MANUAL OF CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE
Louis Berkhof, 1933
II. The Doctrine of GOD and His WORKS
A. The BEING of God
The Essential Nature of God
The Names of God
The Attributes of God
B. The WORKS of God
The Divine Decrees in General
A. The BEING of God
The Essential Nature of God
A. The knowledge of God.
The possibility of knowing God has been denied on several different grounds. In some cases, however, this denial is simply equivalent to the assertion that man cannot comprehend God. And this is, of course, very true. It is not possible for man to know God with an absolutely all-comprehensive knowledge, to fathom the infinite depths of the divine being. But while we can know God only in part, his knowledge is nevertheless real and true knowledge. Man's knowledge of God is generally said to be twofold:
1. Innate or Inborn Knowledge. The statement that man has an innate knowledge of God does not merely mean that he has an inborn capacity to know God. It indicates something more than that. At the same time it does not imply that man at birth brings a certain knowledge of God with him into the world. The innate knowledge of God is inborn in the sense that, under normal conditions, it develops spontaneously in man as soon as he comes in contact with God's revelation. It is a knowledge which man, as he is constituted, develops of necessity and not as the result of any choice on his part. Naturally such knowledge is of a rather general nature.
2. Acquired Knowledge.
Acquired knowledge, on the other hand, is derived from God's general and special revelation. It does not arise spontaneously in the mind, but results from the conscious and sustained pursuit of knowledge. It can be obtained only by the wearisome process of perception and reflection, reasoning and argumentation, and therefore depends on the voluntary direction of the will and on the persistent efforts of man. While it is possible only because man is born with the capacity to know God, it carries him far beyond the limits of his innate knowledge of God.
It is sometimes said that our knowledge of God is limited to the relations in which He stands to His creatures, and does not extend to His essential being; but this is hardly correct. It would not even be possible to know these relations without knowing something of the very nature of God and man. In virtue of God's self-revelation it is possible for man to have true and real knowledge of the being of God, though this knowledge is necessarily limited.
B. The being of God as known from God's revelation.
While it is not possible to give a definition of God in the strict sense of the word, it is possible to give a general description of His being. Many so-called definitions have been given of God, but it is perhaps best to describe Him simply as a pure Spirit of infinite perfections. This description contains the following elements:
1. God Is a Pure Spirit.
The Bible does not attempt to define the being of God. The nearest approach to anything like it is found in the word of Christ to the Samaritan woman: "God is spirit," John 4:24. This means that He is essentially spirit, so that all the qualities which belong to the perfect idea of spirit are necessarily found in Him; that He is a self-conscious and self-determining being. The fact that He is pure spirit of necessity excludes the notion of the early Gnostics and medieval Mystics, that He has some sort of an ethereal or refined body. It also rules out the idea that He is visible and can be discerned by the bodily senses.
2. God Is Personal.
The fact that God is spirit also involves his personality, for a spirit is an intelligent and moral being, and when we ascribe personality to God, we mean exactly that He is a rational being capable of self-determination. In the present day many deny the personality of God and speak of Him as the unconscious cause of all existing things, as the all-pervasive principle of the world, or as the all-inclusive purpose of the universe. The personality of God is clearly indicated, however, in the traces of intelligent and purposeful action in the world; in the rational, moral, and religious nature of man, all of which can only be the product of a personal God; and above all in the representations of God in Scripture. The presence of God, as it is described in the Old and New Testament, is clearly a personal presence. He is represented as a personal God, who comes and goes, with whom men can converse, whom they can trust, who enters into their experiences, who sustains them in their trials and difficulties, and who fills their hearts with the joy of victory. Moreover, the highest revelation of God in the New Testament is a personal revelation. Jesus Christ reveals the Father in such a perfect way that He could say to Philip: "He who has seen me has seen the Father," John 14:9.
3. God Is Infinitely Perfect.
God is distinguished from all His creatures by infinite perfection. He possesses His being and His virtues without any limitation or imperfection. As the infinitely perfect God, He is not only boundless or limitless, but is exalted above all His creatures in grand sublimity and in ineffable majesty. This infinity is characteristic of all the divine perfections, and distinguishes these from the attributes of all creatures, however exalted they may be. It is extolled in the song of Moses at the Red Sea: "Who is like unto you, O Jehovah, among the gods? Who is like you, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders," Exodus 15:11. Further references to it are found in such passages as 1 Kings 8:27; Psalm 96:46; 97:9; 99:2, 3, 147:5; Isaiah 57:15; Jeremiah 23:24. Some modern scholars, such as William James and H. G. Wells, deny the infinity of God. They conceive of God as "finite, developing, struggling, suffering, sharing with man his defeats and victories."
4. God and His Perfections Are One.
Simplicity is one of the fundamental characteristics of God. This means not only that, as a spirit, He is not composed of different parts, but also that His essence and properties are one. The being of God is not something existing by itself, to which His attributes are added; the whole of His essence is in each one of the attributes. It is generally said that God's perfections are God Himself as He has revealed Himself to man. They serve but to give a more detailed description of His divine essence. Hence the Bible says that God is truth, life, light, love, etc.
Questions for Review:
In what sense is God knowable, and in what sense unknowable?
What is innate knowledge of God?
What is acquired knowledge?
Is it possible to know something of the very being of God?
Is it possible to define God?
What is involved in God's spirituality?
What do we mean when we ascribe personality to God?
How can His personality be proved?
What is the divine infinity?
How are the being of God and His perfections related?
The NAMES of God
A. The Name of God in General.
The Bible often speaks of the name of God in the singular, as, for instance in Exodus 20:7 and Psalm 8:1. When it does this, it does not refer to any special designation of God, but uses the term in a very general sense to denote His self-revelation. The one general name of God is split up into many special names, which are expressive of His many-sided being. It is only because God has revealed Himself in His name, that is, in His self-revelation in nature and in Scripture, and also in the special names by which He is designated in the Bible, that we can now ascribe these names to Him. These names are of divine origin and not of human invention, though they are derived from human language. From what was said about the name of God in general it follows that not only the proper names of God, but also his attributes and the personal designations of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit may be included under the general heading, "The Names of God." In the present chapter we limit ourselves, however, to a discussion of the personal names of God.
B. The Old Testament Names of God.
Of the Old Testament names the following are the most important:
1. There are certain names which direct attention to the fact that God is the high and exalted One, the transcendent God.
'El and 'Elohim stress the fact that He is strong and mighty, and therefore to be feared, while 'Elyon directs attention to His exalted nature as the Most High, the object of reverence and worship. Another name belonging to this class is 'Adonai, which is usually rendered "Lord." It was frequently used in addressing God and was an explicit recognition of the fact that He is the owner and ruler of all men. Among Israel, the ancient covenant people, it was largely supplanted by the name Jehovah.
2. There are other names which point to the fact that this exalted being condescended to enter into relations of friendship with His creatures.
In patriarchal times it was especially the name Shaddai or El-Shaddai that served this purpose, Exodus 6:3. This name also stresses the divine greatness, but primarily as a source of blessing and comfort for the people of God. It indicates the fact that God controls all the powers of nature and makes them subservient to his gracious purposes. It is especially in the name Jehovah (Yahweh), however, that God reveals Himself as the God of grace. This name has always been regarded as His most sacred and most distinctive name. On the basis of Exodus 3:14 it may be said that the name is derived from the Hebrew verb "to be," and that it serves to designate the unchangeableness of God. It implies the immutability of the divine being, but points more directly to the fact that God is unchangeable in His covenant relationship, that He is mindful of His promises and faithful in keeping His word, Malachi 3:6. The name often appears in the strengthened form "Jehovah of hosts." The hosts referred to are nor the stars, but rather the angelic hosts. Jehovah of hosts is God as the King of glory, who is surrounded by angelic hosts, who rules Heaven and earth in behalf of his people, and receives glory from all His creatures.
C. The New Testament Names of God.
The New Testament simply uses the Greek equivalents for the Hebrew names of the Old Testament. The following should be noted particularly:
This is simply the word for "God," and is the most common name employed in the New Testament. It is the common rendering of 'El, 'Elohim, and 'Elyon, though the latter is sometimes rendered "the Most High" or "the Most High God." The names Shaddai and El-Shaddai are simply rendered by their Greek equivalents, meaning "the Almighty" or "the Almighty God." The simple Theos is frequently found with a genitive of possession, as "my God," "your God," "our God," "your God," because in Christ God may be regarded as the God of all and of each one of His children. The national idea has made place for the individual in religion.
This is the word for "Lord," a name that is applied not only to God but also to Christ. It takes the place of both 'Adonai and Jehovah, though it does not have exactly the same meaning as the latter, but designates God as the possessor and the ruler of all things but particularly of His people, as the one who has regal power and authority. The fundamental idea of Jehovah is sometimes reproduced in such descriptions as "the Alpha and the Omega," "who is and who was and who is to come," "the beginning and the end," "the first and the last."
It is often said that the New Testament introduced a new name in Pater (Father). But this is hardly correct, for it is also found in the Old Testament as expressive of the special relation in which God stands to Israel. God is the Father of Israel, Deuteronomy 32:6, Isaiah 63:16, and Israel is the son of God, Exodus 4:22, Deuteronomy 14:1; Isaiah 1:2. The name is not always used in the same sense in the New Testament. Occasionally it serves to designate God simply as originator and creator, 1 Corinthians 8:6; Ephesians 3:14; Hebrews 12:9; James 1:17. In all other places it is expressive either of the special relation in which the first person of the Trinity stands to Christ, or of the ethical relation of God to believers as his spiritual children.
