The Doctrine of God is usually approached using a systematic theology model, i.e. what we know about God from the Bible is classified into a logical system.
- God’s attributes are classified into headings, sometimes under headings like:
- God Communicable and Incommunicable attributes (Reformed model)
- God’s Greatness and Goodness (Millard Erickson)
- What God is (Attributes of God) and What God does (creation, salvation etc.)
- While such an approach is very useful, it is not how God has chosen to reveal himself.
- Instead, God has chosen, for the most part, to use stories—historical accounts of his interactions with the universe and especially with human beings.
- If the traditional approach is known as Systematic Theology, then this alternative would be Biblical Theology.
|Organize truth into a logical system
||Ask how God has organized truth
|Doctrine of God: divide his attributes into categories
||How has God decided to reveal his nature and character to us?
|Good as an end-point
||The best place to start
Why should God reveal himself in this way? I believe that the answer lies in the way that he has created us. There is evidence that human beings construct their worldview from foundational stories. Missionaries reaching new cultures have discovered that it is not sufficient simply to teach correct doctrine to new converts, the tribal stories that define their worldview must be replaced by the historical stories of the Bible.
This idea can be seen in Joshua 4:5–7
- …take up each of you a stone upon his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the people of Israel,
- that this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’
- then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan stopped flowing before the ark of the covenant of the LORD. When it passed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan stopped flowing.
So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever.”
One way of structuring the order of attributes would be to look at the order in which they were revealed. So we might start with:
- God’s omnipotent power in creation
- Aspects of his personal/relational characteristics in his pre-fall relationships with Adam and Eve
- His justice in the fall
This structure has two weaknesses:
- There are some places later on in revelation history where there seems to be a particular focus on certain aspects of God’s character, e.g.
- in the making of the covenants with Abraham, and later, Israel.
- in the detailed focus on God’s judgement on Sodom & Gomorrah
- If Jesus Christ is the full revelation of God, then we must be careful that he is at the head and not the tail-end of our stories.
I am going to make a “first pass” at this method, and in doing so discover what the problems are, and so lay the groundwork for a fuller and more polished structure at a later date.
The series will be in ten parts, starting with God’s power, as revealed in creation.