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From the very beginning in the development of our understanding of God's unity and plurality, secular concepts were inevitably used to communicate divine revelation. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us" John , John's use of the term logos is important and we would miss an essential point if we simply thought that he was using this word without any regard to the contextual meaning it had for his readers.

Good biblical scholarship will remind us how John's use of logos relates to the Jewish i. Yet John, who was capable of using sophia , nevertheless chose logos. In Greek thought, it was often believed that, whatever the source of the universe might be a god, a plurality of gods, or a divinity that infuses all of reality , it used intermediaries such as "wisdom" or a logos to do the "dirty work" of making material things. John is no doubt subverting this pagan idea by saying what no Greek would have been willing to say about the Logos ; namely, that a he is a person and b he is not an emanation or intermediary of God but is God himself.

In these brief sentences, John utters the incomprehensible: The Word-the Logos -is identified with the Creator of Genesis ; he did not come into being in the beginning but "was" in the beginning. But he not only "was God"; he also was "with God. He is further distinguished from the creation in that he is himself the Creator of "all things. Although Greeks including Hellenized Jews were inclined to regard the universe or aspects of it as eternal, John emphasizes that "without him nothing was made that has been made. It is easy for us who have been reared in Christian churches to find here some clear teaching about the Trinity.

Yet that was not obvious to everyone in the ancient church. The Alexandrian presbyter Arius though himself trapped in Greek neoplatonic modes of thought accused the church fathers of imposing a system on the biblical text.

10 Strengths (and 10 Dangers) of Systematic Theology - Tim Challies

Taking a woodenly literalistic approach to the Bible, Arius concluded especially from Proverbs and the apocryphal Book of Wisdom that Jesus Christ was the first created being rather than God himself. Arius was simultaneously rationalistic and biblicistic: How could anyone believe in one God in three persons, and how could anyone say that Jesus is God when Wisdom-remember the links between the Greek word for wisdom sophia in the Septuagint and John's use of logos in his Gospel-is said in Proverbs to be created?

Arius's conclusion was branded heresy. Yet it is amazing to see the similarity of his approach to that of the turn-of-the-last-century historical theologian Adolf Harnack. Harnack argued that all of these major Christian dogmas were merely philosophical versions of pagan thought that replaced the simple piety of a purely human but divinely gifted Jesus. Like Arius, he failed to see how his own thought was governed by rationalistic and pagan modes of thinking as well as how the biblical writers were employing secular categories for the very purpose of subverting secular thought.

John's profound but brief statement does not get us all the way to the Trinity, for it does not clearly say that God is one in essence and three in person. So how do we get there? First of all, there is the biblical claim that God is one. Nothing could be closer to the heart of God's self-revelation in the Old Testament in the face of the surrounding nations' polytheism. Many Scriptures justify the assertion of monotheism. At this point, systematic theology draws upon very detailed and specific exegesis of particular passages. But that is not all that Scripture reveals.

While God is one in the sense that Yahweh has no rivals, Scripture reveals that he is not numerically one in the sense of mathematical oneness. This revelation of God's one-in-threeness grows organically from the Old Testament to the New Testament. In the Old Testament, the Angel of the Lord is repeatedly identified as the Lord God himself; and yet it is clear in such passages that God and this divine Angel are engaged in conversation. Similarly, references to the Holy Spirit as a distinct person, and as someone who is sent by God and from God, occasionally appear.

In the New Testament we see fuller revelation of the plurality of persons in the Godhead. At Jesus' baptism, a voice from heaven pronounces his benediction on the one whom he identifies as "my Son," while the Holy Spirit hovers over the Son in the form of a dove. In the Gospels and especially but not exclusively in John's Gospel , Jesus makes obvious declarations about himself that no good Jewish boy would make unless he were either a blasphemer or God incarnate.

He repeatedly identifies himself with God, yet speaks of the Father and the Spirit as distinct from "the Son" as he refers to himself. Especially in John , he makes bold statements about his being one with the Father, and of his own sending of the Spirit along with the Father's sending of the Spirit.

Building Systematic Theology - Lesson 3: Propositions in Systematics

It would have been a gross violation of biblical faith to baptize converts into the "name" of anyone other than God. Again, exegesis and contextual studies are necessary to support this point. Other passages make reference to all three persons in the Godhead in a way that lends the doctrine of the Trinity additional support see 1 Cor.

So the doctrine of the Trinity is based on inductive and deductive reasoning from the biblical text. Exegesis of particular passages-induction-is essential, but what does it yield? It tells us that there is one God. But then induction fails us.

What is Theology?

