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ORDINATION PAPER

___________________

A Paper

Presented to

Dr. Jeffrey Bingham

Dallas Theological Seminary

___________________

In Partial Fulfillment

of the Requirements for the Course

RS 102 Summary of Doctrine

___________________

by

Gregory A Hinton

April 2008


The purpose of this paper is to discuss my personal positions on eight key areas of Christian doctrine based on scriptural and traditional evidence for each. The doctrines that will be discussed in this paper are:  Inspiration of Scripture, Inerrancy of Scripture, the Trinity, the Person of Christ, the Work of Christ, Humanity, Sin, and Salvation.

Inspiration of Scripture

I believe that the whole of Scripture is divinely inspired by the Triune God. The Holy Spirit of God is the means by which the Word of God, as Scripture, is communicated to mankind. The most referred to text in support of this is 2 Timothy 3:16. The verse begins with the statement, “All scripture is inspired by God (God-breathed).” This idea presents one major critique though. We believe that Scripture is inspired based on its own claims of being inspired. This creates a circular argument for the primary means that our faith is based upon. We bring the presupposition of inspiration to all discussions based on the claims that Scripture makes about itself.

The extent of inspiration covers both the Old and New Testaments. The NT testifies to the inspiration of the OT. Paul (2 Timothy 3) and Peter (2 Peter 1:16-21) spoke of the holy writings and words of the prophets as being trustworthy and coming not from human initiative, but divine inspiration. They are encouraging the people of their time to continue to trust the OT writings in light of the ministry and work of Christ. The NT also testifies of its own inspiration as well. Peter testifies of Paul’s letters being of the Lord (2 Peter 3:14-16) and that they are included within Scripture. Paul speaks of the authority and inspiration of his own writing and preaching as well (1 Thessalonians 2:1-13). The conclusion then is that all of Scripture, both that which was spoken and that which has been written, is divinely inspired by the Godhead through the means of the Holy Spirit.

Inerrancy of Scripture

I believe that Scripture, in the original manuscripts, contains nothing in the text that deceives. Grudem defines inerrancy as, “Scripture in the original manuscripts does not affirm anything which is contrary to fact.[1] Since we know that God is entirely true, we can affirm that His Word in the same respect is entirely true. The Bible’s usage of the ordinary language of the day that it was written is also included in the idea of inerrancy. Science or history may “disprove” a thought or “fact” that was written, but the idea was communicated accurately within the text according to the author’s or speaker’s perspective. Some will attack these instances in Scripture to refute inerrancy, but their argument holds no weight. Scripture was not intended to communicate in a scientifically accurate way being written by a society that existed before the scientific revolution. Scripture can also hold “loose” or “free” quotations within the text and still be inerrant. The purpose and perspective of the quotation and the speaker is important to explain such instances. The major issue that lies with the denial of inerrancy is that those who choose to do so replace the Holy Spirit with human understanding. These people have decided that they are a better judge than the Holy Spirit of what is Scripture and what is not. If one is able to pick and choose what parts of the Bible are to be considered Scripture, then we have just allowed for a million different religions and forms of “Christianity.” It is logical that one must accept the whole of Scripture or none of Scripture.[2]

The Triune God

The One true God is eternally existent in three persons;[3] Father, Son, & Holy Spirit; each being separate from the other, but existing as One God. God is transcendent over all creation and cannot understand God except from that which He has revealed about Himself through various forms of divine revelation. The primary and most specific form of revelation is the Word of God, through which man learns what He is and what He is not. God exists as Spirit in form;[4] He is most holy; infinite; eternal; self-existent;[5] self-sufficient; free to do whatever He pleases; omniscient; omnipotent; omnipresent; immutable and impassible; wise; faithful; just; merciful and gracious; Creator of all things; good; a jealous God; righteous; and sovereign. Christ the Son exists eternally with the Father; fully God and fully man; His deity is undiminished and His humanity perfect. He is one with the Father and the Spirit. His two natures exist co-equally within the one person. Conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of a virgin mother. While becoming fully human He emptied Himself of His divinity; knowing and comprehending His own deity He chose to be a man. The Son is impeccable and incapable of sin. He foreknew His death and understood it to be expiatory. He was betrayed, beaten, and crucified by the very men He came to save. He died, and for three days remained in the grave.  On the third day He rose from the dead, not a spiritual resurrection, but a physical bodily resurrection from the grave. He appeared to many people after the resurrection before ascending to the Father’s side. He will one day fulfill the angel’s words and “return in the same way He left.”  He currently sits at the Father’s side as the head of His church preparing a place for all who trust in Him. When He returns He will rule the world from David’s throne, as Lord of All. The Holy Spirit eternally exists as God, one with the Father and Son. He exists as His own separate person of the Godhead and not an essence or emotion between the Father and Son.

