The Doctrine of God


Lecture Outline


John M. Frame



            This lecture outline is more or less a summary of my book Doctrine of God (P&R, 2002). Large Roman numerals correspond to chapter titles.


I.                    Introduction

A. God in our age

1.      Ignorance,

2.      pluralism,

3.      weightlessness

B. The Doctrine of God in History

1.      More philosophical influence on this locus than on others.

2.      Reformation did not drastically revise this one as some others.

3.      Aquinas' Summa Contra Gentiles vs. Calvin's Institutes.

4.      Protestant scholasticism: criticized as

a.      nit-picking, focused on minutiae.

b.      Speculative, philosophical, rather than biblical.

c.      Irrelevant to the practical Christian life.

5.      Alternatives to scholasticism

a.      Schleiermacher, Kierkegaard, Barth.

b.      Pietism, anabaptism, charismatics.

c.      Reformed

(i)                 Varying the order of topics

(ii)               Dooyeweerd: replace scholastic philosophy with Dooyeweerdian

(iii)             Redemptive history

(iv)             Adopting controlling motifs: love, Word, Fatherhood of God, hope, liberation, community.

(v)               Van Til: Sola Scriptura as presupposition.

C. My Response to Scholasticism

1.      Sola Scriptura, vs. Philosophical Imperialism and Traditionalism

2.      Covenant Lordship, to focus on the central biblical message: Ex. 6:7, 7:5, 8:10, 9:14, 29-30, 10:2, 14:4, 18, 16:12.

3.      Changes in order of topics to facilitate communication.

a.      To reflect a biblical pattern of reasoning.

b.      To be less phgilosophical, more historical.

c.      To emphasize that the ethical attributes are fundamental.

d.      Not "theology from below" as usually understood.

D. Structure of These Lectures

1.      Covenant Lordship of God

a.      A holy person who is head of the covenant.

b.      Control, authority, presence.

2.      Some problem areas

a.      Human responsibility and freedom

b.      Evil

3.      A philosophy of Lordship

a.      ethics

b.      epistemology

c.      metaphysics

4.      The narrative of God's actions

a.      miracle

b.      providence

c.      creation

d.      the decrees

5.      Authoritative descriptions of God

a.      Names

b.      images

c.      attributes

(i)                 love

(ii)               knowledge

(iii)             power

6.      The Trinitarian Persons

a.      God as three in one

b.      The deity of the three persons

c.      The theology of the Trinity



Part One: Yahweh the Lord



II.                  The Lord

A.     Centrality of Lordship

1.      "Yahweh is Lord," the center of the OT message. Ex. 3:14-15, Deut. 6:4-5, Ex. 6:7, 7:5, 17, 8:10, 22, 9:14, 29-30, 10:2, 14:4, 18, 16:6, 12, etc. Cf. Ex. 9:16, Rom. 9:17.

2.      "Jesus is Lord," center of the NT message. Rom. 10:9, 1 Cor. 12:3, Phil. 2:11, John 20:28, Acts 2:36.

3.      Why don't more theologians make this their central motif?

4.      Why do some actually oppose Lordship (J. Moltmann, Elizabeth Johnson, Clark Pinnock)? "Lordship salvation."

B.     Yahweh: the Name of a Person

1.      The impersonal reduces to the personal.

2.      Only in biblical religion is there an absolute person.

C.    Yahweh is the Holy One

1.      Ex. 3:5-6: holy ground. Cf. 19:12-13, 23, Isa. 6:3, 1:4, etc.

2.      Jesus the Holy One of God, Luke 1:35, 4:34, Acts 2:27, 3:14.

3.      Holiness; God's capacity and right to arouse our reverent awe and wonder.

4.      Brings awareness of our sin, Isa. 6:5.

5.      But amazingly, he calls us to be his holy nation, Ex. 19:6, 22:31, Lev. 19:1, 1 Pet. 1:16, Rom. 1:7, 1 Cor. 1:2.

6.      Holiness, amazingly, is ground for God's mercy: Hos. 11:9, Psm. 22:1-5, Isa. 41:14, 43:3, 14, 49:7.

D.    Yahweh is the Covenant Head

1.      A relation, but one which emphasizes his existence beyond the relation.

2.      The suzerainty treaty: Lord and vassal

a.      Name of Great King

b.      Historical prologue: the Lord's past blessings.

c.      Stipulations or laws

(i)                 General: exclusive covenant loyalty, = "love."

(ii)               Specific commands.

d.      Sanctions

(i)                 blessings for obedience

(ii)               curses for disobedience

e.      Covenant continuity, administration.

3.      The treaty is a written document, authored by the Lord.

a.      Cf. "Doctrine of the Word"

b.      God gives Israel a written constitution.

4.      In New Covenant, he is Lord over many nations.

5.      Indeed, God is covenant Lord over the whole creation, Psm. 36:5-7, 47:7-9.


III.                The Lordship Attributes: Control

A.     Recent and Traditional Views of Ex. 3:14

1. God refuses Moses' question, concealing himself.

2.      Barth, Thielicke: God gives an answer, but it is veiled in the inappropriateness of human language.

3.      Aquinas: God is Being itself.

4.      Recent consensus: God says "I am present to deliver you."

B.     Passages Expounding the Name Yahweh

1.      Ex. 6:1-8

2.      Ex. 20:1-17

3.      Ex. 33:19, 34:6

4.      Deut. 32:39-40, Isa. 41:4, 43:10-13, 25, 44:6, 48:12, 46:3-4. Ani Hu, "I am he."

5.      Psm. 135:13, Isa. 26:4-8, Hos. 12:4-9, 13:4, Mal. 3:6.

6.      The I ams of John.

a.      "I am the…" 6:48, 8:12, 9:5, 10:7, 14, 11:25, 14:6, 15:1, 5.

b.      "I am he," 4:26, 8:24, 28, 13:19, 18:5-8.

c.      "I AM," 8:58.

7.      Prominence of God, "to be," Rev. 1:4, 8, 4:8, 11:17, 16:5.

C.    The Covenantal Triad

1.      Control, authority, presence

2.      Parallel with elements of the suzerainty treaty.

D.    Yahweh the Controller

1.      Ex. 3:19-20, 4:21, 6:1-8, 20:2etc. emphasis on mighty acts.

2.      Ex. 3:14

a.      Most translations stress God's sovereign control.

b.      Parallel with 33:19.

3.      The Ani Hu passages, Deut. 32:39, Isa. 41:4, 43:11-13.

4.      Yahweh is King, Psm. 93:1, 97:1, 99:1, Psms 2, 47, 96:10-13.


IV.               God's Control: Its Efficacy and Universality

A.     Efficacy

1.      Nothing is too hard for God, Jer. 32:27, Zech. 8:6, Gen. 18:14, Matt. 19:26, Luke 1:37, Isa. 14:24-27.

2.      God's Word is omnipotent, Isa. 55:11, Zech. 1:6.

3.      So no opposition to him will succeed, Prov. 21:30, 16:9, 19:21.

4.      So God's pleasure will be realized, Isa. 46:10, Dan. 4:35, Matt. 11:25-26, Eph. 1:4-5, 9.

5.      The potter and the clay, Isa. 29:16, 45:9, 64:8, Jer. 18:1-10, Rom. 9:19-24.

6.      Irresistable grace, Ezek. 11:20, John 6:37, Rom. 8:29-30, 1 Thess. 5:9.

7.      Summary: Psm. 33:11, 115:3, 135:6, Isa. 43:13, Rev. 3:7.

B.     Universality

1.      The Natural World

a.      Events ascribed directly to God, Psm. 65:9-11, 135:5-7, 147:15-18, etc.

b.      Including the most "random" events, Prov. 16:33, Jonah 1:7, Acts 1:23-26, Ex. 21:13, Judg. 9:53, 1 Kings 22:34.

c.      Smallest details, Matt. 5:45, 6:26-30, 10:29-30.

d.      Jesus calms the sea, Matt. 8:23-27, Mark 4:35-39, Luke 8:22-25.

2.      Human History

a.      Our existence based on the events of the natural world.

b.      Controls acts of kings, nations, Psm. 33:10-11, Gen. 41:16, 28, 32, 45:4-8, 50:20.

c.      God decides who will prevail, Prov. 21:31.

d.      God raises up Assyria, reins it in, Isa. 10:5-12, 14:24-27.

e.      Rules over all the peoples of the earth, Dan. 4:34-35.

f.        Cyrus, Isa. 44:28.

g.      Jesus, dies at a particular hour foreordained by the Father, John 2:4, 7:6, 30, 44, etc.)

h.     The Father knows when he will return, Matt. 24:36.

3.      Individual Human Life

a.      Jer. 1:5, Eph. 1:4.

b.      The whole history of human procreation, Psm. 139:13-16.

c.      Events of our lives, 1 Sam. 2:6-7, Psm. 37:23, James 4:13-16.

4.      Human Decisions

a.      Joseph's brothers (Gen. 45:5-8), Cyrus (Isa. 44:28), Judas (Luke 22:22, Acts 2:23-24, 3:18, 4:27-28, 13:27).

b.      Depend on events of nature.

c.      God's plans exclude many human free decisions. Joseph's brothers were not free to kill him.

d.      God controls the heart, from which decisions come, Luke 6:45, Prov. 21:1, Rom. 9:17, Psm. 33:15, Ex. 12:36 (3:21-22).

e.      God controls decisions, Prov. 16:1, 9, 19:21, Ex. 34:24, Judg. 7:22, Dan. 1:9, Ezra 6:22, John 19:24.

f.        People make decisions so that Scripture may be fulfilled, Matt. 1:20-23, 2:14-15, 21:1-5, 26:55-56, Acts 13:27-29.

g.      Necessity, dei, Matt. 16:21, 24:6, etc.

5.      Sins

a.      God controls the heart, but it's sinful, Jer. 17:9.

b.      Psm. 105:24, Pharaoh in Ex. 4:21, etc, Rom. 9:17-18.

c.      Other hardenings, Deut. 2:30, Josh 11:18-20, 1 Sam. 16:14, 1 Kings 22:20-23, Isa. 6:9-10, 63:17, 64:7, Rom. 11:7-8, 11-16, 25-32, 9:22-26.

d.      Samson marrying a Philistine, Judg. 14:4. Cf. 2 Sam. 24.

e.      God prevents people from hearing wise counsel, 1 Kings 12:15, 2 Chron. 25:20

f.        The Gospel hardens some, 2 Cor. 2:15-16, 1 Pet. 2:6-8.

g.      The murder of Jesus, Acts 2:23, 4:28, 13:27, Luke 22:22.

h.     God moves some to worship the beast, Rev. 17:17.

