Theology is not only for the advanced Bible student or the elite scholar. Every person has a theology because it simply means words or thoughts about God. Our word theology comes from two Greek words qeoV theos meaning God and logoV logos meaning word, discourse, study, or a thought expressed through words. So, everyone has theo-logos or theology, but not every one has developed a biblical or correct theology.
Theology is the categorical study of scripture and part of I.C.E. teaching: isagogical, categorical, exegetical. Theology collects similar scriptural teaching, organizes it and uses the information to interpret an area of study. Systematic theology involves collecting, arranging, comparing, exhibiting and defending the facts from any and every source concerning God, his plans and his activities. Systematic Theology is not an end in itself; its purpose is to classify and clarify the truth as presented in the God-breathed scriptures.
Some Types of Theology
New England Theology
Ten areas of theology that the study of Christian theology is broken down into are:
Theology – the study of God (theos)
Bibliology – the study of Scripture (biblos, book)
Angelology – the study of Angels (angelos, messenger, angel)
Anthropology – the study of Man (anthropos, man)
Hamartiology – the study of Sin (hamartia, miss the mark, sin)
Christology – the study of Christ (christos, anointed one, Messiah, Christ)
Soteriology – the study of Salvation (soter, savior)
Pneumatology – the study of the Holy Spirit (pneuma, spirit)
Ecclesiology – the study of the Church (ekklesia, assembly, gathering, church)
Eschatology – the study of Things to Come or End Times (eschata, last things)
Theology - The Study of God
Transcendence and Immanence
These are two characteristics of the God of the Bible. Transcendence refers to God as being prior to and existing outside the created world. To describe God as transcendent means God’s existence, his person and his nature, are not connected to the created world. God exists unchanged before, during and after the universe, or any created thing, existed. Immanence refers to God’s ability, desire and practice of being involved in the universe. This includes his general indwelling of every part of creation. God is everywhere simultaneously and is presentat every point in space (but, this does not mean he exists as every point in space.) As transcendent, God is beyond time and space and is not affected by creation. As immanent, God is aware, present and involved in the created world. The Biblical God is both transcendent and immanent. He exists outside the universe but is active in the universe.
There are seven major world views of concerning God:
Atheism – believes there is no God
Polytheism – believes there are many gods
Panentheism – believes God is finite. He learns and changes as the free universe makes decisions.
Finite godism – believes God is finite but lives beyond the universe yet still has limited action in the universe
Pantheism – believers God is infinite but lives or exists with the creation
Deism – God is infinite, does not live in or effect the world; he is totally outside creation (transcendent).
Theism – God is infinite and beyond creation but he does act within creation; he is personal and knowable
Theism is an ancient philosophical concept that needed to be identified when the philosophy of deism began to be embraced in the 1600’s. Deism simply believes that God created the universe like a clockmaker. God wound it up and is letting it run. In deism God is entirely transcendent or outside the created world. Deism describes God as the first cause who created the world and established immutable, universal laws that can not be altered even by divine intervention. Theism on the other hand is the belief in the existence of one God who is transcendent and yet immanent. Theism embraces an infinite God who has personhood and interacts with people.
God reveals himself in two ways:
General Revelation - God reveals himself through natural means to all men at all times.
Special Revelation – God reveals himself through supernatural methods, including scripture, to believers.
General revelation of God is made known to man through creation (Psalm 19:1-6; Romans 1:18-23). General revelation surrounds and is available to all men (Matt. 5:45; Acts 14:17) everywhere (Psalm 19:2) and at all times (Acts 17:24-28). General revelation is in the conscience of all men (Romans 2:14-15). A person does not have to be a Christian, or even religious, to received general revelation from God.
