Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Who is God? - from the viewpoint of Relational Theology

No systematic theology is considered complete until it declares its concept of the character and attributes of God.

To be more specific, "Who is the God of the Bible?".  We don't care about other gods which are created by the best guesses of men. We need to know the God of the Judeo-Christian Bible, the God who revealed Himself through the Bible.  On this one single point, we NEED to be Barthian in our basic approach to addressing this question.  We need to declare that NO ONE CAN know God WITHOUT the benefit of revelation.

What this means is that no man can know God even through the best of human research if the Bible is not part of the study.  Yes, the Bible does claim in Romans 1:18ff that the evidence about God is manifest (obvious) if man does not "suppress the truth in unrighteousness". However, the ultimate end of good theology is that of knowing the mind and heart of God Himself, and not just evidence of His activities and existence.

Jeremiah 9:23-24,

"23 Thus says the LORD: 

      “ Let not the wise
man glory in his wisdom,
      Let not the mighty
man glory in his might,
      Nor let the rich
man glory in his riches;
24 But let him who glories glory in this,
      That he understands and knows Me,
      That I
am the LORD, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth.
      For in these I delight,” says the LORD."

If theology ended merely with the classical conclusions of God as Omniscient, Omnipresent, Omnipotent, First Being, Unmoved Mover, Perfect Being, Timeless, Impassable, ad inifinitum, ad nauseaum, then they have tragically missed the boat completely on who God is.  The bible does NOT even bother with such terminologies nor their long-winded definitions.  In fact, the truth about God is revealed "to babes".  Christ Himself said, that we must have the faith (and perspective) of a child, if we are to know and experience the best of God.

Here are some of what the Bible SIMPLY and EXPLICITLY declare are:

God is Love, Truth, Righteousness, Lovingkindness, Faithfulness.
God is Love, Light and Life
God is Jealous (this one God Himself declared in ALL instances!).  In His jealousy He visits judgment on man and to his children's children to the fourth generation!

It is obvious the the Judeo-Christian God desires for man to search and know His Heart and not just the evidences of His abilities or His activities in the cosmos.

Furthermore, classicism (especially through the scholastics like Thomas Aquinas) is a thoroughly misled approach to knowing the God of the Bible.  Hellenistic academics popularized by Socrates, Plato and Aristotle was the intelligentsia status symbol of that day and Thomas Aquinas and company got sucked into its aberrant thinking, albeit well-meaning since it attempted to offer to an unbelieving world, a logical concept of the existence of God.  Unfortunately, it falls short of who God really is.

Indeed, the wisdom of the world is foolishness to God.  The Greek concepts of God are futile attempts since they are man-made and originally almost totally devoid of divine revelation.  In simpler words, Greek concepts of God have ABSOLUTELY NO BENEFIT of revelation. They are purely man made, and hence border on idolatry. Hence, at its very best, it simply erects another idol and declares that "here is God", consistent with the conclusions of Paul in Romans 1:22-23:

"22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—..."

Classicism has subtly gone around this but effectively came out with a still "different" God from that of the Bible.  Christian classical thought is really a descendant of Gnosticism which in essence attempts to amplify the infinite difference between God and man (another unbiblical concept, since man is theomorphic) instead of demonstrating how God is like man simply because man was created to be like God (man was created in God's image!).

Because of classicism, there is a huge number of Christians, like the Hyper-Calvinists, who claim that they believe that God is a personal God but related to Him as if He were a force!  Theologies like theirs show God primarily as wholly-other (which is correct in the sense that God can exist without the rest of creation), but in so doing portray Him as impassable or having no emotions (which is not biblical, e.g.,  Jeremiah 32:29-31).  Their concept of God is one who is unaffected by what man does (correct only in the sense that it does not change the character of God) but make the unbiblical claim that nothing man does can affect God.  They forget that God was affected intellectually during the construction of the Tower of Babel.  They forget that God was always affected emotionally when His people turned to idolatry and unfaithfulness.

They portray God as timeless (which is correct since He is not dependent on it) but in so doing proposes non-sequitur behavior like micro-predestination (every small detail in history and future events have been pre-determined (and this is definitely non-sequitur and non-biblical).

Classicism further portrays God as Perfect (which is correct in concept) but is misapplied to mean that God does not change His mind (not biblical, since God relented so many times as EXPLICITLY described in Scripture); that God does not have emotions of anger (grossly unbiblical since He exiled Israel in anger because of His jealousy against idolatry).  

This discussion will not go into attributes of God that have been countlessly discussed in many great references on systematic theology.  However, we will attempt to discuss what we believe are biblically erroneous concepts of God (perhaps from these same references) and attributes of God that these systematic theologies have overlooked simply because they have placed God in a box with their dignum deo concepts based on classical beliefs.

One of the first things we have to clarify, if this has not been clear yet, is that as far as the concept of God is concerned, we EXCLUSIVELY deal with Biblical Theology.  Every other concept to us which is extra-Biblical is simply an idol dressed up with the elaboration of philosophical jargon.  Hence, this is not the place to inquire about these misguided (lack of Divine revelation) concepts.

The next thing we have to be clear about is, if we are to deal with Biblical theology effectively, then we have to employ conservative hermeneutics in the interpretation of the text.  This means among other things that we have to look at immediate context of Bible references in terms of language grammar and common usage (discussed by scholarship) , time in history, before we look at the greater context.  It also requires that we look at passages from Jewish eyes and not Gentile eyes for BOTH the Old Testament Hebrew and the New Testament Greek (Both have their own relative contexts).  This also requires that we never generalize a derived theological concept (like predestination) when it was meant to be specific only to what was declared, and it is still logical to confine it ONLY to that instance.  Generalization is one of the greatest errors of Classical Greek thought.  They tend to paint every miniscule concept they find with a broad brush and hence, paint "God" into a corner.  (Pls see my blog on Axiomatic Foundations for a deeper discussion on hermeneutics.)

Having settled our hermeutic principles, the next thing we need to accept and digest is...

God is the Best and Greatest Communicator and has chosen the Hebrew and Greek languages at the correct timing (context) in history to reveal Himself in writing to man.  Being The Great Communicator, He speaks in simple terms understandable to the common man (by common man, we mean a man who has the capability of social communication and a basic understanding and articulation of human behavior and emotions as well as events in his world).  God means what He declares in Scripture and declares what He means in Scripture and there is no need for any man to presume arrogance and re-interpret anything that God has declared.  All man has to do is understand what God says like a human communicating intelligibly with another human.

...under construction...to be discussed

God is Omnicompetent, a greater level than Omnipotent because it is the kind of Omnipotence that takes risks and competently and perfectly addresses the consequences of those risks that He took.

God is Love and He sought and He seeks man's love.  This divine pursuit has developed into a need. God desires relationship with man and wrote Scripture to describe its source, origin and foundation.

There is nothing in the behavior, emotions, and mind of the Incarnate Christ that would be any different from God the Father nor God the Holy Spirit. If Jesus wept (John 11:35), God can weep and He does.  Jesus is further proof of the concept of theomorphism.

The One God is a plural God. This is definitional and is the God of the Jews and Christians. Hence, He is not Allah and never was.  Nor is He the god of the Mormons nor the god of Jehovah's Witness.

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