6.      Faith and Salvation

a.      Eph. 1:4-6, 2:1-10, 2 Tim. 1:9.

b.      Election on the basis of foreknowledge (Rom. 8:29, 1 Pet. 1:2)?

(i)                 When a person is the object of "know," typically it speaks of personal friendship, not factual knowledge.

(ii)               Psm. 1:6, Amos 3:2, Hos. 13:4, Matt. 25:12, John 10:14, Rom. 11:2, 1 Cor. 8:3, 1 Thess. 5:12, 1 Pet. 1:20.

c.      "You did not choose me…" John 15:16.

d.      Our response is God's gift, John 6:37, 44, 65, Acts 13:48, 16:14, Rom. 8:15.

e.      When God's hand is with Paul, people believe, Acts 11:21, Rom. 12:3, 1 Cor. 2:5, 12:9, etc.

f.        Repentance, Zech. 12:10, Acts 5:31, 11:18, 2 Tim. 2:25.

g.      Effectual calling, Rom. 1:6-7, 8:30, 11:29.

h.     Regeneration, John 3:5-6, 8, Eph. 2:1

i.        Spiritual understanding, Matt. 11:25-27, 1 John 5:20, 1 Cor. 2:7, 12-16, 1 Thess. 1:5, 2 Thess. 2:14.

j.        New heart, etc., Deut. 30:6, Jer. 31:31-34, Ezek. 11:19, Phil. 2:13.

k.      Success in preaching, 2 Cor. 3:5, 4:7, 10:17.

l.        We have nothing that we haven't received, 1 Cor. 4:7.

7.      Summary Passages

a.      Lam. 3:37-38.

b.      Rom. 8:28.

c.      Eph. 1:11.

d.      Rom. 11:33-36.


V.                 The Lordship Attributes: Authority

A.     The Concept of Divine Authority

1.      God has the right to control all things, the right to be obeyed.

2.      Control is based on ownership of all things, Deut. 10:14, Job 41:11, Psm. 24:1-4, Isa. 45:9-11, Matt. 20:1-16.

B.     Authority is an Aspect of Lordship

1.      Ex. 3:14: I will interpret myself.

2.      God gives prophetic words, Ex. 4:12-17.

3.      Yahweh is Israel's lawgiver, Ex. 20:2-3.

4.      Obey for I am the Lord, Lev. 18:4-5, 6, 21, 29, 19:3, 4, 10, 12, 14, 16, 30-32, 34, 37, Deut. 6:4-9, Isa. 43:11-12, Luke 6:46.

5.      Jesus as the Lord of authority, Matt. 7:21-29, Luke 4:36, Matt. 8:5-13, Mark 4:35-41.

C.    Absolute Authority

1.      It cannot be questioned, Rom. 14:16-22, Job 40:1-5.

2.      It transcends all other loyalties, Ex. 20:3, Deut. 6:4-5, Matt. 22:37, Matt. 8:19-22, 10:34-38, Phil. 3:7-9.

3.      Covers all areas of life, 1 Cor. 10:31, Rom. 14:23, Col. 3:17, 24, 2 Cor. 10:5.

D.    Divine Authority in the History of Redemption

1.      The Bible is the story of God uttering his authoritative Word and man responding obediently or disobediently.

2.      Always it is the Word that is at issue. Gen. 1:28, 2:15-17, chapter 3, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus.

E.     The Universality of Divine Authority: Matt. 28:18-20, Phil. 2:9-10.


VI. The Lordship Attributes: Covenant Presence

A.     I AM with you, Ex. 3:11-12. Gen. 21:22, 26:28, 28:15, 39:3-4.

B.     Immanuel, Isa. 7:14, Matt. 1:23

C.    I will be your God, and you will be my people, Gen. 17:7, Ex. 6:7, 34:9, Lev. 26:12, Rev. 21:3-4.

D.    Presence in Time

1.      Ex. 2:23-25, 3:6, 15, 6:6-8, Deut. 32:7-35, Hos. 12:4-9, 13:4-8. Psm. 135:13, Isa. 26:4-8, Mal. 3:6.

2.      John 8:31-59.

E.     Presence in Place

1.      The bush, Ex. 3:2, 5, 12, the mountain, Ex. 19.

2.      The cloud and fire.

3.      The tabernacle, the temple.

4.      Jesus.

5.      Believers as God's temple.

F.     Presence in Blessing and Judgment, Ex. 33:19, 34:6-7.

G.    Presence in All Creation, Psm. 139:7-10, Gen. 9:10.


VII. Transcendence and Immanence

A.     Transcendence and Immanence in Scripture

1.      Transcendence: God above and exalted, Deut. 4:39, Psm. 8:1, 57:5, 97:9, 113:5, Eccl. 5:2.

2.      Transcendence together with Immanence as Covenant Presence, Deut. 4:39, 10:14-15, Josh. 2:11, Isa. 57:15, Eph. 4:6.

3.      Transcendence not merely dwelling in a place above the earth, 1 Kings 8:27.

4.      Main reference of transcendence: God's Kingship, his throne on high, Psm. 113:5-6, 123:1, Isa. 5:16, Heb. 1:3, Matt. 26:64, Psm. 110:1, Rom. 8:34.

5.      So no tension. Transcendence is God's control and authority, Immanence God's covenant presence.

B.     Transcendence and Immanence in Theology

1.      Negative theology: God so far beyond us that we cannot know him.

a.      Greek philosophy: Xenophanes, Lucretius, Protagoras, Plato's Timaeus, Plotinus, Philo.

b.      Gnostics, Hinduism, Islam.

c.      Some church Fathers: Justin, Clement of Alexandria, Augustine.

d.      Aquinas, others, deny that we know God's essential being.

e.      Anti-metaphysics in liberal theology.

f.        Barth and the "wholly other."

g.      This negative transcendence unbiblical. God clearly seen, Rom. 1:20.

2.      Immanence as the deification of the world.

a.      deism, pantheism, panentheism.

b.      Balance to false transcendence in Gnosticism, Kant, Barth.

c.      Moltmann, futurism.


Biblical                                                                                           Non-biblical



(1)                                                                                                                     (3)









(2)                                                                                                                      (4)



3.      Issue is not the degree of emphasis on transcendence and immanence, but whether the concepts are biblical.

C.    Epistemological and Religious Implications

1.      (3) and (4) are the world view of unbelief.

2.      False transcendence is irrationalist, false immanence rationalist.



Part Two: Some Problem Areas



VIII. Human Responsibility and Freedom

A.     Responsibility as Accountability

1.      We are accountable to God, because he has authority over us.

2.      So divine sovereignty and human responsibility are, at this level, derived from the divine attributes of control and authority. No tension.

3.      We are responsible for everything, even our own nature. 1 Cor. 10:31, Rom. 14:23.

4.      In Scripture, sovereignty and responsibility are often found in the same context, Gen. 50:20, Isa. 10:5-15, Prov. 16:4-5, John 1:12-13, 6:37, Luke 2:22, Acts 2:23, 4:27-28, Acts 13:48-14:1 (cf. 1 Cor. 9:22, Rom. 10:14), Phil. 2:12-13, Col. 3:1-3, 1 Kings 8:58, 61, Jer. 29:10-14. Why to the biblical writers find this so natural?

a.      Control and authority go together.

b.      God's promises of success motivate believers to act in accord with them.

c.      It is when we are most aware of God's providential control over us that we are most aware of our responsibility to obey. Fear and trembling, Phil. 2:12-13.

d.      Without God's control of the world, there can be no human resposibility.

e.      The meaning and significance of our lives is not based on what we can do without God.

B.     Responsibility as Liability

1.      In this sense, our responsibility is measured by the results of our actions.

2.      Degree of liability in civil law, assessing blame.

C.    Liability and Ability

1.      Mike makes Billy write graffiti on the school building under threat. Billy is less liable, because not "free."

2.      Some biblical recognition of this fact: Ex. 21:12-14, 28-32, 22:2, Isa. 5:1-7, Matt. 11:20-24, 23:37-39, Luke 12:47-48.

a.      Responsibility limited by inabilities, especially ignorance.

b.      Responsibility increased by advantages, abilities.

3.      But some kinds of inability irrelevant to responsibility.

a.      Our inability to thwart God's sovereign decrees, Isa. 10:5-19, Luke 22:22, Acts 2:23, 4:27-28.

b.      Moral inability, Rom. 3:9-18, 5:19, 8:6-8 (but 6:23!)

D.    Excursus on Ability, Possibility, Can, etc.

1.      These modals important in many areas of theology.

a.      Nature of omnipotence: what can God do?

b.      Total depravity: what can man do apart from grace?

c.      Sanctification: what can believers do that unbelievers cannot?

d.      Christology: was Jesus able to sin?

e.      Prophecy: were Jesus' bones breakable?

f.        Questions of human responsibility and freedom.

2.      We can be "abled" and "disabled" at the same time in different senses.

a.      "Rev. Welty can preach." Can in what respect?

(i)                 His gifts (which he may have had at age 14).

(ii)               His training.

(iii)             His physical health.

(iv)             His schedule.

b.      Were Jesus' bones breakable?

(i)                 Yes, in the sense that they were made of the same material as other people's bones.

(ii)               No, in the sense that the divine plan excluded their breaking.

c.      Could Jesus sin?

(i)                 Yes, in that he had the physical and mental capacities required for commiting sin.

(ii)               No, in that he had a perfectly holy mind and will.

d.      Can unregenerate people come to faith?

(i)                 They have the physical and mental prerequisites, and the power of choice, and these are relevant to their responsibility.

(ii)               But their depraved disposition prevents them from believing.

3.      So Can always envisages a particular act that someone or something can do, and some circumstance ("preventer") that might keep him from doing it. Note the preventers in the above examples.

4.      So there are different kinds of possibility.

a.      logical

b.      physical

c.      economic

d.      political

e.      etc.

E.     Freedom

1.      Different kinds of abilities, absences of different preventers.

2.      So different kinds:

a.      Moral: the freedom to do good.

b.      Compatibilist: freedom to do what you want to do.

c.      Libertarianism: "the belief that the human will has an inherent power to choose with equal ease between alternatives" (R. K. McGregor Wright).

(i)                 Excludes any causation or determination of free actions

(A)  Heredity, environment.

(B)  Previous events.

(C)  Our character or desire.

(D)  Divine decrees.

(ii)               Libertarians think this sort of freedom is necessary for moral responsibility.

(iii)             Libertarianism is crucial to Arminian theology and is the root of Open Theism.

F.     Critique of Libertarianism

1.      Scripture never teaches or even mentions it. At best it is a deduction from the biblical concept of moral responsibility. But this deduction begs the question as to whether libertarianism is even relevant to moral responsibility.