Here are three basic ways general revelation comes to men:
Cosmological – The cosmological argument simply states the world we live in is an effect that requires an adequate cause. Our universe is here so there must be a cause for its existence. The universe can not create itself since that would require the universe to exist and not exist at the same time. The universe can not exist by chance since the complexity of matter itself is beyond random luck not to mention the assembly of matter into the vast systems and organisms that include non-physical things like thought, numbers, time, life, morals, etc. General revelation from creation indicates there must be an intelligent being that is greater than the created universe and outside of time. To create a universe with life and systems means there must be a living creator who is powerful and intelligent.
Teleological – Since there is order and purpose in the universe there had to be a designer. No one would believe a computer came into existence by itself because logic demands we accept the belief that a man is responsible for the designed and creation of the computer. Why would the man who uses the computer think he came into existence without a designer? The order of the universe reveals not only a creator but an organized caretaker with a purpose.
Anthropological – Mankind is a living being who understands morals and has intelligence. Since mankind has these qualities in a finite existence in time there must be a designer who also is living, moral and intelligent but at an infinite level beyond time.
Paul used all of these arguments in Romans 1:18-23; 2:14-15 and Acts 14:14-18; 17:24-28 to cause the pagans to reevaluate their theology. Romans 1:20 says, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made so that me are without excuse.” These invisible qualities of God’s eternal power and divine nature are seen in creation:
Glory revealed in the skies and universe (Psalm 19:1)
Power revealed in the immovableness of the earth and solar system (Psalm 93:1; 19:1)
Supremacy revealed in creation (Acts 14:15)
Goodness revealed in sending the sun and rain for all people (Matthew 5:45; Acts 14:17)
Intelligence revealed in our own skill and ability to design (Acts 17:29)
Greatness revealed in the vastness of the seas and outer space (Psalm 29:3-5; 93:4)
Judgment revealed in thunder and storms (Job 37:1-5)
Besides the physical universe and the nature of man, God’s general revelation can also come to man through history, art and music. Mankind must use what is revealed in general revelation for rational thinking, scientific development, government, social justice, marriage, family and much more. It is just as Paul says to the philosophers in Athens when he quotes the Cretan poet Epimenides who wrote around 600 BC:
“For in him we live and move and have our being” Acts 17:28
Comes only to believers and mainly through the written scriptures of the prophets and the apostles. Special revelation reveals information not discovered in creation. It may be confirmed in creation once it is known but special revelation will never be understood apart from God revealing it in some supernatural way. Society is not responsible to obey or understand special revelation. Special revelation is given to believers, who along with the church (or, Israel in the Old Testament), are responsible for the information.
Some things revealed only by special revelation are the plan of salvation, the means of salvation, the deity of Jesus, the Trinity, many of God’s purposes, eschatology, and more. These things can never be discovered by the mere philosopher, professor, scientist or theologian apart from the scripture or some other form of special revelation.
In the past God spoke to mankind in a variety of ways.
“In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways,
but in these last days he has spoken to us by his son.” Hebrews 1:1
Some of the other forms of special revelation were:
the Lot (Proverbs 16:33; Acts 1:21-26)
the Urim and Thummim (Exodus 2:30; Numbers 27:21; Deuteronomy 33:8; 1 Samuel 28:6; Ezra 2:63)
Dreams (Genesis 20:3, 6; 31:11-13, 24; Daniel 2:1-48; 7:1-15; Matthew 1:20)
