LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)--When we think about God, two important questions naturally arise. First, does God exist? Second, what is God like?
Americans have been pretty consistent for some time when answering the first question. Atheism continues to bark loudly, but still it has not garnered all that many followers. Ninety-five percent of Americans believe God exists.
However, when we examine the second question, things become more complicated and confusing. Pluralism is the "in-thing" in contemporary culture, and the doctrine of God has not escaped its influence. Choices today include pantheism, finite theism, deism, polytheism (e.g. Mormonism and various varieties of New Ageism) and classic monotheism, just to name a few.
A veritable smorgasbord of options is available. "Step up to the plate and choose your god, gods or goddesses..."
Couple this with the present infatuation with tolerance and the democratization of truth, and the "God question" becomes problematic, if not insolvable.
It is at this point that Christianity must choose to swim against the currents of modernity. While recognizing different religions may share some common beliefs and values, basic and fundamental differences divide us when addressing some important issues. The nature of God is one.
The Baptist Faith and Message article affirms "there is one and only one living and true God." This cancels out atheism and polytheism.
This God is "intelligent, spiritual and personal. He is Creator, Redeemer, Preserver and Ruler." This rules out pantheism, panentheism and deism.
Our God, the Scriptures testify, is "infinite in holiness and all other perfections." He is omnipotent (all powerful) and omniscient (all knowing). "His perfect knowledge extends to all things, past, present and future, including the future decisions of his free creatures." This sets aside finite and open theism.
The Bible reveals a God who rightly deserves our love and obedience.
Our God is also utterly unique from the theological conceptions of all other religions, for the Bible reveals him to be a Trinity of three eternal persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and yet still one -- a unity.
Indeed the biblical witness is clear: whatever it is that constitutes God as God, the Father is all of this, the Son is all of this and the Holy Spirit is all of this. But, there is still only one God, distinct in person "but without division of nature, essence or being."
The Christian God is personal and more (a tri-unity). In other world religions like Buddhism, God is less than personal. Islam views God as utterly transcendent and basically unapproachable. Mysticism and its New Age offspring see God as wholly immanent.
The Bible says the one true God is both. He is above us and separate from us, and yet he is also a God who can be known, truly and genuinely known, in a personal relationship.
What is the relevance of our theology of God? Does our thinking about and answer to the God question really make any difference in the day-to-day experience of life? I believe the answer is a resounding yes.
Ivan, in Fyodor Dostoyevsky's novel, The Brothers Karamozov, got it exactly right -- if God is dead, everything is permissible. To this we can add, if we are all gods, then anything goes, for by definition God (or gods) makes the rules.
Ultimately in this kind of world, there are no rules, no norms, no standard by which we can consistently measure truth from error, right from wrong. We do not live in a world where people believe nothing. We find ourselves drowning in a world that believes everything.
Genesis 1:1 teaches us, "In the beginning God..." Southern Baptists speak with one voice in giving affirmation to this proposition and all others in Holy Scripture that reveal to us real and true truth about the God who has created us in his image, redeemed us through his Son and made us spiritually alive by his Spirit.
God in three persons, blessed Trinity.
Akin is vice president for academic administration and dean of the school of theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.
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Full text of Article 2: God
There is one and only one living and true God. He is an intelligent, spiritual, and personal Being, the Creator, Redeemer, Preserver, and Ruler of the universe. God is infinite in holiness and all other perfections. God is all-powerful and all knowing; and His perfect knowledge extends to all things, past, present, and future, including the future decisions of His free creatures. To Him we owe the highest love, reverence, and obedience. The eternal triune God reveals Himself to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, with distinct personal attributes, but without division of nature, essence, or being.
A. God the Father
God as Father reigns with providential care over His universe, His creatures, and the flow of the stream of human history according to the purposes of His grace. He is all-powerful, all knowing, all loving, and all wise. God is Father in truth to those who become children of God through faith in Jesus Christ. He is fatherly in His attitude toward all men.
