A Few Thoughts on God and Creation

What does the Bible say about creation?

1. God created the universe out of nothing.

  • Genesis 1:1 – “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”

Hebrew Bara – translated “created” means “creation from nothing” (Latin ex nihilo – “out of nothing”)

2. God created the universe by the power of his word. 

  • Genesis 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24, 26 – “And God said” and “Let there be” or “Let the. . .”
  • Hebrews 11:3 – “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.”
  • Psalm 33:6, 9 – “By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host. . . For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.”
  • Psalm 148:5 – “Let them praise the name of the LORD! For he commanded and they were created.”

3. God created the universe to show his glory. 

  • Psalm 19:1 – “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.”
  • Revelation 4:11 – ““Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”
  • Jeremiah 10:12 – “It is he who made the earth by his power, who established the world by his wisdom, and by his understanding stretched out the heavens.”

Take Away: God created the universe out of nothing by the power of his word to show his glory.

What does creation reveal about God? 

God is the only God. God is Trinitarian. God is eternally uncaused. God is living. God is independent. God is transcendent. God is immanent. God is personal. God is powerful. God is beautiful. God is holy. God is a prophet. God is gracious. God is a sovereign king.

Transcendent – majestic and holy, far greater than his creatures.

  • Ps. 113:4 – “The Lord is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens! Who is like the Lord our God, who is seated on high, who looks far down on the heavens and the earth?”

Immanent – near and present, fully involved with his creatures.

  • Acts 17:27–28 – “Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are indeed his offspring.”

Take Away: Creation is distinct from God, yet always dependent on God.

How did God describe creation after he created it? 

  • Genesis 1:31 – “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.”
  • 1 Timothy 4:4 – “For everything created by God is good. . .”

Take Away: The universe God created was very good.

Some Major Take Aways on the Doctrine of Creation

1. God created the universe out of nothing by the power of his word to show his glory.

2. Creation is distinct from God, yet always dependent on God.

3. The universe God created was very good.

Above are a blend of notes from Driscoll and Breshears’ Doctrine and Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology. All scripture references are from the ESV.  Obviously much more could and should be said about God and creation, but I found these thoughts helpful and I pray they draw you closer to the Creator.

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Trinity, Person, etc, as necessary to unmask false teachers


With all the fuss of late on the Trinity and Elephant Room II, I have found it interesting that my reading of Calvin’s Institutes this year has brought me to a particular section.  Book I, Chapter 13, Section 4 is titled “The church has regarded expressions like “Trinity,” “Person,” etc., as necessary to unmask false teachers.  As you probably know nothing is new under the sun.  Enjoy the section.

4. Such novelty (if novelty it should be called) becomes most requisite, when the truth is to be
maintained against calumniators who evade it by quibbling. Of this, we of the present day have too
much experience in being constantly called upon to attack the enemies of pure and sound doctrine.
These slippery snakes escape by their swift and tortuous windings, if not strenuously pursued, and
when caught, firmly held. Thus the early Christians, when harassed with the disputes which heresies
produced, were forced to declare their sentiments in terms most scrupulously exact in order that
no indirect subterfuges might remain to ungodly men, to whom ambiguity of expression was a kind
of hiding-place. Arius confessed that Christ was God, and the Son of God; because the passages
of Scripture to this effect were too clear to be resisted, and then, as if he had done well, pretended
to concur with others. But, meanwhile, he ceased not to give out that Christ was created, and had
a beginning like other creatures. To drag this man of wiles out of his lurking-places, the ancient
Church took a further step, and declared that Christ is the eternal Son of the Father, and
consubstantial with the Father. The impiety was fully disclosed when the Arians began to declare
their hatred and utter detestation of the term μ . Had their first confession—viz. that Christ
was God, been sincere and from the heart, they would not have denied that he was consubstantial
with the Father. Who dare charge those ancient writers as men of strife and contention, for having
debated so warmly, and disturbed the quiet of the Church for a single word? That little word
distinguished between Christians of pure faith and the blasphemous Arians. Next Sabellius arose,
who counted the names of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as almost nonentities; maintaining that
they were not used to mark out some distinction, but that they were different attributes of God, like
many others of a similar kind. When the matter was debated, he acknowledged his belief that the
Father was God, the Son God, the Spirit God; but then he had the evasion ready, that he had said
nothing more than if he had called God powerful, and just, and wise. Accordingly, he sung another
note—viz. that the Father was the Son, and the Holy Spirit the Father, without order or distinction.
The worthy doctors who then had the interests of piety at heart, in order to defeat it is man’s
dishonesty, proclaimed that three subsistence were to be truly acknowledged in the one God. That
they might protect themselves against tortuous craftiness by the simple open truth, they affirmed
that a Trinity of Persons subsisted in the one God, or (which is the same thing) in the unity of God.