Theophanies (an appearance of the second member or the Trinity as the angel of the Lord (Genesis 16:7-14; Exodus 3:2; Joshua 5:13; 2 Samuel 24:16; Zechariah 1:12)
Attributes of God
Since God reveals himself and can be known by man, we can then describe the true God by identifying his personal attributes or his character. The essence of God can be identified as:
attributes like holiness which is one of his moral attributes
activities like mercy which is something God does because of who he is
characteristics like omniscience which is simply something that belongs to God in general
A list of the attributes of God can range from less than nine to over thirty items depending on how the list is broken down and which attributes are considered synonymous. Below is a general list of attributes of the Godhead. For a being to be considered God the being must possess each and every one of these characteristics. Some characteristics are unique with God, like omnipresence, since no other being can be everywhere at all times. Some characteristics are shared with some creatures, like truth or life, with the difference being God possesses these characteristics in an eternal, infinite state while the creature possesses a limited, finite level of this characteristic. These are the things that God is:
Unity God is one Deut. 6:4; 1 Cor. 8:6
Infinite God is without limits 1 Kings 8:27; Ps. 145:3; Acts 17:24
Eternity God is outside of time Gen. 21:33; Ps. 90:2
Immutable God’s being is unchangeable 1K.8:56;Ps.102:27;Mal.3:6;2Tm2:13;Jm1:17
Sovereign God is independent of authority besides him Eph. 1:21
Omnipresence God is present everywhere at all times Ps. 139:7-12; Jer. 23:23-24
Omniscience God knows all things Job 37:16; Ps.139:1-4;147:4-5; Matt.11:21
Omnipotence God is all powerful Matt. 19:26; Rev. 19:6; Lk. 1:37;
Justice God is morally fair; He shows no favoritism Acts 10:34-35; Rom. 2:11
Love God seeks good for others at his own cost Ps. 103:17; Eph. 2:4-5; 1 Jn. 4:8, 10
Grace God provides undeserved benefits Ex. 34:6; Eph. 1:5-8; Titus 2:11
Freedom God is independent of his creatures Ps. 115:3
Holiness God is set apart from sin and evil 1 Peter 1:16
Righteousness God is right in his laws and actions Ps. 19:7-9; Jer. 9:24
Veracity God is true and consistent in word and deed 1 Sm 15:29; Ps100:5;Jn 17:17,19;Heb. 6:18
Faithfulness God keeps his promises and commitments Num. 23:19; Ps. 89:2; 1 Thes. 5:24
Personal God has will, intellect, self-awareness Exod. 3:14; Gen. 3
Life God is life and source of all life Exod. 3:14; Jer. 10:10; John 5:26; 1Jn.1:2
Names of God
There are many names for the one true God in the Bible. In most cases God is the one who assigns himself the name in order to reveal his character and describe himself to man.
Elohim – is a general name for deity used over 2,500 times in the Old Testament. About 2,300 times it is used to refer to the true God of Scripture. Elohim first appears in Genesis 1:1. The -im at the end of Elohim makes the word plural most likely to indicate the majestic essence of the deity. Some think it refers to the trinity but this plural noun form is consistently used with singular verb forms through out the Old Testament indicating the writer is not thinking of plurality but majesty. Elohim is sovereign as the “God of all the earth” (Isaiah 54:5), “God of heaven” (Nehemiah 2:4), and “God of gods and Lord of lords” (Deut. 10:17). Elohim is the creator (Gen. 1:1; Isaiah 45:18), the judge (Ps. 50:6; 58:11) and works for Israel (Deut. 5:23; 8:15; Ps. 68:7). Elohim is combined with other names to identify God:
El Shaddai – shaddai is related to a word for mountain. El Shaddai then refers to the God of the Mountain revealing God as the mighty God or God Almighty as it is translated in the NIV.(Gen.17:1-20; 28:3; 35:11; Ex. 6:3)
El Elyon – elyon means “most high” and is used by Melchizedek in Gen. 14:19. It is translated in the NIV as God Most High. Also used in Psalm 9:2; Daniel 7:18, 22, 25, 27; Isaiah 14:13,14
El Olam – olam refers to “everlasting” or “eternity”. El Olam is translated as Everlasting God or God of Eternity. (Gen. 21:33; Isaiah 40:28)
El Roi – roi means “sees” and is used by Hagar (Gen.16:13) when she calls God the God Who Sees.