2.      Scripture never grounds moral responsibility in libertarian freedom, or, for that matter, any other kind of freedom.

3.      Scripture never indicates that God places any positive value on libertarian freedom.

4.      Scripture never judges anyone's conduct by reference to his libertarian freedom.

5.      In civil courts we never assume that libertarian freedom is a ground of moral responsibility.

6.      Indeed, civil courts assume the opposite: that people are not responsible unless their conduct is determined by motives.

7.      Scripture contradicts the proposition that only uncaused actions are responsible. God causes actions that he evaluates as right or wrong.

8.      Scripture denies that we have the independence from God required by the libertarian theory. Nor can we choose to act independently of our own character, Matt. 7:15-20, Luke 6:43-45.

9.      Libertarianism, therefore, violates the biblical teaching concerning the unity of human personality in the heart.

10. God is not free in the libertarian sense, yet his actions are the very paradigm of moral goodness.

11. Libertarianism assumes that "ability limits responsibility" holds for any kind of ability, any kind of preventer, any kind of responsibility. It does not, as we have seen.

12. If libertarianism is true, God does not exhaustively know the future. But he does, as we shall see.

13.  It is bad enough to adopt a false position (libertarianism); it is even worse to make it a central truth that governs all other theological assertions. This is what happens in open theism.

14.  Do we have an "intuition" of libertarian freedom? No. Intuition cannot be the basis of a universal negative. We cannot intuit that our decisions have no cause.

15.  Scripture never hints that God limits his sovereignty in the way this theory demands. He is always Lord.

G.    Creaturely Otherness, Integrity, Significance

1.      Are we then robots? That might not be so bad.

2.      But Scripture says much about our majesty and dignity as God's image.

a.      Integrity: we function on our own terms, distinct from God. When I eat dinner, it is me doing it, not God.

b.      So we have a kind of independence, though not libertarian freedom.

c.      Even God's decree takes our integrity into account. If God eternally decrees that Bill will live 80 years, he will not change his mind and take Bill's life at 60. So God respects the integrity of Bill's existence in the course of maintaining the consistency of his own plan.

d.      So for God to be consistent with his own eternal plan (sovereignty), he must also respect the integrity of his creatures (responsibility, independence, freedom).

e.      As Calvinists say, predestination is not based on foreknowledge, but foreknowledge is not irrelevant to it.

H.    Models of Divine and Human Agency

1.      Pilot and Co-pilot

2.      Teacher and Classroom

3.      Primary and Secondary Causation

4.      Commander and Troops

5.      Author and Characters in a Story (best model)

a.      The author determines every event.

b.      But there is also a complete causal nexus within the story.

c.      The author is not to blame for the sins of his characters.

d.      There are two distinct levels of reality.

e.      The creatures are responsible for their own actions.


IX. The Problem of Evil

A.     The Problem Stated

            1. The Logical Problem

            a. If God is omnipotent, he can prevent evil.

            b. If God is good, he wants to prevent evil.

c.      But evil exists.

d.      So either God is not omnipotent, is not good, or does not exist.

2.The Emotional Problem: heart cry in personal tragedy.

3.      Natural and moral evil: disaster vs. sin. In Scripture, natural evil is the result of moral evil.

B.     The Nature of Evil

1.      Illusion? But the illusion itself is a problem.

2.      Privation Theory

a.      Evil is not something positive, but a lack, a defect in a good universe.

b.      It is absence of good where good should be.

c.      Things tend to slip into non-existence unless God prevents them.

d.      God gives us free will (in libertarian sense) to maintain ourselves in being, but we misuse it.

e.      So God is not responsible.

f.        Reply

(i)                 A form of the free-will defense, presupposing libertarian freedom.

(ii)               Human sin cannot be ascribed, even in part, to metaphysical entropy.

(iii)             If God cannot prevent the corruption of rational beings, how can he make some creatures incorruptible (the angels, the glorified saints)?

(iv)             No good reason to say that evil is non-being.

(v)               No biblical reason for saying that created things tend to slip into non-being.

(vi)             Isn't God responsible for the privations of his creation, as well as its being? Cf. a donut maker disclaiming responsibility for the holes.

(vii)           Dangers in reducing ethics (sin) to metaphysics (being and non-being).

C.    Some Good Things About Evil: the "Greater Good Defense"

1.      Evil necessary for an orderly universe? (Is heaven orderly?)

2.      Evil necessary for moral maturity? (Scripture contradicts this.)

3.      The possibility of evil necessary if we are to be free in the libertarian sense? ("Free will defense.") (No)

4.      Some virtues presuppose existing evils: compassion, patience, courage, redemptive love. God's uses of evil to test, discipline us.

5.      Certainly God always brings good out of evil, Gen. 50:20, Rom. 8:28.

6.      Cautions:

a.      Important to define "greater good" theistically.

b.      Apart from God's standards, there can be no talk of good or evil at all.

c.      To rightly evaluate God's actions, we must evaluate them over the full course of history.

d.      God often surprises us at the ways he brings good out of evil. Joseph; the cross of Christ.

e.      The final solution is future. Until then, we walk by faith.

f.        Does the end justify the means? Ultimately, God is good and right, not only in his ends, but also his means. But don't forget his unique prerogatives.

g.      The burden of proof is on the objector, so we do not need to come up with a full theodicy, a full justification of God's ways.

D.    Evil and God's Agency: authors, brings about, causes, controls, creates, decrees, foreordains, incites, includes within his plan, makes happen, ordains, permits, plans, predestines, predetermines, produces, stands behind, wills?

1.      Authors universally condemned in theological literature, but rarely defined. Means both causing and approving. Arminians and other libertarians say that the Reformed accept this, but they reject it.

2.      Causes

a.       Sometimes rejected in Reformed literature, perhaps by identification with author.

b.       But Calvin admits that God is the "remote cause" of evil, accepts God's "ordination" of sin, which to modern readers is not much different from "cause."

3.      Permits

a.      Arminians prefer this term. Reformed use it too, but insist that God's permission is "efficacious."

b.      But what's the difference between "efficacious permission" and causation? Perhaps the former term emphasizes disapproval.

4.      None of these terminological options solves the Problem of Evil.

5.      The author/character model is of some help: Shakespeare is not responsible for killing Duncan.



Part Three: A Philosophy of Lordship



X. Ethics

A.     Existential Ethics: Morality is inward character.

1.      Greek Sophists

2.      Sartre

B.     Teleological Ethics: Morality is changing a situation so as to achieve the greatest good for the greatest number.

1.      Cyrenaics and Epicureans

2.      Utilitarians: Bentham, Mill

C.    Deontological Ethics: Morality is doing one's duty for its own sake.

1.      Plato

2.      Kant

3.      G. E. Moore

D.    Mixed Approaches

E.     Christian Ethics

1.      The existential perspective: focused on the moral agent.

2.      The situational perspective: focused on the world as our environment.

3.      The normative perspective: focused on God's revelation.


XI. Epistemology

A.     Incomprehensibility and Knowability of God

1.      Rom. 1:19-20, Psm. 40:5, 139:6, 145:3, Isa. 55:8-9, Rom. 11:33-34 (Isa. 40:13-14).

2.      Mystery in what is not revealed, Deut. 29:29, 1 Cor. 2:9, 1 Tim. 3:16.

3.      Mystery in what is revealed, Rom. 11:33-36, Eph. 3:18-19, 1 Tim. 6:16. Shepherd's circle: the more knowledge we have, the more our sense of mystery.

4.      God as incomparable, Ex. 15:11, 1 Kings 8:23, Isa. 40:18, 25, 46:5, 9. Scripture does compare God to things in creation, but never without awe at the discrepancy.

5.      Can we know God by his essence?

a.      Avoid the unscriptural model of the "unknowable essence," a darkness in the core of God's revelation to us.

b.      Avoid global agnosticism, talk about God as "wholly other" or "wholly hidden."

c.      Many of God's attributes designate his essence.

(i)                 They describe what he really is.

(ii)               They distinguish him from creatures.

(iii)             They describe everything that God is (see later discussion of simplicity).

B.     Analogy

1.      Aquinas

a.      Words like good connote to us in the first instance something finite.

b.      In applying the word to God, we can modify the term with other terms like eternal or infinite, but in themselves they refer literally ("univocally") to the finite.

c.      Nor are these terms applied to God in an equivocal way, as race applied both to a contest and to an ethnic group.

d.      Analogy, for Aquinas, is something between univocal and equivocal.

e.      Comments:

(i)                 There needs to be some univocal meaning to terms like "eternal goodness" or "highest good" if they are to do their job in Aquinas' system. That is especially true of cause.

(ii)               The problem is Aquinas' claim that we can know God only from creatures. Not only the creaturely world, but God's self-revelation, is a primary datum of our experience.

(iii)             And language is given to us, not only to represent finite things, but more importantly as a means of talking to God and about him.

(iv)             So I don't deny that some language about God is literal.

2.      Barth: God uses inappropriate words and transforms them into a fitting witness.

a.      Reply: Scripture never suggests its words are inappropriate.

b.      If so, we have no verbal revelation of God at all, but only words as a medium of God's non-verbal revelation.

C.    Lordship and Knowledge (cf. DKG) (Compare discussion of ethics.)

1.      Secular epistemologies

a.      subjectivism

b.      empiricism

c.      rationalism

2.      Biblical epistemology

a.      The illumination of the Spirit

b.      God's revelation in nature and history

c.      God's revelation by word.


XII. Metaphysics

A.     The Place of Metaphysics: God cannot be God without a unique nature.

B.     The Great Chain of Being

1.      Gnosticism, Plotinus, neo-Platonism, many other non-Christians.

2.      The world "emanates" from the supreme being, rather than being created.

3.      Monism, pantheism: everything essentially divine.

4.      God wholly other, as well as wholly identical with the world.

5.      The biblical metaphysic, on the contrary:

a.      Clear creator-creature distinction.

(i)                 no mingling

(ii)               nothing in between

b.      similar distinctions between God's goodness and man's, etc.

c.      creation, not emanation

d.      distinction, not continuum

e.      creation good, not defective

C.    The Scholastic Philosophy of Being

1.      Essence: what necessarily belongs to a thing and constitutes it, what makes it what it is. More or less = nature.

2.      Substance: the being that has the essence.

a.      What exists "in itself" rather than in something else.

b.      Remain constant through change.

c.      The subjects to which things happen.

3.      Attributes: the properties, predicates, qualities of a substance.

a.      Denining attributes constitute essence.

b.      Others are accidents.

4.      Being

a.      the one abstract property that applies to absolutely everything.

b.      Existence, esse: that as distinguished from what. Conceived as an "act."

