God is a God of Order

Can we truly understand God? No…and yes.

As sinful men and women, eveEarth from spacen our logic has suffered the effects of sin. We cannot expect to completely understand a God that lies beyond our comprehension; however, the God who created us also revealed Himself to us. Because of both general revelation in creation and special revelation in God’s written Word, we can learn a great deal about God.

First, we must recognize that God is a God of order and not disorder. Gen 1:1-2 states:

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. (ESV)

In the beginning, God created from nothing. From that nothing, God made something and then he gave it order. He set lights in the sky to rule it by day and by night. He set the stars in fixed positions to serve as a guide for seafarers. He constructed the seasons of fall, winter, spring and summer with recurring cycles for planting, watering, and reaping a harvest. God took disorder and gave it order.

We see order in the New Testament through many ways, but especially in the Greek word for world, kosmos. The word kosmos means “to set in order” or “to adorn or decorate.”

Guys, perhaps you have seen your wife get ready or as they say, “put her face on.” She begins with a foundation, adds some lipstick to make her lips pop and some eyeliner to draw attention to the color of her eyes. Perhaps some mascara or eyelash extensions among other things all designed to adorn and give order. While doing this, she uses cosmetics. Notice the resemblance to our word kosmos. Well, we certainly don’t want to stretch the relationship too far, but perhaps next time you see someone wearing cosmetics or put them on yourself (ladies), then you will remember how God has put order into this world and adorned it with beauty.

God communicates to humans through general revelation and special revelation. General revelation includes such things as creation whereas special revelation typically refers to the Scriptures. God, who communicates order through general revelation, also communicates order through special revelation. Throughout the Bible we see orderly communication of truths to the people He created. By systematically studying the Bible (special revelation), we can learn more about God, more about ourselves, and more about the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ.

So what exactly is Systematic Theology? It is a discipline that gives a systematic, coherent exposition of the Christian faith, based on the entire Bible, resulting in personal application for the Christian life and ministry.

Over the next several posts, we’ll see that Systematic Theology should be studied for ourselves, for others, and for the Gospel. In the final post, I’ll offer some starting points for studying Systematic Theology as well as helpful resources to guide you.

Editor's note: This is post 2 in a series of 12.
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3 Comments

Filed under systematic videos, Why You Should Study Systematic Theology

3 responses to “God is a God of Order

  1. rhwoodman

    Thomas,

    If God is a God of order, and if systematic theology is “a discipline that gives a systematic, coherent exposition of the Christian faith, based on the entire Bible, resulting in personal application for the Christian life and ministry”, then should not systematic theology result in a single denomination, instead of the confusing profusion of 40,000+ denominations that exist today, many of which contradict one another? How is it that two people can study the same Biblical passage in the same way, examine its history, language, structure, philosophical context, and so forth and come to completely different conclusions about what it means?

  2. That sure would be nice wouldn’t it. I have several theories as to why we don’t come to the same interpretation, but the simple answer is the men are fallen. We see through a glass dimly lit. Here are some reasons why.

    First, we bring different presuppositions to the text. Is it inerrant or not? Do I take it literally or not? Can personal experience be trusted? I believe the Bible is inerrant and look for the literal meaning whenever possible and try not to ever build theology on my personal experience. (See Augustine on the parable of the good Samaritan for example of something different than this). I also want to look at context of a chapter, book, and where the book is in the entire canon. Genre will also affect interpretation. Because I believe the Bible is inspired by the Holy Spirit, I believe most passages are timeless and that we should not think of this as for one culture or one time period. Other presuppositions will affect interpretation.

    Second, our cultural surroundings affect our interpretation. How reformers interpreted certain passages came from a view of the state church which they couldn’t get around. Our cultural problems likely involve the rampant aspects of divorce, individualism, and materialism. This is why I like to consult commentaries from other centuries.

    Third, we sometimes force the desired meaning of our tradition or our own desired meaning on the text. While we can pray for the Spirit to guide us, it is often difficult to get past our presuppositions. Many times, we don’t recognize them even when pointed out.

    Finally, even though there may be vast numbers of denominations. There is also vast agreement among most believers. Most denominations differ over secondary or tertiary issues. The primary issues of the Gospel find vast agreement among believers. Those who are not believers do not have the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit and so we cannot expect them to come to the same conclusions. I hope that helps. I would love to read your thoughts as well.