Questions for Review:
What does Scripture mean when it speaks of the name of God in the singular?
Are the special names of God of human origin?
What is the general difference between the names 'El, 'Elohim, 'Elyon, 'Adonai, on the one hand, and Shaddai, 'El-Shaddai, and Jehovah, on the other?
What is the specific meaning of each one of these names?
What is the meaning of the name Kurios (Lord)?
Is the name Father ever used of God in the Old Testament? In what different senses is it used in the New Testament?
The ATTRIBUTES of God
God reveals Himself not only in His names, but even more particularly in His attributes, that is, in the perfections which are ascribed to the divine being in Scripture, or are visibly exercised by Him in the works of creation, providence and redemption. Of the various divisions applied to the attributes of God we follow the one that is most commonly used.
A. The INCOMMUNICABLE Attributes.
The incommunicable attributes are those divine perfections which have no analogies in the creature. They emphasize the absolute distinctness of God, His transcendent greatness. The following attributes belong to this class:
1. The INDEPENDENCE or SELF-EXISTENCE of God.
When we ascribe independence or self-existence to God we thereby assert that He exists by the necessity of His own being and therefore necessarily, and does not, like man, depend for his existence on anything outside of Himself. This means not only that He is independent in His being, but also that He is independent in all His virtues and actions, and causes all his creatures to depend on Him. This idea is contained in the name Jehovah, finds expression in John 5:26, is indicated in passages which clearly imply that God is independent in His thought, Romans 11:33, 34, in His will, Daniel 4:35; Romans 9:19; Ephesians 1:5; Rev. 4:11, in His power, Psalm 115:3, and in His counsel Psalm 33:11, and is also implied in the declaration that He is independent of all things, and that all things exist only through Him Psalm 84:8ff.; Isaiah 40:18ff.; Acts 17:25.
2. The IMMUTABILITY of God.
Scripture teaches not only the independence but also the unchangeableness of God. He is forever the same, and therefore devoid of all change in His being, His perfections, His purposes, and His promises. This is clearly taught in such passages as Psalm 102:27; Malachi 3:6; James 1:17. At the same time there are many passages which seem to ascribe change to God. He is represented as revealing and hiding Himself, as coming and going, as repenting and changing His intention, and soon, Exodus 32:1015; Jonah 3:10; Proverbs 11:20; 12:22; Psalm 18:26, 27. But the unchangeableness of God, as taught in Scripture, clearly does not imply that there is no movement in God. He is unchangeable in His inner being, His attributes, His purposes, His motives of action, and His promises. And when the Bible speaks of Him as repenting and changing His intention, this is evidently only a human way of speaking. In reality the change is not in God but in man and in man's relations to God.
3. The INFINITY of God.
The infinity of God in general is that perfection of His nature by which everything that belongs to His being is without measure or quantity. It may be considered from various points of view:
a. His Absolute PERFECTION. This is the infinity of God with respect to His divine being or essence, and as such qualifies all the communicable attributes of God. God is infinite in His knowledge and wisdom, in His goodness and love, in His righteousness and holiness, and also in His sovereignty and power. All His perfections are free from limitation and defect. Scripture proof for it is found in Job 11:711; Psalm 145:3.
b. His ETERNITY. God's infinity viewed in relation to time is called His eternity. Scripture usually represents it as endless duration, Psalm 90:2; 102:12; Ephesians 3:21, but in doing this it uses popular language, and not the more specific language of philosophy. Strictly speaking, it denotes that God transcends time and possesses the whole of His life all at once. There is with Him only an eternal present, and no past or future.
c. His IMMENSITY. Viewed with reference to space, the infinity of God is called His immensity. In virtue of this perfection He transcends all space, and at the same time is present in every point of space with His whole being. He is not partly in our country and partly in other countries, but fills every part of space with His entire being. This is also called His omnipresence. God is immanent in all His creatures and in His entire creation, but is in no way bounded by it. This perfection of God is also clearly revealed in Scripture, 1 Kings 8:27; Isaiah 66:1; Psalm 139:710; Jeremiah 23:23, 24; Acts 7:48, 49; 17:27, 28.
4. The SIMPLICITY of God.
By ascribing simplicity to God we assert that He is not composite, and is not susceptible of division in any sense of the word. It implies, among other things, that the three persons in the Godhead are not so many parts of which the divine essence is composed, that God's essence and attributes are not distinct, and that the attributes are not superadded to the essence of God. While the simplicity of God is not directly asserted by Scripture, it clearly follows from His self-existence and immutability. That which is composed of different parts never can be self-existent, just because it is composed of previously existing parts; neither can it be unchangeable, because every part that is added effects a change.
B. The COMMUNICABLE Attributes.
The communicable attributes of God are those to which the attributes of man bear some analogy. It should be borne in mind, however, that what is found in man is only a finite and imperfect analogy of what is infinite and perfect in God. In this connection it should be noted that the incommunicable attributes of God qualify His communicable attributes. God is independent and infinite and unchangeable in His knowledge and wisdom, and in His love and holiness.
1. The KNOWLEDGE of God.
The knowledge of God may be defined as that perfection by which He, in an entirely unique manner, knows Himself and all things possible and actual. This knowledge is inherent in God and is not obtained from without. Moreover, it is always complete and stands out clearly in the consciousness of God. It is called omniscience, because it is all-comprehensive. God knows Himself and all that is contained in His plan. He knows all things as they actually come to pass, past, present, and future, and knows them in their real relations. He is fully acquainted with the hidden essence of things, to which the knowledge of man cannot penetrate. The actual as well as the possible is present to His mind. The omniscience of God is clearly taught in such passages of Scripture as 1 Kings 8:39; Psalm 139:116; Isaiah 46:10; Ezekiel 11:5; Acts 15:18; John 21:17; Hebrews 4:13.
2. The WISDOM of God.
The wisdom of God may be called a particular aspect of His knowledge. It is the intelligence of God as manifested in the adaptation of means to ends. In virtue of it God chooses the best means for the attainment of the ends He has in view. The final end to which He makes all secondary ends subservient is the glory of His name, Romans 11:33 14:7, 8; Ephesians 1:11, 12; Colossians 1:16. The wisdom of God is seen in creation, Psalm 19:17; 104:134; in providence, Psalm 33:10, 11; Romans 8:28, and in the work of redemption, 1 Corinthians 2:7; Romans 11:33; Ephesians 3:10.
3. The GOODNESS of God.
God is good in Himself; that is, He is perfectly holy; but this is not the goodness which comes into consideration here. It is God's goodness in action, which reveals itself in doing well unto others, that is now under contemplation. It may be defined as that perfection of God which prompts Him to deal bounteously and kindly with all His creatures. It is the affection which the Creator feels toward the rational creatures as such. As manifested towards His rational creatures, it is sometimes called His love of benevolence or His common grace, to designate the fact that its bounties are undeserved. The Bible refers to it in many places, such as Psalm 36:6; 104:21; 145:8, 9, 16; Matthew 5:45; 6:26; Acts 14:17.
4. The LOVE of God.
In the present day this is frequently regarded as the most central attribute in God, in the light of which all the other divine perfections should be interpreted. But there is no sufficient reason for regarding it as more central than any of the other virtues of God. We have in mind here particularly God's love of complacency, which is His delight in the contemplation of His own infinite perfections and of the creatures who reflect His moral image. This love may be considered from various points of view as:
a. The GRACE of God. In the specific language of Scripture the grace of God is the unmerited love of God toward those who have forfeited it, and are by nature under a judgment of condemnation. It is the source of all the spiritual blessings that are bestowed upon unworthy sinners, Ephesians 1:6, 7; 2:79; Titus 2:11; 3:47.
b. The MERCY of God. Another aspect of the love of God is His mercy or tender compassion. It is the love of God toward those who are in misery or distress, irrespective of their desires. It contemplates man as one who is bearing the consequences of sin, and is therefore in a pitiable condition. It is exercised only in harmony with the strictest justice of God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, Luke 1:54, 72, 78; Romans 15:9; 9:16, 17; Ephesians 2:4.
c. The LONGSUFFERING of God. When the love of God is considered as bearing with the froward and evil, it is called His longsuffering or forbearance. This contemplates the sinner as continuing in sin, notwithstanding repeated admonitions and warnings, and reveals itself especially in postponing the merited judgment, Romans 2:4; 9:22; 1 Peter 3:20; 2 Peter 3:15.
5. The HOLINESS of God.
The holiness of God is first of all that divine perfection by which He is absolutely distinct from all His creatures, and is exalted above them in infinite majesty. This is the meaning which it has in Exodus 15:11; 1 Samuel 2:2; Isaiah 57:15; Hos. 11:9. We have in mind here more particularly, however, the ethical holiness of God, which consists in His separation from moral evil, that is, from sin. While the fundamental idea in this holiness is that of separation, it also denotes something positive, namely, the moral excellence or ethical perfection of God. In its presence man feels himself burdened with a consciousness of sin. Job 34:10; Habakkuk 1:13; Isaiah 6:5. It may be defined as that perfection of God in virtue of which He eternally wills and maintains His own moral excellence, abhors sin, and demands purity in His moral creatures.
