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In order to communicate to people about God, we first must have a common understanding of what type of God we are talking about. It is easy to assume that everyone thinks of God in the same way. But this is not the case and an examination of differing views of God and why theism is the correct view will help us in ministering to others. There are presently seven common views of God that are widely held.
Theism views God as being beyond the world. God created the world and is infinite. God can act in the world in a supernatural way as He chooses. He is both beyond the universe and in the universe. Theism is represented by traditional Christianity, Judaism and Islam.
Deism is similar to theism without the supernatural interaction by God. God is the creator and is beyond the universe but not in the universe. A materialistic world view is held because God is not presently interacting with His creation. Some deists believe that God cannot do miracles, but most believe God does not do miracles. Men such as Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine and Voltaire were deists.
Atheism denies the existence of God, either in the universe or beyond the universe. All that was, is and ever will be is the universe, which is self-sustaining. Famous atheistic philosophers include Karl Marx, Friedrick Nietzsche and Jean Paul Sartre.
A sub-form of atheism is agnosticism. Agnosticism says that the existence of God is not known. Agnosticism falls into two groups, the soft agnostic, who says that God may be known but he does not know if God exists, and the hard agnostic, who says that he does not know if God exists and neither does anyone else.
Finite godism is similar to theism in that God is both beyond the universe and active in the universe (unlike deism). However, God's power is viewed to be limited. God is loving and desiring good, but also finite and incapable of bringing the desired good about. William James, Edgar Brightman and Peter Bertocci are proponents of this view.
Pantheism views God as being active in the universe but not beyond the universe. In fact, God is seen as being the universe. There is no creation and Creator, only one reality. God is everything and everything is God. Pantheism is found in forms of Hinduism, Zen Buddhism and Christian Science. It is very prevalent among eastern religions.
Polytheism believes that there are many finite gods in the world who actively influence the world. They are unlike theism in that there is no infinite God. They are unlike deism in that there is supernatural activity in the world. They are unlike finite godism in that there is no God beyond the universe. Some pantheists are also polytheists in that many gods are representative expressions of the god that is everything. Many people throughout the world are polytheistic, most notably modern Mormons. The ancient Greeks of the days of the New Testament were polytheists.
This view says God is in the universe and is growing to achieve his potential beyond the universe. It is similar to finite godism in that it views God as limited, but it is different in the sense that God is potentially infinite as he develops. Adherents include Charles Hartshorne and Shubert Ogden.
Over the years, many have sought to bring evidence for the existence of a theistic God. This evidence has taken many forms as summarized below. These arguments for the existence of God are presented as a support for faith rather than as a means of convincing the non-theist of God's existence.
Since God has made Himself known (Romans 1:19-20), the non-theist can observe the truth about Him apart from our persuasion. Since the truth of God is undeniable, mankind simply needs to consider this truth honestly and toward that end these arguments may be of value. Yet the best approach to take is what God does in His Word, that is to simply assume the truth of one theistic God. These arguments then support this assumption by showing it to be reasonable. You will find that some of these arguments are stronger than others.
• Millions of people claim to have experienced God
• If even one experience is valid, then God exists
•It is highly unlikely that all men are being totally deceived about their experience of God
• Therefore, it is highly likely that God exists
• Design implies a designer
• The universe manifests design
• Therefore, the universe has a designer
• Moral law implies a Moral Law Giver
• There is a moral law
• Therefore, there is a Moral Law Giver
4. Ontological Argument (Anselm of Canterbury)
• A necessary being is by definition one that cannot not exist
• But what cannot not exist, must exist
• Therefore, a necessary being must exist
• Every event has a cause
• The universe had a beginning
• Therefore, the universe has a cause
• Man has a deep-seated need for God
• What men really need, really exists
• Therefore, God really exists
• There are absolute truths
• Absolute truth comes from an absolute mind
• Therefore, there is an Absolute Mind
• There are more or less perfect things
• But the more or less implies a most
• Therefore, there must be a Most Perfect Being
• Man is an intelligent being
• Only intelligence can produce the intelligent
• Therefore, an Intelligent Being created man
• Value judgments are impossible without values
• Value implies a Value-Giver
• Therefore, a Value-Giver exists
• Life is a highly complex organism
• The chances for life arising without a creator are minute
• Therefore, it is highly probable that there is a Creator
1. There must be a universal moral law because…
…disagreements on morality would be meaningless.
…moral criticisms would be meaningless.
…promises or treaties would be futile.
…we would not make excuses for breaking the moral law.
2. This moral law cannot be instinctive because…
…the stronger impulse does not always win.
…we do not always act from instinct.
…instincts would always be right, which they are not.
