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INTRODUCTION > Foundations 


FOUNDATIONS

Truth is predicated upon two unalterable foundations: God is; and God has spoken in Scripture. By faith these axioms are accepted, and it is here that Christian theology must begin.

Given these two initial foundations and given constant and conscientious study of Scripture, accompanied by the illumination of the Spirit, the Christian faith can be formulated and set forth by a believer. To assume these axioms as the foundation of inquiry provides an environment in which one is capable of erecting a theological edifice that will endure. Every person begins at some point, and the point is never neutral. One cannot begin with nothing; one must begin with something. “God is” is a truth that is either innate or intuitive with every person, and “God has spoken in Scripture” is a self-authenticating fact established by the Spirit through the Scriptures. Reason and logic can neither prove nor disprove these axioms, for reason merely supports existing faith; it does not establish nor maintain faith. But once the axioms are accepted they justify their own validity because without them nothing makes sense. Only from the perspective of God and His Word can reality be understood and explained.

Historically, theological studies have begun with the doctrine of God. In fact, everything must begin with God or there is no explanation for anything; He is not only the origin of all things, but all things can only be understood in reference to Him. In every discussion the starting point must be God, or the discussion will be nonproductive and erroneous. God is, and the God who is also is the God who has revealed Himself, providing a Revelation in creation, in man’s consciousness, and, primarily, in His Word, which informs of His Revelation in Christ. Without God and His Revelation man would be ignorant and hopelessly without perspective when contemplating reality. Within man there are no valid answers to either the vexing questions of existence or to the seemingly trivial questions regarding daily life. Only outside of man can true wisdom be found, and this wisdom resides in the Self-Revealing God.

The starting point in all theology and philosophy, and all other pursuits, therefore, must be the Self-Revealing God and His Word. Any endeavor that does not begin here is doomed to failure. To begin with the God who is and the God who speaks is to have the proper perspective by which to consider all that exists, for creation is understandable only in terms of the God of Scripture. Without Him and His Revelation, man is doomed to loneliness and ignorance. Without His Light there is nothing but darkness. Without His Word there is no definitive information. Without His wisdom there is only human reasoning. It is the Triune God who gives explanation for the existence of matter, the uniqueness of man, the predicament of sin, the certainty of reliable knowledge, and the reality of absolute ethics. These and all other topics of debate can be understood only when they are considered from the perspective of the God who speaks. Meaning and purpose originate and culminate with God. To all the questions of life, the answer is God, the Sovereign One-in-Three God of the Scriptures. And there is no other God.

Without God man not only does not know, he cannot speak. He has nothing to say. He is left with only himself and his musings. Without God the pronouncements of man arise from within man, with man becoming the sole author of his assertions. Truth in this context is man-made, therefore, the final authority for man is man. If knowledge is only what man says, then why should man speak? If he does speak, why should what he asserts be accepted as reliable? How can man's subjective perspective establish a normative proposition?

All explanations that begin with man ultimately lead to anarchy and nihilism. If law is of man then any man’s law has a seat at the table of opinion, and no one is capable of making an absolute determination as to which opinion is worthy of being enforced as law. If man is the sole origin of knowledge then there is no external authority that is sufficient to establish a universal norm that is totally credible and therefore equally applicable to all. If man is the source of all knowledge then on what basis can any particular man be trusted for infallible truth?

There are really only two choices: Theism or humanism, Life or death, Supernaturalism or naturalism, Revelation or reasoning, God or man. Man either looks within himself seeking to discover answers that he can never have assurance are the correct ones, or he can be given answers from without him that make a claim to absoluteness. Truth is either internal to man and thus his own creation, and, therefore, without normative quality; or Truth is external to man, having been given by the One who is Absolute and greater than man.

Truth is not discovered; it is revealed. It is not from within, but is from without. It comes, not by reason but by Revelation. Man does not seek it so much as he is sought by it, for Truth is of God and comes by grace. Truth embraces the believer who in turn embraces the Truth.

Biblical Truth would not be possible if God had not revealed Himself; Truth exists because God has spoken in the Scriptures. If God had chosen to remain hidden, man would have continually existed in darkness, a moral and intellectual darkness—and how great that darkness would have been! But God, who is not only Deus absconditus but also Deus revelatus, sovereignly and graciously determined to manifest Himself to man. And because God did reveal Himself, man is blessed with Truth.

Truth, consequently, is of God, not man. Biblical Truth’s source is not experience, reason, dogma, philosophy, or nature. None of these areas can be trusted for definitive answers that have integrity. Experience may be reflected upon; reason may be tried; dogma may be considered; philosophy may be consulted; and nature may be investigated. Interesting observations may be derived from each of these areas, but it must be kept in mind that all of these are affected by sin, and each of these reflects the horizontal dimension more than the vertical dimension. To seek ultimate answers from these areas is to trust finally upon man rather than God. At best these are secondary considerations and, perhaps, complementary considerations to God’s Revelation, but they are not the basis for the Truth. The origin of Truth is God.

