A Confused Concept of God
THERE is much confusion today about God. Most persons will say that they believe in his existence, but generally their concept of him is vague. The teaching of the churches is largely responsible.
Theologian G. H. Boobyer frankly admitted this, saying: “Do we not find the orthodox doctrine of the person of Christ a source of much perplexity to enquiring non-christians and to many a christian believer under instruction? ‘True God from true God, begotten not made, of one substance with the Father’ and ‘the selfsame perfect in Godhead, the selfsame perfect in manhood, truly God and truly man’—thus runs the familiar language . . . Must it not be conceded that to many intelligent lay folk it seems sheer mystification?”—Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, Spring 1968, page 248.
Lutheran seminary professor N. Leroy Norquist, writing in The Lutheran, made a similar observation: “If a man who had never before heard what Christians believe found himself suddenly among a Lutheran congregation at the Sunday morning service he’d be thoroughly confused.”
How do you feel? Are you, too, confused by the churches’ teaching about God? What is your concept of God? Is it the same as what your religious organization teaches?
THE CHURCHES’ CONCEPT OF GOD
The fact is, a large number of persons today do not really know what their church teaches about God. It has been observed that in many churches little is said about Him. Thus the Ladies’ Home Journal of March this year carried the feature on its cover: “1,000 WOMEN REPORT: ‘YOU CAN’T FIND GOD IN CHURCH ANYMORE.’” One member of the Congregational Church in Claremont, California, even said: “GOD IS DEAD posters are displayed in our Senior Married Group’s meeting lounge.”
Obviously the churches have not been doing a very good job of instructing their people about God. A major reason for this is their admittedly confusing concept of Him. What is this concept?
It is that God is ‘three persons in one.’ All major churches of Christendom teach this. The Roman Catholic Church does. And the basis for membership in the 237-member World Council of Churches declares: “The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches which confess the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Savior according to the Scriptures and therefore seek to fulfill together their common calling to the glory of the one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”
Thus the religious organizations to which the vast majority of persons in Christendom belong hold that the “Father, Son and Holy Spirit,” although being three, are but “one God.” Is this your concept of God? Do you really understand it?
EXPLAINING YOUR BELIEF TO OTHERS
If someone asked you to explain this concept of God to him, could you do so? According to Professor Norquist, this is what a visitor to church might say to a church member:
“You proclaim that the Father is God, the Son is God and the Holy Spirit is God and yet you’re trying to tell me that you don’t believe in three Gods but one. Do you mean that your God is two-, or perhaps three-faced, that he’s the same God but acts differently with different kinds of people, shows different faces according to different situations?”
If you are a church member, how would you reply? Could you give a satisfactory answer?
People desire explanations. In order to have a basis for faith an individual requires answers that satisfy his mind. Christians are urged in God’s Word always to be “ready to make a defense before everyone that demands of you a reason for the hope in you.” (1 Pet. 3:15) But is there an explanation for how God can be three persons and yet one? Can you explain it?
Note what theologian Norquist finally concludes: “Well, we’d have to concede, we can’t explain it. The doctrine of the Trinity cannot be ‘puzzled out.’ . . . The men who framed it designed it as a tool to be used against heretics.
“In fighting heresy, they experimented with words, sharpened phrases, until they had defined the relation of the three ‘persons’ of the Trinity in such a way that they could finally say, ‘Unless you believe this you’re not a true believer.’”—The Lutheran, June 15, 1960, pages 11 and 12.
Does it not seem that there is something wrong with a concept of God that cannot be explained? Is it any wonder that religion is in such a decline when its teaching about God is so confusing?
FORMULATION OF CREEDS
What does it mean that “men who framed it . . . experimented with words, sharpened phrases, until they had defined the relation of the three ‘persons’ of the Trinity”? What men framed this concept of God?
Actually it was churchmen who lived after the death of Jesus. These men formularized statements of belief or confessions that began with the words “I believe.” This expression “I believe” in Latin is “credo,” and from it comes the English word “creed.” It was in these “creeds,” or statements of belief, that the concept of the Trinity developed.
Are you familiar with these creeds? What do they contain? Is what is expounded in them a firm basis for faith?