Monday, May 18, 2009
Completion of Class 1...how do human beings recieve and understand God's self disclosure in Natural and Special Revelation?
Human Endowments: “Neither the outer nor the inner world would disclose anything of God without the unique endowments of man.” (42)
The endowments of humanity are of two kinds: Mental and Spiritual:
Mental Endowments: Reason: “by reason we mean not simply man's logical powers or his ability to reason but his cognitive powers, --his ability to perceive, compare, judge, and organize.” (43). Reason is:
The organ or capacity for knowing truth
a. Intuitive Reason: furnishes us with the primary ideas of: Space, time, cause, substance, design, right, and God which are the conditions of all subsequent knowledge.
b. Apprehensive Reason: takes in the facts presented by intuitive reason and seeks to understand them.
The judge of credibility: It is the office of reason to declare whether a representation is credible.
a. “Nothing is incredible but the impossible. A thing may be strange, unaccountable, unintelligent, and yet perfectly credible. Unless we are willing to believe the incomprehensible we can believe nothing.
b. That which is impossible involves a contradiction.
The judge of evidence: Since faith involves assent, and assent is conviction produced by evidence, it follows that faith without evidence is irrational or impossible.
Reason must examine evidence of revelation. Is it adequate? Is it appropriate to the thing being asserted? Are the records genuine or fake?
IV. Organization of facts: Reason organizes data presented to our minds into a system so that we can apply them and use them.
Spiritual endowment: That part of humanity designed for relationship with God.
All men have the intuitive capacity to know that God is and that he is to be worshiped and obeyed.
This does not mean that all have access to universal fellowship with him—only that there is universal intuitive awareness of him.
The believer's spirit alone is able to enter into a real and personal relationship with God.
Introduction to Systematic Theology
Class 2: Introduction to Theism
(From Theissen's Lectures in Systematic Theology)
Theism: Four Possible Definitions:
1. The belief in a supernatural being or beings as opposed to atheism
2. The belief in One supernatural being (impersonal or personal) as opposed to atheism, polytheism, henotheism. This would include Deists, Pantheists, and monotheists.
3. The belief in One personal God distinct from the cosmos and yet involved within it (transcendant and immanent) as opposed to atheism, polytheism, pantheism and deism)
4. The belief in one personal God both immanent and transcendant who exists in three personal distinctions, Father Son and Holy Spirit.
Definition 4: This is a type of monotheism but of the trinitarian rather than unitarian form. Christian Theists hold that all other conceptions are false.
1. The Definition of God: God is a general term that has been misused by philosophers and theologians to refer to a number of “ideas” and “concepts” that do not approximate the true God as he has revealed himself in nature and in scripture.
a. Some of these are more useful than others and some have elements of truth, but none are sufficient and all convey some false understandings.
b. Some misuses: Plato: God is the eternal mind—the cause of all good in nature:
Aristotle: the first ground of all being.
Kant: the being who by his understanding and will is the Cause of nature—a being who has all rights and no duties; the moral author of the world.
Hegel: the absolute spirit without consciousness until it becomes conscious in the reasons and thought of man.
2. Biblical names for God: El, El Shaddia, Yahweh, and Adonai
a. El (Elim, Elohim, Eloah): Generic term for God—like Theos in Greek
b. El-Shaddai = Satisfier or Almighty
b. Yahweh: Personal name—covenental name: “To Be” or “I am”. Theissen does not think this name denotes “self existence”. It does point to his utter independence. “I am who I am”
c. Yahweh Jireh (provides), Rapha (heals), Nissi (banner), shalom (peace), Raah (Shepherd), Tsidkenu (our Righteousness), Shammah (present), Sabaoth (Lord of Hosts)
d. Adonai: Lord—pointing to the relationship between a master and a servant or a king and his subjects.
JEDP: Theory that seeks to identify distinct literary sources for the Pentateuch based, in part, on the various names for God—denying mosaic authorship. A more probable explanation for the different names and their uses is that they differ in accordance with the literary context.
3. Theological Formulation of the Definition of God
Can God be defined?: God cannot be defined comprehensively or exhaustively. He is infinite.
He may be defined in a limited way according to what he has revealed of himself and definitions based on his self-revelation can be correct or incorrect. That the definition cannot be “complete” does not mean it is inexact
“We may know a thing correctly as far as we know it, even though we don't know all about it.” (54)
We can set forth the attributes of God as he has revealed them.
We may say that: “God is” and then set about differentiating him from other things that exist.
Continued next week...
Reading assignment for next week (the rest of Theissen's Lectures in Systematic Theology chapter 2--if you've not already read it--and chapter 11 of Grudem's Systematic Theology)