The Self-Revealing God, who is the source of the Biblical Truth, is also the subject of the Truth. Truth is from God and Truth is about God. Therefore, the Truth of the Bible is Theistic Truth; its focus is the God who gave it, and in vain do men search for Truth about God in other sources. Since the subject of the Truth is God, then all Christian study is essentially theological; in other words all Biblical teaching is God-centered—and really, for any study to be valid, it must foundationally be theological (acceptance of this concept invalidates any academic study that disallows Biblical Theism as the foundation for its study). Each division of theology is ultimately a word about God. For example, anthropology considers man who is made in the image of God; hamartiology informs us of that which is contrary to God; and soteriology reveals to us God’s provision for man’s sin. All subjects of the theological pursuit find their source in God, and the topic of each subject is God. It is with God that man has to do.

What do we know about God? Simply put, we know what the Bible teaches. The God who is has spoken, and what He has said constitutes the Scriptures. What He has said is something about Himself and His mighty deeds. In the Old and New Testaments we find God, and only in these writings can be found trustworthy information about Him, trustworthy because it is from Him. We find the Truth, Truth that introduces us to and teaches us about the one God, the true God. From Scripture we learn what God has deemed wise to tell us about Himself and His works.

But the Revelation of God does not reveal all of God, for in the Divine Self-Disclosure there is not an exhaustive Revelation. The revealing God is also the unfathomable God; that is, the God who makes Himself known cannot be known completely (finiti non capax infiniti). God does not reveal all of Himself (Deut. 29:29), nor has He endowed man with the capacity to understand Him exhaustively. Man does not even fully grasp what has been revealed; faith grasps, but it grasps only partially. Because the God who reveals Himself is also the God who conceals Himself, there is continual mystery surrounding the Self-Revealing God. It is in this sense that God is incomprehensible (man has true knowledge but not full knowledge). In order to know God and himself man must have the Revelation, and the Revelation satisfies man’s deepest needs. But at the same time it mystifies.

God’s Self-Revelation is not mainly for intellectual satisfaction, nor for emotional stimulation. It does teach us and it does motivate us, but the why of God’s Revelation is to be found in the area of the ethical, the moral—sin necessitated the Biblical Revelation. And through that Revelation the sinner receives salvation and is taught to worship the Savior.

Prior to the entrance of sin into the human family, Adam enjoyed daily fellowship with God in the garden in the cool of the day (God revealed Himself before sin). With the advent of sin, however, man became separated from God; man hid from God and was banished from the Garden of Eden. With sin came the resulting darkness, darkness so pervasive that all of man’s nature—intellect and will—was darkened with a darkness so deep that the only answer was a Divine act—an act of Revelation and Redemption. Man left alone could not elevate himself above nor extricate himself from his predicament. If reconciliation between God and man was to be effected, God would have to take the initiative; He must reveal Himself to sinful man who, because of sin, was existing in intellectual and, more tragically, moral darkness (perhaps the two are identical). God did reveal Himself, and His Revelation is essentially redemptive, informing man but also providing that which transforms man. Timothy was told by Paul that the Holy Scriptures “are able to make you wise for salvation” (II Tim. 3:15).

Thus, it is God’s Revelation that brings salvation to the believer. What the Bible teaches concerning God, man experiences as he lives the life of a believer. Many may read and study the Truth about God, but it is only the man of faith who experiences the Truth. To learn that God is holy is not sufficient, but to experience the holiness of God in conviction and conversion is to be a Christian; to read and to know intellectually that God is love is not adequate, but to experience that love while a sinner under the burden of sin is to rejoice with joy unspeakable; to study God’s grace is to be confronted with the unbelievable, but to experience God’s grace is to be convinced of the impossible; to study God’s sovereignty is threatening, but to experience the sufficiency of His grace, the consolation of His comfort, and the presence of His Spirit in time of tragedy is to live in peace because the Self-Revealing God is also Father. Biblical Truth is to be learned and lived; Truth is not only for the academy but also for the marketplace.

Several factors must be kept in mind when studying the Self-Revealing God and formulating a theology. The presentation of God must not seek to explain God fully nor to make Him totally understandable. Faithfulness to the Biblical record demands that humbleness be maintained. God is knowable; God is unknowable. God reveals himself; God remains hidden. In this manner God impresses man with the majesty and the mystery of His existence and essence.

The presentation of God must maximize God’s Sovereignty—His high and lifted-up position, His glorious perfection, and His revealing and redemptive activity that reflect of His eternal purpose. 

The presentation of God must leave man with a sense of his mannishness, a sense of his limitations, his insufficiency. God is God and man is man; the distinction is definite, fixed, and immutable. The theologian must work constantly against the humanizing of God and the deifying of man in an age that is especially susceptible to an inferior view of God.

Finally, the presentation must not seek to harmonize completely various Biblical teachings of God. For instance, God is One and God is a Trinity; and God is immanent and God is transcendent. On each of these and similar concepts, comments can, perhaps, be made that are helpful; but the complete understanding of the resolution is not possible.

Any presentation of the Truth about the Self-Revealing God is artificial and filled with weaknesses. No approach can adequately or properly convey the Truth about God; no method is suitable for the Incomprehensible! God cannot be exhaustively explained, but accurate pronouncements can be made about Him. However, when all the pronouncements are brought together, God has not been fully defined, only partially described—“For we know in part” (I Cor. 13:9). The just one lives by faith.

There cannot be a higher concept than our idea of God.
Hoeksema, RD, 47


See supporting articles: Perverted Thinking, Starting Point, Two Options, Approach, Methodology, Question of Methodology, The Question of Evidence, Theism or Humanism, and Significance of Truth


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