Advanced Theological Study

Systematic Theology

Systematic theology is the study of God. This paper will compare and discuss the writings of Erickson and Gratsch  as it relates to the Divine Plan of God. It will also be necessary to return to scripture in order to get some idea of the nature of God. Erickson suggest that it is possible to see the nature of God in his covenant with his people. Erickson further states that two truths are revealed about God:

  1. He is extremely powerful
  2. He is loving and caring.

The writers of the Old Testament could not conceptualize the idea that God was not the source behind everything that happened in life or before. Isaiah 37: 26 states – “Have you not heard that I determined from days of old what I now bring to pass…”

This suggest that God had planned any and all activities, events, and life, before He decided to manifest them into reality. Erickson provides the reader with a list of nine points to be considered when looking at the nature of God. He states the following:

 1) “God’s plan is from all eternity.”

Erickson refers to Ephesians 1:4 –

“Just as he chose us in Christ before the foundations of the world, to be holy and blameless before Him in love. He destined us for adoption as His children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of His glorious grace that He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.”

Erickson suggest that this proves that God’s plan for His people were mot dependent on the events of history or situations occurring in their lives. History is the vehicle through which God reveals His purpose.

 

2) The plan of God and any decisions are a free gift from God.

Erickson indicates that God had no advisors. God’s attitude and behaviors comes from

His nature. God receives great pleasure in the gifts He gives to His people.

 

3) The purpose of God’s plan is God’s glory.

It was stated in Ephesians 1:5-6 that the purpose of God’s  will was to have His people praise His glorious name. Erickson suggest that in the New Testament, Jesus tells His followers to let their light shine that others might see good works and glorify the Father in heaven (Matt. 5:16). God may have other plans, which may be secondary to the main plan, but Erickson states that the prime directive is God does what God does for God’s own glory.

 

4) God’s plan is inclusive.

This suggest that the “ means” and the “ends” of all that happens is for the glory of God. This further suggests that it is not possible to separate out  parts of the events in life and attribute them to God. The birth of a baby is an example of God’s glory, and the death of an infant are all part of God’s glorious plan. In God there is no good or evil, there is only God.

 

5) God does not change His mind.

What was planned before the foundation of the world was laid does not change. There is no one or anything with the power to alter the plans of God. This suggests that prayer may be for the individuals praying, but it does not alter or have any effect on the plans of God. Prayer helps God’s people to understand and accept His will, it does not change His will. He did select individuals to indicate that He hears the cries of His people. He did send Noah, Moses, and Jesus, to help His people handle the realities of their lives. He did not change His plans; He revealed part of His plan to some representatives of the human family.

 

6) God plan relates to who He is.

Erickson states that God does not have to choose to be loving and powerful. that is the nature of God. The plan of God relates to the decisions with respect to what He will or will not do in the course historical and life events, it does not refer to the attributes of His nature.

 

7) God

  • Reveals
  • Preserves
  • Directs
  • Redeems

God created the world. Included in His plans were the factors needed to preserve His creations. Erickson states that God acts secondary to human will and actions in directing lives as a means to the end of His purpose, which as Erickson suggest is the glory of God. Through the blood of His Son Jesus Christ, He redeems His children.

 

8&#41 God’s plan takes into consideration human actions.

Jesus knew that the response of all the people to Him were in God’s plan. John 6: 37-38 writes –

“…for I have come down from heaven not to do my own will, but the will of Him who sent me, and this is the will of Him who sent me, that I should lose nothing at all that He has given me. but raise up on the third day. This is indeed  the will of the father, for all who see the Son and believe in Him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day.”

 

Erickson states that God’s plan includes good acts, and the evil actions of individuals are also seen in scripture as part of God’s plan.

 

9) God does not change His mind.

Erickson suggest that scripture, which relates to Jonah, and God’s statement that He regrets that he had created man (Gen.6:6) should be regarded as “anthropomorphism.” Erickson states that constancy is one of the attributes of God’s greatness. God makes a covenant with Noah and his sons. They are instructed to go and people the earth. It would seem as if the sins of Adam were wiped out with the flood, and a new Adam was continued with Noah.

Erickson suggest that although there has been different understandings of history, and events, God is still in charge. Doomsday philosophers, which usually were influenced by Greek thought tended to see the world through  different belief systems. Today the “doomsday” philosophers join with the existentialist   as they try to design plans of their own to explain how the world works.

The Christian view, as Erickson suggest, states that there is a definite goal in God’s plan. Nothing is by chance. God is a loving God in whom we have a personal relationship and faith in His divine plan.