3. This moral law cannot be sociological…
…not everything is learned from society.
…judgment about the moral progress of society makes sense only if the value judgment is formed apart from society.
…variations in value judgments are largely based on fact, not morality.
4. This moral law is separate from the law of nature…
…the moral law is not a descriptive "is" but a prescriptive "ought."
…situations that are equal in convenience differ morally.
…sometimes acts that result in worse affects are morally better than acts which have a lesser result.
5. This moral law cannot be only an illusion…
…we cannot get rid of it even though we would sometimes like to.
…we did not make it; it is impressed upon us.
…value judgments would be meaningless without it.
6. Man is the key to understanding this moral law…
…man has inside information about what "ought to be" in contrast to what "is."
…moral laws come from within man, not from nature around man.
…the source of moral law cannot be merely part of the universe any more than the architect is part of the building he makes.
7. Therefore, there is an absolutely perfect power outside of mankind which is above anything we know (i.e. God)…
…it gives us moral commands.
…it is very much interested in our behavior.
…if it were not absolutely good, then all moral effort would be futile. We may be sacrificing our lives for the vain cause of "right" when there would be no absolute right.
…the source of right must be absolutely good, for the standard maker for all good cannot be less than completely good Himself.
1. Something undeniably exists. You cannot truthfully deny your existence.
2. Nothing cannot cause something.
3. Something eternally and necessarily exists.
• If this statement is false, then somewhere along the line nothing must have created something.
• Something must eternally exist or else nothing would then cause something.
• Something must necessarily exist because if it did not exist, it is not eternal.
• A necessary being cannot change, because if it could change it would be possible for a necessary being to cease to exist.
• A necessary being cannot change because if he gains or loses anything he would not be originally necessary.
4. I am not eternal and necessary.
• I am not necessary because I change.
• I am not necessary because things exist which do not depend on me.
• I am not eternal because of the second law of thermodynamics.
5. Whatever is not eternal and necessary needs a cause.
6. Therefore, there is an eternal and necessary cause of my non-eternality and non-necessary existence.
7. But I am a personal, intelligent and moral being.
8. Only an intelligent and moral being can create an intelligent and moral being.
• The effect cannot be greater than the cause. Non-intelligence cannot produce intelligence. This is the downfall of atheistic evolution.
9. Therefore, a personal, moral, intelligent, eternal and necessary being exists (i.e. God).
10. There cannot be more than one such being.
• You cannot have two different beings that are exactly the same.
• In order to differ there must be a difference and two infinitely perfect beings would have to be exactly the same.
• Infinite means all-inclusive and you can only have one all-inclusive.
11. Therefore, only one God exists as the cause of all else that exists (Theism).
This is a world view that teaches there is a God but He is not infinite. He needs man to help Him accomplish what he wants to do. He created the world but He was unable to keep sin from entering His creation. This system does not view God as all powerful. The teachings of finite Godism creep insidiously into the beliefs of many evangelical Christians.
"Process theology is the most dangerous heresy presently threatening the Christian Faith. Process thought is a total capitulation to paganism."
"Process theology" is a modern colloquial term for a view dating back to the early 5th century B.C. The pre-Socratic philosopher Diogenes of Apollonia argued that everything must be constituted of fundamentally the same sort of matter, on the ground that radically different kinds could not interact. Hence God is in the world the way a soul or mind is in a body. Today this doctrine is called panentheism. (Not to be confused with pantheism which is the belief that God is the world and the world is God.) A panentheist holds that God is not infinite in nature and power but finite or limited and is in a continual process of change. The panentheist god is viewed as having two poles: an actual temporal pole (which stresses the organic relationship God has with the world process- His immanence) and a potential eternal pole - His transcendence), hence the term, bipolar.
Another 5th century philosopher, Heraclitus, taught that there is no "being," but all is "becoming" in a dynamic process of constant change. His famous saying was "No one steps in the same river twice." He believed everything was in a state of flux; nothing is fixed, perfect, immutable, not even the gods. Parmenides, on the other hand stressed that all is "being," static, fixed, and immutable.
This seeming contradiction led the great philosopher, Plato, to find a synthesis between "being" and "becoming" eventually advocating a concept of a finite god who exists between the World of Ideas and the World of Matter. The Demiurge or finite god of Plato was not omnipotent (all- powerful), omniscient (all-knowing), or sovereign. In fact, Plato's god did not exist prior to or independent of reality but was a finite part of a finite world.