6. The RIGHTEOUSNESS of God.
This attribute of God is closely related to the immediately preceding one. It is that perfection of God by which He maintains Himself over against every violation of His holiness, and shows in every respect that He is the Holy One. Different aspects of it should be distinguished.
a. His RECTORAL Justice. This is the rectitude which God manifests as the Ruler of both the good and the evil. In virtue of this He institutes a moral government in the world, and imposes a just law upon man, with promises of reward for the obedient and threats of punishment for the disobedient, Psalm 99:4; Isaiah 33:22; Romans 1:32.
b. His REMUNERATIVE Justice. This manifests itself in the distribution of rewards to both men and angels, Deuteronomy 7:9, 12, 13; Psalm 58:11; Mic. 7:20; Romans 2:7; Hebrews 11:26. It is really an expression of the divine love, dealing out its bounties, not on the basis of strict merit, but according to promise and agreement, Luke 17:10; 1 Corinthians 4:7.
c. His RETRIBUTIVE Justice. This relates to the infliction of penalties, and is an expression of the divine wrath. In a sinless world there would be no place for its exercise, but in a world full of sin it necessarily holds a very prominent place. while the Bible stresses the reward of the righteous more than the punishment of the wicked, even the latter stands out boldly in Scripture, Romans 1:32; 2:9; 12:19; 2 Thessalonians 1:8.
7. The VERACITY of God.
The veracity of God may be described as that perfection in virtue of which He is true in His inner being, in His revelation, and in His relation to His people. It implies that He is the true God as over against the idols, which are lies and vanity; that He knows things as they really are and also enables man to know the reality of things; and that He faithfully fulfills all His covenant promises. This last aspect of God's veracity is usually called His faithfulness. It is the ground of His people's confidence, the foundation of their hope, and the cause of their rejoicing, Numbers 23:19; 1 Corinthians 1:9; 2 Timothy 2:13; Hebrews 6:17; 10:23.
8. The SOVEREIGNTY of God.
Under this general heading we consider God's sovereign will, or His sovereignty in planning and directing the affairs of the world and of His rational creatures; and God's sovereign power, His omnipotence, or the sovereignty of God in executing His will.
a. The Sovereign Will of God. The will of God is represented in Scripture as the final cause of all things: of creation and preservation, Rev. 4:11, of government, Proverbs 21:1; Daniel 4:35; Ephesians 1:11, of the sufferings of Christ, Luke 22:42; Acts 2:23, of election and reprobation, Romans 9:15, 16, of regeneration, Jas. 1:18, of sanctification, Philippians 2:13, of the sufferings of believers, 1 Peter 3:17, of man's life and destiny, Acts 18:21; Romans 15:32; Jas. 4:15, and even of the smallest things of life, Matthew 10:29.
1) The secret and the revealed will of God. Several distinctions are applied to the will of God, of which the most common is that between the secret and the revealed will of God. The former is the will of God's decree, which is largely hidden in God, while the latter is the will of His precept, which is revealed in the law and in the gospel. This distinction is based on Deuteronomy 29:29. The secret will of God is mentioned in Psalm 115:3; Daniel 4:17; Romans 9:18, 19; 11:33, 34; Ephesians 1:5, 9, 11; and His revealed will in Matthew 7:21; 12:50; John 4:34; 7:17; Romans 12:2. The former pertains to all things which God wills either to effect or to permit, and which are therefore absolutely certain. The latter has reference to the duties which God prescribes to man, represents the way in which man can enjoy the divine blessing, and is frequently frustrated.
2) The freedom of God's will. There are certain things which God necessarily wills. He cannot but love Himself and take delight in the contemplation of His own perfections. And yet He is under no compulsion even here, but acts according to the law of His inner being. No such necessity characterizes God's will with reference to His creatures. God chooses voluntarily what and whom He will create, and the times, places, and circumstances of their lives. He marks out the paths of all His rational creatures, determines their destiny, and uses them for His purposes. And while He endows them with freedom, yet His will controls their actions. The Bible speaks of the freedom of God's will in the most absolute terms, Job 11:10; 33:13; Psalm 115:3; Proverbs 21:1; Isaiah 10:15; Matthew 20:15 Romans 9:1518; Rev. 4:11.
3) The will of God in relation to sin.
Serious problems arise in connection with the relation of God's will to sin. If God planned all things then He also planned the entrance of sin into the world. Does not this make Him the author of sin? It should be borne in mind, however, that God did not decide to effect sin Himself nor procure its commission efficaciously. He decreed to permit His rational creatures to sin, thereby rendering the entrance of sin into the world certain, without Himself becoming its author. This statement of the matter does not solve the problem altogether, but safeguards the idea of the moral purity of God. Another problem arises from the relation of the secret and the revealed will to each other. They are often said to be contradictory. His secret will comprises many things which He forbids in His revealed will, and excludes many things which He commands in His revealed will, Genesis 22; Exodus 4:2123; 2 Kings 20:17.
God decreed that the Jews should crucify Jesus; yet in doing this they went contrary to the revealed will of God, Acts 2:23. It should be borne in mind, however, that in making the distinction under consideration we are using the word "will" in two different senses. By His secret will God has determined what He will do or what shall come to pass; in His revealed will, on the other hand, He reveals to us what we must do. Moreover, the situation is not such that, according to His secret will He does, and, according to His revealed will, He does not take pleasure in sin. The fact that He decreed that sin should enter the world does not imply that He takes delight in it.
b. The Sovereign POWER or Omnipotence of God.
The sovereignty of God also finds expression in the divine power or omnipotence, the power to execute His will. The omnipotence of God should not be understood to imply that God can do everything. The Bible teaches us that there are many things which God cannot do. He cannot lie, sin, change, nor deny Himself, Numbers 23:19; 1 Samuel 15:29; 2 Timothy 2:13; Hebrews 6:18; Jas. 1:13, 17. The Scholastics were wrong when they taught that He could do all kinds of things which are inherently contradictory and could even annihilate Himself. It is more correct to say that, in virtue of His omnipotence, God can, through the mere exercise of His will, realize whatever He has decided to accomplish. And if He so desired, He could do more than He actually brings to pass, Genesis 18:14; Jeremiah 32:27; Zechariah 8:6; Matthew 3:9; 26:53. The omnipotence of God finds expression in the name El-Shaddai, and is clearly mentioned in several passages of Scripture, Job 9:12; Psalm 115:3; Jeremiah 32:17; Matthew 19:26; Luke 1:37; Romans 1:20; Ephesians 1:19.
Questions for Review:
How do we divide the attributes of God? Which belong to each one of these classes? What is the independence of God? His immutability? How can we explain that the Bible apparently ascribes change to God? What is God's eternity and immensity? How can we prove the simplicity of God? What is the nature and extent of God's knowledge? How is His wisdom related to His knowledge? What is the goodness of God, and what other names are used for it? Should we speak of love as central in God? How do we distinguish God's grace, mercy, and longsuffering? What is the holiness of God? Under what different aspects can the righteousness of God be considered? What is included in the veracity of God? What distinction do we apply to the will of God? Is His will free or necessary? Does God's decree make Him the author of sin? Do the secret and revealed will of God conflict? Does God's omnipotence imply that He can do everything?
A. The Trinity in General.
The Bible teaches us that the one God consists in three persons. This is decidedly a doctrine of special revelation, a doctrine that is not revealed in nature, and that could not be discovered by human reason.
1. Statement of the Doctrine.
God is one in His essential being, but in this one being there are three persons, called, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. These persons are not, however, like so many persons among men three entirely separate and distinct individuals. They are rather three modes or forms in which the divine essence exists. At the same time it should be borne in mind that these self-distinctions in the divine being are of such a nature that they can enter into personal relations. The Father can speak to the Son and can send forth the Holy Spirit. The real mystery of the Trinity consists in this that the three persons are one in their essential being. And this does not mean that the divine essence is divided among the three persons. It is wholly, with all its perfections, in each one of the persons, and has no existence outside of and apart from the persons. Moreover, the persons are not subordinate the one to the other in their essential being. It may be said, however, that in order of existence the Father is first, the Son second, and the Holy Spirit third, and this order also reflects itself in the work of creation and redemption. The three persons are distinguished by certain personal distinctions: the Father generates the Son, the Son is generated by the Father, and the Holy Spirit proceeds from both Father and Son. This doctrine is one of the great mysteries of faith, and as such is far beyond our human comprehension.
2. Scripture Proof for the Trinity.
a. In the Old Testament. Some are of the opinion that the Old Testament contains no indications of the Trinity, but this is not correct. There are passages which indicate that there is more than one person in God, as for instance, where God speaks of Himself in the plural, Genesis 1:26; 11:7, when the angel of Jehovah is represented as a divine person, Genesis 16:713; 18:121; 19:122, and where the Spirit is spoken of as a distinct person, Isaiah 48:16; 63:10. In addition to these there are some in which three persons are more or less clearly indicated, Isaiah 48:16; 61:1; 63:9, 10.
b. In the New Testament. It is perfectly natural that the New Testament proofs should be clearer than those of the Old, since it records the incarnation of the Son of God and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. There are several passages in which the three persons are expressly mentioned, as in connection with the baptism of Jesus, Luke 3:21, 22, in the farewell discourses of Jesus, John 1416, in the great commission, Matthew 28:19, in the apostolic blessing, 2 Corinthians 13:13, and also in such passages as Luke 1:35; 1 Corinthians 12:46, and 1 Peter 1:2.
3. Erroneous Representations of the Trinity.
In the early Christian Church some represented the three persons in the Trinity as three divine beings, virtually three gods. The Sabellians regarded the three persons merely as so many modes of divine action or manifestation, which God successively assumes, revealing Himself as Father in creation and in the giving of the law, as Son in the incarnation, and as Holy Spirit in regeneration and sanctification. Thus the three persons were reduced to one. Paul of Samosata, the Socinians of the days of the Reformation, and the Unitarians and Modernists of the present day, all represent the Trinity as consisting of God the Father, the man Jesus Christ, and a divine influence which is called the Spirit of God. This view also represents God as one, not only in being, but also in person, and therefore virtually destroys the Trinity.
