Theology literally means “the study of God.” I have observed that the word evokes a negative notion in many African Christians because of the way some preachers have wielded it over the years. The term “theology,” as used in some Christian circles, refers to any schema of philosophy or complex, scholarly information that is beyond the grasp of common people. This is a caricature and it should be discarded.
Learning about God is the starting point of a sound Christian life. There’s no way to go without having a good knowledge of theology in this age of promulgation of false ideas about God (The Shack is a good example) as well as skepticism and atheist propaganda which usually thrive on ignorance and sophistry.
Learning about God doesn’t have to be complex. We can simplify it into questions and answers, most of which I’ve encountered from Christians and non-Christians alike.
Who is God?
Many people believe the best definition of God is found in the Westminster Catechism: “God is a spirit, infinite, eternal and unchangeable in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth” (Art. II).
God is a Spirit means that he has an immaterial nature which is incorporeal nonphysical, and invisible. God doesn’t have a physical body that can be seen. Hence, when some people accuse Christians of worshipping “the white man’s God” or depict Him looking like Gandalf in Lord of the Rings (Michelangelo’s ‘Creation of Adam’ also comes in handy), they are obviously describing the god of their imagination, not the God revealed in the Bible.
Yes, God is a revelation. He is not a concept emanating out of the Christian’s head. He makes Himself known in the lives of His people today. That is why those who want to truly know God must seek Him.
The problem is that many people are not seeking God at all; many are not seeking Him in the right way; they have not asked the right questions and are yet to shake away their false expectations and imaginations about God.
Can God be seen?
A Russian cosmonaut once announced from outer space that God didn’t exist because he looked out of his window and didn’t see God. This is a misconception about God, no doubt. Later, an American astronaut read from space the Genesis account of the creation of the world by God. “God is a Spirit” (John 4:24). Just because people can’t see God doesn’t mean there is no God.
We don’t see radiation or the wind, but we know they are real because we see their actions and effects. Similarly, God’s “eternal power and deity” can be understood from the things which are made (Rom. 1:20). God doesn’t have physical presence, but the physical world He created bears His fingerprints, proving that He exists.
It’s a universally agreed fact that life can only come from life. Life didn’t spontaneously emerge from some lifeless molecules at the edge of an ancient tidal pool; it came from God, the Source of life. Common sense dictates to us that when we see an intricate, intelligent design, evidently, a Designer made it.
This doesn’t go down well with atheists/skeptics who demand an empirical evidence for God’s existence. They want God to do something compelling that will be seen by everyone, like splitting Mt. Everest into 2 parts and suspending them or shaking the Eiffel Tower, levitating it, moving it 180 degrees and changing it into a huge golden mist in the sky at high noon, with a towering figure saying “I am God! I exist!”
Perhaps then, a congress of 144,000 atheists and agnostics from all over the world will jointly decide on taking some of that golden mist into the laboratory, pass it through an electron spectrometer, and analyse its electron beam for the presence of God. Then the atheists, agnostics and skeptics, satisfied in their irrational, arbitrary and dogmatic demands will acknowledge that God truly exists.
God has placed a natural longing to seek Him in every man, but this has been thwarted by sin. Some people want to see God out of curiosity; others to worship Him and a third group of people want to see God for personal fulfillment.
Did Moses and Israel’s elders see God?
Some have asserted that there is a contradiction between Moses’ request to see God’s glory and being permitted to see the back parts of God (Exodus 33:18-23) and Exodus 24:9, 10 which says “Then went up Moses, and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel; and they saw the God of Israel” and what Jesus said: “No one has seen God at any time, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made it known” (John 1:18).
There’s no contradiction whatsoever. To illustrate: A man may see the reflection of his face in a mirror. It would be true for the man to say “I saw my face,” and also true to say “I never saw my face.”
So men have seen a manifestation of God, and it is true to say those men saw God. But no man ever saw God as He is in His invisible essence, so it’s perfectly true to say no man has ever seen God at any time.
In the Old Testament, God manifested as “The Angel (Messenger) of the LORD.” A clear distinction is drawn in the Bible in the original languages between ‘An angel of the Lord” and “The angel of the Lord.” This manifestation of God is called theophany. Notably, God has made Himself known in the Person of Jesus Christ.
Why did God create us?
God created us so we could have life (Jn. 10:10). It was an act of love on His part, not of necessity at all. God didn’t create us or the rest of creation because He was lonely or because He needs us. God is self-dependent.
Nevertheless, He created us for His own glory. He speaks of His sons and daughters from the ends of the earth as those “whom I created for my glory” (Isa. 43:7). This fact guarantees that our lives are significant. We are important to God Himself.
