Theology 101: The Doctrine of God, Holiness, and Why Love is always First

doctrineOn Sunday we kicked off our series on Theology 101 by looking at the doctrine of God right off the bat. We talked about theology and that it is important because we are always doing theology all the time. When we look around the world and say, “Well God wouldn’t do that” – that’s theology. When we see someone in suffering and say “I’ll pray for you” that’s all theology too. Theology is intimately tied with our practice. Ou practice actually reveals our beliefs. So the point isn’t whether or not we are doing theology, but whether or not we are doing good theology.

So that’s the point of this series, to give us a good foundation to practice good theology. To practice theology that sets people free, demonstrates God’s love, and participates in the Kingdom.

And so we began by looking at first how do we get our theology?

The quick and easy answer is: the bible duh!

But it’s actually not that simple. Those people who just say all I need is the Bible, it’s enough for me! Well beside them being perhaps well-meaning that view is also naïve, incredibly arrogant, and actually just downright wrong. We all come to the Bible with preconceived notions, thoughts, and baggage. So when it comes to doing our theology, the source isn’t just our Scriptures but other things play into it as well.

There are traditionally four areas or sources for our theology. Firstly, is obviously the Bible, but there is also our experience, reason, and tradition. Experience plays a huge part in our thoughts about God. I used to think that God had a purpose in death, but after experiencing the death of my dad, I no longer think this. I think God has a purpose to abolish death, but not in death. Experience shapes us.

So too does reason. When we look at beliefs we look at how they actually logically work. Andy Bannister writes this, “The Bible tells Christians to be transformed by the renewing of our mind, not the removal of.” And that’s true.

And last but not least, we get our theology from tradition. Now this is a weak area for Evangelicals. We often think that our beliefs are what Christians have always believed. But this is not necessarily true. So it is good to know our history. Tony Lane writes, “There are two sorts of Christians. Not those who are influenced by tradition and those who are not, but those who are aware of the influence and those who are not.”

So with that introduction we launched into discussing the theology of God proper and asked this question: what is God at His core?

Lots of people have lots of different ideas or metaphors. Some people say judge, some people say creator, some people say king. But by far one of the most popular ones is that God is Holy. But I believe that God, at his core, isn’t those things, but is instead love.

To understand this we talked about the difference between God’s essence (what he always is and always has been) and God’s attributes (something God is in relation to something else). And God surely is a creator but this isn’t at his core, because there was a time when God wasn’t a creator (i.e. before he made the earth). The same holds true for God’s holiness. Holiness is always something in relation to something else. For someone to be holy, there has to be something that is unholy (a reference point). The same thing holds true for someone being tall (if you are the only person on earth – you aren’t tall because there is no reference point). The point is then that in the beginning when it was only God, God wasn’t “holy” per se because there was nothing unholy around. Holiness is to be set apart, but there was nothing for God to be set apart from.

So what is God at his core then? The answer is clear from the Bible – love. God is love is stated often. And the supreme self-revelation of God, Jesus dying and rising for us, is a revelation of self-sacrificial love. So God is love and always has been love. And that was our main point on Sunday. That God is love.

But this is actually a practically challenging thing too. Because if God at his core is love, then as Christians our core should also be love. We should be known and seen as people of love first and foremost. Because love isn’t’ about how you view yourself, but how others view you. So if no one thinks you’re loving, you probably aren’t. The point is that we need actions behind our beliefs and demonstrate love. That’s the challenge I gave this week, to choose one person to demonstrate love to. Because if God is self-giving love, we as his followers should also show self-giving love. Love is at the centre of God, and it needs to be at our centre too.



Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: God at his core is love.

Teaching Points:

  • The truth is, we are all doing theology all the time.
  • The Bible was not written so that we would know about God, It was written so that we could become more like God
  • To follow God well, you have to know him well too
  • Theology literally means the study of God
  • Theology is not the study of the ideas about God; it is the study of the living God. Michael Bird
  • Theology is communal.
  • Theology is a communal study of the living God.
  • We get our theology from the Bible, Reason, Experience, and Tradition.
  • The Bible tells Christians to be transformed by the renewing of our mind, not the removal of. Andy Bannister
  • There are two sorts of Christians. Not those who are influenced by tradition and those who are not, but those who are aware of the influence and those who are not. Tony Lane
  • The Bible is our primary authority, but not our only authority.
  • Love is the fundamental divine attribute. Love is not merely one attribute of God among many. Rather, “God is love” is the foundational ontological statement we can declare concerning the divine essence. Stanley Grenz
  • God at his core is loving relationally.
  • Being loving isn’t how you see yourself but how others see you.

Adult Discussion Questions:

What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? How did God speak to you through it? What was new? Before today, what would have been your answer for what’s at God’s core? What shaped you to believe that? Who are you being called to love? How will you do it this week? Of the four areas (reason, experience, Scripture, tradition) which one do you feel most comfortable with? Which one don’t you feel comfortable with? What is one theology question you’ve always wanted answered?

Discussion Questions for Young Families

Talk about how God is love at his core. Maybe have your kids draw a picture, paint a picture of God being love, and then decide on whom you can love as a family. Maybe a school friend, maybe a neighbor, maybe someone sick. Ask them, and then make something happen!

Challenge for the Week: Be a person of love.

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