El Elohe Israel – means God, the God of Israel (Gen. 33:20)
Yahweh – is the personal name for God. It comes from the Hebrew YHWH translated LORD in the NIV. The name YHWH communicates the self-awareness and self-evidence of the self-existing One: “I AM Who I Am” (Exodus 3:2, 14; 6:2-3). It was used by Eve, Seth, Noah and Abraham (Gen.4:1, 26; 9:26; 12:8; 15:2). After the Jews returned from Babylonian captivity they began to consider the name of God, YHWH, as too holy to be spoken. They began to substitute the word Adonai (lord, master, owner) for YH WH. By 600 AD the vowels of Adonai were combined with YHWH to produce the artifical name of God YaHoWaH which would be pronounced ya-ho-wah, or in English, ja-ho-vah and spelled Jehovah. The word Yahweh is simply the original YHWH with the two unwritten vowels added into the two syllables YH-WH or Yah-weh:
Yahweh Jireh – “the Lord Will Provide” (Gen. 22:8-14)
Yahweh Nissi – “the Lord is My Banner” (Exodus 17:15)
Yahweh Rapha – “the Lord Who Heals” (Exodus 15:26)
Yahweh Shalom – “the Lord is Peace” (Judges 6:24)
Yahweh Sabbaoth – “the Lord of Hosts (1 Samuel 1:3; 17:45; Ps. 24:10; 46:7, 11)
Yahweh Maccaddeshcem – “the Lord Who Sanctifies You” (Exodus 31:13)
Yahweh Roi or Raah – “the Lord is My Shepherd” (Psalm 23:1)
Yahweh Tsidkenu – “the Lord Our Righteousness” (Jeremiah 23:6; 33:16)
Yahweh El Gemolah – “the Lord, God of Recompense” (Jeremiah 51:56)
Yahweh Nakeh – “The Lord Who Strikes” (Ezekiel 7:9)
Yahweh Shammah – “the Lord is There” (Ezekiel 48:35)
Yahweh Elohim Israel – “the Lord, the God of Israel” (Judges 5:3; Isaiah 17:6)
Yahweh Elohim – “the Lord God” or “the Lord, the Mighty One” (Judges 5:3; Isaiah 17:6)
Adonai - means lord, master or owner (Gen. 19:2; 40:1; 1 Samuel 1:15).
Theos – qeoV - A Greek word from the New Testament that is translated as “God”. This word is used to refer to false gods (Acts 12:22; 14:11; 1 Cor. 8:5), to Satan (2 Cor. 4:4), to the sin of sensuality (Phil.3:19) and to Jesus (Romans 9:5; John 1:1, 18; 20:28; Titus 2:13). Theos is used to refer to the true God (Matt. 23:9; Rom. 3:30), the unique God (1 Tim. 1:17; John 17:3), the creator (Acts 17:24), the savior (1 Tim. 1:1; 2:3).
kurios – kurioV - A Greek word that can mean sir (John 4:11), owner (Lk. 19:33) or master (Col. 3:22). It was a Greek word used to express the identity the Jewish God of the Old Testament. (Romans 10:9). To confess Jesus as Lord (kurios) meant to recognize Jesus as YHWH.
