Centered On God
The first point is Reformed Theology is entirely centered on God. All other doctrines of Reformed Theology are rooted in this truth. If we misunderstand the biblical principles regarding the person and nature of God, we err in the very first step, assuring theological confusion.
The Sovereignty of God - All religions are either man-centered or God-centered. Christianity is God-centered while all others, without exception, are man-centered. Christianity has its origin in revelation - God communicating to humanity-people like you and I. God reveals himself through nature, the human conscience, but especially through the Bible. In Christianity God acts, man reacts.
However, all other religions are a product of a great leader who determined what mortals must do to please God. The influential religious leader and his followers have worked out the requirements for humanity to merit heaven. In all world religions except Christianity, man acts, while God reacts.
So, the distinguishing characteristic of God is that He is sovereign . The Bible asserts that God is absolutely sovereign over all. He alone determines to bring to pass His eternal purpose. This does not mean that man does not have a free will to act as he pleases; he certainly does. However, this “freedom” is not an absolute freedom or an autonomous power; only God has that. But it is nevertheless a real freedom. But human freedom does not limit God's sovereignty, nor frustrate his purpose. If it did, then man and God would share in the prerogatives of power. In such a case, God would no longer be sovereign. And if He is not sovereign, then He is not God.
The Knowledge of God - God can be known because He has chosen to reveal Himself. If God did not choose to reveal Himself, then we could only speculate about Him. But we would have no sure knowledge or certainty of Him. But God has revealed Himself, and we do have a sure knowledge about God. It is not an exhaustive knowledge, but it is a true knowledge. God reveals to us whatever He chooses, and does so for our benefit and His glory.
Being finite, we can not know God infinitely. Though we can not comprehend God in His infinity, we can apprehend God sufficiently in His revelation. Our knowledge of God is dependent on His self-revelation, especially that which is found in the Bible. We can know Him because He has chosen to allow us to know Him.
The Presence of God - There are two false ways of understanding God. One is to see God as the "wholly other,” meaning that God and humanity are so far apart that one has little to do with the other. Here the immanence (presence) of God is lost to His transcendence (separateness). The Deists of the eighteenth century embraced this view. According to this line of thinking, God has little interest or involvement in His creation.
Another false view of God sees Him as everywhere present or "wholly here.” This is sometimes called pantheism. Everything is God. Here the transcendence (separateness) of God is lost to His immanence (presence), which of course is just the opposite of Deism.
The Bible stresses both the immanence and transcendence of God. He is both omnipresent, that is, everywhere, and yet distinct and separate from His creation. In these false views, we have a God who is wholly distant and does not care, on the one hand, or a God who is wholly present but without personality or distinction in His essence, on the other. The God of the Bible is neither. He loves. He loves His creation, which is apart from Himself. He communicates with us in propositional, factual and historical truths found in the Bible - one personality to another. The Bible stresses both the immanence and transcendence of God. He is both omnipresent, that is, everywhere, and yet distinct and separate from His creation. The creation is not one and the same as the creator; there is a creature-creator distinction in the God of the Bible.
The Holiness of God - In our understanding of God, we must focus on what God focuses on in His self-revelation. The Bible teaches that God is “infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, power, wisdom, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth” (Shorter Catechism, Answer # 4). But the personal characteristic He emphasizes above all is holiness.
But what does it mean to be holy? In essence, to be holy means to be separate from sin. God is, supremely, separate from sin. "Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong” (Habakkuk 1:13). God reveals his holiness and hatred of sin in His moral law, especially the Ten Commandments. In the moral law, man sees God's holy standard and man's total failure. God requires absolute and total holiness; man absolutely and totally fails to live to this standard. It is through God's moral law that man is confronted with his need of a savior. This explains man’s hatred of the Ten Commandments.
The Justice of God - The justice of God is found in His holiness. Because God is holy, he cannot allow sin to go unpunished. The very first instance of this is found in Genesis 2:17 where God tells Eve not to eat of a certain tree "…for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die.” Death, in all its dimensions - spiritual, physical, and eternal - is a part of the Justice of God. Every person is born under the curse of the sin of Adam. Serving as the representative of all people, Adam, through his disobedience, plunged the human race into sin and death. In addition to possessing a “sin nature,” each man has personally sinned against God and man. The justice of God, founded on His holiness, requires that sin be punished. So, every man stands condemned, subject to the judgment of God.
The Goodness of God - It is the goodness of God that moves Him to pity the human race in their fallen and condemned condition. Although under no moral constraint to do so, God, out of the goodness of His own perfection, is moved to save some of His fallen creation. This He has accomplished in the person of the second person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ. Calvary represents the epitome of God's love, holiness, justice, and goodness, all meeting in perfection at one time and in one place. The God who hates sin and demands justice is moved out of the goodness of his own heart to provide that satisfaction for His justice that He Himself demands, in the person of Christ who tasted death for His own children. In Christ's brutal, barbaric death for His children, justice and mercy met.
These qualities of God's moral character do not exhaust the perfections of God, for God cannot be exhaustively known, or known in His perfections. However, this knowledge is real and true because it is a revelation of God Himself.
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In addition to Presbyterian, the term “Reformed” theology simply refers to that theology commonly held by the reformers during the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century. As noted earlier, both giants of the Reformation - Martin Luther and John Calvin - defended the theology of Augustine. All the major reformers for years to come continued to do so. However, in time, Pelagianism made a comeback in the Church. The reformers had struck a sever blow to the semi-Pelagianism of the Roman church. But it returned in a form called Arminianism. The Church as a whole today is an Arminian church in both its Roman and Protestant forms. “…the church today is very largely in a Pelagian captivity.” However, many Presbyterian churches, the Reformed Episcopal Church, some Baptist churches and a few others still defend the theology of the Reformation. That theology, which is commonly called Reformed, can be simplified in these categories.
Reformed Theology: Centered on God
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