A deduction needs to be made. Initially, it seems that we have only two choices: either we can deduce that the results of exegesis are so contradictory that we must dismiss Scripture's witness altogether or we must side with one set of passages leading to unitarianism or another set leading to "tritheism," or three distinct Gods-Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Yet there is a third possibility; namely, to deduce that the results of our exegesis give us an affirmation-that God is both "one" and "three"-that is, neither contradictory nor capable of being fully understood.

But how is God "one" and "three"? If he is one in the same sense in which he is three, then that is a contradiction and not just a mystery or a paradox. At this point, the church fathers rightly appealed to the technical language available to them-God is one in essence and three in person-not in order to explain the Trinity so that it is no longer a mystery, but in order simply to state it. This is a very important point, since critics of systematic theology often accuse it of trying to "explain away the mystery" of biblical teaching. On the contrary, the church fathers appealed to precise definitions in order to preserve the mystery without surrendering either to unitarianism or tritheism.

Although the Council of Nicea in a. The same factors are at work in the debate over Christ's person. On one hand, the Bible clearly testifies to Christ's full deity. On the other hand, it is just as clear about his full humanity. Rationalists on both sides, who could not live with the mystery, denied one or the other. Again the church, by God's grace, rose to the occasion and defined what it had intended at the Council of Nicea by declaring that the Son was homoousios of the same essence with the Father. Arius and his followers wanted to settle for saying that the Son was homoiousios of similar essence with the Father but not homoousios of the same essence.

While it may be true that such terms have their shortcomings, as does all language, they provide very precise guardrails against heresy in both directions. Arians could say that Jesus was divine in some sense, just as docetists from the Greek, dokeo , "to seem," this heresy asserted that the body of Christ only seemed physically real and Apollinarians followers of the heretic Apollonarius who believed that Christ's manhood was not distinct from his divinity but was, instead, deified, so that he had only one nature could affirm his humanity in some sense, but in exactly what sense?

The technical language was not intended to make simple faith in Christ a metaphysical puzzle. Quite the contrary, it was meant to provide razor-sharp clarity. It was crafted for the purpose of forcing church teachers either to affirm or to deny that Jesus Christ was God in human flesh, reconciling sinners to himself-which is the core message of Scripture. Simplistic exegesis would have yielded a choice between the humanity and deity of Christ.

A systematic, "big-picture" deduction from both sets of exegetical data was necessary in order to affirm the mystery without explaining it away. Those today who think they do not need systematic theology often forget that they presuppose the truth of the Trinity and the hypostatic union-the two natures-of the Son because of theological systematization they have inherited from their participation in the church. It is sheer folly to think that we believe in the Trinity simply through an inductive Bible study of Genesis "Let us make man in our image" , whose explicitly Trinitarian intention is dubious at best.

Indeed, most heresies-such as Jehovah's Witnesses' denial that Jesus is God the Son-are the result of simplistic inductive Bible study that ignores Scripture's total teaching on a given subject. With more space, we could analyze other major Christian teachings along similar lines. In the fourth-century debates over grace and free will, the heretic Pelagius lifted certain biblical statements out of context and forced the whole Bible to be read in the light of his rationalistic deduction as to what such statements implied.

He reasoned: If God commands us to do something, then it must be possible for us to do it. Yet it is obvious that God commands perfect obedience. Therefore, we must be capable of being perfectly obedient. The church concluded that this was flawed not only in substance but also in method. Each individual passage of Scripture must be interpreted in the light of the whole of Scripture rather than forcing the whole of Scripture into one's interpretation of a part of it.

In his Romans commentary, Pelagius interprets Paul's repetition of God's word to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy," like this: "This is correctly understood as follows: I will have mercy on him whom I have foreknown will be able to deserve compassion, so that already then I have had mercy on him.

Archived from the original on 1 April Retrieved 18 September Christian Spirituality and Social Transformation. Oxford Research Encyclopedias. Augustine of Hippo — De Civitate Dei Barth, Karl — Church Dogmatics. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. Grand Rapids: Wm. Bloesch, Donald G. Christian Foundations seven volumes. Inter-varsity Press. Institutes of the Christian Religion. Chafer, Lewis Sperry Grand Rapids: Kregel Chemnitz, Martin Loci Theologici.

Louis: Concordia Publishing House, Erickson, Millard Christian Theology 2nd ed. Grand Rapids: Baker, Fruchtenbaum, Arnold Messianic Christology. Systematic Theology four volumes. Minneapolis: Bethany House. Frame, John. Theology for the Community of God.