Paterology is the study of God the Father. Pater, or pathr, is the Greek word for father. The fatherhood of God as creator is true for all men, but the New Testament develops a richer and deeper relationship with God as Father for the believer in Jesus Christ. The word for Father is used fifteen times in the Old Testament but 245 times in the New Testament. This concept was clarified by Jesus in his reference to God as his Father concerning his own relationship with God (see Matthew 11:25-27). The Aramaic term Abba, a term originally used by young children for their fathers indicating an intimate and familiar relationship, was used by Jesus to address God (Mark 14:36). The identification of God as Father goes further than Jesus’ own relationship with God when he teaches his disciples to pray by saying “Our Father” (Matthew 6:9). It should be noted in passing that teaching his disciples concerning God’s fatherly relationship to them and their familiarity and intimacy with God as Father should not detract from their understanding of his awesome holiness and flawless righteousness because in the Lord’s Prayer Jesus followed, “Our Father in heaven” with “hallowed be your name.” The Father/Son relationship for man with God is based on the redemptive work of God through Jesus. John says, “To all who received him (Jesus), to those who believed in his name, he (God the Father) gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God” (John 1:12, 13). Jesus and the apostles taught that God our Father demonstrated his Fatherly care and relationship with each believer in these ways:
Cares for daily needs (Matthew 6:32)
Individual concern and attention (Matthew 6:26)
Source of our spiritual life (John 1:12, 13)
His Love has been lavished on us (1 John 3:1)
Gives us grace and peace (Ephesians 1:2; 1 Thessalonians 1:1)
Concerned with our welfare (Romans 8:15-28)
Gives us good gifts (James 1:17)
Oversees our discipline and growth (Hebrews 12:5-13)
Provides us with commands and directions for living life (2 John 4)
Makes us in the image of his own Son (1 John 3:2)
Paul begins all his epistles identifying God as the Father (Rm.1:7; 1Co.1:3; 2Co.1:2; Gal.1:1; etc.). All human fathers receive the concept of fatherhood from God himself (Ephesians 3:14,15). God is the Father of glory (Eph.1:17), the Father of spirits (Heb.12:9) and the Father of lights (James 1:17). After his resurrection Jesus told Mary that he was “ascending to my Father and your Father” (John 20:17).
The word Trinity is not in the Hebrew or Greek scriptures and was not used by the early church. So the word Trinity is not a biblical word but it is clearly a biblical concept.
In the Old Testament the unity of God is the focus as is seen in the great Shema of Deuteronomy 6:4:
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.”
The word “LORD” is YHWH and the word “God” is Elohim (which is plural). The word “one” is the same Hebrew word used of Adam and Eve and “one” flesh in Genesis 2:24. Concerning Adam and Eve this word “one” did not refer to one person but one union, one character, even, one flesh. Yet, Adam remained a separate person as did Eve. There were still two people but one union. The Old Testament does not explicitly teach the concept of the Trinity but it certainly supports it and clearly does not deny it. Some examples of Old Testament support for the Trinity are found in these verses:
The use of plural pronouns and plural verbs:
“Then God said (singular verb), ‘Let us make (plural verb) man in our image, in our likeness.” (Gen. 1:26)
“Come, let us go down and confuse their language.”(Gen. 11:7)
“Whom shall I send (singular verb)? And who will go for us?” (Isaiah 6:8)
The creation of man in the image of God was unity with plurality for “man” was created “male and female” could indicate that God is also unity with plurality – “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, . . .” (Gen. 1:27)
The Angel of YHWH or The Angel of the LORD is recognized, worship and speaks as God
The Angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring in the desert (Genesis 16:7-12)
Three men appear to Abraham, one is the Lord and two are angels (Genesis 18:1-21; 19:1)
The Angel of the LORD appeared to Moses in the burning bush (Exodus 3:2-5)
Joshua bows before the Commander of the LORD’s army (Joshua 5:13-15)
The Angel of the LORD appears to Gideon (Judges 6:11-22)
The Angel of the LORD appeared to Samson’s mother (Judges 13:3-22)
“Now the Sovereign LORD has sent me with his Spirit.” (Isaiah 48:17)
“Sovereign LORD is the Father
“me” is the redeemer or Messiah
“Spirit” is the Holy Spirit
“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty.” (Isaiah 6:1-3) – “holy” is repeated three times.
The Spirit and the LORD are not the same persons, “ ‘As for me, this is my covenant with them,’ says the LORD. ‘My Spirit, who is on you, and my words that I have put in your mouth will not depart from your mouth.’ ”
The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are identified along with their reaction to Israel’s sin: “In all their distress he (Father) too was distressed, and the angel of his presence (Son) saved them. In his love and mercy he redeemed them. . . Yet they rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit (Spirit).” (Isaiah 64:9-10)
Wisdom from Proverbs 8:12-31 may be referring to the second member of the Trinity, the Son of God.