5.      Form: that element of a subsrtance that determines what qualities it will have.

6.      Matter: the element of a substance that receives form, and so is in itself formless, non-being.

7.      Potentiality, potency

a.      active: power to bring about effects.

b.      Passive: the capacity to receive forms, to be changed. A "relative nothingness."

8.      Actuality: the opposite of potentiality. What has achieved its form.

9.      Necessity: what must be the case. God is a "necessary being," because he cannot fail to exist. Opposite: contingency.

10. JF Response: At best, these are over-complications, at worst accommodations to errors of Greek philosophy.

D.    Simplicity

1.      To say God is simple is to deny composition of various kinds in him.

a.      Clearly he is not made up of physical parts.

b.      Scholastics add: nor of distinctions between form and matter, actuality and potentiality, genus and differentia, substance and accident.

c.      So all God's attributes are identical with his being, and all the Trinitarian persons exhaust his being.

2.      Aquinas's arguments

a.      There can be nothing in God that is less noble than himself.

b.      Nothing in God can be removed from him, for nothing in him can not-be.

c.      The fact that he has many attributes is not caused, for he is first cause.

d.      In God there can be no process of potentiality becoming actuality.

3.      These arguments don't rule out all complexity in God, but only contingency.

4.      But sometimes Aquinas seems to want to rule out all divine complexity.

a.      He says that since unity is always prior to multiplicity, God must have no multiplicity.

b.      The use of many names for God is not because they refer to genuine complexities in his nature, but because of the limitations of our minds.

c.      But this suggests the Plotinian or Gnostic view, in which God is an unnamable Oneness.

5.      A biblical argument for divine simplicity

a.      God's defining attributes are essential to his being; they are what he is, John 4:24, 1 John 1:5, 4:8, 16, Psm. 89:35, Amos 4:2, Heb. 6:13, Jer. 10:10.

b.      If all of these characterize God's essence, they are not separate from one another. Indeed, God's attributes have divine attributes. His mercy is eternal, his creative power wise.

c.      So the standard of love, justice, etc., is not an abstract concept, but God himself. Simplicity reinforces the personalism of Scripture.

d.      The attributes are not synonymous, however, but different perspectives on the divine essence.

e.      Such simplicity does not exclude complexity. Rather, each attribute exhausts the whole divine complexity.

E.     Necessity and Freedom

1.      God must exist; he does not merely happen to exist.

2.      And unless he exists, nothing else can exist either.

3.      But some of God's acts are not necessary to his being. He would still be God if he had not decided to create the world.

4.      So we describe some divine acts as free: God's decrees, creation, providence, redemption, revelation.

5.      How is God free?

a.      Not in a libertarian sense.

b.      In the compatibilist sense: he always does what he wants to do.

c.      He is not constrained by anything outside himself.

d.      He is not always compelled by his nature. There are no preventers in God's nature that prevented him from making other choices in the realms of decree, creation, providence, redemption, revelation.

F.     Metaphysical Perspectives

1.      God's attributes express his control: each illustrates his control over a certain area of creation.

2.      They express his authority, for God's attributes serve as standards and criteria for creatures.

3.      They express the ways in which he is present to us.



Part Four: The Acts of the Lord



XIII. Miracle

A.     Structural Overview of Parts Four Through Six

1.      Narrative of God's actions (situational; control)

a.      Miracle

b.      Providence

c.      Creation

d.      Decrees

2.      Authoritative descriptions of God (normative; authority)

a.      Names

b.      Images

c.      Attributes

3.      Trinitarian self-disclosure (presence; existential)

4.      These are perspectival.

B.     Defining Miracle

1.      No Hebrew or Greek term corresponds precisely to our English word miracle.

a.      Semeion, sign, refers to miracles, but also to circumcision in Rom. 4:11.

b.      Miracle narratives without miracle terminology, 1 Kings 17:17-24, Mark 7:24-30.

2.      Method: begin with whatever notion is in your head, then refine it by interaction with Scripture.

3.      Preliminary definition: acts of God, so extraordinary that we would normally call them impossible.

C.    Miracles as Exceptions to Natural Law

1.      This is a proposed theological enhancement to the basic definition. Hume, Dabney, Geisler, Lewis.

2.      Actually, a new cause introduced into the natural order, but a supernatural cause.

3.      Meanings of natural law, relations of these to miracle.

a.      The ultimate principles that govern the world: In Scripture, these are God's decrees, and there are no exceptions to them.

b.      The natural processes by which God usually governs creation.

(i)                 Usually, miracles are exceptions to natural laws in this sense, but not always. In Ex. 14:21, God used wind to blow away the water of the Red Sea.

(ii)               "Usual" is a matter of degree. So this definition doesn't yield a sharp distinction between miracle and non-miracle. It merely affirms that miracles are relatively extraordinary, which is part of our preliminary definition.

c.      Human expectations concerning the workings of nature.

(i)                 This definition makes miracle something subjective, relative to human expectations which, of course, change with different levels of scientific knowledge.

(ii)               Cannot be used, therefore, to sharply distinguish miracles from providence or to argue the cessation of miracles.

d.      The basic created structure of the universe.

(i)                 This is hard to describe, but it seems to be in the mind of many who think that miracle is an exception to natural law.

(ii)               A kind of mechanism within the universe that normally accounts for the workings of nature.

(iii)             I reject the attempt to define miracle as an exception to law in this sense, for these reasons:

(A)  Scripture never defines miracle this way, nor does it ever identify a miracle by saying that it suspends natural law in this sense.

(B)  I'm not convinced that there are any natural laws in this sense. Scripture ascribes the events of nature directly to God.

(C)  Even if there are natural laws in this sense, nobody knows for sure what they are. So neither the biblical writers nor we are fully capable of identifying miracles on this definition.

(D)  Ex. 14:21 shows that sometimes a miracle can be explained by an event fully in keeping with natural law in this sense.

D.    Immediacy

1.      Some, especially in the Old Princeton school, insisted that miracles were exertions of God's immediate power, power exercised without created means.

2.      There are some events in which God acts immediately: his decrees, creation ex nihilo, regeneration.

3.      But Scripture never says or implies that miracles are immediate in this sense.

4.      And some miracles clearly make use of means: Ex. 14:21, John 9.

a.      Of course the means in these cases are not used in their ordinary way.

b.      But that is merely to say that miracles are extraordinary, as in our preliminary definition.

5.      One may persist that at least a miracle cannot be entirely accounted for by created means. But then the question arises whether any event can be so accounted for.

6.      And if miracles are immediate acts of God, how could people ever identify them as such?

E.     Attesting God's Messengers

1.      Certainly this is an important function of miracles in Scripture, Ex. 4:1-5, 7:9-13,1 Kings 17:24, Matt. 9:6, 11:4-6, etc. Indeed, all biblical miracles do this: they are in the Bible to attest the prophetic message of the Bible.

2.      On the other hand, that is not the only purpose of miracles in Scripture.

a.      The purpose of the flood is judgment, not merely accreditation of Noah as a prophet.

b.      Jesus' incarnation is a miracle, but it's main purpose is salvation rather than accreditation.

c.      The healings of Jesus were not merely for accreditation. They are expressions of compassion, Matt. 14:14, 15:32-29, 20:34, Mark 1:41.

d.      Miracles give supernatural strength to God's people to advance his cause in warfare and evangelism.

3.      If we define miracle as "attesting new special revelation," therefore, it may appear that miracles must cease after special revelation is completed. But actually that doesn't resolve the issue, except verbally. We must then leave open the question of whether God may choose to do things other than miracles for the purposes noted in 2 a-d.

4.      I think it better not to include that refinement in our definition.

a.      One could as easily argue that in Scripture martyrdom attests to new special revelation. But we would not want to say that that is its only function and that therefore martyrdom ceases at the end of the NT canon.

b.      Same for the moral heroism of 2 Sam. 23:13-17, Heb. 11, etc.

F.     Some Other Reformed Views of Miracle (Kuyper, Diemer)

1.      Miracles exercise the natural powers given to Adam before the Fall.

2.      The distinction between "supernatural" and "natural" is dualistic and Greek.

3.      I think this is a bit speculative, but it illustrates a Reformed view very different from that of old Princeton.

G.    Miracles as Demonstrations of God's Covenant Lordship

1.      Here's my theologically enhanced definition: "Miracles are extraordinary manifestations of God's covenant Lordship." They display God's Lordship attributes.

a.      Control (geburah, dynamis: power, mighty act): Ex. 15:6, 11, 16, 7:8-13, 8:19, 12:12, Mark 5:24-34, Luke 5:17, 6:19, Acts 3:12, 8:10-24.

b.      Authority (ot, semeion: sign), Deut. 3:24, 8:3, Mark 2:1-11, John 2:11, 20:30-31.

(i)                 Similarities to Yahweh's acts in the OT: Ex. 16, John 6:1-14, Psm. 107:29, Mark 4:35-41. 1 Kings 17:7-24, Isa. 35:5, John 6:1-70, 11:25-26.

(ii)               Miracles don't only attest revelation; they are revelation.

c.      Covenant Presence (niplaot, pele', teras: wonder): They generate religious awe because of the presence of God. Ex. 15. Compare Luke 5:1-10 with Isa. 6:1ff.

2.      Advantages of this definition.

a.      No need to speculate about natural law, immediacy.

b.      Provides a context for the role of miracle in attesting prophecy, without misleadingly suggesting a sharp distinction from other events.

H.    Miracle and Providence

1.      Theologians often want to assert a sharp distinction between these, as on the natural law and immediacy definitions.

a.      For apologetic reasons: they think they need unique events to prove the truth of the gospel.

b.      Because they want to argue that miracles have ceased, though providence has not.

2.      But Scripture does not warrant a sharp distinction. Providence also testifies to God's Lordship, in perhaps, a less extraordinary way.

a.      Psm. 107: Natural events are among God's "wonders," verses 23-43.

b.      Same in 136:25, 145:9, 15-19, Job 37:5-24, 42:3.

c.      Indeed, providence is even pretty extraordinary, when you think about it!

I.        Have Miracles Ceased?

1.      No reason to think so, on my definition of miracle, even though the canon is closed and though we take a cessationist position on tongues and prophecy.

2.      Still, the more spectacular miracles are not a normal part of Christian experience.

a.      Even in the biblical period, these were unusual!

b.      Today, with the completion of Christ's atoning work, there is no reason for miracle comparable to those in the biblical period. But that doesn't imply that miracles never happen today.

c.      There is a biblical pattern that the extraordinary prepares for the ordinary.

(i)                 God's supernatural protection of Noah during the flood preceded ordinary life-experiences afterward (Gen. 8:22).

