James, "The Theology Nerd" Strikes Again!
THE OLOGIES OVERVIEW - PART 1
Even though “theology” means the “study of God,” when theologians use the term, we really mean all of the doctrines that make up our faith. We do this, mostly to be erudite, but also because the whole of our religion hinges on God.
But, Mr. Nerd, doctrine divides. All I need to know is that I love God, God loves me, we’re a great big fami…
It’s true. Doctrine divides, as it should. Without robust doctrines, we cannot believe anything with any level of coherence. So, for our first Nerd series, we will be looking at some of the vital doctrines of orthodox, protestant Christianity...starting with the Doctrine of God.
It’s hard to state how incredibly important it is to get this right. The details concerning who God is are so vital because if we get them wrong, we no longer believe in the true and living God, but in some idol of our own imagination.
For example: suppose one day we’re having coffee at some Melville inspired cafe, and I ask you, “did you see that car chase yesterday?”
To which you reply, “Totes, it was awesome!” (Stop saying “totes,” that’s so 2016).
“I know, right. I couldn’t believe he got that minivan over 150MPH.”
With a confused look on your face you query, “Wasn’t it a woman on a Ducati?”
When we get the details wrong, it turns out we are talking about very different things. The details matter.
So, where do we start? How about a simple question: what is God? In his book The Existence and Attributes of God, puritan theologian Stephen Charnock says:
“God is a Spirit; that is, he hath nothing corporeal, no mixture of matter, not a visible substance, a bodily form. He is a Spirit, not a bare spiritual substance, but an understanding, willing Spirit, holy, wise, good, and just.”
This truth is simultaneously simple, and amazing. “God is a Spirit and has not a body like man” is the answer to the first question of the catechism I learned in elementary school. From this one kernel, we can start to explore who God is, his eternity, his immensity, his love, and his mercy.
If God was material, he could not have existed from eternity past. If he had a physical body, he could not be everywhere at once. But, if God is only an immaterial energy, he can’t be just, or loving. This is an important detail, and distinction, about who we believe God is. He is a spirit, who is not constrained by physical material, but he is also a person capable of relationships.
All of “who God is” is bound together with “what God is.” When we take time to ponder his holiness, his justice, his wrath and his mercy, we must frame it in his immensity. His love is as limitless as his power and his presence. He is so above us, so different than us, that our minds should explode and our hearts melt that he would have anything to do with us, especially to make himself a sacrifice so that we might dwell with him.
So, take some time to consider God. Marvel, and worship, and wonder. Next time...I’ll rip the carpet right out from under us with the Doctrine of Man.