Text copied from CCEL PDF version.  Slightly different translation than the McNeill version linked above at WTS Books which I am reading.

How does all this fit together?

Have you ever looked at the Bible and thought, “How does all this fit together?” This is an honest question and many theologians have used the diversity of the Scriptures to force their views of disunity on Scripture. However, is there a theme that displays the unity of diversity in the Bible? Dr. John Frame of Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando highlights how Reformed theologians have found the covenant motif as a helpful way to see unity in Scripture:

Traditionally, these writers have found in Scripture two major covenants, sometimes called the covenant of works and the covenant of grace. The former embraces the pre-fall period. In it God offers an eternal life of blessedness (symbolized by the tree of life) to Adam and Eve on the condition that they abstain from the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. After the fall into sin, God sets forth the covenant of grace: a promise of redemption through the divine Messiah received through faith alone. 

The covenant of grace, in turn, encompasses, on the traditional view, all the post-fall historical covenants, including those with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and David, and the “new covenant” effected by the blood of Jesus himself, of which the earlier covenants are but anticipations. 

On this understanding, the whole Bible, diverse in content as it may appear at first sight, can be seen as a story of God making covenants and man responding to them. The books of law show what God expects of his covenant people. The books of history indicate man’s actual response. The psalms contain the praise, the laments, the questionings, the blessings and cursings that should be on the lips of a covenant people. The wisdom books contain applications of the covenant lawsuit against the covenant-breakers while at the same time promising covenant renewal. The Gospels and Acts present the history of the new covenant, which is applied to believers and to world history in the Epistles and Revelation (John Frame, The Doctrine of the Word of God, p.146-147)

I found this explanation helpful and I pray it blesses you. If this is true and I believe it is, how will we respond to the contra-conditional and covenantal love of our Triune God?

Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! (Psalm 34:8 ESV).

Brilliantly Hopeless

A few weeks ago, Christopher Hitchens, one of the most influential atheists of our day, died of cancer. In 2010, he did an interview, where he discussed how he was processing life and death, in the midst of his cancer. Below is an excerpt.

“One of my occasionally silly thoughts is: I wish I was suffering in a good cause — a cause larger than myself. Or, larger than just the mere survival,” he says. “If you’re in pain and being tortured, and you felt it was helping the liberation of humanity, then you can bear it better, I think. I just feel this is partly random, and partly the sort of cancer that gets people like me at about this age. It’s a part of life. It’s a dress rehearsal for an important episode of life, which is how you wind it up and how you agree to face that — which is something you’re aware of even when you’re in apparently good health.”

On Beliefs

In his writings about his diagnosis, Hitchens has asserted: “To the dumb question, why me? The cosmos barely bothers to return the reply: ‘Why not.’ ” Hitchens concedes that the dumb question “is bound to occur” — but not for long. He says he decided on his beliefs a long time ago, well before he became ill.

“I’m here as a product of process of evolution, which doesn’t make very many exceptions. And which rates life relatively cheaply,” he says. “I mean, most human beings who’ve ever been born would have been dead long before they reached my age. And I would think in most of the rest of the world — well, I know it — is still true. So to be relatively healthy at 62 is to be dealt a pretty good hand by the cosmos, which doesn’t know I’m here — and won’t notice when I’m gone. So that seemed the only properly stoic attitude to take.”

Oh, Mr. Hitchens, how I wish you looked to the personal Triune God and not the impersonal cosmos. How I wish you knew that there was One who’s suffering accomplished much for others, and invites us to participate in a mission much greater than ourselves. How I wish you knew the hope that is found in Jesus. (1 Thess. 4:13-18)

How would you respond to Christopher Hitchens, or others with beliefs like his?

