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Outline for the Doctrine of God

Why Doctrine Instead of Theology?

By: Pastor David F. Reagan

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This study consciously and purposely deals with the doctrine of God instead of the theology of God; or, Theology Proper. The reason for this approach is based on the meaning of the two words and the approaches they tend to describe. To understand this distinction, we need to define the words.  

  • Simply put, doctrine is defined as that which is taught. Bible doctrine would then be those things which are taught in the Bible. The word, doctrine, is used 56 times in the Bible. The Bible teaches that doctrine has three common sources: man, devils, and God. We are to avoid the doctrines of men (Colossians 2:22) and the doctrines of devils (1Timothy 4:1) and rely fully on the doctrine of God. This doctrine is often called “sound doctrine” (1Timothy 1:10; 2Timothy 4:3; Titus 1:9; 2:1). It is the doctrine that proceeds directly from the words of the Bible: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine…” (2Timothy 3:16); the “faithful word” enables us “by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers” (Titus 1:9).
  • Theology, on the other hand, is the study of God. Although it comes from the Greek words for God and study (or word), it is not a Bible word. Because theology is often used to refer to a large range of Bible-related subjects, the specific study of God is sometimes called Theology Proper.

Many people do not see the difference between doctrine and theology. However, there is a substantial difference in how the two are developed in a practical way and it is important that we make the distinction.  

  • Bible doctrine is the teaching that comes directly out of the word of God and is founded on the very words of God. To teach doctrine is to begin with full faith in the words of the Bible, to dig out all that the Bible says about a subject, and to organize that material in the way that best agrees with the approach God Himself makes on the subject.
  • Theology, by its nature, puts greater emphasis on logical systems built by man. Theology tends to begin with the system and then go to scripture for support, while doctrine begins with the scriptures and allows it to develop its own logic as much as possible. Theology in itself is not evil and much that has come to us by way of theology helps us to see God’s truth. However, theology is too often undergirded with human philosophy and reasoning. Even doctrinal studies lean on human understanding too quickly. However, when the student begins with the idea of developing an intellectual system of theology, the dangers are greater and the study more quickly moves away from the plain teaching of scripture.

For these reasons, this study is approached as a study in Bible doctrine and not the development of a theological system. We cannot fully avoid human systems of understanding, but we can start with a prejudice against them in favor of the plain teachings found in the Bible. We can look for the biblical structure of truth before imposing systems of the intellect. We can seek to keep the necessary human outlines as simple as they reasonably can be. We can lean heavily to Bible patterns of thought and organization. This is what is attempted in this study. Where we fail, we fail because of human frailty and not because of prejudice against God’s holy word.  

The Larger Outline of Bible Doctrine 

This study of the doctrine of God is part of a larger study on the doctrines of the Bible. Perhaps a biblical illustration would help our approach. When Peter was imprisoned after the martyrdom of James, he was guarded by “four quaternions of soldiers” (Acts 12:4). A quaternion was a quartet of soldiers. Therefore, there were four sets of four soldiers, or a total of sixteen soldiers, guarding Peter. Our larger outline of Bible doctrine is based on four sets of doctrine each containing four major doctrines. Consider the four sets and the doctrines included in them.  

  • The first set has to do with Heavenly Beings. We therefore begin by considering those things which are above. The Lord is “God in heaven above, and upon the earth beneath” (Deuteronomy 4:39). This division between the things of heaven and the things of earth is commonly used in scripture. So, we begin with the inhabitants of heaven. The four sub-doctrines in this set are the doctrines of God, of Jesus Christ, of the Holy Spirit, and of the Spirit World (the devil, angels, etc.).
  • The second set of doctrines has to do with the Created World—the things of earth. The sub-doctrines in this set are the doctrines of Physical Creation, of Man, of Sin, and of Human Affairs. Human Affairs looks at biblical teaching on subjects like family, society, education, and government.
  • The third set of doctrines begins to bring the first two together. However, we cannot come to know God until He communicates truth to us. Generally, this set can be called the doctrines of Revelation. The sub-doctrines of this set are the doctrines of the Word of God, of Typology, of Dispensations, and of Prophecy.
  • The fourth set of doctrines deals with Redemption in its largest sense. The sub-doctrines of this set are the doctrines of Salvation, of Israel, of the Church, and of Godly Living. Through these doctrines, man is brought to know God fully.

This gives a total of sixteen doctrines in four large categories. One of the problems with most theological systems is that certain major topics (like godly living) are usually left out. This doctrinal approach comprehensively deals with the entire range of truth as revealed in the words of scripture.  

Basic Outline of the Doctrine of God 

Although doctrine is specifically the teaching on a subject that is found in the word of God, we cannot totally avoid man-made organization. However, there are hints in scripture as to the organization of some of the material and this outline will try to follow such hints when they are seen and recognized. For instance, when the psalmist says to God, “Thou art good, and doest good” (Psalm 119:68), we can see a distinction between the being of God (“art good”) and the works of God (“doest good”). This will be reflected in the distinction between the attributes of God and the works of God.  

Other parts of this outline are strongly logical (for instance, the placing of the attributes of God before His works). However, in the end, the outline is the result of the approach taken by the human author. So that the reader can understand the approach taken in this book, here is a summary of the seven main sections of this study of the doctrine of God.  

  • Knowledge of God – The study begins by considering the knowledge of God. Why is it so important that we know God? This will establish the importance of this course. What does it mean to know God? There are several levels of knowing God. Though knowing God is impossible in some regards and cannot be accomplished by man in his own wisdom, God has made provision so that we may know Him.
  • Existence of God – When it comes to believing in the existence of God, man has several decisions that he must make. These will lead him to his beliefs concerning the existence and the nature of God. In the end, only the existence of an absolute, personal God makes sense in this world. The Bible has a special and important approach to the existence of God which needs to be considered. There are also several false concepts about the existence of God. Finally, we will look at human arguments and biblical evidences for the existence of God.
  • The Names of God – God chooses to reveal Himself partially through the names which He gives to Himself. He exalts His name to the highest level of honor. His primary Bible names are God, Lord, and LORD. These names are compounded in various ways: Almighty God, Most High God, Living God, LORD God, Lord GOD, LORD of hosts, and many others. Each name has a special meaning and is used in special ways. Significantly, God proclaims His own name in a very significant way.
  • The Essence of God – What are the qualities of God that make Him God instead of a man, a thing, or a force? God is a Spirit and is therefore not flesh. His self-existence, eternity, and immensity distinguish Him from any created being. His personality distinguishes Him from any impersonal thing or force.
  • The Attributes of God – The attributes of God are those things that we know about God. In this study, they are divided into the attributes of His greatness and the attributes of His goodness. His greatness is seen in His omnipresence, His omniscience, His omnipotence, and His immutability. His goodness is seen through the triple attributes of holiness, truth, and love, and in the additional attributes related to these three.
  • The Nature of God – God’s nature is that of being both one and three. What is the oneness of God? How can there be a Father, Son, and Holy Spirit who are all God and yet still be one God. How do the three persons of the trinity relate to one another and how do they do the work of God?
  • The Works of God – What are the primary works of God? What does the Bible teach about the covenants of God? What work did God do before creation? This study will look at God as Architect, as Creator, as Preserver, as Revealer, as Redeemer, as Provider, as Finisher, and as Judge.

The study of God is an immense and wonderful undertaking. At every turn, the student will be challenged intellectually, spiritually, and practically. The student who applies himself to the knowledge of the doctrine of God will be greatly blessed. More important, he will be changed by the knowledge of the great God.


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