Article II: The Doctrine of God
Questions for Review from Article I:
1. Why is the Doctrine of Scripture Article I?
2. Why was the wording in this article changed in the 2000 statement?
3. Who wrote the Bible?
4. What is the purpose of the Bible?
5. Who is the central focus of the Bible?
With the foundation of Article one firmly laid down, dealing with the doctrine of Holy Scripture, we are now ready to move on to Article two, concerning God. This is the best and most logical progression of the Baptist Faith and Message 2000. In Article one, we have established that we have a sure and authoritative word, as we stated last week, in which we can confidently speak truth concerning our faith and practice as Baptists. Because Article one states that “The Holy Bible . . . is God’s revelation of Himself to man.“, and “All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine revelation.“, it is just natural and right that Article two deal with the doctrine of God. Last week we dug deep and laid a “firm foundation”. This week we climb to the pinnacle: the doctrine of God. In Him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28).
When we begin looking into Article two, we want to remember and be faithful to Article one. In other words, use God’s Holy Scripture to describe and define God. The reason it is necessary to have a doctrine of God, especially in this day, is that many have used all sorts of sources other than the Bible to define their god. Perhaps most popular of all is the god each individual spins out of his own fallen, perverted head. The problem is best described in the introduction to a lecture my pastor gave back in October of 2005 on the doctrine of God:
“The vast majority of Americans say they believe in God. I have no reason to question that – in fact I think they do. The problem is, “Which God do they believe in?” Is it the God who has revealed himself in history and in the pages of the Bible or is it the god of Islam, Mormonism, Hinduism, New Age thinking, pantheism or paganism? Is it a god of one of the world’s religions or a designer god of their own making? Our culture is very spiritual.”
We will cover only the opening paragraph this week, following each of the next three weeks with each person of the Trinity separately. Let’s look now at the opening paragraph of Article 2.
Article 2: The Doctrine of God
There is one and only one living and true God. He is an intelligent, spiritual, and personal Being, the Creator, Redeemer, Preserver, and Ruler of the universe. God is infinite in holiness and all other perfections. God is all powerful and all knowing; and His perfect knowledge extends to all things, past, present, and future, including the future decisions of His free creatures. To Him we owe the highest love, reverence, and obedience. The eternal triune God reveals Himself to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, with distinct personal attributes, but without division of nature, essence, or being.
The Incomprehensibility of God
This word incomprehensible doesn’t mean we can’t know anything about God. We just cannot know God exhaustively. If we could, then God wouldn’t be very great, would He? The only reason we know anything about God is that He desires to be known by His creatures, and reveals Himself to them. There is, and always will be more to know about God. Even in heaven we will not know all there is to know about Him. What a thought to consider; that in heaven we will never stop learning about Him, never stop being amazed, never grow tired of worshiping, throughout all eternity. This concept of incomprehensibility is not stated explicitly in the article, but the profusion of the absolutes (infinite, perfections, all powerful, all knowing, perfect, highest, and eternal) greatly imply the idea.
The opening statement, There is one and only one living and true God rules out many things:
- dualism: two equal and opposite powers in the universe are locked in eternal combat.
- pantheism: all things are god or contain god.
- polytheism: there are many gods.
There is only one God: Deuteronomy 6:4, Isaiah 46:9.
May The Force Be with You
God is Intellegent, Spiritual, and Personal, not an impersonal force or source of energy. No, He doesn’t have a body like men, but He is intellegent and personal, and yes, He is a He.
God is Active.
To say that God is Creator, Redeemer, Preserver, and Ruler of the Universe, is to say that he has been active, and still is, and forever will be, concerning the universe and His created beings.
- In creation: He created all that is.
- In redemption: When man fell, God made a way to redeem men.
- In preservation: He preserves all of creation, before and after the fall. Without Gods hand on the universe it would all fly apart into oblivion.
- In governance: God is in charge of this universe, which means nothing happens by accident.
To say that God is Creator is also to say that He was not created. He is self-existent. God is the only being who has the power of being in and of Himself. All others have a derived being, a contingent being. When Moses asked God’s name at the burning bush in Exodus 3:14, God told Moses “I am who I am.” God never refers to Himself as “I was”, or “I will be”. Unlike all of God’s creatures, who are constantly changing, God just IS. In other words, there is no change in God (James 1:17). He, like His Son, is the same yesterday and today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).
God is infinite in holiness and all other perfections. What do these words mean?
- holy: God is other, separate, in a class by Himself. He is not like man, or any other created being.
- infinite: God’s holiness has no boundaries, no beginning or end. That is why God is incomprehensible. No one can get his mind completely around it all.
- all other perfections: This is just a quick way of saying that infinite in holiness is just the first in a long list of God’s perfections. God’s other perfections include immutability, omnipresence, omniscience, omnipotence, righteousness, truthfulness, love, judgment, and wrath.
God is all powerful and all knowing; and His perfect knowledge extends to all things, past, present, and future, including the future decisions of His free creatures. Because of the relatively new aberration of Open Theism, this sentence was added in the 2000 BF&M. It restates, more pointedly, what the previous sentence obviously implies by all other [infinite] perfections. Open Theism states that God does not know the future, but He is a good guesser. God’s word clearly teaches otherwise: I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ (Isaiah 46:9, 10)
To Him we owe the highest love, reverence, and obedience. It goes without saying that God, as described in this brief article, deserves nothing less than our highest love, reverence, and obedience; even as the catechism begins with: The chief end of man is to glorify God and to love Him forever. This is not just our obligation, this is the reason we were made.
The eternal triune God reveals Himself to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, with distinct personal attributes, but without division of nature, essence, or being. This last sentence sets up the next three sub-articles, each one dealing with a separate person of the Trinity. The wording of this sentence draws heavily from the historical creeds and confessions of Christianity. It carefully maintains the unity of one God, while affirming the mysterious reality of the Trinity. In the next three weeks we will be looking more closely at the three persons of the Godhead.
Baptist, What Do You Believe? #1: Introduction: Creeds and Confessions
Baptist, What Do You Believe? #2: Article I: The Doctrine of Scriptures
Acknowledgement: I would like to express my appreciation for the Wednesday evening teaching series by Pastor Rod Harris, on the Baptist Faith and Message 2000. He was kind enough to give me his entire set of study notes and other resources on this series entitled What Does it Mean to be Baptist?, delivered between October 5, 2005 and March 29, 2006. In my lessons I have drawn heavily from his notes, as well as the delivered messages.