 

Completely and Unreservedly

Great post by Derick Thomas over at Reformation 21.

Completely and Unreservedly

From the post:

Within weeks of my conversion I came across Stott’s latest publication (published in 1972), Your Mind Matters. I vividly recall reading these words, “one of the most neglected aspects of the quest for holiness is the place of the mind.” In Basic Christianity, Stott had urged that in addition to a disciplined study of Scripture, Christians ought to “read good Christian books.”

What is the Trinity?

Here are some notes I typed up from Mark Driscoll & Gerry Breshears’ Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe on the Trinity. Obviously much more could be said, but I found these three essential truths very helpful.

What is the Trinity? 

“While the word Trinity does not appear in Scripture, this One-who-is Three concept very clearly does. The word Trinity is used as a shorthand way of explaining a great deal of biblical truth” (p.12).

The Trinity does not mean:

  1. There are three Gods
  2. OR one God manifests himself as either Father, Son, or Holy Spirit on various occasions (Variation of text on p.12).

What are the three biblical truths that are brought together with the doctrine of the Trinity?

  1. There is only one true God.
  2. The Father, Son, and Spirit are equally declared throughout Scripture to be God.
  3. There is only one true God, but the Father, Son and Spirit are distinct persons.

Three equally essential biblical truths:

1. There is only one true God. 

A. Old Testament

Deuteronomy 4:35 To you it was shown, that you might know that the LORD is God; there is no other besides him.

Psalm 86:8-10 There is none like you among the gods, O Lord,

nor are there any works like yours.

All the nations you have made shall come

and worship before you, O Lord,

and shall glorify your name.

For you are great and do wondrous things;

you alone are God.

B. New Testament

Romans 16:27 …to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.

James 2:19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!

There is only one true God.

2. The Father, Son, and Spirit are equally declared throughout Scripture to be God. 

A. The Father is God

John 17:3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

1 Corinthians 8:6 …yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

B. The Son is God

John 5:17-18 But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

Romans 9:5 To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.

Hebrews 1:8-9 But of the Son he says,

“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever,

the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.

You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;

therefore God, your God, has anointed you

with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.”

C. The Holy Spirit is God

Isaiah 40:13-13;18 Who has measured the Spirit of the LORD,

or what man shows him his counsel?

Whom did he consult,

and who made him understand?

Who taught him the path of justice,

and taught him knowledge,

and showed him the way of understanding? . . .

To whom then will you liken God,

or what likeness compare with him?

Acts 5:3-4 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.”

The Father, Son, and Spirit are equally declared throughout Scripture to be God.

3. There is only one true God, but the Father, Son and Spirit are distinct persons. 

A. The Father and Son are two persons.

Galatians 1:3-5 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

B. Jesus and the Holy Spirit are two persons. 

John 15:26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.

C. The Father and the Holy Spirit are two persons.

Romans 8:26-27 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

There is only one true God, but the Father, Son and Spirit are distinct persons.

Remember, we have been searching for the answer to the question, What is the Trinity?

Trinity Defined:

“The Trinity is one God who eternally exists as three distinct persons – Father, Son, and Spirit – who are each fully and equally God in relation with each other” (p.13).

T.D. Jakes, Elephant Room & Reformed African American Perspectives

The Elephant in the Room

In less than thirty days Round 2 of the Elephant Room will be simulcast at 70+ locations around North America where many leaders of Christian churches will meet to hear conversations between pastors about the Church who would normally never talk to one another. The Elephant Room website says their goal is:

. . . unity, however a true unity cannot be fashioned in pretense or denial of truth nor can it be won among those who prefer sectarianism to the unity Jesus prayed for. To advance Christ’s call to unity we must do what men have always done, we must push and prod and challenge and sharpen each other’s beliefs and methods.

