Church Education Trust

Christian Belief



The Godhead.

When we come to consider the Christian idea of God, a very wide range of thought is involved. Not only do we have to give attention to the character of God but we also have to think of His mode of existence; we have to discuss the essentially Christian doctrine of the Trinity as well as dealing separately with each of the Persons in the Trinity.

We shall leave the consideration of the Doctrine of the Trinity till the end of the section and deal first with the Existence, Nature and Attributes of God (or the Doctrine of the Father), then with the Doctrine of the Person of Christ and thirdly with the Doctrine of the Person of the Holy Spirit.

I. The Existence, Nature and Attributes of God.

It is obvious that no finite mind can form an adequate conception of the infinite. Some conception, however, is essential but at the very commencement it must be clearly understood that the idea of God according to the Christian Faith is quite different from the idea of God according to philosophy.

In philosophy God is the "absolute" and the word is used in the sense of ultimate necessity without this necessity necessarily being in any sense personal.
The only way to gain a true conception is by the study of the nature and attributes of God as revealed in the Scriptures. The more we do this, the more complete the conception grows. God can only be known through revelation and even this knowledge must be imperfect.

Unbelievers, and unfortunately many theologians, have taken great delight in recent years in ridiculing the Christian Faith and the Christian conception of God because of the great number of anthropomorphisms found in the Old Testament and in Christian conversation and preaching.

It is said that the Christian's only idea of God is a "super man", and that he upholds the conception of a three storey universe. This is, of course, not so, any true Christian or theologian appreciates that the terms he often uses are only accommodations and analogies to enable him to express what otherwise is inexpressible apart from often incomprehensible philosophical language.

Anthropomorphisms are used so commonly in the Old Testament because in no other way could God make ordinary human beings understand the truths about Himself and His activities. There is a great deal likewise in the Old Testament which is just the opposite so that man might not be led astray.

There is also another side to this question of the anthropomorphic ideas of the Bible and the Christian Faith. Man was made in the image of God, Who is the source and ground of many beings and it is only for this reason that ideas of God of any kind,whether anthropomorphic or otherwise, enter man`s mind at all.

There is no proof or intimation that ideas of God ever enter the minds of apes, horses or dogs. As Dr. Quick puts it, "An idea of God is only possible to man because man's being is dependent upon God's." (Doctrines of the Creed p.29).

In thinking of the existence, nature and attributes of God, divisions will be as follows:—

(1) The evidences for the Existence of God.

(2) The Nature of God.

(3) False Conceptions of God.

(4) Some Technical Terms and their Relative Meanings.

(5) The Attributes of God.

Firstly : Evidences for the existence of God.

The Bible never attempts to prove God`s existence, it simply states it. To unbiassed, unprejudiced, unblinded eyes it needs no proof. It is self evident, God addresses Himself to man as being innately conscious of His existence. It is just this that provides the basis for our first type of evidence.

(a) The Evidence from the Intuitive Consciousness of God.

Intuition is that "ability of the soul to receive knowledge independently of the five senses though not contrary to them". There are some truths which we know within us to be right without reference to proof or reason at all.

At the same time they can also be demonstrated to reason as being true at any time in any place. Wiley calls this "the faculty of immediate insight into truth". The intuitive consciousness of God, therefore, is a "supreme truth, wrought into the very constitution of human nature by its Creator.

It is a first truth which precedes and influences all observation and reasoning." (Wiley Intro.p.76). This does not mean that it is an "actual knowledge with which the soul finds itself in possession at birth, or an idea imprinted on the mind in such a manner that it necessarily develops apart from observation and reasoning".

It means that there is a capacity in man for the knowledge of God which responds in an intuitive manner to revealed truth in the same way as the mind of man responds to the outer world. The fact of this intuitive knowledge is supported by Scripture and by universal experience.

The Scriptures assume that there is in man the consciousness of a Supreme Being. This is borne out by the opening words of the Old Testament and by the mention of the "law written in their hearts" in Rom.2:l5. Other passages which confirm this are Acts 17:27-28; Romans l:l8-25 and John 1:9.

The only atheism the Bible recognizes is a practical one (Psalm 14:1). Likewise in the universal experience of men no race has been found without the consciousness of a Supreme Being of some kind, and almost without exception, of a great supreme Good Spirit. This universality points to the necessity of reality lying behind the belief.

(b) Confirmatory or External Evidence.

It must be understood that the arguments which follow are only confirmatory. The existence of God cannot be demonstrated by deductive logic, that is, it cannot be mathematically proved from indubitable facts as with a theorem or problem of Euclid. God is further back, higher up and deeper down than anything we know.

Some great assumption or hypothesis, some leap of faith must be made. Having made the assumption, confirmatory proofs and arguments can be produced which place our original assumption beyond reasonable doubt. To some extent this is the method of any science,
God is surely the essential foundation of all knowledge.

"The proofs for the existence of God coincide with the grounds for belief in God. They are simply the real grounds for belief, established and expanded in a scientific manner". (Ulrici). These evidences can help us to know about God but can never lead us to Him, or enable us to know Him. While not a proper part of Christian dogmatics, these philosophical proofs are useful for three reasons.

Firstly, because the statement that the existence of God does not need to be demonstrated, can be misused to produce scepticism and unbelief.

Secondly, because the cumulative evidence of these proofs do supply a scientific defence for faith in God sufficient to show that unbelief is folly.

Thirdly, because they demonstrate the usual line of thought in the confirmation of belief in the existence of God." (Wiley, Intro.p.77). There are other arguments sometimes used but the main ones are four — the Cosmological, the Teleological' the Ontological and the Moral.

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