(ii)               Josh 5:12: when Israel entered Canaan, the Manna ceased.

(iii)             John 16:7: when Jesus leaves, it will be better for the disciples.

(iv)             The supernatural gifts of Corinth should not be overvalued: love is more important (1 Cor. 13).

(v)               Church government moves from apostolic and charismatic leaders to elders and deacons, 1 Tim. 3:1-12, Tit. 1:5-9.

(vi)             Parallel to the movement from childhood to maturity. A parent often intervenes in the life of a toddler to rescue him from danger, but when the child grows up he is expected to rely more on his own resources.

d.      Don't lust after signs, Matt. 12:38-42, Luke 16:19-31.

3.      At the same time, we should not be skeptical about reports of miracles, especially in situations analogous to those in the NT: mission fields, etc.

a.      There are continuities as well as discontinuities between the NT period and our own.

b.      The whole period from Resurrection to Consummation is a period of extraordinary Resurrection power, Eph. 1:18-20.

J.      Possibility and Probability of Miracles

1.      Miracles are possible because this is God's world. Don't try to prove their possibility by sub-atomic physics, etc.

2.      Miracles are probable to the extent that they are compatible with God's purposes. Of course they are always unlikely, by their very nature.

K.     Evidence for Miracle

1.      Hume: No testimony can be so great as to overturn the experience that establishes the laws of nature.

2.      Response:

a.      Hume presupposes an unbiblical definition of miracle.

b.      We don't have nearly enough experience to be assured dogmatically of the contents of natural law.

c.      Hume is wrong to consider the biblical writers unreliable.

d.      He assumes a non-theistic epistemology:

(i)                 that possibility and probability are determined entirely by autonomous human experience.

(ii)               That divine revelation plays no role in determining whether miracles have taken place.

L.      Miracle as Evidence for Christianity

1.      Miracles are intended to convince, John 10:37-38, 15:24, 20:31, Acts 2:22, Heb. 2:3, 1 Cor. 15:14. Unlike Buddhism, they form the basis for our faith.

2.      But miracles don't automatically bring people to believe, John 12:37-40.

3.      Nor is it legitimate to demand miraculous evidence. Scripture and natural revelation are sufficient to leave people without excuse, Matt. 12:38-45, 16:1-4, Luke 16:31, John 4:48, 6:30-40, 1 Cor. 1:22.

4.      Today, the "argument from miracle" is an argument from miracle-reports. We are those who have not seen, yet believe, John 20:31.

5.      Miracles are part of the persuasive power of the Word itself, illumined by the Spirit.


XIV. Providence

A.     Definition: "that continued exercise of the divine energy whereby the Creator preserves all his creatures, is operative in all that comes to pass in the world, and directs all things to their appointed end," L. Berkhof.

B.     Miracle leads the Psalmist to see God in all the events of nature, Psm. 136.

C.    Government ("directs all things to their appointed end") [Government and Preservation represent God's control, the situational perspective.]

1.      Personal, teleological, Eph. 1:9-11, Rom. 8:18-25, 28-30. Working toward the consummation.

2.      Importance of the consummation for the Christian life.

D.    Preservation

1.      Metaphysical, Col. 1:17.

a.      Not that God created the world "defective," or "slipping into non-being."

b.      But the world requires God's permission to remain in existence each moment.

2.      Redemptive-historical, God's temporary preservation of the world from final judgment, so as to bring his people to salvation.

a.      Preservation of the human race until the flood, Gen. 2:17, 3:16-19, 4:15, 6:3.

b.      The flood an image of de-creation, Gen. 7:11-12 (compare 1:7).

c.      Post-flood covenant of preservation, Gen. 8:21-22, though sin continues.

d.      Final judgment will be as in the days of Noah, Matt. 24:37, 2 Pet. 3:5-7. Another de-creation, verse 10.

e.      Meanwhile, God preserves the world for the sake of the elect, 2 Pet. 3:9. God is patient with sinners, Acts 14:17, 17:25-28.

f.        Passing of seasons reminds us of the needs of the lost.

3.      Covenant, God saving the lives of believers and the church as part of his covenant blessing, Gen. 45:5, Ex. 20:12, Deut. 6:1-2, 24, Josh 24:17, Psm. 16:1, 31:23, 66:9, Matt. 16:18. Even in death, Psm. 16:10.

4.      Eternal, John 10:27-30, doctrine of perseverence.

E.     Revelation (God's authority, the normative perspective)

1.      Providence, like creation, is by God's Word, Psm. 147:15-20, 148:5-8.

2.      So it displays God's wisdom, Psm. 104, Prov. 8:22-36, Job 38-42.

3.      So it reveals God, Rom. 1:18-32, Acts 14:14-17, Psm. 19.

F.     Concurrence (God's presence, the existential perspective)

1.      In Chapter 4, we saw that God governed all things.

2.      Concurrence emphasizes that every event involves God, even down to the most microscopic level.

3.      So God works with all natural causes.


XV. Creation

A.     Defining Creation

1.      Aquinas: the world's continuing dependence on God (somewhat dependent on Aristotle).

2.      I believe it is more biblical to put "continuing dependence" under providence, and use "creation" to refer to God's work in Gen. 1.

a.      The original creation of the heavens and earth in 1:1.

b.      The "subsequent" creation of the contents of the world in the rest of the chapter.

B.     Creation and Covenant Lordship

1.      Creation is God's enthronement (Kline, Images).

2.      Scripture uses creation as a motivation for worship, Neh. 9:6, Psm. 8:3-9, etc.

3.      Creation displays God's ownership of all things, Psm. 24:1-2.

4.      The Lordship attributes

a.      Control: God rules the world, not only through history, but at the beginning of history as well.

b.      Authority:

(i)                 God creates by his Word, Gen. 1:3, Psm. 33:6, 9, John 1:1.

(ii)               He interprets the creation (1:5, 8, 10): names it and declares it good.

(iii)             God creates by his wisdom, Psm. 104:24, Prov. 3:19, 8:1, 22-36, etc.

c.      Covenant Presence: a direct relationship between God and creation, not a continuum of mediators.

C.    Creation and Redemption

1.      In the narrative of Gen. 1, Moses anticipates the Exodus. Gen. 1:3-5, 6-10, 20-25, 2:3.

2.      Salvation is a new creation, Psm. 74, Isa. 43:1-7, 14-15, 2 Cor. 4:6, Eph. 2:10, 5:8, 2 Cor. 5:17, Eph. 4:24, Col. 3:10.

3.      Beginning of cosmic renewal, Isa. 65:17-18, 66:22, 2 Pet. 3:10-13, Rev. 21:1-4, Col. 1:15-20, Rom. 8:19-21.

4.      Faith in Christ is like faith in creation, Heb. 11:3, Rom. 4:17.

D.    Creation Out Of Nothing

1.      Concept

a.      Hard to define nothing without making it something!

b.      Imagine God making a world without even having any time or space to put it in!

c.      Out of/into. Both have advantages, disadvantages. Out of suggests pre-existing material, into a pre-existing space.

d.      Don't think of "nothing" as a kind of stuff from which God made the world.

e.      Best to understand this as a negative doctrine.

(i)                 God did not make the world from pre-existing substance.

(ii)               God did not make the world from his own essence (pantheism, emanation).

2.      Biblical basis

a.      No texts state creation ex nihilo in so many words. Heb. 11:3, Rom. 4:17, 1 Cor. 1:28, 2 Cor. 4:6 suggest it. (2 Maccabees 7:28, ouk ex onton).

b.      Often in post-apostolic writings.

c.      Bara'

(i)                 Word for creation in Gen. 1.

(ii)               Doesn't mean creation ex nihil, because it is used for subsequent creation as well as original.

(iii)             However, it is the most appropriate Hebrew term for this concept.

(A)  God is always the subject.

(B)  Used in Isa. For redemptive re-creation.

(C)  Never takes accusative of material, as in "Make the dough into cookies."

d.      Some considerations affirming creation ex nihilo:

(i)                 The world had a beginning; before that, only God existed. There was no material out of which the world could be made.

(ii)               Creation is universal: heavens, earth, and sea. So there is no uncreated material out of which the world could be made.

(iii)             God creates as the Lord. The world is not divine. So God didn't make the world from his divine substance.

(iv)             Since there is the pre-existing substance and the emanationist models are ruled out, we can characterize creation no better than to say it is out of nothing.

E.     The Six Days


a.      Literal day view: six 24-hour days, more or less.

b.      Day-age view: figurative on the length of the days, literal as to the chronology.

c.      Framework view: non-literal as to chronology.

2.      Considerations

a.      This is an exegetical issue.

b.      Science has influenced the debate. It is right that we re-think theology in response to developments in science, but no scientific development is sufficient reason to change our understanding of Scripture.

c.      We should not assume principles (e.g. absolute uniformitarianism) inconsistent with Scripture.

d.      There are evidences of literary structures in Gen. 1, but that does not in itself require a non-literal understanding.

e.      The literary frameworks asserted in Gen. 1 (realms/inhabitants) are not inconsistent with chronological sequence.

f.        I am not persuaded that 2:4-7 requires a wholly natural cycle of growth on the third day. God makes rain so that the specially created plants will continue to grow.

g.      So I am not persuaded that the days must be non-chronological or ages long.

h.     There are good reasons for taking these as normal days:

(i)                 Day usually refers to a twenty-four hour period, especially when accompanied by numerals.

(ii)               The phrase "evening and morning" suggests a 24-hour period.

(iii)             In the Sabbath commandment, the parallel between God's work week and man's suggests normal days.

(iv)             Days in Ex. 20:11, is never used figuratively elsewhere.

i.        But I am not persuaded that figurative views should be considered heresy.

(i)                 The arguments are not strong enough to absolutely exclude a figurative view.

(ii)               Only recently has there been a movement in Reformed circles to make the literal view a test of orthodoxy.

(iii)             It is not clear to me that any other doctrines rest on whether or not we hold a literal view of the days.

j.        God's purpose in Gen. 1 is not to tell us precisely how God made the world, when , how long it took, etc.

F.     The Age of the Earth

1.      Exegetically I favor a young earth, but I don't think the argument is strong.

2.      A young earth view implies apparent age, but that is the case with any view of creation. Problems:

a.      Astronomical events like supernovas.

b.      Fossils.

G.    Evolution

1.      In Gen. 2:7, God's inbreathing makes man a "living creature." God does not inbreath an already-existing living creature to make him human.

2.      "According to their kind" (Gen. 1:11-12, 21, 24-25) suggests divinely imposed limits on what can result from reproduction.