B. The Three Persons Considered Separately.
1. The FATHER. The name "Father," as applied to God, is not always used in the same sense in Scripture. It may denote the triune God
(a) as the origin of all created things, 1 Corinthians 8:6; Ephesians 3:14, 15; Hebrews 12:9; Jas. 1:17;
(b) as the Father of the chosen nation of Israel, Deuteronomy 32:6; Isaiah 63:16; 64:8; Jeremiah 3:4; Malachi 1:6; 2:10; and
(c) as the Father of believers as His spiritual children, Matthew 5:45; 6:615; Romans 8:15; 1 John 1:3. In a far more fundamental sense, however, the name is applied to the first person in the Trinity in His relation to the second person, John 1:14, 18; 5:1726; 8:54; 14:12, 13. This is the original Fatherhood of God, of which all earthly fatherhood is but a faint reflection. The distinctive property of the Father is that He generates the Son from all eternity. Certain works are ascribed particularly to the Father, though the other persons also participate in them, such as planning the work of redemption, the works of creation and providence, and the work of representing the Trinity in the Counsel of Redemption.
2. The SON. The second person of the Trinity is called "Son" or "Son of God." This name is not always applied to Him in the same sense, however. Considered purely as the second person in the Trinity, He is called "the Son" because of His eternal generation by the Father, John 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18; Galatians 4:4. He also bears that name as the incarnate Son of God in an official sense, to designate Him as the Messiah chosen of God, Matthew 8:29; 27:40; 26:63; John 1:49; 11:27. And, finally, He is called "the Son of God," at least in one passage, in virtue of the fact, that at His birth He was begotten by the special operation of the Holy Spirit, Luke 1:32, 35. In connection with the Son the following points deserve particular attention:
a. His ETERNAL GENERATION. The personal property of the Son is that He is eternally begotten of the Father. The doctrine of the generation of the Son is naturally suggested by the Biblical representation of the first and the second person in the Trinity as standing in the relation of Father and Son to each other, and is further based on Psalm 2:7; Acts 13:33; Hebrews 1:5. By means of this generation the Father does not call the essential nature of the Son into being, but becomes the cause of the personal subsistence of the Sona second mode of existencewithin the divine being. This generation of the Son should not be regarded as an act completed in the past, but as a necessary and therefore eternal act of the Father. It is timeless, always continuing, and yet ever completed.
b. The DIVINITY of the Son. The divinity of the Son is denied by several sects in the early Christian Church, by a host of liberal scholars during the last two centuries, and by the Unitarians and the real Modernists and Humanists of the present day. It can only be denied, however, by setting aside the explicit testimony of the Word of God. There are passages which expressly assert the divinity of the Son, such as John 1:1; 20:28; Romans 9:5; Philippians 2:6; Titus 2:13; 1 John 5:20. Moreover, divine names are applied to Him, Jeremiah 23:5, 6; Joel 2:32 (comp. Acts 2:21); Isaiah 9:6; 1 Timothy 3:16; divine attributes are ascribed to Him, Isaiah 9:6; Rev. 1:8; Matthew 18:20; 28:20; John 2:24, 25; 21:17; Philippians 3:21; Rev. 1:8; divine works are done by Him, Matthew 9:27; Luke 10:22; John 1:3, 10; 3:35; Ephesians 1:22; Colossians 1:17; Hebrews 1:1012; Philippians 3:21; John 5:22, 2530; and divine honor is accorded Him, John 5:22, 23; 14:1; 1 Corinthians 15:19; 2 Corinthians 13:13; Hebrews 1:6.
c. The WORKS More Particularly Ascribed to the Son.
The order of the existence of the persons in the Trinity is reflected in the order of their works. If all things are out of the Father, they are through the Son. If the former is the final, the latter is the mediating cause of all both in creation and in redemption. All things are created and maintained through the Son, John 1:3, 10; Hebrews 1:2, 3. He is the light which lights every man coming into the world, John 1:9. More particularly the work of redemption is carried out by the Son in His incarnation, sufferings, and death, Ephesians 1:314.
3. The HOLY SPIRIT. With reference to the Holy Spirit the following points demand special consideration:
a. The PERSONALITY of the Holy Spirit. It is not so much the divinity as the personality of the Holy Spirit that is called in question by many. It is denied by several sectarians in the early Church, by the Socinians in the days of the Reformation, and by the Unitarians, the Modernists, and all kinds of Sabellians in the present time. They prefer to regard the Holy Spirit merely as a power or influence of God. Yet He is clearly designated as a person, John 14:16, 17, 26; 15:26; 16:715; Romans 8:26. Personal characteristics are ascribed to Him, such as intelligence, John 14:26; 15:26; Romans 8:16, affections, Isaiah 63:10; Ephesians 4:30, and will, Acts 16:7; 1 Corinthians 12:11. Moreover, He performs acts proper to personality, such as speaking, searching, testifying, commanding, revealing, striving, making intercession, Genesis 1:2; 6:3; Luke 12:12; John 14:26; 15:26; 16:8; Acts 8:29; 13:2; Romans 8:11; 1 Corinthians 2:10, 11. Finally, there are passages in which the Holy Spirit is distinguished from His own power, Luke 1:35; 4:14; Acts 10:38; Romans 15:13; 1 Corinthians 2:4.
b. The Relation of the Holy Spirit to the Other Persons in the Trinity. While it was asserted from the beginning on the basis of John 15:26 that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father, it was not until the year 589 A. D. that the western Church officially took the position that He also proceeds from the Son. This doctrine is based on the fact that the Spirit is also called the Spirit of Christ and of the Son, Romans 8:9; Galatians 4:6, and is said to be sent by Christ, John 15:26; 16:7. In virtue of this procession from the Father and the Son, the Holy Spirit stands in the closest possible relationship to the other persons. He searches the deep things of God, 1 Corinthians 2:10, 11, and is to a certain extent identified with Christ, 2 Corinthians 3:17. In the Spirit Christ Himself returns to His disciples, John 15:1618. Moreover, in the Epistles of Paul it is sometimes Christ, and sometimes the Spirit of God who is said to dwell in believers, Romans 8:9, 10; Galatians 2:20; 1 Corinthians 3:16.
c. The DIVINITY of the Holy Spirit. The divinity of the Holy Spirit may be established from Scripture by a line of proof quite similar to that employed in connection with the Son. Divine names are given to Him, Acts 5:3, 4; 1 Corinthians 3:16; 2 Timothy 3:16; divine perfections are ascribed to Him, Psalm 139:710; Isaiah 40:13, 15; 1 Corinthians 2:10, 11; 12:11; Romans 15:19; Hebrews 9:14; divine works are performed by Him, Genesis 1:2; Job 26:13; 33:4; Psalm 104:30; John 3:5, 6; Titus 3:5; Romans 8:11; and divine honor is accorded Him, Matthew 28:19; Romans 9:1; 2 Corinthians 13:14.
d. The WORKS More Particularly Ascribed to the Holy Spirit. There are certain works which, while works of the triune God, are more particularly ascribed to the Holy Spirit. In general it may be said that it is His special task to bring the work of God to completion both in creation and redemption. In the natural sphere He generates life and thus puts the finishing touch to the work of creation, Genesis 1:3; Job 26:13; Psalm 33:6; Psalm 104:30; and He inspires and qualifies men for special tasks, Exodus 28:3; 31:2, 3, 6; 35:35; 1 Samuel 11:6; 16:13, 14. And in the sphere of redemption He prepares and qualifies Christ for His redemptive work, Luke 1:35; 3:22; John 3:34; Hebrews 10:57; He inspires Scripture, 1 Corinthians 2:13; 2 Peter 1:21; He forms and augments the Church and dwells in it as the principle of a new life, Ephesians 1:22, 23; 2:22; 1 Corinthians 3:16; 12:4 ff.; and He teaches and guides the Church, leading it in all the truth, John 14:26; 15:26; 16:13, 14; Acts 5:32; Hebrews 10:15; 1 John 2:27.
Questions for Review:
Can we discover the doctrine of the Trinity from nature?
How do the persons in God, differ from three persons among men?
Is there any subordination of the persons in God?
How can we prove the Trinity from the Old Testament?
How can we prove the Trinity from the New Testament?
Against what errors should we guard in this doctrine?
In how many different senses is the name "Father" applied to God?
What works are especially ascribed to the Father?
In how many different senses is the name "Son" applied to Christ?
Is the generation of the Son a past act?
What works are especially ascribed to the Son?
How can you prove the divinity of the Son and of the Holy Spirit?
How can you prove that the Holy Spirit is a person, and not merely a power or influence?
How is the Spirit related to the other persons?
What works are especially ascribed to the Holy Spirit?
What is the characteristic property of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit?