One belief that has caught much attention in Round 2 is what Christians ought to believe about the Trinity. Why? Well, the leader of the Elephant Room, James McDonald, invited T.D. Jakes to be apart of the discussion in Round 2. T.D. Jakes has been known not to believe what orthodox evangelicals believe about the Trinity (See Thabiti Anyawile’s blog post below for his repost of: “Reviving Old Heresies: Bishop T. D. Jakes and the Oneness Controversy”). Although attention is not necessarily a bad thing, there are many who fear the ramifications of giving T.D. Jakes a platform in relatively orthodox circles.

Two Reformed African American Perspectives

Two Reformed African American pastors, Thabiti Anyabwile and Anthony Carter, are especially worried about the effects this will have of the African American church community. They have been laboring to reform African American Christians to Biblical orthodoxy and away from the influence of such teachers like Jakes and his predecessors. Here are Pastor Anyabwile’s concerns voiced on his blog:

This kind of invitation undermines that long, hard battle many of us have been waging in a community often neglected by many of our peers.  And because we’ve often been attempting to introduce African-American Christians to the wider Evangelical and Reformed world as an alternative to the heresy and blasphemy so commonplace in some African-American churches and on popular television outlets, the invitation of Jakes to perform in “our circles” simply feels like a swift tug of the rug from beneath our feet and our efforts to bring health to a sick church. 

Anthony Carter echoes Pastor Anyabwile’s concern on his blog as well. He highlights another quote from the Elephant Room website that describes what they are trying to create:

What if we created a new ‘tribe?’  A tribe based on being humble enough to listen and reconsider what the Scriptures actually say. A tribe that holds the essential tenets of the faith with a ferocious intensity and is open handed with everything else. Maybe, together, we can create a new center?  A place where we are for everything the bible demands and demand nothing that scriptures are silent about.

In response to this quote, Pastor Carter highlights the main controversy as he sees it:

They desire a tribe that “holds the essential tenets of the faith with a ferocious intensity”.  I like that. However, last I checked, the Trinity was an essential tenet of the faith, and unless someone has moved the goal post since I last looked, it still is.  If this is the case it would appear that everyone within the Elephant Room is on board with this doctrine, clearly stated and accepted as historically understood, except one – you guessed it, TD Jakes.

Will the Elephant Win? 

So who is T.D. Jakes going to engage in theological conversation with and what will they discuss? The Elephant Room website displays the discussion will be between Jakes and Mark Driscoll, moderated by Pastor McDonald. Here is a list of the topics they will be discussing:

What are the ‘majors’ of Christian doctrine that cannot be diluted or denied for a person to be a Christian? How can we help one another move beyond the bare minimum of accepted belief, to a pursuit of robust, soul-satisfying, biblical substance? How should we relate to those who do not yet embrace the benefit and priority of sound biblical doctrine? Is there a difference between a person in error and a wolf in sheep’s clothing? What benefits derive from keeping the majors on a separate list and not letting the ‘minors’ divide us? Is it possible to love the truth without compromise and still work passionately for unity?

If you are wondering what Pastor Driscoll is generally thinking about this whole controversy, you can read his clarifying blog post. Here is what he is thinking about the awaited discussion with Jakes in particular:

Regarding Bishop Jakes, my preference is to simply let the man speak for himself and see what he says. As moderator, I assure you, I don’t want to do anything but let the men speak for themselves without being disrespected, set-up, or pushed into an unfair position—and I know this is MacDonald’s stance too. The Bible is clear about loving people and truth telling. Our plan is to have both.

Pastor Carter was really encouraged by Pastor Driscoll’s blog post clarifying a lot on this controversy and plainly stating his stance on the Trinity. Pastor Carter is even confident Pastor Driscoll will engage Jakes in some uncomfortable topics to get him to explain where he stands in respect to the Trinity and why he does so. Yet, Pastor Carter is convinced this will not be enough to make this exchange beneficial:

I can not help but see that the end result would be a win-win for Jakes and a lose-lose for those who have to combat and deal with Jakes’ presence and influence all the time. . . No matter what is said, unless Jakes denounces his previous teachings or is exposed as a false teacher, it’s a win for team Jakes and a loss for those of us left to clean up after the elephant has done his business.

Please join me in praying Pastor Anyabwile’s prayer for Round 2 of the Elephant Room, “Now may the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us both now and forever.  Amen.”

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