3.      I am not impressed with scientific evidence for Darwinism.

4.      The real persuasive power of Darwinism is that it is the only viable alternative to divine creation.


XVI. God's Decrees

A.     Compare IV, VIII, IX, XIV.

B.     God's Plan

1.      "The decrees of God are his eternal purpose, according to the counsel of his will, whereby, for his own glory, he hath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass," WSC, 7.

2.      Many passages speak of God's "plans," "counsel," "purposes," Psm. 33:11, Isa. 46:10, Matt. 11:26, Acts 2:23, 4:27-28, etc.

3.      His plan is eternal, Isa. 37:26, 46:9-10, Matt. 25:34, 1 Cor. 2:7, Eph. 1:4, 3:11, 2 Tim. 1:9.

4.      His plan is immutable, Psm. 33:11, Isa. 14:24, 46:10, James 1:17, though he does sometimes announce policies conditionally, Ex. 32:14, Jer. 18:7-10, 26:13, 36:3, Jonah 3:8-10.

C.    The Decrees and God's Lordship

1.      Control: efficacious and universal. If God is in control of miracle, providence, redemption and creation, how can he not be in control of the planning that underlies these events?

2.      Authority: the decrees are wise plans and counsels, the ultimate interpretation of world history.

3.      Covenant presence: His relationship to the world goes back into eternity. He loves us in Christ before the foundation of the world.

D.    Historical Election

1.      God often chooses persons and groups of people to play important roles in the history of salvation, even though those persons and groups may not be ultimately saved. Election in this sense may be lost.

a.      Saul, 1 Sam. 9:17, 10:5-11.

b.      Judas, among the twelve, John 6:70-71.

c.      Israel, Neh. 9:7, Deut. 4:37, 7:6.

(i)                 By grace, not merit, Deut. 7:7-8, 9:4, 6.

(ii)               Covenant lawsuit, Isa. 1:1-20.

(iii)             The remnant, Isa. 10:20-34, 11:11-12:6, 41:8-20, 43:1-7, Jer. 23:3-4, 31:7-14.

(iv)             But those returning from exile are not faithful, Neh. 9:37, Matt. 11:20-24.

(v)               The faithful remnant is Christ, Isa. 11-12, Isa. 53:4-6, Jer. 23:5-6, and those in him, Rom. 11:1-6, 17-21.

(vi)             But not all members of the visible church are faithful either. Heb. 6:1-12, 10:26-31, 1 John 2:18-19.

2.      Frequently Asked Questions

a.      Is the election of Israel the election of a corporate entity or of individuals? Both, Rom. 9:6-8.

b.      Is the election of Israel to salvation, or to service? Both.

(i)                 service, Isa. 44:1, 43:10, 12.

(ii)               Privilege, Rom. 3:1-2, 9:4-5. Blessings of salvation.

c.      By works or grace?

(i)                 Grace, Deut. 7:7-8, 9:4-6.

(ii)               But Israel's continued status depends on obedience, Ex. 19:5-6, Jer. 7:23, Hos. 1:9f

(iii)             Same for the NT church, Eph. 2:8-9, but Acts 5:1-10, 8:9-25, Heb. 6, 10, Rom. 11:20.

E.     Eternal Election

1.      Of Christ, 1 Pet. 1:20.

2.      The new covenant, Jer. 31:31-34, Heb. 8:8-12, 10:16-17, 9:15. Distinctives:

a.      The forgiveness of sins

b.      God writing the law on their hearts

3.      Predestination to eternal salvation, Rom. 8:29-39, John 10:28-29, Eph. 1:3-14, Matt. 24:22, 24, 31, Mark 13:20-22, Luke 18:7, Acts 13:48, 1 Cor. 1:27-28, Eph. 2:10, Col. 3:12, 1 Thess. 1:4-5, 2 Thess. 2:13, 2 Tim. 1:9, 2:10, Tit. 1:1, James 2:5. Election of individuals to salvation.

4.      Unconditional, eternal, Eph. 1:4, 2 Thess. 2:13, 2 Tim. 1:9.

5.      "Book of Life" can be an image of either historical election (Ex. 32:33, Psm. 69:27-28, Rev. 3:5) or eternal election (Rev. 13:8, 17:8)

6.      Comparison between historical, eternal election:

a.      Both are aspects of God's saving purpose.

b.      In Christ, historical and eternal coincide, since he is the remnant of historical election and the ultimate subject of eternal election.

c.      Historical election mirrors eternal election. By grace, in God's presence, blessings of salvation

d.      Historical election is the visible and temporal form of eternal election in this age.

e.      Those who join the visible church are historically elect.

F.     Reprobation

1.      Scriptural basis

a.      historical, Deut. 4:37, 7:6, 14:2: temporary rejection of the Gentile nations, Eph. 2:12-13.

b.      Eternal, Jude 4

(i)                 People cannot believe unless God gives them faith. Those to whom God does not give faith are reprobate, Matt. 11:25-27, 13:13-14.

(ii)               Rom. 9 explicit. Readers are somewhat confused, however, because Paul uses illustrations from historical election (7-13) to make a point about eternal election (1-6)

(A)  Else, the question "is God unjust?" (14) makes no sense.

(B)  In 18-22, 11:1-10, Paul underscores God's sovereign purpose.

2.      Does not compromise Israel's responsibility, 9:30-10:21.

G.    The Order of the Decrees

1.      The question: is there a logical (not temporal!) order among God's eternal decrees?

2.      Kinds of orders:

a.      High and low priority.

b.      Decree A creates conditions for carrying out decree B (Rom. 8:29-30). A is the means, B the end.

3.      Supralapsarianism

a.      elect some creatable people for divine blessing

b.      create

c.      permit the Fall

4.      Infralapsarianism

a.      create

b.      permit the Fall

c.      elect

5.      Interpretation

a.      For supra, God's overarching purpose is to bless his people. Infra is agnostic about any overarching purpose, except of course for God to glorify himself.

b.      For supra, decrees 2-3 provide conditions for realizing 1. But there is no consistent kind of "order" that runs through the whole list.

c.      For infra, the important thing is that God elects people out of the fallen human race.

6.      Evaluation

a.      The two positions equivocate on the meaning of order and therefore cannot be precisely compared.

b.      Scripture never presents a definitive order of thoughts in God's mind, in any relevant sense of order.

c.      Isa. 55:8 and other such passages warn us against trying to read God's mind.

d.      "Last in execution is first in intent," not necessarily. Are the last chords of a symphony necessarily the most important ones?

e.      Surely in one sense, all God's decrees presuppose one another. God formulates each, with all the others in view.

f.        Each decree takes the others into account, so all may be considered ends, and all means.

g.      So there are reciprocal relations between decrees, which the theological literature ignores.

h.     Nothing in Scripture settles the question of whether God views the elect as "creatable" or "created." Likely both.

i.        The supra concern (that God has a purpose for the elect transcending the particular historical situation) and that of infra (that God doesn't put the Fall out of his mind in electing people) are both Scriptural and not incompatible.

j.        I don't deny that God has priorities, which certainly include the fulfillment of his kingdom purposes.



Part Five: Biblical Descriptions of God



XVII. Names of God

A.     Naming and Describing

1.      Names are "proper" nouns, but they also connote meaning.

2.      So God's names are correlative to images and attributes

B.     God's Name and God Himself

1.      God's Name includes specific names like Yahweh, Elohim.

2.      But Name is also used in a broader sense, as in Psm. 8:1, 116:7.

a.      God's reputation, therefore revelation.

b.      As such, a synonym for Word.

c.      Thus a way of designating God himself. To praise his "name" is to praise him.

(i)                 God's name defends us (Psm. 20:1, saves us (54:1), etc.

(ii)               When God's name dwells in the temple, he is there, Deut. 12:5, 11, 21, 14:23-24.

(iii)             Remarkably, the name of Jesus is the same, Acts 4:7-12, 5:12, 9:21, 22:16, Phil. 2:10-11, Rom. 10:13, 1 Cor. 1:2, Matt. 28:19.

(iv)             God's name is everywhere, Matt. 5:33-37, 23:16-22.

C.    Name and Lordship

1.      Control: to give a name is to exercise control.

a.      So only God can name himself.

b.      But he gives his name to us, as he gives his promise. We don't control him, but he gives us authority to expect his blessing.

2.      Authority: to give a name is to interpret a person's nature.

3.      Presence: a name locates a person.

D.    Some Names of God

1.      Yahweh

2.      Adon, substitutes for Yahweh.

3.      Elohim

a.      General term for all gods, false and true.

b.      Tends to be found in contexts where God is dealing with the creation in general apart from his covenant with Israel.

c.      But Elohim not simply an "extra-covenantal" term.

(i)                 Creation itself is covenantal.

(ii)               Elohim is prominent in the flood narrative and the Noachic Covenant.

(iii)             Expressions "your God," "our God," "God of Israel" (all with Elohim) have rich covenantal associations.

d.      Plural

(i)                 Initially "plural of abstraction, " focusing on characteristics.

(ii)               Maybe also "plural of amplification."

4.      El

a.      Relation to Elohim unclear.

b.      Might and power—but what name of God does not connote these attributes?

5.      El Shaddai

a.      Especially important in the covenant with Abraham.

b.      Gen. 6:3: not that Yahweh unknown in the patriarchal period, but El Shaddai more characteristic of the earlier covenant.

6.      Other compound names: Yahweh Izeva'oth, El Elyon, Yahweh Yir'eh, etc.


XVIII. Images of God

A.     Function: give us pictures in words.

1.      Psm. 23:1, 102:25-28.

2.      Need other biblical teaching for explanation. But remarkably images are less controversial than attributes, etc.

B.     The Theological Possibility of Images

1.      God is transcendent and incomprehensible; but there are legitimate images of God: man himself, and ultimately Christ.

2.      Deut. 4:15-20 doesn't say there is no image or "form" of God, but that Israel saw no such form on the Day of the Assembly. Cf. Num. 12:8.

C.    Anthropomorphisms

1.      All Scripture is anthropomorphic in the sense that it is written in human language, from human viewpoints.

2.      This does not prevent literal language about God.

D.    Some Biblical Images of God: Lord, King, Judge, Lawyer, Legislator, Father, Husband, Redeemer, Shepherd, Lion, Lamb, Light, Rock.

E.     God and Gender

1.      What Would a Female God be Like?

a.      The issue, of course, is imagery. Since God is incorporeal, he cannot be literally male or female.

b.      So we focus on traits of personality. But are there traits distinctive to women? Feminists don't agree.