Praise for the Print Edition

Kenneth Jenson, Robert W. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Loci Communes. God in Christian Perspective. Oden, Thomas C. Systematic Theology 3 volumes. Peabody, MA: Prince Press. Pannenberg, Wolfhart — Pieper, Francis — Christian Dogmatics. Preview — Systematic Theology by Charles Hodge. The magnum opus of one of America's most prominent theologians offers an in-depth exploration of theology, anthropology, soteriology, and eschatology.

This monumental work, now a standard for theological students, was written while Hodge served as a professor at Princeton, where he permanently influenced American Christianity as a teacher, preacher, and exegete. Includes a The magnum opus of one of America's most prominent theologians offers an in-depth exploration of theology, anthropology, soteriology, and eschatology. Includes a comprehensive index. Get A Copy. Hardcover , pages. Published June 1st by Hendrickson Publishers first published June More Details Original Title.

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Showing Rating details. More filters. Sort order. Apr 30, Paul rated it it was amazing Shelves: systematic-theology. Can't beat the classic. Reformation theology proclaimed and defended. View 1 comment. Nov 08, G Walker rated it it was ok Shelves: dogmatics , paying-my-dues. This was the second text I read on systematic theology. When pitted against Ryrie who was my first it was like drinking water from a fire hydrant that is wide open - full blast. Yet, I believe that this was because of the paradigm shifts in content more than anything else.

Hodge was a staunch calvinist Ryrie was at best an Amyraldian maybe less. Hodge is postmillennial Ryrie a classic dispensationalist Worlds part! Over the course of the last 20 years or so, I have re This was the second text I read on systematic theology. Over the course of the last 20 years or so, I have read these volumes through on 3 separate occasions.

Each time I learned something new, or was at least provoked to look at something afresh All that to say, this set is worth engaging. I'm not talking about the "idol of relevance" I am talking more about the fact that it is sterile, obtuse and too scholastic For Hodge, it seems anyway, that God and the things of God only matter in as far as you agree with the reformed tradition. And if you disagree then you get the answers wrong on the quiz and your eternal destiny should be reviewed and reconsidered. Theology IS more than just propositions. Knowing God and even knowing about God is more than just thinking the right things.

It needs to comport with reality. It needs to make sense day to day. And as a brief aside I finished Vol 1. Aug 16, Mhleli Mhlaba rated it it was amazing. This Systematic Theology is probably the best ever written after Calvin's Institute's. May 27, Jacob Aitken rated it it was amazing Shelves: christology , covenant , epistemology , eschatology , historical-theology , reference , reformed-stuff , soteriology , the-enlightenment , american-religious-history.

Charles Hodge is the highpoint of American theology. Thornwell was the more brilliant orator and Palmer the greater preacher, but Hodge was the teacher and systematician. Of the Princetonians Hodge is supreme. E Charles Hodge is the highpoint of American theology. Even with the page-length quotations in Latin, Hodge is strong where American Christianity is weak.

Can Systematic Theology be Truly Biblical?

Common Sense Realism Far from stultifying the gospel, Hodge's position safeguards the reliability of "truth-speak" and if taken seriously today, adds another angle to the "convert" phenomenon. A properly basic belief is one that doesn't need another belief for justification. I'm not so sure if Hodge is making that claim. However, he does anticipate some of Plantinga's positions by saying that God so constituted our nature to believe x, y, and z. My aim is to show from Hodge's own words that our cognitive faculties are 1 reliable and 2 made so by God.

I will advance upon Hodge's conclusions: a commoner can read the Bible and get the general "gist" of it apart from an infallible interpreting body. Secondly, to deny the above point attacks the image of God. Thirdly, to deny the above point is to reduce all to irrationality.

The practical application: Those who deny this position often find themselves looking for "absolute" and infallible arbiters of the faith. Such a position denies a key aspect of our imago dei. It is interesting to note his reference to self-knowledge. One is reminded of Calvin's duplex cognito dei. Doctrine of God This method leads to the conclusion that God can think and act, that in him essence and attributes are not identical I: It's also interesting to note Hodge's comment about God constituting our nature in a certain way.

Shades of Thomas Reid. If in God knowledge is identical with eternity, knowledge with power, power with ubiquity, and ubiquity with holiness, then we are using words without meaning I: The attributes of God, therefore, are not merely different conceptions in our minds, but different modes in which God reveals himself to his creatures So what do we mean by simplicity? Rome has a thorough, if ultimately chaotic, answer to this question. Orthodoxy has an outstanding response to Rome, but nothing in terms of a constructive view of Simplicity. Following Turretin, Hodge writes, The attributes are to be distinguished not realiter, but;"virtualiter, that is, there is a real foundation in the divine nature for the several attributes attributed to him I: What does virtualiter mean?

Richard Muller defines it as "literally, i.