THE WORKS OF GOD
The Divine DECREES in General
A. The Nature of the Divine Decrees.
The decree of God is His eternal plan or purpose, in which He has foreordained all things that come to pass. It is but natural that God, who controls all things, should have a definite plan according to which He works, not only in creation and providence, but also in the process of redemption. This plan includes many particulars, and therefore we often speak of the divine decrees in the plural, though in reality there is but a single decree. For the material contents of His decree God drew on the boundless knowledge which He has of all kinds of possible things. Of this great store of possibilities He embodied in His decree only those things which actually come to pass. Their inclusion in the decree does not necessarily mean that He Himself will actively bring them into existence, but means in some cases that, with the divine permission and according to the divine plan, they will certainly be brought to realization by His rational creatures. The decree covers all the works of God in creation and redemption, and also embraces the actions of His free moral beings, not excluding their sinful actions. But while the entrance of sin into the world and its various manifestations in the lives of angels and men were thus rendered certain, this does not mean that God decided to effectuate these Himself. God's decree with reference to sin is a permissive decree.
B. The Characteristics of the Divine Decree.
The decree of God has several characteristics:
1. The Divine Decree Is Founded in Divine WISDOM. This is implied in the statement that God's purpose is "according to the counsel of His will," Ephesians 1:11. Though there is a great deal in it that we do not understand, it is certain that God formed His plan with wisdom.
2. The Divine Decree Is ETERNAL. This does not merely mean that the decree was formed before the beginning of time, but also that, while it relates to things which come to pass in the course of history, its formation is and remains an act within the divine being, and therefore in the strictest sense eternal.
3. The Divine Decree Is EFFICACIOUS. The fact that God made a divine plan does not mean that He has decided to bring to pass by His own act all that is included in it; but it does mean that what He has decided will certainly come to pass, and that nothing can thwart His purpose, Psalm 33:11; Proverbs 19:21; Isaiah 46:10.
4. The Divine Decree Is UNCHANGEABLE. Man often changes his plans for various reasons. It may be that on second thought he considers them unwise, or that he is wanting in the power to carry them out. But neither the one nor the other is conceivable in God. He does not change His plan, because He is faithful and true, Job 23:13, 14; Isaiah 46:10; Luke 22:22; Acts 2:23.
5. The Divine Decree Is UNCONDITIONAL. The decree is not in any of its particulars dependent on anything outside of it, as, for instance, on the free actions of God's moral and rational creatures, on their foreseen disobedience or foreseen faith. God has determined not only what will come to pass, but also the conditions under which it will be realized, Acts 2:23; Ephesians 2:8; 1 Peter 1:2.
6. The Divine Decree Is ALL-COMPREHENSIVE. It includes the good actions of men, Ephesians 2:10, their wicked actions, Proverbs 16:4; Acts 2:23; 4:27, 28, contingent events, Genesis 45:8; 50:20; Proverbs 16:33, the means as well as the end, 2 Thessalonians 2:13; Ephesians 1:4, the duration of man's life, Job 14:5; Psalm 39:4, and the place of his habitation, Acts 7:26.
7. With Reference to Sin, the Divine Decree Is PERMISSIVE. The decree of God with reference to sin is usually called a permissive decree. It renders the future sinful act absolutely certain, but this does not mean that God will by His own act bring it to pass. God decreed not to hinder the sinful act of the creature's self-determination, but nevertheless to regulate and control its result, Psalm 78:29; 106:15; Acts 14:16; 17:30.
C. Objections to the Doctrine of the Decrees.
Outside of Reformed circles the doctrine of the decrees meets with very little favor. Pelagians and Socinians reject it as un-Scriptural and unreasonable, and Arminians either ignore it altogether, or represent the decree of God as based on His foreknowledge. There are especially three objections to the doctrine:
1. It Is Declared to Be Inconsistent with the Moral Freedom of Man.
If God has decreed all the actions of man, then man must necessarily act as he acts and do what he does, and cannot be held responsible for his actions. But the Bible teaches not only that God has decreed the free acts of man, but also that man is none the less free and responsible for his acts, Genesis 50:19, 20; Acts 2:23; 4:27, 28; and it makes no attempt to reconcile the two. We may not be able to harmonize them, but that does not necessarily mean that they are inherently contradictory. Some conceive of the freedom of the will in a way that makes it inconsistent with the divine decree, but theirs is not the proper conception of the free agency of man. Moral freedom is the power of man to determine his moral actions freely in harmony with his previous thoughts and judgments, with his inclinations and desires, and even with his very character. This freedom has its laws, and the better they are understood the more certain it is what a man will do under certain circumstances. God fully understands these laws, and therefore it is quite conceivable that He should determine the future actions of man in such a way as not to impinge on the moral freedom of man, even if we do not fully understand how this can be done.
2. It Is Said to Rob Men of All Motives for Seeking Salvation.
If all things happen as God has decreed, people will naturally feel that they need not give themselves any concern for the future, nor make any efforts to obtain salvation. If their destruction is predetermined, they will be lost in spite of their best efforts; and if their salvation is decreed, they will be saved, though they neglect all the means of salvation. In answer to this objection it may be said, (a) That the hidden decree of God cannot possibly be man's rule of action; this is found only in the law and the gospel. (b) That God has not only decreed the final destiny of man, but also the means leading up to it. It was absolutely certain that all who were in the vessel with Paul were to be saved, but it was equally certain that, in order to secure this end, the sailors had to remain aboard. (c) That, since the decree connects means and ends together, and ends are decreed only as the result of means, it encourages effort instead of discouraging it, Ephesians 2:10; Philippians 2:13.
3. It Makes God the Author of Sin.
If God has decreed sin, He must be regarded as the author of sin; and yet this cannot be in view of the fact that He is holy, that He himself forbids sin, and that Scripture stresses His moral purity, Psalm 92:15; Ecclesiastes 7:29; Habakkuk 1:13; Jas. 1:13; 1 John 1:5. It may be said, however, that the decree merely makes God the author of free moral beings who are themselves the authors of sin. The decree with reference to sin is not an efficient but a permissive decree. God did not decree to produce sin by direct divine efficiency. This consideration, it is true, does not fully remove the difficulty. The problem of God's relation to sin remains a mystery for us, which we cannot fully solve.
Questions for Review:
What is the divine decree?
Why do we sometimes speak of decrees in the plural?
Which are the characteristics of the divine decree?
In what sense is the decree eternal?
What does it imply that the decree is efficacious?
In what sense is the decree unconditional?
What is included in the divine decree?
What is the nature of God's decree respecting sin?
What objections are raised against the doctrine of the decrees?
What can be said in answer to these objections?
When we pass from the discussion of the decrees in general to that of predestination, we are proceeding from the general to the particular. Predestination is simplyto express it in general termsthe purpose of God respecting His moral creatures.
A. The Objects of Predestination.
Predestination in the broader sense of the term refers to all God's rational creatures. It bears on all men both good and evil, and that not merely as groups but as individuals, Acts 4:28; Romans 8:29, 30; 9:1113; Ephesians 1:46. Moreover, this decree also includes the angels, both good and evil. The Bible speaks not only of "holy angels," Mark 8:38; Luke 9:26, and of wicked angels who kept not their first estate, 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6; but also makes explicit mention of elect angels, 1 Timothy 5:21, thus implying that there are also non-elect angels. Since many of the angels never fell, the predestination of the angels cannot be conceived of in the same way as that of men. God did not choose a certain number of the angels out of the common fallen mass, leaving the others to perish in their sin. Their predestination consists in this that God decreed, for reasons sufficient unto Himself, to give unto some angels, in addition to the grace with which they were endowed by creation and which included sufficient power to remain holy, a special grace of perseverance, and to withhold this from others. Finally, Christ as the Mediator was also the object of divine predestination. This simply means that, as Mediator, He was the special object of God's good pleasure, 1 Peter 1:20; 2:4.
B. The Two Parts of Predestination.
Predestination includes two parts, namely, election and reprobation.
The Bible speaks of election in more than one sense:
(a) the election of Israel as a people for special service and also for special privileges, Deuteronomy 4:37; 7:68; 10:15; Hos. 13:5;
(b) the election of individuals to some office or special service, Deuteronomy 18:5; 1 Samuel 10:24; Psalm 78:70; Jeremiah 1:5; John 6:70; Acts 9:15; and
(c) the election of individuals to be children of God and heirs of eternal glory, Matthew 22:14; Romans 11:5; 1 Corinthians 1:27, 28; Ephesians 1:4. The last is the election that comes into consideration here as a part of predestination. It may be defined as God's eternal purpose to save some of the human race in and by Jesus Christ.
The doctrine of election naturally implies that some of the human race were not elected. If God purposed to save some, He also purposed not to save others. This is also in perfect agreement with the teachings of Scripture on this point, Matthew 11:25, 26; Romans 9:13, 17, 18, 21, 23; 11:7; Jude 4; 1 Peter 2:8. Reprobation may be defined as that decree of God whereby He has determined to pass some men by with the operation of His special grace and to punish them for their sin to the manifestation of His justice. From this definition reprobation appears to be really a twofold purpose namely,
(a) to pass by some in the bestowal of regenerating and saving grace; and
(b) to assign them to dishonor and to the wrath of God for their sins.
The objection is sometimes raised that this doctrine exposes God to the charge of injustice. But this is hardly correct. We can speak of injustice only when one party has a claim on another. If God owed forgiveness of sin and eternal me to all men, it would be an injustice if He saved only a limited number of them. But the situation is quite different where all have forfeited the blessings of God. No one has a right to call God to account for electing some and passing by others. He would have been perfectly just, if He had not saved any, Matthew 20:14, 15; Romans 9:14, 15.