2.      Feminine Images of God in Scripture:

a.      Deut. 32:18, Num. 11:12. But Gal. 4:19 and 1 Thess. 2:7 are equally striking, though they are applied to male apostles.

b.      Isa. 42:14-15 also similar to other statements made of men, Psm. 48:4-6, Isa. 13:8, 21:3, etc.

c.      Luke 15:8-10 and Matt. 23:27 don't call in question the gender of Jesus.

d.      Racham and Splanchnizomai.

e.      Spirit in Gen. 1:2, John 3:5.

f.        Wisdom in Prov. 7:4, 8:1-9:18.

(i)                 A divine figure, identified with Christ in 1 Cor. 1:24, 30, Col. 2:3.

(ii)               Similar to Word.

(iii)             But Jesus certainly male.

(iv)             And the female figure in Proverbs is the counterpart to the prostitute, "Lady Folly." The femininity of wisdom is not intended to show a feminine element in God.

3.      Theological Importance of Masculine Imagery

a.      The predominance of masculine imagery in Scripture is part of the revelation of his nature.

b.      In Scripture, God names himself. We should not presume to re-name him.

c.      Female deities and couples were well-known in the ancient near east. The biblical writers distinctly rejected them.

d.      In creation, God makes something outside itself, more closely analogous to the male role in reproduction than the female.

e.      Lord connotes authority, as with prophets, priests, and kings. As these are predominantly male, it would confuse matters to think of God as female.

f.        God relates to his people as husband to wife. That relation would be obscure if we were to conceive of God as female.

g.      To eliminate all sexually distinctive language would suggest that God is impersonal.

h.     Has the use of male language for God oppressed women? I don't think so.


XIX. God's Attributes

A.     Review From Chapter 12

B.     God's Attributes and His Lordship

1.      God's Lordship is grounded in his eternal nature, and therefore in his attributes. So Lordship is a way of describing God in himself, not only his relationship to us.

2.      Our thinking about God's attributes should be as servants.

3.      The attributes describe God's Lordship from various perspectives.

a.      God's control over various aspects of creation.

b.      God's standards for evaluating different parts of creation.

c.      God's own character as displayed in his revelation on earth.

4.      God's love, for example, is

a.      a sovereign love, by which he controls the drama of salvation (1 John 4:10, 19).

b.      A love that sets the standard for our love (John 13:34-35, 1 John 3:16, 4:19).

c.      A love that characterizes his essence (1 John 4:8, 16) and therefore all his dealings with creation.

C.    Does God Have a Fundamental Attribute?

1.      Some have suggested Being (Aquinas), veracity (Jansen), love (Ritschl).

2.      But Scripture says, not only "God is love," but also "God is light" (1 John 1:5). And what of Spirit (John 4:24), jealousy (Ex. 34:14), holiness (Isa. 6:3), almightiness (Ex. 6:1ff), Lordship?

3.      Better: all defining attributes are perspectival. Each includes all the others.

4.      Not all equally important.

D.    Classifications

1.      Hard to judge, for Scripture utilizes no scheme of classification.

2.      Transcendence/Immanence: hard to separate.

3.      Incommunicable/Communicable: In one sense, all attributes are both.

4.      My threefold scheme

a.      love

b.      knowledge

c.      power

(i)                 includes "transcendence" attributes like eternity.

(ii)               For transcendence is not another place, but God's exaltation on his throne of power. Chart:

























Existence (Esse)




























E.     Starting With Goodness

1.      Best for non-philosophical, practical students.

2.      Vs. notion that the power-attributes (sometimes called "metaphysical" attributes) are more fundamental.

3.      Passages in Scripture that sound most like definitions of God usually focus on ethical attributes, Ex. 33:19, 34:6-7, 34:14, 1 John 4:8, 16, 1:5, Isa. 6:3.


XX. God's Goodness

A.     Goodness as Perfection

1.      Good is a general term of commendation.

2.      In theology, good often = "perfection," all of God's excellencies.

3.      Any attribute ascribed to God is supremely excellent.

B.     The Euthyphro Problem

1.      Is God good because he fulfills a standard of goodness, or does he define the standard?

a.      If the former, he seems to be subject to a standard higher than himself.

b.      If the latter, it seems that he could arbitrarily define what goodness is.

2.      In biblical theism, good is God's very nature. So it is neither above him, nor arbitrarily defined by him.

3.      There is a kind of circularity here: we praise God for his goodness; but goodness is by definition anything that he is.

a.      Compare: if I define "greatest basketball playing" with what I do on the court.

b.      The difference is that my playing is not a plausible definition of great basketball. God's nature is the only plausible definition of goodness.

4.      So goodness is fundamentally a personal quality, not an abstract concept.

C.    Goodness as Benevolence

1.      The most common biblical meaning on goodness as a divine attribute.

2.      Tov, agathos, kalos, Gen. 50:20, Num. 10:29, Deut. 30:5.

D.    Objects of God's Goodness

1.      His people, Psm. 73:1, Josh. 21:45, Psm. 119:65, 68.

2.      His elect, before they become his people, Eph. 1:4, Rom. 5:8.

3.      Many of God's enemies (Matt. 5:45, Acts 14:17, 17:24-34, 2 Pet. 3:9).

4.      Everyone, Psm. 145:9, 13-16.

5.      Not everyone receives the same blessing, but even the lost have experienced something of God's goodness.

E.     God's Goodness and His Lordship

1.      Control: It's God's decision to bestow blessings on his creation.

2.      Authority: He defines what goodness is for himself and his creatures.

3.      Presence: Goodness is the character he displays in all his involvements with us.

F.     God's Love

1.      Definition: "…his self-giving affection for his image-bearing creatures and his unselfish concern for their well-being, that leads him to act on their behalf and for their happiness and welfare," Cottrell.

a.      Like goodness, but distinctly a relationship between persons.

b.      Both affection and action, feelings and deeds.

c.      Agape: not, as a Greek word, an especially noble term. But it gains its profound meaning from its theological uses in Scripture.

2.      Turretin's distinctions

a.      Benevolence: God willed good to the creature from eternity. Election.

b.      Beneficence: He does good to the creature in time according to his good will. Redemption and sanctification.

c.      Complacency: delights himself in the creature on account of the rays of his image seen in them. Gratuitous rewards.

d.      So God loves us first (a, b), then loves us again because of his work in us (c).

3.      Objects of God's Love

a.      God's self-love: necessary, as opposed to his free love of creatures.

b.      God's universal love, Matt. 5:43-48, John 3:16, 4:42, 1 John 4:14.

(i)                 His intention to save "the world" of sinful people.

(ii)               The impact of Christ on the world does benefit the reprobate. Just as God's wrath on the elect (Eph. 2:3) is real wrath, so his blessings to the reprobate are real blessings.

(iii)             Should we ever say "God loves you" to a group including unbelievers? Deut. 7:7f is precedent.

(iv)             Blessings of God as evangelistic witness, Acts 14:17, 17:26-30, Rom. 2:4.

c.      God's saving love

(i)                 Throughout Scripture, redemption comes from God's love, Deut. 7:7-8, 12, 9:4-6, John 3:16, 15:13-14, Rom. 5:8, etc.

(ii)               God's redemptive love defines love for us: above passages, Gal. 2:20, Eph. 5:2, 25, 1 John 3:16, 4:9-10, Rev. 1:5.

(iii)             The greatness of God's love

(A)  before time, Eph. 1:4-5

(B)  unmeasurable, 1 John 3:1, Eph. 3:17-19.

4.      God's Love and His Lordship

a.      Controlling, sovereign

(i)                 Not merely "persuasive," as with process theists.

(ii)               Does God violate our free will in converting us?

(A)   Yes, if one refers to our unregenerate free will.

(B)   No, since God gives us a new will that accepts him readily.

b.      The authoritative norm of our behavior

c.      An attribute that motivates his covenant presence.

G.    God's Grace

1.      Unmerited favor, where wrath is deserved, Gen. 6, Ex. 33:12-17, 34:6, Num. 6:24-26, Acts 11:23, 18:27.

2.      The "Gospel of the grace of God," Acts 20:24; cf. 14:3, 20:32.

3.      Salvation apart from works of the law, Rom. 3:21-24, Gal. 2:21, Eph. 2:8-9, 2 Tim. 1:10.

H.    Common Grace

1.      God restrains sin, Gen. 4:15, 11:6, 20:6, etc.

2.      God restrains his wrath, Acts 17:30, Matt. 19:8, 2 Pet. 3:9. Patience.

3.      God gives temporal blessings to all, Psm. 65:5-13, 104, 136:25, Acts 14:17, including the blessings brought by the Gospel into human cultures.

4.      Unregenerate people do good, 2 Kings 12:2, Luke 6:33. See WCF 16.7.

5.      Unregenerate people know truth, Rom. 1:18-21, Matt. 23:2-3.

6.      Unregenerate people experience some blessings of the Holy Spirit, Num. 22:7, 24:1, 1 Sam. 10:9-11, Matt. 10:7, Heb. 6:4-6.

I.        God's Covenant Love, Chesed

1.      One of the most frequent divine attributes in Scripture.

2.      Basically = faithfulness to covenant, Deut. 7:9, 1 Sam. 20:8, Neh. 1:5, 9:32, Mic. 7:20.

3.      Coupled with emeth, truth, Gen. 24:27, 49, 47:29, Ex. 34:6, Josh. 2:14, Psm. 26:3.

4.      Ahabah is generally the love that initiates the covenant; chesed presupposes an existing covenant.

5.      God's chesed over all his works, Psm. 36:1-5, 10, since creation itself is covenantal.

J.      God's Compassion

1.      A sympathetic view of another's distress, motivating helpful action.

2.      Of God in Ex. 33:19, 34:6.

K.     Other Forms of God's Goodness: gentleness, beauty, delight, peace, blessedness.


XXI. God's Righteousness and Wrath

A.     Basic Distinctions

1.      Ramist Chart

a.      Internal (God's moral excellence)

b.      External (the rectitude of his conduct)

(i)                 rectoral or legislative (promulgating just laws for his creatures)

(ii)               distributive (administering rewards and punishments)

(A)  remunerative (distribution of reward)

(B)  retributive (distribution of punishment)

2.      Frame Triad

a.      Existential (God's moral excellence), a on the Ramist chart.

b.      Normative (God's own standards for himself and creation), b(i) on Ramist chart.

c.      Situational (God's actions, by which he makes his righteousness prevail), includes b, (ii) on Ramist chart.

B.     God's Righteous Standards

1.      Our responsibility is to imitate God, Lev. 19:1, 1 Pet. 1:15-16, Matt. 5:48, allowing for the discontinuities between his rights and our own.

2.      Proportionality of penalties in the law, Obadiah 15, Ex. 21:24.

3.      A kind of elemental fairness.

4.      God's own judgments just, Gen. 18:25, Deut. 32:4, Psm. 145:17.

C.    God's Righteous Deeds

1.      God's righteousness is not only a standard of conduct, but also a means of salvation. 1 Sam. 12:6-11, Neh. 9:8, Psm. 9:7-9, Isa. 46:12-13, Psm. 40:10, 1 John 1:9.

