This article was originally posted at my site. I’m married with four children, an SBC pastor, a PhD student at SBTS, and an average Southern Baptist. I’ve authored two books. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Udemy, YouTube, and iTunes (Podcast).
The Relation of Philosophy & Theology
Philosophy and theology are interrelated. They cannot be separated one from the other. To do theology is to do philosophy. Yet, theology undergirds philosophy in that one must presuppose God or something else that resembles God (theology), in order to think philosophically. One must assume immaterial immutable absolute laws of logic in order to think philosophically or at the very least, to use these laws to think, even if one is not aware that he or she is using these immaterial laws of logic. Nevertheless, in order to systematically understand general and special revelation, Christians must assume certain philosophical conclusions. Philosophy therefore forms the boundaries for theological formulation as theology forms the boundaries for philosophical formulation. Scriptural revelation is embedded in the history of divinely inspired thinking humans (philosophy). And thinking humans are the interpreters of this special revelation. God has made mankind thinking humans in order to receive general revelation and he has divinely inspired thinking humans so that humans will receive special revelation along with the divine illumination from God the Holy Spirit. He gave words, sentences, paragraphs, genres, embedded in human history, and he has divinely illuminated us to understand his word in its original context so that we may rightly apply the word of truth to our current context.
General & Special Revelation
General revelation is helpful in understanding special revelation since special revelation is embedded in general revelation (human history), but general revelation cannot replace special revelation or have as much authority as special revelation. If general revelation and special revelation seem to disagree, one must go with special revelation. Human perception is flawed due to sin and finitude. We can never know better than God. Humans were made to receive revelation about God, not meant to think our way to God. Nevertheless, it must be noted that if general revelation appears to disagree with Scripture, Christians should reconsider their interpretation of Scripture in light of the testimony of General Revelation and the interpretation of Christians in Church History. Special revelation is still the final authority. Christians should be humble though, realizing that it is possible to wrongly interpret Scripture. We are divinely illuminated by the Spirit, not divinely inspired by the Spirit as the prophets and apostles were. We can err in our interpretation of both special revelation and general revelation. Nevertheless, Christians have the Holy Spirit and he guides us. Therefore, Christians should consider the interpretation of Scripture by other faithful Christians throughout Church History and in the local church today when forming their own interpretation of general and special revelation. May Special Revelation reign.
There is One God who eternally exists in Three Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Everything that is not God is God’s creation. All things are from the Father, through the Son, and by the Spirit. In similar manner, Christians worship by the Spirit through the Son to the Father. These Three share one essence and all properties of this essence. They inseparably operate towards creation. When the Father acts, He acts through the one essence, the essence of the Father, Son, and Spirit. The Three Persons act through the One Power, the One Love, the One Holiness, the One Knowledge, the One Will, etc. Yet, the Three are also distinct in their actions. The Father wills that the Son become Incarnate. The Son wills his obedience to his Father’s will. And, the Spirit wills his obedience to the Father and the Son. These Three Persons are One God.
God the Son, the Second Person of the Trinity, became Incarnate. He, in obedience to His Father’s command, united with a human nature. He is fully God and fully Man. There is distinction without division of the two Natures; there is union without mixture of the two Natures. It is essential to argue that the two Natures subsist in God the Son, the Person, not in the natures. Otherwise, the Father and the Spirit would have become incarnate with the Son since the Three Persons are the Divine Nature. God the Son acts simultaneously through both Natures. He is holding the cosmos together simultaneously as he cries in the manger. Again, God the Son is fully God and fully Man.
Omniscience, Omnipotence, Omnibenevolence, Omnipresence
God is all knowing, all powerful, all good, and all present. He is his properties, but his properties are not one another (soft simplicity). God knows all things, He is knowledge. He also knows all things that will be and he knows all that could possibly be. He knows all that could be in all possible worlds.
God is also all-powerful, in that He can do all things in accordance with His own nature. The morality given by God in Scripture and impressed upon man’s consciences is a reflection, an analogous interpretation, of God’s omnibenevolence. God cannot sin or do things contrary to logic (although I am not sure about this; perhaps God can do things that appear contrary to the logic revealed to us; perhaps he operates based on a supra-logic ontologically or something? Yet, even this supra-logic could not violate the logic he has revealed, for the logic God has revealed is analogous to whatever logic he possesses).
Furthermore, God is all-good, omnibenevolent. He is morally perfect, ontologically. He does not have a hint of evil. He is necessarily good. This reality, however, does not mean that God necessarily has to pour out his goodness on others. Since God is Triune, it necessarily follows that He is all good or the Three Persons would do harm to one another, if there was any hint of evil, like the gods of the pagans. This means that every other so-called god of every other religion could potentially be evil since there are not ontologically Three Persons that must love one another. There is no love if there is no object to love. And the Triune God, the Three Persons, eternally love One Another. They are each Other’s Beloved!
Additionally, God is omnipresent. God is everywhere. He fills all time and space necessarily. (I am unsure of how to detail God’s relation to man concerning his omnipresence. I wonder if there is a one-sided perichoretic relationship that God has with all time and space. That is, that God interpenetrates all time and space without time and space interpenetrating Him? In keeping with the Triune ontology, this means that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit each wills his perichoretic relationship to all time and space.).
God & Time
God is atemporal. Yet, He is with man in time expressing his attributes generally and specially. Scripture is clear here. God is with man atemporally, generally, and specially, and his expression of his attributes corresponds to his presence with man. God is outside of time and space (atemporal). God is omnipresent, generally present with all of his creation. Additionally, God is specially present with the elect (love) and the non-elect (wrath). God can express His attributes according to his will. Again, God is love but that does not necessitate that God express or pour out his attribute of love onto unrepentant angels or unrepentant mankind.
Providence & Freedom
God is sovereign. Man is free. These two realities are true. How they are true is difficult to discern. I affirm compatibilism, that is, freedom of inclination, and deny libertarian freedom, freedom of contrary choice. Yet, I reject that God creates based on middle knowledge, for God would then be dependent upon that “learned knowledge.” If one wants to argue that middle knowledge is not learned by God but is his ontology, then one must still argue that God decides based on His knowledge of the free decisions of his creatures instead of based on his own freedom. Furthermore, since God’s knowledge, even his middle knowledge, is prior to creation, it is a closed system that cannot be changed. Therefore, the person that affirms middle knowledge cannot simultaneously affirm libertarian freedom since God’s knowledge is fixed and no human person can choose contrary to what God knows. No man really has two choices from which to choose in creation, for man’s power of contrary choice is only in God’s knowledge prior to creation, and not in creation itself. God’s knowledge is prior to creation, is fixed, and cannot be changed. In other words, I believe God created the world that he wanted in order to fulfill his purposes, and God is all-good. Man is free according to his own inclination (sin). God is free according to his own ontology (omnibenevolence) and he cannot limit his own freedom and remain God. To summarize, I choose to trust God’s omnibenevolence rather than man’s free choice when considering the “problem of evil” or the “problem of good.”
God is ontologically unchanging. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Nothing affects God. God affects all things. He is necessary being, perfect being. Yet, God’s disposition changes in relation to his creatures in response to their repentance and faith or unrepentance. God has decreed such change of disposition. God never changes ontologically. He changes relationally according to his own decree; he changes concerning the expression of his attributes. God freely chooses how, when, and to what degree he expresses his attributes. Since God has promised, he therefore binds himself to fulfilling his promises. All those who repent and believe in Christ will be saved; all those who do not believe will be condemned. God will fulfill his promises for his ontology cannot change; and that which he binds himself to he cannot unbind himself from.