C. The Question of Supralapsarianism and Infralapsarianism.
The doctrine of predestination has not always been presented in exactly the same form. Supra- and Infralapsarians were pitted against each other, and even now exist alongside of each other in Reformed circles. The limitations of this Manual do not permit us to discuss the relative merits of Supralapsarianism and Infralapsarianism, and therefore we limit ourselves to a bare statement of the difference between the two views. The difference pertains primarily to the order of the divine decrees. The question is, whether in the plan of God the decrees of election and reprobation precede or follow the decrees to create the world and to permit the fall. This naturally involves another question, namely, whether in the decree of predestination God regarded man as already created and fallen, or as an object still to be created and certain to fall. The resulting order in both cases is as follows:
1. The SUPRALAPSARIAN Order. The supralapsarian order may be stated thus:
a. God first decreed to glorify Himself in the salvation of some and in the damnation of other men, who at this stage existed in His mind only as possibilities.
b. As a means to that end, He decreed to create those already elected or reprobated.
c. For the consummation of the plan so far formed, He further decreed to permit man to fall.
d. Finally, He decreed to open up a way of salvation for the elect and to lead them to everlasting glory, passing the others by and consigning them to everlasting destruction for their sin.
2. The INFRALAPSARIAN Order. While the supralapsarian order may be regarded as the more ideal of the two, the infralapsarian is more historical.
a. God first decreed to create man.
b. Then He decreed to permit the fall of man.
c. Next He decreed to elect a certain number of the fallen and justly condemned race to eternal life, and to pass the others by, consigning them to everlasting destruction for their sin.
d. Finally, He decreed to provide a way of salvation for the elect.
Questions for Review:
How is predestination related to the decree of God in general?
Who are the objects of the decree of predestination?
How should we conceive of the predestination of the angels?
In what sense is Christ the object of predestination?
Which are the parts of predestination?
In how many different senses does the Bible speak of election?
What is election as distinguished from reprobation?
What does the decree of reprobation include?
What Scripture proof is there for the doctrine of reprobation?
Does this doctrine involve injustice on the part of God?
What is the difference between Infralapsarianism and Supralapsarianism?
A. Creation in General.
The discussion of the decrees naturally leads on to the consideration of their execution, which begins with the work of creation. Creation is the beginning and basis of all divine revelation, and also the foundation of all ethical and religious life. The doctrine of creation can be learned from no other source than Scripture and can be accepted only by faith.
1. The IDEA of Creation.
The word "creation" is not always used in the same sense, and as a result the definitions of creation vary. It may be defined as that act of God by which He produces the world and all that is in it, partly without the use of pre-existent materials, and partly out of material that is by its very nature inadequate, for the manifestation of His glory. Though it is often ascribed to the Father, it is also clearly represented as a work of the triune God, Genesis 1:2; Job 26:13; 33:4; Psalm 33:6; 104:30; Isaiah 40:12, 13; John 1:3; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Colossians 1:1517. Moreover, it was a free act of God and not a necessary act. He is the self-sufficient One, and therefore did not need the world. His production of the universe was not dependent on an inherent necessity in the divine being, but only on a perfectly voluntary decision of His sovereign will. This must be maintained over against all sorts of pantheistic theories. The Bible clearly teaches that God created all things, according to the counsel of His will, Ephesians 1:11; Rev. 4:11. By His creative work He gave the world a separate existence, distinct from His own being, so that the universe cannot be regarded as itself God or even a part of God. At the same time He constituted the world so that it is always dependent on Him and must be upheld from day to day by His almighty power. He is never distant from, but ever present in His entire creation, Psalm 139:710; Jeremiah 23:24.
2. The TIME of Creation.
In speaking of the time of creation the Bible employs the ordinary language of daily life. It begins with the very simple statement: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth," Genesis 1:1. The "beginning" to which this statement refers is the beginning of all temporal things, and even of time itself. It would not be correct to assume that time was already in existence when God created the world, and that He at some point in that existing time, called "the beginning," brought forth the universe. The world was created with time rather than in time. Back of the beginning mentioned in Gen 1:1 lies a beginningless eternity.
3. The MANNER of Creation.
In the strictest sense of the word "to create" means to bring forth something out of nothing or without the use of pre-existent materials. The expression "to create or bring forth out of nothing" is not found in Scripture, but only in one of the apocryphal books, namely, II Maccabees. 7:28. Some have interpreted it to mean that the world came into existence without a cause. But this interpretation is wide of the mark. The expression simply means that in the work of creation God did not make use of pre-existent materials. The world could not come into existence without a cause. God Himself or, more specifically, the will of God, should be regarded as its cause. Scriptural warrant for the doctrine that God created the world without the use of pre-existent materials is found in such passages as Psalm 33:9; 148:5, and Hebrews 11:3, which is the strongest Scriptural expression. The statement found in Romans 4:17 does not speak of the work of creation, but may yet be brought to bear on the subject under consideration. It should be borne in mind, however, that the expression, "to create" does not always mean to bring forth something out of nothing. It may also mean to bring forth something out of some pre-existent material which is by its very nature unfit. God created the body of Adam out of the dust of the ground, and the body of Eve out of a rib of Adam.
4. The Final END of Creation. The question of the final end of God in the work of creation has frequently been debated. There are especially two answers that have been given to this question:
a. That the Happiness of Man is the Final End. Some of the early Greek and Roman philosophers, the Humanists of the days of the Reformation, and the Rationalists of the eighteenth century, found the final end of creation in the happiness of man. The best form in which this theory is stated, is to the effect that God could not make Himself the end of creation, because He is sufficient unto Himself and has absolutely no need of His creatures. And if He could not make Himself the end, then this can be found only in the creature, and ultimately in its supreme happiness. But it would seem to be perfectly self-evident that God does not exist for the sake of man, but man for the sake of God. The creature cannot be the final end of creation. Moreover, it can hardly be said that everything in creation ministers to human happiness.
b. That the Declarative Glory of God is the Final End. According to Scripture the true end of creation is not found in anything outside of God, but only in God Himself, and more particularly in the manifestation of His inherent excellency. This does not mean that God created the world primarily to receive glory from His creatures in adoration and praise, but especially to manifest His glory. The glorious perfections of God are seen in the entire creation. But this final end includes other subordinate ends. The manifestation of the glory of God in nature is not intended as empty show, a mere exhibition to be admired by the creature, but also aims at promoting their welfare and perfect happiness. It seeks to attune their hearts to the praises of the Creator, and to elicit from their souls the expressions of their gratefulness, their love, and adoration. This doctrine is abundantly supported by Scripture, Isaiah 43:7; 60:21; 61:3; Ezekiel 36:21, 22; 39:7; Luke 2:14; Romans 9:17; 11:36; 1 Corinthians 15:28; Ephesians 1:5, 6, 12, 14; 3:9, 10; Colossians 1:16.
5. Suggested Substitutes for the Doctrine of Creation.
Those who reject the doctrine of creation naturally resort to some other theory as to the origin of the world. Three theories deserve brief mention here:
a. The Dualistic Theory. This theory is to the effect that both God and matter are eternal. Original matter is frequently represented as the rude material out of which God formed the world. On this view God is not the Creator but merely the Framer of the universe. There are serious objections to this theory, however. It involves the impossible, namely, that two eternals, and therefore two infinites, exist alongside of each other. Moreover, matter shows clear traces of composition and arrangement, and therefore cannot be regarded as self-existent.
b. The Emanation Theory. According to this theory God and the world are essentially one, and the world is a necessary emanation or outflowing out of the divine being. This idea is characteristic of all pantheistic theories. The objections to this view are very serious. It applies to God a principle of change, of growth, and of progress, which characterizes only the finite and imperfect. It robs God of the power of self-determination, and men of their freedom and of their moral and responsible character. And in addition to that, it makes God responsible for all that transpires in the world, the evil as well as the good.
c. The Theory of Evolution. The theory of evolution is sometimes spoken of as if it could be a substitute for the doctrine of creation. But this is clearly a mistake. Evolution presupposes something that evolves, and this must be in the last resort either eternal or created, so that the evolutionist must choose between the theory that matter is eternal and the doctrine of creation. Some seek to escape the difficulty by adopting what they call theistic or creative evolution. But this is really a contradiction in terms. It is neither the Biblical doctrine of creation, nor a consistent theory of evolution.
B. The Spiritual World.
God created not only a material but also a spiritual world, consisting of the angels, which calls for a brief consideration at this point.
1. The Existence and Nature of the ANGELS.
All religions recognize the existence of a spiritual world. Many prominent philosophers even admitted the possibility of the existence of a world of angels and sought to prove this by pure reason. This is quite impossible, however, and therefore modern liberal theology has largely discarded the belief in such spiritual beings. The Bible assumes the existence of angels throughout and ascribes to them real personality. They are represented as having intelligence, 2 Samuel 14:20; Matthew 24:36, and a moral character, Jude 6; Rev. 14:10. Moreover, personal actions are ascribed to them: they love and rejoice, Luke 15:10, desire, 1 Peter 1:12, contend, Jude 9; Rev. 12:7, worship, Hebrews 1:6, talk, Zechariah 1:9; Luke 1:13, come and go, Genesis 19:1; Luke 9:26, and so on. Some have ascribed to them airy or ethereal bodies, but this is quite contrary to Scripture, which clearly represents them as pure spiritual beings, Matthew 8:16; 12:45; Luke 7:21; 8:2; 11:26; Acts 19:12; Ephesians 6:12; Hebrews 1:14. They do not marry, Matthew 22:30, are invisible, Colossians 1:16, have no flesh and bone, Luke 24:39, and can be present in great numbers in a very limited space, Luke 8:30. Some of them are represented as good, holy, and elect, angels of light, 1 Timothy 5:21; Mark 8:38; Luke 9:26; Rev. 14:10; 2 Corinthians 11:14; and others as fallen from their original estate, and therefore evil, John 8:44; 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6.