2.      God rescues the righteous from their oppressors, Psm. 34:15-22, 72, Isa. 11:3-5.

3.      Luther's discovery: righteousness in Rom. 1:17 is not judgment, but justification. Cf. 1 John 1:9.

D.    God's Jealousy, Ex. 20:4-6, 34:14.

1.      Connected with his wrath and judgment, Deut. 4:24, 6:15.

2.      Also with the exclusiveness of his love, Num. 5:11-31, Song of Songs 8:6.

E.     God's Hatred

1.      Can mean to love less, Gen. 29:31, Luke 14:26.

2.      Can mean to oppose someone's plans even though we also love the person.

3.      As believers, we were once under God's wrath (Eph. 2:3), even though we were also under his eternal love, Eph. 1:3.

F.     God's Wrath

1.      Some anger is sinful, according to Scripture, Matt. 5:21-22, Gal. 5:20, Eph. 4:31, etc.

2.      Some anger is not sinful, but should be restrained, Eph. 4:26-27.

3.      God's wrath is his disposition to give just punishments, motivated by jealousy and hatred.


XXII. God's Knowledge

A.     God's Speech, Psm. 33:6-9, 147:15-18.

1.      Scripture distinguishes the true God from the false in that he speaks, Hab. 2:18-20, 1 Kings 18:24-46, Psm. 115:5-8, 135:15-18, 1 Cor. 12:2.

2.      One biblical picture of the Trinity is that the Father is the speaker, the Son the Word, and the Spirit the breath that carries the Word to its destination.

3.      The speech of God has divine attributes, Gen. 18:14, Psm. 19:7-11, 119:7, 86, 89, 142, 160, Isa. 55:11, John 17:17.

4.      God's Word is an object of worship, Psm. 56:4, 10, 119:120, 161-62, Isa. 66:5, like his "name," Psm. 9:2, 34:3, 68:4, 138:2.

5.      The Word is God (John 1:1).

6.      Necessary and free words.

a.      Necessary: intertrinitarian communication.

b.      Free: decrees and other words concerning the creation.

B.     God's Truth

1.      His Word is truth, John 17:17, 2 Sam. 7:28, 1 Kings 17:24, Psm. 119:43, 89-90, 142, 151.

2.      Three meanings of truth:

a.      Metaphysical: the genuine, complete, ultimate, Jer. 10:9-10, John 17:3, 1 Thess. 1:9. God is the "true God."

b.      Epistemological: language that rightly represents reality. God does not lie, Num. 23:19, Tit. 1:2, Heb. 6:18, nor can he be in error, Heb. 4:12-13. He is true, though every man a liar, Rom. 3:4. And he is the standard of truth for us.

c.      Ethical: faithfulness, reliability in all areas of life.

(i)                 In human beings, 2 John 4, 1 John 1:6, 3:18.

(ii)               In God, Deut. 7:5, 4:31, 2 Sam. 17:28, Psm. 40:11, Hos. 12:1. Virtually = faithfulness.

C.    God's Knowledge

1.      Importance of justification in knowledge shows that all human knowledge is religious, presupposes God (DKG).

2.      Knowledge as a divine attribute, 1 Sam. 2:3, Psm. 94:10, Isa. 46:10.

D.    God's Knowledge and his Lordship

1.      Equation of knowledge with God's election, choice, Amos 3:2.

2.      Knowledge and control, Isa. 40:12-14. God made the world by his wisdom.

3.      Knowledge and authority: Scripture correlates God's knowledge with his judgments, Psm. 67:5, Isa. 29:15f, Jer. 16:16-18, etc.

4.      Knowledge and presence: nobody can hide from him, 2 Chron. 16:9, Psm. 139:1-24.

E.     Omniscience

1.      Definition: his knowledge of all actual and possible states of affairs and/or of the truth value of all propositions.

2.      Since he creates and governs all according to his wise plan, there is nothing in history that is unknown to him.

3.      Biblical witness, Psm. 147:5, John 21:17 (2:24-25), Heb. 4:12-13, 1 John 3:20.

F.     God's Knowledge of the Future

1.      Open theists deny God's exhaustive knowledge of the future, because they believe that human free choices are not knowable in advance (libertarianism). This was the position of Socinianism.

2.      God's knowledge of the future in general, Deut. 18:21-22, Isa. 41:21-23, 42:9, 43:9-12, 44:7, 45:21, 46:10, 48:3-7.

a.      Specific prophecies of the future, Isa. 13:9, 9:6-7, 1 Sam. 10:1-11.

b.      "That Scripture might be fulfilled," Matt. 2:15, 17, 3:3, 8:17, 12:17, etc. Micah 5:2, Matt. 2:6.

3.      God's foreknowledge of free human decisions and actions

a.      Open theists limit predictive prophecy to four types:

(i)                 announcements of God's own intentions

(ii)               speaking in very general terms that could be fulfilled by many states of affairs.

(iii)             Announcing events that are necessary (or highly probable?) consequences of past and present states of affairs.

(iv)             Announcing what will happen if certain conditions obtain.

b.      Denial of God's foreknowledge of human free choice is quite a sweeping qualification upon his omniscience. Human decisions even affect the weather.

c.      Some passages that cannot be understood in the four categories under a, above: Gen. 9:24-27, 15:13-16, 1 Sam. 10:1-7, 23:11, 1 Kings 13:1-4, 2 Kings 8:12, Psm. 139:4, Isa. 44:28-45:13, Jer. 1:5, 37:6-11, Mark 13:32 (cf. 1-30), Matt. 26:24, Acts 2:23, 4:27-28, John 21:18-19.

4.      Passages alleged to teach divine ignorance

a.      Gen. 3:9

(i)                 If God is ignorant, then he is ignorant of the present and past, not of the future. But open theists often claim that God knows everything about the past and present.

(ii)               Actually, the questions are God's cross-examination.

b.      Gen 11:5: same considerations here.

c.      Gen. 18:20-21

(i)                 Again, concerns God's knowledge of the present.

(ii)               This also is a judicial examination.

(iii)             When God enters time, he behaves in some respects as a temporal being, doing one thing on Monday, another on Tuesday, etc. So he observes each thing as it happens and in that sense his knowledge increases.

d.      Gen. 22:12

(i)                 Again, the issue is more judicial than epistemological.

(ii)               Anthropomorphism, grounded in God's involvement with the temporal sequence.

(iii)             Similarly with Deut. 13:3, Psm. 44:21, 139:1, 23.

e.      "Perhaps" in Jer. 26:2-3, Ezek. 12:3.

(i)                 God's test, which is not complete until the response of the people.

(ii)               Until that response, there are some senses in which Israel is "able" (see Chapter 8) to make either response.

(iii)             Hence, from a human point of view, the outcome of the test is uncertain. God is here speaking human language.

f.        God remembering and forgetting, Gen. 8:1, 9:15-16, Ex. 6:5, Psm. 9:18, 13:1, Jer. 23:39.

(i)                 "Remember" simply means to fulfill the covenant promises.

(ii)               "Forgetting" is the temporary delay, seen from a human point of view.

g.      "It never entered my mind," Jer. 7:31, 19:5, 32:35.

(i)                 Lev is heart, here best understood as intention.

(ii)               The point is that God never intended for Israel to behave in such a way. This issue is God's preceptive will.

(iii)             In the intellectual sense, human sacrifices (and the possibility that Israel would be offer them) were in God's mind: Lev. 18:21, Deut. 18:10.

G.    God's Knowledge of Possibilities

1.      God's knowledge of what is possible: his necessary knowledge, natural knowledge, knowledge of intellect.

a.      God knows what is possible by knowing his own nature.

b.      Usually, possible here refers to metaphysical possibility, i.e., consistency with God's own nature.

2.      God's knowledge of what is actual: his free knowledge or knowledge of vision.

a.      God knows actualities in creation by knowing his plan.

b.      This knowledge is "free" because God has freely decided to create the world.

H.    God's Knowledge of Contingencies: "Middle Knowledge"

1.      Craig's definition: God's knowledge of what every possible free creature would do under any possible set of circumstances and, hence, knowledge of those possible worlds which God can make actual. The content of this knowledge is not essential to God.

2.      In this sense, God does have middle knowledge: 1 Sam. 23:7-13, Matt. 11:20-24.

3.      But what is the difference between a knowledge of possible worlds (necessary knowledge) and a knowledge of "those possible worlds which God can make actual?"

4.      So why shouldn't this be an aspect of necessary knowledge (G, 1)?

5.      Craig and others insist on a distinction between necessary and middle knowledge because of their belief in libertarian freedom. If we have that kind of freedom, then God does not know our actions simply by knowing himself.

6.      But the doctrine of middle knowledge is actually inconsistent with libertarian freedom. If a creature has libertarian freedom, how can God know "what every possible free creature would [not might] do under any possible set of circumstances." On a libertarian view, God cannot know in advance the free decisions of people in worlds which he decides to make actual.

I.        God's Wisdom

1.      A heightened knowledge, penetrating to deep significance and practical relevance. Ex. 28:3, 31:3, 6, 1 Kings 7:14, Deut. 34:9, 1 Kings 4:32-33, Dan. 4:22.

2.      Most often in Scripture, an ethical meaning, Prov. 4:11, Deut. 4:6-8, James 3:13-18, Prov. 8:20-21. The skill of godly living.

3.      A way of salvation, Acts 6:10, Rom. 1:16, 1 Cor. 1:18-2:16.

4.      Ultimately, Christ, 1 Cor. 1:30, Col. 2:3, Isa. 11:2.

5.      Wisdom of the world antithetical, Isa. 29:14, Rom. 1:22, 1 Cor. 1-2.

6.      The source of all God's work in creation and providence, Psm. 104:24, 136:5, Prov. 3:19, Jer. 10:12, 51:15, Rom. 11:33-36.

J.      God's Mind

1.      Scripture does not enumerate and compare faculties in God, like intellect, will, imagination, etc.

2.      God's "mind" in Scripture is his thoughts, not a faculty that produces them.

3.      God's thoughts functions of his whole being.

4.      God thinks (implicit in references to his counsel, decrees, etc.)

5.      God and logic

a.      God's thinking and acting are consistent and valid, therefore logical.

b.      As with God's righteousness, his logic is his own character, not something above or below him.

c.      His thinking is not, however, necessarily in accord with any particular human system of logic.

d.      There may be some apparent contradictions in Scripture that cannot be resolved by our current systems of logic. I cannot, however, specify any of these.