Scholars are quick to point out that the Demiurge of Plato and the Unmoved Mover of Aristotle (both finite gods) fit neatly into the broad category of panentheism. The process view of the world was later developed by George Hegel (1831) who taught a developmental unfolding of God in history; Herbert Spencer (1903) who taught a kind of cosmic evolutionism; Henri Bergson (1907) who identified God with a creative evolutionary process -reviving the Heraclitian concept that "all is in flux;" Samuel Alexander (1920) who taught a finite view of a god who did not make the world but "emerges" from it; Edgar Brightman (1884-1953) who was responsible for introducing the concept of a finite god into the United Methodist Church, tried to solve the problem of evil by limiting the power and knowledge of God. The person known more than any other for his contributions in modern process thought is Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947) whose books Process and Reality (1929), Adventures of Ideas (1933) and Modes of Thought (1938) represent the first systematic presentation of bipolar theism. Benard Loomer, Bernard MeLand, Charles Hartshorne, John Cobb, and Shubert Ogden represent variations of Whitehead's theology.
As mentioned above, there are a number of "Evangelical" scholars who hold a finite view of God. For the purpose of this paper, we will only mention a few worth noting. Richard Rice (a Seventh-day Adventist and associate professor of theology at Loma Linda University) advocates an "Open" God theology, in which God is defined as a finite being ignorant of the future and is himself caught up in the "process of becoming;" Stephen T. Davis who states that "God has the ability to tell a lie...to do evil...to break a promise;" and, Clark Pinnock (once a strong defender of inerrancy and authority of Scripture) stands against classical theism, rejecting God's immutability, infallibility, and perfection.
There are also a number of cults which follow in the train of finite godism. Mormonism teaches that God was once a man as we are now and has reached a finite state of exaltation but continues to grow in his "godhood." The Jehovah's Witnesses teach that God does not know all the details of the future; that He is not omnipresent, immutable, perfect or triune in nature. Anyone familiar with the Witnesses view of Christ know also that Jesus is a created god, a spirit creature as finite as the rest of creation. Then, there are the Unitarians who are the modern counterparts of the Socinians of the 17th century. They taught that God was finite, limited in knowledge (He knows all that is "knowable") rejecting the orthodox doctrines of the Trinity, the Fall, redemption, the deity of Christ and the Holy Spirit, and the inspiration and authority of Scripture. The Socinians were also the first to place the theory of a finite god in a confession of faith (1652, John Biddle).
At one time the Worldwide Church of God (Herbert Armstrong) held a panentheistic view of God; since their reform several years ago, they have rejected these teachings and maintain orthodox trinitarianism across the board!
Harold S. Kushner, When Bad Things Happen to Good People (New York: Avon Books, 1981), 148.
Geisler, Apologetics, 208-209.
Finite Godism is a world view that accepts the existence of a god. However, it believes He is limited. 43 Adherents differ as to how God is limited. Some believe He is limited in His power. 44 Others consider Him limited in His knowledge or His goodness. 45
Devotees of Finite Godism usually promote their world view as the answer to the problem of evil. 46 They reason that an all-good and all-powerful God would not allow evil and innocent humans to suffer in the world. 47 Rabbi Harold Kushner, author of When Bad Things Happen to Good People, holds this view. He believes that evil proves God is not perfect and that He is limited in power. 48 For if God could prevent it, reasons Kushner, God would not allow the innocent to suffer. 49 Kushner asks others to forgive God for His failures. 50
Several responses have been given to those who believe in the existence of a finite God. First, all finite existence needs a cause for its continuing existence. 51 Finite beings are, by definition, limited beings. And limited beings, precisely because of their limitations, must depend on other beings to keep them in existence. In fact, if everything that exists is limited and dependent, then nothing would now exist. For there must exist an infinite Being that is the cause of the continuing existence of all finite and dependent beings. In other words, a finite God would depend on an infinite God for its existence. However, a finite God would not be God after all. Only the infinite Being is God. 52
Second, a finite God doesn't deserve worship. 53 Only a being that is ultimately worthy is deserving of worship. A God with limitations is surely not ultimately worthy. Only an infinite Being is deserving of worship.
Third, evil does not prove that God must be limited. 54 An all-good and all-powerful God may choose to allow evil and human suffering for the purpose of a greater good. What exactly this greater good may entail in specific cases may remain a mystery to finite beings, but, the wisdom of an infinite Being far transcends the wisdom of finite beings (Isaiah 55:8-9). A child may question the decision of his parents to allow him to receive surgery. But he does not have access to the amount of information that his parents have, and he does not see that the present pain he is enduring is for the purpose of future healing. The relationship of mankind to God is analogous to the relationship of this child to his parents. Also, God may defeat evil in the future (as the Bible teaches). In fact, only an infinite God can guarantee the ultimate defeat of evil. A finite God cannot. 55
The Bible is fully true in all it teaches or affirms. This extends to the areas of both history and science. It does not hold that the Bible has a primary purpose to present exact information concerning history and science. Therefore the use of popular expressions, approximations, and phenomenal language is acknowledged and is believed to fulfill the requirement of truthfulness. Apparent discrepancies, therefore, can and must be harmonized.