2. The Angelic ORDERS.
Besides the general name "angels," there are several specific names which point to different classes of angels:
a. Cherubim. The Bible repeatedly speaks of cherubim. They guard the entrance of paradise, Genesis 3:24, are represented as looking down on the mercy-seat, Exodus 25:18, and constitute the chariot on which God descends to the earth, 2 Samuel 22:11; Psalm 18:10. God is said to dwell between the cherubim in tabernacle and temple, Psalm 80:1; 99:1; Isaiah 37:16. They reveal the power, majesty, and glory of God, and guard His holiness in the garden of Eden, in tabernacle and temple, and at the descent of God to the earth.
b. Seraphim. A related class of angels are the seraphim, mentioned in Isaiah 6:2, 3, 6. Like the cherubim, they are also represented symbolically in human form. In distinction from the latter, however, they stand as servants round about the throne of the heavenly King, sing His praises, and are ever ready to do His bidding. While the cherubim are the mighty ones, they may be called the nobles among the angels. While the former guard the holiness of God, they serve the purpose of reconciliation and thus prepare men for the proper approach to God.
c. Gabriel and Michael. There are two angels which are mentioned by name in Scripture, namely, Gabriel and Michael. The former is mentioned in Daniel 8:16; 9:21; Luke 1:19, 26. Some regard him as an uncreated being, and even suggest that he might be the third person in the Trinity; but the passages referred to show this to be an untenable position. Evidently it was his special task to convey divine revelations to men and to interpret them. Michael is mentioned in Daniel 10:13, 21; Jude 9; Rev. 12:7. Some regard his name as a designation of the second person in the Trinity, but this position is also untenable. In view of Jude 9, where he is called the archangel, and of Rev. 12:7 it would seem that he occupies a unique place among the angels. We see in him the valiant warrior fighting the battles of Jehovah against the enemies of Israel and against the evil powers in the spirit-world.
d. Principalities, powers, thrones, dominions. These names, found in Ephesians 1:21; 3:10; Colossians 1:16; 2:10; 1 Peter 3:22, also serve to designate angels. They do not point to different kinds of angels, but simply to the fact that there are differences of rank and dignity among the angels.
3. The SERVICE of the Angels.
The angels are represented in Scripture as praising God day and night, Job 38:7; Isaiah 6; Psalm 103:20; 148:2; Rev. 5:11. Since the entrance of sin into the world, they are "sent forth to do service for the sake of them that shall inherit salvation," Hebrews 1:14. They rejoice at the conversion of a sinner, Luke 15:10, watch over believers, Psalm 34:7; 91:11, protect the little ones, Matthew 18:10, are present in the Church, 1 Corinthians 11:10; 1 Timothy 5:21, learning from her the manifold riches of the grace of God, Ephesians 3:10; 1 Peter 1:12, and convey believers into the bosom of Abraham, Luke 16:22. They also frequently mediate the special revelations of God, Daniel 9:2123; Zechariah 1:1214; Acts 7:38, communicate blessings to His people, Psalm 91:11, 12; Isaiah 63:9; Daniel 6:22; Acts 5:19, and execute judgments upon His enemies, Genesis 19:1, 13; 2 Kings 19:35; Matthew 13:41.
4. The EVIL Angels.
Besides the good there are also evil angels, who delight in opposing God and destroying His work. They were created good, but did not retain their original position, 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6. The special sin of these angels is not revealed, but probably consisted in this that they exalted themselves over against God and aspired to supreme authority. Satan, who was evidently one of the princes among the angels, became the recognized head of those that fell away, Matthew 25:41; 9:34; Ephesians 2:2. He is represented as the originator of sin, Genesis 3:1; John 8:44; 2 Corinthians 11:3; 1 John 3:8; Rev. 12:9; 20:2, 10. They also possess superhuman power, but employ this in cursing God, in battling against Him and His Anointed, and in destroying His work. They seek to blind and mislead even the elect, and encourage the sinner in his evil way.
C. The Material World.
Besides the spiritual there is a material world, and this is contemplated here in relation to God, that is, as a work of God and as a revelation of His divine perfections.
1. The Narrative of Creation.
The story of creation was revealed to Moses or to one of the earlier patriarchs. If it was pre-Mosaic, it must have passed in tradition, oral or written, from one generation to another, and was finally penned by Moses under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
a. The Original Creation. Some regard Genesis 1:1 as the superscription or title of the whole narrative of creation. But in that case there would be no account whatever of the original creation, nor of the creation of Heaven. For that reason it is better to regard Genesis 1:1 as the record of the original and immediate creation of the universe, called in Hebrew fashion "Heaven and earth." In this expression the word "Heaven" refers to that invisible order of things in which the glory of God reveals itself in the most perfect manner. The second verse describes the original condition of the earth (comp. Psalm 104:5, 6).
b. The Completion of Creation in Six Days. Some assume that the days of which Genesis 1 speaks were long periods of time, corresponding with the periods of Geology. They find that Scripture allows and even favors this interpretation, since:
(1) the word "day" sometimes denotes an indefinite period, Psalm 50:15; Ecclesiastes 7:14; Zechariah 4:10;
(2) the sun was not created until the fourth day, so that the length of the previous days could not be determined by the earth's relation to the sun; and
(3) the seventh day continues up to the present time, and is therefore already more than six thousand years long. However, the fact that the word "day" may denote a period of some length, does not prove that it is so used in Genesis 1. Neither does the absence of the sun prove that the days previous to its creation were long periods. And the seventh day of Genesis 2:2, 3, the day which God hallowed, does not continue up to the present, but terminated thousands of years ago. The literal interpretation of the word "day" is favored by the following considerations:
(1) The Hebrew word yom (day) primarily denotes an ordinary day, and should be so understood unless the context demands another interpretation.
(2) Genesis 1 would seem to shut us up to the literal interpretation by its repeated "and there was evening and there was morning." Each day had just one evening and one morning. If these days were the long periods of Geology, there must have been interminable nights of thousands of years. What would become of all vegetation during the long 'nights following the third day?
(3) In Exodus 20:911 Israel is commanded to labor six days, because Jehovah made Heaven and earth in six days. This would seem to imply that the word "day" should be taken in the ordinary sense.
(4) The last three days were certainly ordinary days, for they were determined by the earth's relation to the sun. And if they were ordinary days, why not the others?
c. The Work of the Separate Days. The work of God on the separate days was as follows:
1) On the FIRST day light was created, and by the separation of light and darkness day and night were constituted. This does not conflict with the idea that the sun and the stars were created on the fourth day; for these are not themselves lights, but light-bearers. The account of each day's work closes with the words, "and there was evening and there was morning." The days are reckoned from morning to morning. After twelve hours there was evening, and after another twelve hours there was morning.
2) The work of the SECOND day was also a work of separation: the firmament was established by dividing the waters above and the waters below, that is, the clouds and the seas. Notice that the Hebrew word for "firmament" does not denote a solid vault, as some claim, but is equivalent to our word "expanse."
3) The work of separation is continued on the THIRD day in the separation of the sea and the dry land, cf. Psalm 104:8. In addition to that the vegetable kingdom of plants and trees was established. By the word of His power God caused the earth to bring forth flowerless plants, vegetables, and fruit-trees, each yielding fruit according to its kind. God evidently created the different species of plants, and each one of these could reproduce only its kind. The doctrine of evolution, of course, denies both of these assertions.
4) On the FOURTH day, sun, moon, and stars were created as light-bearers, to serve a variety of purposes: to divide day and night, to serve as signs of weather conditions and of important future events, to determine the succession of the seasons and of days and years, and to function as lights for the earth.
5) The FIFTH day brought the creation of birds and fishes, the inhabitants of the air and of the water. We should notice that these, too, were created after their kind, that is, the species were created.
6) Finally, the SIXTH day is marked by the climax of the work of creation. The higher classes of animals were created. They did not naturally develop out of the earth, but were clearly brought forth out of it by the creative fiat of God. The whole creative work was crowned by the creation of man, made in the image of God. His body was formed out of the dust of the earth, while his soul was an immediate creation of God.
7) God rested from His labors on the SEVENTH day. This means first of all that He ceased from His creative work, but also that He took delight in what He had accomplished. His rest was like that of an artist who finds profound satisfaction in the contemplation of his production. He rejoiced in the works of His hands, and radiated good-will towards His creatures.
2. The Doctrine of Creation and the Theory of EVOLUTION.
Some seem to think that the theory of evolution might take the place of the doctrine of creation in explaining the origin of the world. But this is clearly a mistake, for it offers no such explanation. Evolution is development, and all development presupposes the existence of something that develops. That which does not exist cannot develop into existence. For the explanation of the origin of the world, the evolutionist must either resort to the theory that matter is eternal, or to the doctrine of creation. We should distinguish between two forms of the doctrine of evolution:
a. Naturalistic Evolution. Naturalistic evolution assumes that from the simplest forms of matter and life all existing species of plants and animals (including man), and also the various phenomena of life, such as sentiency, intelligence, morality, and religion, developed by a perfectly natural process, purely as the result of natural forces resident in nature. It should be borne in mind, however, that this is as yet only an unproved assumption, and one that fails at several points. It cannot explain how the inorganic changed into the organic, nor how the brute changed into a rational, moral, and religious being. Some evolutionists themselves admit that it has failed to produce a single example of one species producing another distinct species. Moreover, it is absolutely in conflict with the narrative of creation as to the origin of species and of man, as to the original condition of man, and as to his fall in sin and consequent deterioration.
b. Theistic Evolution. Due to the failure of naturalistic evolution to give an adequate explanation of things, some Christian scholars take refuge in what is called "theistic" or "creative evolution." This postulates God as the almighty Worker back of the whole process of development. It amounts to this that God created the world by a process of evolution, a process of natural development, in which God does not miraculously intervene, except when this is absolutely necessary, as in the origination of life and of man. The very fact that it has a certain religious appeal makes this theory a dangerous hybrid. As a matter of fact it is no more in harmony with Scripture than naturalistic evolution. It, too, teaches that it took God millions of years to create the world, that God did not create the various species of plants and animals, that man at least on his physical side descended from the brute, and that there was no fall in the Biblical sense of the word.