Psalm 2:2,7,8,11, “The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the LORD and against his Anointed One (Messiah) . . . He (the Father) said to me (Son, Messiah), ‘You are my Son, today I have become your Father. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance . . . Serve the LORD with fear . . . Kiss the Son lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment.”
The Old Testament does not explicitly teach the doctrine of the Trinity but with the revelation of the New Testament it is easy to see the distinction and activity of the three members of the God head through out the Old Testament. The New Testament continues to teach there is only one true God (1 Cor.8:4-6; Eph. 4:3-6; James 2:19) but the first book in the New Testament, Matthew, opens and closes with the Trinity. At Jesus’ baptism in Matthew 3:15-17 the second member of the Trinity is being baptized and is identified as the Son by the voice of the first member of the Trinity, the Father, from heaven. This is followed by the third member of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, descending on Jesus. The book of Matthew then closes with Jesus telling his disciples, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matt. 28:19) Notice the mention of three persons but only one name mentioned as a unity in the singular form.
Many other places in the New Testament the Trinity is identified: 1 Corinthians 12:4; 2 Corinthians 13:14; Luke 1:35; Hebrews 9:14
Each of the members of the members of the Trinity demonstrate or are described in scripture as having the attributes of being God.
The Father as God is seen in many places in the New Testament (John 6:27; 1 Peter 1:2)
Jesus, the Son of God, demonstrates the attributes of deity:
Omniscience (Matt. 9:4)
Omnipotence (Matt. 28:18)
Omnipresence (Matt. 28:20)
Forgave sins (Mark 2:1-12)
Raised the dead (John 12:9)
Created the World (John 1:3)
Judge of all men (John 5:27)
The Holy Spirit as God:
Called God (Acts 5:3-4)
Called Lord (2 Cor. 3:17)
Omniscience (1 Cor. 2:10, 11)
Omnipresence (Ps. 139:7; 1 Cor. 6:19)
Truth (1 John 5:6)
Is a person, not simply the power of God or hand of God (2 Cor. 13:14)
He has a role to play in the plan of salvation (1 Peter 1:2)
He Can be grieved and interacts as a person with men (Eph. 4:30; 1 Thes.5:19)
Divine Attributes of the Trinity
1 Corinthians 2:11
1 Peter 1:5
2 Corinthians 12:9
John 1:2; Rev. 1:8, 17
1 John 5:6
Genesis 1:2; Job 26:13
Creator of Man
Makes Divine Decisions
1 Corinthians 12:11
Gives Divine Words
The members of the Godhead have identical essence but are separate persons. In salvation each member of the Trinity serves a different function: The Father planned salvation (Isaiah 14:27; John 4:34; 5:17; 12:44; 1 Cor. 8:6; Eph. 3:11); The Son executed salvation (John 4:34; 5:17; Heb. 10:7); The Holy Spirit reveals salvation (John 16:8-11). Jesus Christ, or the second member of the Trinity, is the only visible member of the Trinty.
In an attempt to state the doctrine of the Trinity in words Charles Ryrie says:
“A definition of the Trinity is not easy to construct. Some are done by stating several propositions. Others err on the side either of oneness or threeness. One of the best is Warfield’s: ‘There is one only and true God, but in the unity of the Godhead there are three coeternal an coequal Persons, the same in substance but distinct in subsistence.’ The word “Persons” might be misleading as if there were three individuals in the Godhead, but what other word would suffice? The word “substance” might be too materialistic; some would prefer the use the word “essence.” Many will not know the meaning of subsistence, but a dictionary can remedy that (‘necessary existence’).” (Charles Ryrie, Basic Theology, 1999, p.61)
Jesus may have said it best when he said, “I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30). The use of “I and the Father” shows the two separate persons of the Son and the Father. The statement that they “are one” uses the plural verb for the two persons but the neuter form of “one” which avoids referring to “one person” by not using the masculine. Instead, the use of neuter form of “one” refers to the nature or the essence and means the two persons are one nature and have the same attributes.