Furthermore, he created us for us to fulfill His purpose. As we glorify Him and enjoy Him, Scripture tells us that He rejoices in us. We read, “As the bridegroom rejoices over the birds, so shall your God rejoice over you” (Isa. 62:5; cf. Zeph. 3:17-18).
Why did God not destroy Satan immediately he rebelled?
The simple answer is: because that is the nature of God. God is just; He is entirely correct and fair in His dealings with humanity and also with spirit beings (angels, Satan and his demons).
The Bible says God is “good and upright” and all His ways “are loving and faithful” (Psa. 25:8, 10). “He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he” (Deut. 32:4).
God is all-powerful and all-knowing, yet He didn’t destroy Satan because the remaining two-third of the angels that were loyal to God would think that God eliminated Satan because He (God) was afraid that Satan had a legitimate cause.
For example, there are some governments that squelch any criticism from the media and execute anyone who opposes them. But with such responses, they are not only proving that they are weak, but also making the opposition against them legitimate. They don’t want their injustice and evil to become public knowledge.
Another reason is that, if God had destroyed Satan and his followers, it would imply that He wanted to maintain obedience through power and authority only. That would be tyranny which is contrary to God’s love.
Man and angels are free moral agents. They can discern between good and evil, so God didn’t eliminate the opposition to allow man and the angels make a decision on whether to follow God or Satan.
God is Love and love doesn’t coerce, but pleads and woos. This is why God invites all men to choose, love, serve and worship Him willingly from their hearts.
Nevertheless, God in His justice has set a day of judgement for Satan and all who follow him. Their doom has been sealed. At the right time, they will be destroyed, i.e cast into the lake of fire.
Where did God come from?
This is a loaded question. It assumes a limited God; one limited by time, space and matter. That is certainly not the God of the Bible but a god the skeptic/atheist imagines we worship. Our God is not affected by time, space and matter. If He was, then He’s not God. If an infinite God can fit into our 1.4 kg brain, He would not be worth worshipping.
Time, space and matter are what we call a continuum; all of them have to come into existence at the same instant. If there was matter but no space, where would it be put? If there were matter and space, but no time, when will it be put at? So, time, space and matter cannot be independent of one another, they have to come into existence simultaneously.
The Bible answers this in Genesis 1.1: “In the beginning,” that’s time. “God created the heavens,” that’s space, “and the earth,” that’s matter. So there is time – past, present and future; space – height and depth, and matter – solid, liquid and gas. Here’s a trinity of sorts created by the Divine Trinity.
Since God created them, He is outside of them and cannot be limited by them. The one who made the computer is not in the computer. He is not running around within it changing the numbers on its screen.
Similarly, the God who created the universe is outside of it. He is above, beyond, through it and unaffected by it. He’s not subjected to the laws of the universe which require that everything must have a beginning.
Can we totally understand God?
Men cannot totally understand an infinite, omniscient, eternal God. It’s silly for us to think otherwise. While it is rational to believe in God, we know Him through revelation. Most of what we have come to know about God is through revelation rather than philosophy.
Many skeptics fondly wish God to fit into the confines of our finite minds. They want a God that they can wrap up in their sock or capture in their test tubes. They want to have God and everything that happens in this world figured out according to their own reasoning (even though they can’t even logically figure out their own lives). This is hyper-rationalism.
For example, some skeptics question how God who is Spirit could have any impact on the material universe to create it. But they can’t explain where human emotions (love, joy, hate etc.), our desire for purpose and sense of justice, morals and beauty come from. To assert that they emanate from the molecules in our brain is simplistic and ludicrous.
I mean, if your brain is just a random collection of chemicals formed by chance over billions of years, on what grounds then do you trust your reasoning process and the thoughts that you think? There is much humility in admitting that there are some things we can never understand. It is arrogance for man to insist he must understand everything before accepting its reality.
In the final analysis, we worship the eternal, immortal, invisible and only wise God while atheists adhere to what can be called reverse Gnosticism. They reject and disparage the spirit while attributing god-like abilities to matter.
Elmer Towns, Bible Answers to All Your Questions, Thomas Nelson, Nashville, 2003.
Reuben Torrey, What Does the Bible Teaches? Whitaker House, Springdale, 1996.
Paul Enns, Moody Handbook of Theology, Moody Press, Chicago, 2008.
The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Grand Rapids: MI, 1979, “God.”
Wayne Grudem, Bible Doctrine: Essential Doctrines of the Christian Faith, Inter-Varsity Press, England, 1999.
Dave Armstrong, Replies to Atheists and Skeptic Garden Variety Objections