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
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
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
- 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
- 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
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.