Genesis 1:1; 2:7; Exodus 3:14; 6:2-3; 15:11ff.; 20:1ff.; Leviticus 22:2; Deuteronomy 6:4; 32:6; 1 Chronicles 29:10; Psalm 19:1-3; Isaiah 43:3,15; 64:8; Jeremiah 10:10; 17:13; Matthew 6:9ff.; 7:11; 23:9; 28:19; Mark 1:9-11; John 4:24; 5:26; 14:6-13; 17:1-8; Acts 1:7; Romans 8:14-15; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Galatians 4:6; Ephesians 4:6; Colossians 1:15; 1 Timothy 1:17; Hebrews 11:6; 12:9; 1 Peter 1:17; 1 John 5:7.
B. God the Son
Christ is the eternal Son of God. In His incarnation as Jesus Christ He was conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. Jesus perfectly revealed and did the will of God, taking upon Himself human nature with its demands and necessities and identifying Himself completely with mankind yet without sin. He honored the divine law by His personal obedience, and in His substitutionary death on the cross He made provision for the redemption of men from sin. He was raised from the dead with a glorified body and appeared to His disciples as the person who was with them before His crucifixion. He ascended into heaven and is now exalted at the right hand of God where He is the One
Mediator, fully God, fully man, in whose Person is effected the reconciliation between God and man. He will return in power and glory to judge the world and to consummate His redemptive mission. He now dwells in all believers as the living and ever present Lord.
Genesis 18:1ff.; Psalms 2:7ff.; 110:1ff.; Isaiah 7:14; 53; Matthew 1:18-23; 3:17; 8:29; 11:27; 14:33; 16:16,27; 17:5; 27; 28:1-6,19; Mark 1:1; 3:11; Luke 1:35; 4:41; 22:70; 24:46; John 1:1-18,29; 10:30,38; 11:25-27; 12:44-50; 14:7-11; 16:15-16,28; 17:1-5, 21-22; 20:1-20,28; Acts 1:9; 2:22-24; 7:55-56; 9:4-5,20; Romans 1:3-4; 3:23-26; 5:6-21; 8:1-3,34; 10:4; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 2:2; 8:6; 15:1-8,24-28; 2 Corinthians 5:19-21; 8:9; Galatians 4:4-5; Ephesians 1:20; 3:11; 4:7-10; Philippians 2:5-11; Colossians 1:13-22; 2:9; 1 Thessalonians 4:14-18; 1 Timothy 2:5-6; 3:16; Titus 2:13-14; Hebrews 1:1-3; 4:14-15; 7:14-28; 9:12-15,24-28; 12:2; 13:8; 1 Peter 2:21-25; 3:22; 1 John 1:7-9; 3:2; 4:14-15; 5:9; 2 John 7-9; Revelation 1:13-16; 5:9-14; 12:10-11; 13:8; 19:16.
C. God the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God, fully divine. He inspired holy men of old to write the Scriptures. Through illumination He enables men to understand truth. He exalts Christ. He convicts men of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. He calls men to the Saviour, and effects regeneration. At the moment of regeneration He baptizes every believer into the Body of Christ. He cultivates Christian character, comforts believers, and bestows the spiritual gifts by which they serve God through His church. He seals the believer unto the day of final redemption. His presence in the Christian is the guarantee that God will bring the believer into the fullness of the stature of Christ. He enlightens and empowers the believer and the church in worship, evangelism, and service.
Genesis 1:2; Judges 14:6; Job 26:13; Psalms 51:11; 139:7ff.; Isaiah 61:1-3; Joel 2:28-32; Matthew 1:18; 3:16; 4:1; 12:28-32; 28:19; Mark 1:10,12; Luke 1:35; 4:1,18-19; 11:13; 12:12; 24:49; John 4:24; 14:16-17,26; 15:26; 16:7-14; Acts 1:8; 2:1-4,38; 4:31; 5:3; 6:3; 7:55; 8:17,39; 10:44; 13:2; 15:28; 16:6; 19:1-6; Romans 8:9-11,14-16,26-27; 1 Corinthians 2:10-14; 3:16; 12:3-11,13; Galatians 4:6; Ephesians 1:13-14; 4:30; 5:18; 1 Thessalonians 5:19; 1 Timothy 3:16; 4:1; 2 Timothy 1:14; 3:16; Hebrews 9:8,14; 2 Peter 1:21; 1 John 4:13; 5:6-7; Revelation 1:10; 22:17.
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