The Bible is inerrant only in its salvific doctrinal teachings. The Bible was not intended to teach science or history, nor did God reveal matters of history or science to the writers. In these areas the Bible reflects the understanding of its culture and may therefore contain errors.
The Bible is without error in accomplishing its primary purpose of bringing people into personal fellowship with Christ. The Scriptures, therefore, are truthful (inerrant) only in that they accomplish their primary purpose, not by being factual or accurate in what they assert. (This view is similar to the Irrelevancy of Inerrancy view.)
4. The Irrelevancy of Inerrancy (David Hubbard)-
Inerrancy is essentially irrelevant for a variety of reasons: (1) Inerrancy is a negative concept. Our view of Scripture should be positive. (2) Inerrancy is an unbiblical concept. (3) Error in the Scriptures is a spiritual or moral matter, not an intellectual one. (4) Inerrancy focuses our attention on minutiae, rather that on the primary concerns of Scripture. (5) Inerrancy hinders honest evaluation of the Scriptures. (6) Inerrancy creates disunity in the church. (This view is similar to the Inerrancy of Purpose view.)
- God has told people about himself in the Bible, a specific and detailed revelation of himself, which gives us details regarding his person and what he expects of people. It is not complete revelation, though: natural revelation is complementary and completes his revelation of himself. http://www.theology.edu/theology/glossary.htm
God's revelation of Himself and His will to particular persons at definite times and places. This revelation is found in miraculous events (e.g. the Exodus), is recorded in the Scriptures (Psalm 19:7-11); 2 Timothy 3:14-17), and located supremely in Jesus Christ (John 1:1-18). It is the means by which man comes to know of salvation.
Theocracy: government bya ruling power claiming Divine sanction.
Theology: the study of God and the relations between God, man, and the universe.
Teleological argument, or argument from design,
is an argument for the existence of God or a creator based on perceived evidence of order, purpose, design and/or direction in nature. The word "teleological" is derived from the Greek word telos, meaning end or purpose. Teleology is the supposition that there is purpose or directive principle in the works and processes of nature.
Although there are variations, the basic argument can be stated as follows:
X is too (complex, orderly, adaptive, apparently purposeful, and/or beautiful) to have occurred randomly or accidentally.
Therefore, X must have been created by a (sentient, intelligent, wise, and/or purposeful) being.
God is that (sentient, intelligent, wise, and/or purposeful) being.
Therefore, God exists.
X usually stands for the universe, the evolution process, humankind, a given animal species, or a particular organ like the eye or capability like language in humans. X may also stand for the fundamental constants of the universe like physical constants and physical law. Sometimes this argument is also based on the anthropic principle that these constants seem tuned specifically to allow intelligent life "as we know it" to evolve.
While most of the classic forms of this argument are linked to monotheism, some versions of the argument may substitute for God a lesser demiurge, multiple gods and/or goddesses, or perhaps extraterrestrials as cause for natural phenomena, although reapplication of the argument might still imply an ultimate cause. One can also leave the question of the attributes of a hypothesized "Designer" completely open, yielding the following simple formulation:
Complexity implies a designer.
The universe is highly complex.
Therefore, the universe has a Designer.
A concise and whimsical teleological argument was offered by G.K. Chesterton in 1908: "So one elephant having a trunk was odd; but all elephants having trunks looked like a plot."
is one that attempts the method of a priori proof, which utilizes intuition and reason alone. In the context of the Abrahamic religions, it was first proposed by the medieval philosopher Anselm of Canterbury in his Proslogion, and important variations have been developed by philosophers such as René Descartes, Gottfried Leibniz, Norman Malcolm, Charles Hartshorne, Alvin Plantinga, and Kurt Gödel. A modal logic version of the argument was devised by mathematician Kurt Gödel. The ontological argument has been a controversial topic in philosophy. Many philosophers, including David Hume, Immanuel Kant, Gottlob Frege, and Gaunilo of Marmoutiers, have openly criticized the argument.
The argument works by examining the concept of God, and arguing that it implies the actual existence of God; that is, if we can conceive of God, then God exists. However, this type of argument is often criticized as committing a bare assertion fallacy, meaning that it offers no outside premise to support its argument other than qualities inherent to the unproven statement. 
The argument's different versions arise mainly from using different concepts of God as the starting point. For example, Anselm starts with the notion of God as a being than which no greater can be conceived, while Descartes starts with the notion of God as being maximally perfect (as having all perfections).