, which undergirds prayer. Knowing God as Father spurs our prayer life on; it gives us assurance and comfort. No better foundation for prayer could be laid.

The next thing that the Lord Jesus gives us here is God’s goodness. He reminds us that God ap-proves and rewards his children. Notice again the words of v 6. “Your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward.” The Father is the one who rewards. Some folks have made themselves allergic to any notion of reward (cf. Heb. 11:6 though which ties that to the definition of faith itself). While it is wise to avoid viewing salvation as a reward, prayer — noting that it is carried out by sinful people—may be more consistent if we see it tied to God working.

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David Petrie – The Sovereignty of God

The Sovereignty of God: An Exposition On The Seventh Question of The Westminster Shorter Catechism

Perhaps the most neglected doctrine in the evangelical church today is the Doctrine of God. Just as the Bible starts with God,any study of theology must start with God. In fact, it is upon this doctrine that our faith will stand or fall. It was John Calvin who compared the Scriptures to “ a pair of eyeglasses”, in that through the written Word of God we may be able to have a correct view of our life, purpose, and the world around us. Well, in very much the same way, the only way to gain a clear understanding of the various doctrines found in scripture is to first have a correct understanding of the nature of God Himself. Unfortunately,in the mind of many in the church today, there seems to be a struggle between God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility. Although I do see great danger in over emphasizing one side and neglecting the other, the intent of this essay is to focus on the sovereignty of our God, to glorify the One who rightly sits on the throne.

We can ask ourselves ‘who’s in charge, God or man?’; ‘can dead men believe?’ or ‘does Jesus save, or, does He make salvation possible?’ It was perhaps best said by Steve Brown, a noted Reformed theologian and Bible teacher, who once remarked; “we are to work like an Arminian, yet trust like a Calvinist”. Amen! May we assume our responsibility to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to seek and save the lost, from first having confidence in the sovereignty of our God.May we know Him to love Him; may we love Him to serve Him; may we serve Him to glorify Him. Amen.

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