    • rhwoodman

      Thanks for your thoughtful response! Your first three points as to why we have denominations are points with which I agree, although I have some reservations about trying always to find the literal meaning of a passage. To be fair, I also have reservations about people who try to find spiritual or symbolic meaning in every passage as well. Deciding which passages should be viewed literally and which should be viewed allegorically or spiritually falls into your second (cultural) and third (desired meaning) points.

      Your last point is a excellent one. I heard a theologian in an inter-denominational debate one time make the point that conservative, faithful Baptists have more in common with conservative, faithful Catholics than they do with liberal or non-faithful members of any Christian denomination. As I recall, every other member of the panel in the debate agreed with that point. It is my belief that God has His faithful ones in every denomination, and the Enemy likewise has his faithful ones in every denomination. Judgment Day will be a great “sorting out”, and there will undoubtedly be many surprised persons in the sorting process (Matthew 25:31-46). On the other hand, as a practicing, professional scientist and Christian who works with people from many different backgrounds, beliefs, and faith traditions (not just Christian, and including some people with no faith tradition at all), I have come to the strong conviction that the profusion of denominations in the world today is a serious, damaging scandal to the Body of Christ. More than the scandal of pedophile priests and pastors, more than the scandal of huckster televangelists, more than the scandal of false prophets, the scandal of a wildly divided, confused profusion of denominations hurts the Body of Christ and keeps those who would otherwise enter into a saving relationship with Our Lord Jesus Christ from doing so.

      In the Great High Priestly prayer, Jesus prayed, “Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.” John 17:11b (RSV).

      Then again He prayed, “I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one; even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory which you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” John 17:20-23 (RSV).

      How does it appear to a non-believer of some education, do you think, who goes on YouTube and finds a video of a supposed Christian believer of Calvinist persuasion condemning to hell a supposed Christian believer of Arminian persuasion because of relatively small differences in belief? Or how does it appear to that non-believer who hears a video sermon by a Catholic priest from the Book of the Wisdom of Ben Sirach (a.k.a. Ecclesiasticus) and then finds a video sermon by a Baptist preacher who rejects the authority and inspiration of Ben Sirach? Or how does it appear to a non-believer who finds a video from one person claiming to be a Christian who says that the Bible and science are not in conflict on the issue of creation if one interprets “the seven days of creation” allegorically rather than literally, and finds a video from another person also claiming to be a Christian claiming that those who reject a literal 7-day creation have “departed from the faith” and “rejected God’s Word”? These are all questions I have confronted, and I assure you that, at least in some circles, this is a scandal to the Muslim, the Buddhist, and the Hindu, and a source of derisive amusement to the atheist and the agnostic. However much it can be defended theologically, I think that when considered pastorally it puts the whole Body of Christ in a sorry, scandalous light, especially when it involves Baptists pronouncing anathemas on Anglicans, Anglicans on Orthodox, Orthodox on Presbyterians, Presbyterians on Methodists, and all of them on Catholics.

      How does the world know that Christ is real when His followers are so deeply, angrily divided among themselves? How is God glorified by 40,000 denominations? Even if they are disagreeing about secondary and tertiary issues instead of primary issues, the depth of the divisions, and the fierceness with which these divisions are defended and maintained is a scandal! Moreover, these divisions are fiercely defended often by resort to the tools of systematic theology, i.e., original language with philological analysis, contextual analysis, history, philosophy, logic, and so forth. Such rigorous defense is often used (in my humble opinion) to present the appearance of an impregnable position that cannot be assailed by any “reasonable person,” “reasonable” being defined, as is often the case, as “someone who agrees with me.”

      This is pastoral scandal, Thomas. I love theology, and I love to debate theology. Sometimes (this is probably vain of me), I will take a contrarian position simply to keep the discussion moving forward in a way that exposes flaws in one position or another. (Admittedly, it drives some people nuts when I do this.) Having said that, though, when it comes to pastoral issues, the narrow, deep, and fiercely maintained divisions in the Body of Christ that result in us having 40,000 different denominations is a scandal that must be mended if we are truly going to win to Christ all who will believe on Him. Many non-believers who are aware of the divisions simply cannot move past the scandal of division to hear the truth of the Gospel.

      I would love to see you address this issue in a post or three.

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