God has made the human mind in such a way that it is natural for man to want to organize acquired information. This organizing instinct within man provides a necessity for a systematic study of theology.
System and order are characteristics of God and His works. God always works in an orderly way. One can observe system and order everywhere throughout nature from the structure of atoms to the movements of stars. God's work of creation, recorded in the first chapter of Genesis, reveals the progressive realization of a definite plan and program. God instructed Noah to build the ark in an orderly manner according to specific dimensions. The construction of the tabernacle was according to a definite divine blueprint. The unfolding of God's plan of salvation has been progressive, orderly, and systematic. A systematic study of theology, therefore, finds its basis and necessity, not only in man's organizing instinct, but also in God's nature and work. Paul exhorted: "Let all things be done decently and in order" (I Cor. 14:40).
Systematic Theology is an organized, intensive study of revealed facts concerning God and His plan of salvation for mankind. Systematic Theology considers all Bible doctrines arranged and studied in a scientific, orderly manner.
I. The Starting Point
The first four words of the Bible describe not only the origin of this planet, but also the starting point of Systematic Theology --" In the beginning God."
Systematic Theology begins with the doctrine of God and concludes with the doctrine of the future. One division of Systematic Theology naturally leads into, and lays the groundwork for, the succeeding divisions. Our thoughts travel in a logical order from doctrine to doctrine--God, man, sin, Christ, salvation, the church, and the future.
To begin with God, is to begin with the Ultimate. To start one's journey into the light with Him is to begin with the Fountainhead of truth. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge" (Prov. 1:7). Belief in God and the study of revealed facts concerning Him are the first requirements of Christian theology.
An understanding of the doctrine of God forms the basis for true spirituality. Although some men have head religion without heart religion, genuine heart religion is produced by proper head religion. Religion apart from God is man-centered and void. Men have inadequate faith in God because they have insufficient knowledge concerning God. They find it difficult to pray because they do not consider the nature of the one to whom they pray. Men's hearts seldom bow in true worship because they do not recognize God's transcendent wonder and infinite worth. To have an adequate Christian faith and a vigorous spiritual life, one must begin with God.
The doctrine of God is the most important thought man can consider. It is the loftiest subject one can study. Facts concerning God's nature and work constitute the most significant realities in the universe. Jesus said, "This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent" (John 17:3). It is of major importance that believers be fully informed concerning the nature, characteristics, and works of God. Christians will spend eternity with God; they should desire to become acquainted with Him today.
II. Men Normally Believe in God
God created man with an inborn ability to recognize His existence. It is normal for man to believe in God; it is abnormal for him to be an atheist.
One is not surprised to discover, therefore, that belief in the existence of a supreme being or beings is found among all men. Heathenism has corrupted the glory of God into idolatry and the truth of God into mythology, but the recognition of His existence is still there. The counterfeit proves the reality of the true.
The existence of God is recognized as a fact by the writers of the Bible. It is regarded as a reality that requires no proof. The opening words of the Bible announce the fact and existence of God: "In the beginning God" (Gen. 1:1). The writer of Hebrews insisted, "He that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him" (Heb. 11:6).
Dr. William Newton Clarke wrote:
The Christian doctrine of God does not begin with proof, it begins with the announcement that is made by Christian faith in pursuance of the Christian revelation. Faith does not set out to find an unknown God, or to assure itself that God exists: it has heard His voice, and begins in confidence in His reality. It assumes the existence of God as its first certainty, and then proceeds to learn about Him all that can be learned. . . . There may be other ways of approaching the knowledge of God, but the Christian way is the way of recognition rather than of demonstration. (Clarke, William Newton. The Christian Doctrine of God. New York: Scribners, 1909, p. 56.)
III. Classical Arguments for God's Existence
There are three classical arguments for the existence of God. These arguments, derived from man's observation of nature and his reasoning concerning God, have been used by religious thinkers since ancient time. They are the Cosmological argument, the Teleological argument, and the Anthropological argument.
The Cosmological argument reveals God as the eternal, self-existent First Cause. The Teleological argument reveals that this great First Cause possesses intelligence and will. The Anthropological argument leads one another step further. It reveals this personal, intelligent First Cause as one who possesses holiness, justice, and truth.
1. The Cosmological Argument. Existence of creatures requires the existence of a Creator. Every effect must have an adequate cause. The universe has not always existed. There was a time when the universe did not exist. The universe must have had an origin. The Originator, the Source, the First Cause of all existence is God. Of all existence, God alone is uncaused, without a beginning. Before God created the universe, He existed alone. God is the First Cause of the universe.
The writer of Hebrews stated this argument when he said, "Every house is builded by some man; but he that built all things is God" (Heb. 3:4).
2. The Teleological Argument. God has left His fingerprints on everything He has made. Everywhere one looks in nature he can see the fingerprints of God. Order and design everywhere in nature identify the universe as the handiwork of God.
"The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handiwork" (Psalm 19:1). "The invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead" (Rom. 1:20). "He that planted the ear, shall he not hear? he that formed the eye, shall he not see?" (Psalm 94:9). "O Lord, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches" (Psalm 104:24). "When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; what is man, that thou art mindful of him?" (Psalm 8:3, 4).
3. The Anthropological Argument. The first two arguments consider proofs derived from the universe as a whole. The Anthropological argument considers indications of God's existence as derived from man himself.
Conscience in man testifies that a Moral Governor, Lawgiver, and Judge exists. Apart from God's existence, man's conscience cannot be explained.
IV. The Witness of the Supernatural
God's revelation of Himself to mankind through supernatural events constitutes additional indications of His existence. God has left witness of His existence not only in the material universe and man's moral nature, but also in the history of men's lives. God's revelation of Himself through the supernatural implies His existence.
The Bible as a divine book proves God's existence. Apart from the existence of a divine Author, the Bible cannot be explained. The fact that this amazing Book itself exists proves the existence of its Author. The Bible records God's revelation of Himself to mankind. The Bible, therefore, is an authentic source of material for proof of His existence.
Fulfillment of countless Bible prophecies in minute detail proves the existence of the One who foretold these events. (Isa. 45:21; 46: 9-11.) Miracles, which have occurred in history and have been recorded in the Bible, can be explained satisfactorily only as the working of God's supernatural power.
The supernatural life of Christ, including His unique birth, His ability to perform miracles, and His resurrection to immortality, indicates God's existence. An atheist remarked that it was not the Bible so much as it was the Christ of the Bible which he could not explain away.
Christian conversion and the tremendous influence Christianity has exerted in the world can be explained only by the existence of God. The testimony of thousands of persons who have experienced remarkable transformations indicates Christ's supernatural work and God's existence. As a blind man is assured that the sun exists by feeling the warmth of the sunshine, so Christians are assured that God exists because they feel the transforming effects of His power.
(Adapted from Systematic Theology, by Alva Huffer, published by Church of God General Conference, Oregon, Illinois 61061, U.S.A.)
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