Questions for Review:
What is creation?
Was creation a free or a necessary act of God? How is God related to the world?
What is meant by "the beginning" in Genesis 1:1?
Is the word "create" always used in the same sense in Scripture?
How can we prove that God created the world without the use of pre-existent material?
What two views are there as to the final end of creation?
In what sense is the glory of God the final end?
What substitutes have been suggested for the doctrine of creation?
What is the nature of the angels?
What orders of angels are indicated in Scripture?
What is the function of Gabriel and Michael? What is the work of the angels?
What proof have we for the existence of evil angels?
How should Genesis 1:1 be interpreted?
Were the days mentioned in Genesis 1 ordinary days or long periods?
What did God create on each of the six days?
Why is the doctrine of evolution inconsistent with the Biblical narrative of creation?
Does the theory of creative evolution agree with Scripture?
Christian faith is equally opposed to a pantheistic confusion of God and the world, and to a deistic separation of God from the world. This becomes evident in the doctrine of divine providence. The name "providence" is not found in Scripture, but the doctrine of providence is nevertheless eminently Scriptural. It concerns the provision which God makes for attaining the ends of His government, and the care which He manifests for all creatures.
A. Providence in GENERAL. Divine providence is that work of God by which He preserves all His creatures, is active in all that transpires in the world, and directs all things to their appointed end. This definition indicates that there are three elements in divine providence, namely, preservation, concurrence or cooperation, and government. The first has reference primarily to the being, the second to the activity, and the third to the guidance of all things.
1. Misconceptions of the Nature of Providence.
In dealing with God's relation to the world we should be on our guard against two misconceptions:
a. The Deistic Conception. According to Deism God's concern with the world is of a very general nature. He created the world, established its law, set it in motion, and then withdrew from it. He looks on from a distance as the world runs its course according to the invariable laws of nature, and interferes with its regular operation at most only when something goes wrong. Thus the world is like a machine which He has put into operation, and not at all like a vessel which He pilots from day to day.
b. The Pantheistic Conception. Pantheism does not recognize the distinction between God and the world. It identifies the two, and therefore really leaves no room for providence in the proper sense of the word. The whole course of nature is simply the self-revelation of God, a self-revelation that leaves no room for the independent operation of secondary causes. The so-called laws of nature are simply modes of the direct activity of God. He is in a very direct sense the author of all that transpires in the world. Even the acts which we ascribe to man are really acts of God. According to this system man is not a free moral being, and is not responsible for his acts.
2. The OBJECTS of Divine Providence.
It is customary to distinguish between general and special providence, the former denoting God's control of the universe as a whole, and the latter His care for each part of it. Some even speak of a very special providence respecting the children of God. Scripture clearly teaches God's providential government and control
(a) over the universe at large, Psalm 103:19; Ephesians 1:11;
(b) over the physical world, Psalm 104:14; Matthew 5:45;
(c) over the brute creation, Psalm 104:21, 28; Matthew 6:26;
(d) over the affairs of nations, Job 12:23; Acts 17:6;
(e) over man's birth and lot in life, Psalm 139:16; Galatians 1:15, 16;
(f) over things seemingly accidental or insignificant, Proverbs 16:33; Matthew 10:30;
(g) in the protection of the righteous, Psalm 4:8; 121:3; Romans 8:28;
(h) in supplying the wants of God's people, Deuteronomy 8:3; Philippians 4:19;
(i) in giving answers to prayer, Psalm 65:2; Matthew 7:7; and
(j) in the exposure and punishment of the wicked, Psalm 7:12, 13; 11:6.
They who believe that nature is controlled entirely by an iron-clad system of laws, which ties even the hands of God, usually deny all special providences. They do not believe that God can perform miracles, nor that He can answer prayer. Others are of the opinion that, while He controls the big things of life, He pays no attention to the smaller ones. But if He does not heed the smaller things of life, He can never control the larger ones.
B. The Elements of Providence in PARTICULAR.
The definition given of providence in the preceding clearly indicates that there are three elements in providence; and these deserve special consideration.
1. Divine PRESERVATION.
Preservation is that continuous work of God by which He upholds all things. This does not mean, as some pantheists assume, that God continues to create the world from moment to moment, nor simply, as the deists think, that He withdraws His hand from the world and does not destroy it. It proceeds on the assumption that the world has a distinct existence apart from God, but that it nevertheless has the ground of its continued existence in God and not in itself. It continues to exist in virtue of a continued exercise of divine power by which all things are maintained in being and action. God alone is sovereign and absolutely independent, and the creature is and always remains dependent on Him. This doctrine is clearly taught in the following passages, Psalm 63:8; Nehemiah 9:6; Acts 17:28; Colossians 1:17; Hebrews 1:3.
2. Divine CONCURRENCE.
Concurrence may be defined as that work of God by which He co-operates with all His creatures and causes them to act precisely as they do. This means that there are real causes in the world, such as the forces of nature and the will of man, but that these causes do not work independently of God. God is operative in every act of His creature, not only in their good but also in their evil acts. He stimulates them to action, accompanies their action at every moment, and makes this action effective. We should guard against the idea that God and man have an equal part in the work, for God ever remains the primary cause, without which man can do nothing; and against the notion that the two divide the work, God doing a part and man a part. The same deed is in its entirety both a deed of God and a deed of the creature. This should be so conceived, however, that where God co-operates with man the responsibility for the deed remains that of the moral creature. God cannot be held responsible for the sins of His creatures. This must be maintained in spite of the fact that we cannot fully explain what is certainly true, namely, that God's concurrent action involves no responsibility on His part for the evil of man. Scripture plainly teaches that God works in the entire creation and in all His creatures, Psalm 104:20, 21, 30; Amos 3:6; Deuteronomy 8:18, Matthew 5:45; 10:29; Acts 14:17. It is also clear that sinful acts are under divine control, Genesis 45:5; 50:20; Exodus 14:17; Isaiah 66:4; Romans 2:4; 9:22; 2 Thessalonians 2:11 that God restrains the sinful works of the sinner, Genesis 6:3; Job 1:12; 2:6; Psalm 76:10; Isaiah 10:15; Acts 7:51; and that He overrules evil for good, Genesis 50:20; Psalm 76:10; Acts 3:13.
3. Divine GOVERNMENT.
The divine government is the continued activity of God whereby He rules all things, so that they answer to the purpose of their existence. Both the Old and the New Testament teach us that God is King of the universe and rules all things according to His divine good pleasure. The notion that in the new dispensation the idea of God's sovereignty is supplanted by that of His Fatherhood, is not in agreement with such passages as Matthew 6:33; 1 Timothy 1:17; 6:15; Rev. 19:6; God adapts His rule to the nature of the creatures which He governs; His government of the physical world differs from that of the spiritual world. This government is universal, Psalm 103:19; Daniel 4:34, 35; Psalm 22:28, 29, but also relates to particulars. The most significant things, Matthew 10:2931, that which is seemingly accidental, Proverbs 16:33, the good deeds of man, Philippians 2:13, as well as their evil deeds, Acts 14:16they are all under divine control. God is King of Israel, Isaiah 33:22, but He also rules among the nations, Psalm 47:9. Nothing can ever be withdrawn from His government.
C. Extraordinary Providences or Miracles.
Among the special providences of God we may also reckon the miracles, in which God does not work through secondary causes or employs them in an unusual way. McPherson gives the following definition of a miracle: "A miracle is something done without recourse to the ordinary means of production, a result called forth directly by the first cause (God) without the mediation, at least in the usual way, of second causes." The distinctive thing in the miracle is that it results from the exercise of the supernatural power of God. And this means, of course, that it is not brought about in the usual way by means of secondary causes that operate according to the laws of nature. Some maintain that miracles are impossible on the ground that they imply a violation of the laws of nature. But this is not the case. The so-called laws of nature merely represent God's usual method of working in nature. It is His good pleasure to work ordinarily in an orderly way through secondary causes, that is, through the powers of nature or through the activity of man. But this does not mean that He cannot depart from the established order and produce extraordinary effects by a single act of His will, and that without violating the order of nature. Even man can counteract the laws of nature without disturbing them in any way. He can lift up his hand and throw a ball into the air in spite of the law of gravitation. And if this is possible for man, it is all the more possible for the omnipotent God.
Questions for Review:
How is the doctrine of providence related to that of creation?
What is divine providence?
What is the deistic view of God's relation to the world?
How does the pantheist conceive of this relation?
What is the difference between general and special providence?
Why do some deny special providence?
Which are the objects of divine providence?
What is meant by divine preservation?
What is meant by divine concurrence?
How should we conceive of this concurrence?
To what difficult problem does it give rise?
How far does the divine government extend?
What is a miracle?
Why are miracles considered by some to be impossible?