 

Gratsch

Gratsch’s writings are influenced by  Greek philosophical views. There appears to be a need to analyze the character of God  and dissect His thoughts, and reasons for those thoughts.

Gratsch writes that the purpose of systematic theology is to help students understand Catholic theology. He states that  ideas can be brought together and presented in a logical consistent manner. Gratsch suggest that it is possible  the essence of God, which he states is made up of three distinct “persons in the one God.” These he refers to as  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

The First and Second Vatican Council ( 1869-70 and 1962-65) put forth infallible ideas on the subject of God, and how He would be understood by all Catholics. They both related to how God revealed Himself to the human race.

Christianity has always tended to put more emphasis on God’s transcendence than His immanence.

Jesus Christ represents the immanence of God within us. The God of the Old Testament could be considered the transcendence of God, that is, the God above.

The Hellenization of Christianity with its influence by Greek philosophers encouraged men to think not only about God, but with God. For Plato, Gratsch suggests that God was the highest good. Aristotle considers God to be the un moved mover.

Pre Hellenistic Christianity did  not focus on the analytical reason of the tri concept of God. During this period, there was little intellectual energy or courage to stop and put the various attributes of God into separate identities.

The Modelistic  Monarchianism (MM) which state that the Father and Son and the Holy Spirit are three different modes of one and the same God  would have caused confusion when considered with Erickson’s  nine points of the nature of God.

Erickson states that everything God did was pre planned and designed for His glory. It is possible to ask the question, if God’s glory is the same for the Son, and the Holy Spirit? Were there three aspects of God’s glory.

Gratsch suggests that the Dynamistic Monarchianism  (DM) reflects the view that the Father alone is God, and the Son and the Holy Spirit are created. Genesis 1:26 states –

 

“…The God said, “Let us make human kind in our image, according to our likeness.” This statement  of “us”  and “our” suggest that the Father , Son and Holy Spirit were present from the beginning. This could of course suggests that there were other factors present, but we do not have any supportive research on that factor, nor is it acceptable thoughts in Christian mythology.”

 

In the comparison between Erickson’s writing specifically relating to the idea of the divine plan of God, the reader is helped to understand this plan with respect to how it fits with human understanding and expectations. If as scripture states, humankind is made in the image and likeness of God, then the capacity to think and understand the thoughts of the creator is within the power and ability of the creation. It would be difficult to have faith and believe, if humans were aware of the fact that they could never understand the mind of God. Erickson provides some indication that the creations are always in with the creator from the beginning.  Understanding comes as knowledge is searched for and revealed, but it is available.

Gratsch provides a philosophical analysis with respect to what is the meaning of the word God. This Greek influenced approach appears to be more interested in intellectual dialogue with respect to the meaning of God. Such questions such as who is God; who is the Son; who is the Holy Spirit, and what is the intent and plan as it effects human conditions?

 

Personal reaction to discussion

It is difficult for me to determine how the intellectual analysis of the character and qualities of God expands my faith. I am reminded of the story of two men search for the meaning and origin of life. Both men started out in different directions and on different paths. The scientist, climbed many mountains relating to empirical data on the cause of things. When the scientist reached the top of the mountain and he discovered first cause was “God,” he found his friend sitting on top of the mountain. His friend had said God  all along. His friend said to the tired man, “I told you so.”  I am like the person sitting on top of the mountain. It is not necessary that all the proof be provided in order for my faith to work for me. As a seminary student, I am excited with my studies, I will just make sure that on the way to becoming an ordained minister, I do not lose my religion through too much thinking. I am a thought in the mind of God. I have faith in that thought.

 

Millard  J. Erickson, Introducing Christian Doctrine, Baker Academic, Baker Book House Company, Grand Rapids Michigan

Edward J. Gratsch, Principles of Catholic Theology, Alba  House, New York, New York 10314

The Holy Bible, The Old and New Testaments,  New Revised Standard Versions, World Publishing, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49418 U.S.A.

Existential psychology represents a synthesis of philosophy and psychology. Kierkegaard and Heidegger started the philosophical bases. Their famous thought was that “existence precedes essence.”  These individuals along with Hegel and Marx preferred  socialism and communism  in trying to understand, how the world works, without reference to God.

Dr. Theodore Shimmyo, Systematic Theology Seminar, U. Theology Seminary, New York, New York Fall 2004

Edward J. Gratsch, Principles of Catholic Theology, Alba House, New York, Society of St. Paul,2187 Victory Blvd., Staten Island

Transcendence, the God above us, Immanence, the God within us.

Dr. Theodore Shimmyo, Systematic Theology, class notes, U. Theology Seminary, Fall 2004, New York