The Person of Christ

I believe Scripture teaches that Jesus Christ is the second person (not in rank, or authority) of the Triune Godhead. He is co-eternal and co-equal with the Father and Holy Spirit; not created.[6] He was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and born of Mary—a virgin. He is perfect humanity and undiminished deity, united together as the perfect Son of God. He emptied himself of his deity (Philippians 2:5-11), not becoming any less God but choosing not to exercise some of his divine attributes. He cannot become less God, or he would not be God. He made himself so mankind could see and comprehend him. He lived his earthly life without sin, and upon the Cross of Calvary was the perfect sacrifice to atone for the sin of all mankind. He died on the cross, was buried, and physically rose on the third day. After his resurrection, he was seen by many people and then ascended into heaven where he now sits at the right hand of the Father. He will physically return to earth one day in the same way that he ascended. By faith in Jesus Christ alone can mankind be saved from eternal damnation and separation from God.[7]

The Work of Christ

The work of Jesus Christ was to accomplish the Father’s purpose in atoning for the sin of mankind. The death of Jesus Christ was the accomplishment of this purpose. At his death he became final atoning sacrifice for the sin of mankind and will forever be the mediator between God and man. He was the ultimate fulfillment of the OT sacrificial system. His death claims final and complete victory over sin. His death justifies the Believer before God. We are able to approach God and enter into communion with him because of Christ’s death. The physical, bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ is the landmark of our faith. As his death signaled victory over sin, his resurrection claimed victory over death. This great event gives those who place their trust in Christ for salvation the hope of resurrection from the dead. We believe and hope that just as Christ rose from the dead, we will one day as well. His preaching, teaching and miracles were a demonstration of his power and authority as God incarnate.[8] He also left a model of obedience for those who would follow him.[9] He now holds the offices of Prophet, Priest, and King for all Believers in him. He acted as prophet during his earthly ministry, communicating God’s revelation to us. This ministry continues through the Holy Spirit and the Word. As Priest he is our Advocate before God. He makes it so we are able to approach the Holy One. As King he rules and reigns alongside the Father. He is spiritual King over the church and the universal King over all things.[10]

Humanity

Genesis 1:26-27 records that “God created man in his image and likeness…in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” This is best described by stating that we are in our creation and imprint of Almighty God. In all of creation man is the only thing that is given this direct association with the Creator. We are like him and we are an earthly representation of him. The description given above from Genesis also discusses the diversity of God’s creation. Both man and woman were created in God’s image and likeness. One is not exalted or elevated above the other, but both were equally created by Almighty God. God created each with specific roles and duties that the other was not fit to accomplish. The image and likeness of God that exists in all mankind was defaced with the Fall in Genesis 3. When sin entered into the world of mankind the image of God in Him was altered, but not lost.[11] Through the work of Christ and salvation man can begin to recover this lost image and it will be fully restored at the return and glorification of Christ. Our likeness to God also has moral, spiritual, mental, and relational aspects that are similar to him.[12] Man also exists with at least two distinct parts. Man has a physical part (the body) and a spiritual part. Some believe that the spiritual part of man can also be divided into two parts (soul and/or spirit). Scriptural evidence exists for both arguments (trichotomy and dichotomy) on the spiritual makeup of man, but the more important note is that man is distinctly physical and spiritual. The physical will eventually wear away and die, while the spiritual will live on forever.

Sin

Genesis 3 records the Fall of humankind. Genesis 1 and 2 provide descriptions of the creation and God’s design for communion with his creation. In Genesis 3 much is lost and everything is changed when sin enters the equation. Grudem defines sin as, “any failure to conform to the moral law of God in act, attitude, or nature.”[13] Any thought or action that is not consistent with the character and Law of God can be defined as sin. Much debate has taken place over the origin of sin. Many will say since God is Creator, then he is the author or originator of sin. Holding that he is omniscient, he would have foreseen and foreknown that sin would enter into the world, thus making him the originator of sin. The only problem with this rational and theory is that it is not consistent with the character of God. God is perfect and just, without wickedness or evil, therefore an accusation of sin or even temptation is inaccurate.[14] It can be stated that God created with the potential for sin, but he did not create or author sin. He cannot do anything that is against or contrary to his own moral character, so sin is not possible for him. When Adam sinned in the garden, the effects rippled throughout all of humanity. His choice changed us all. We are ultimately descendants of Adam, therefore we are descendants in the line of sinfulness.[15] Because of this sinfulness mankind is eternally separated from God and is incapable of attaining his original state. The punishment for the sin of all mankind is eternal separation from God and damnation to live outside of communion with him. God’s holiness cannot experience the presence of sin, he detests it. The Lord established the sacrificial systems of the OT in order for his people to cover their sin, but it was not removed. Only through God’s provision by the Son is sin taken away. This does not mean that when a person becomes a Christian that he or she becomes without sin. It means that he or she has accepted Christ’s substitutionary atonement and sacrifice for their sin.

Salvation

The most beautiful thing in all of history is the salvation of mankind through the completed work of Jesus Christ. There is much that has been written and argued about the who, what, when, why, and how this takes place. As written in the previous section it is clear that there is a need for salvation and that it cannot be accomplished by any human or finite work or action. It must be accomplished only be the work of Almighty God. It is clear in Scripture that those who are Believers are chosen—predestined—to be Christians. The debate of election is one that many people prefer to shy away from, but the scriptures clearly tell us that election does happen.[16] It is not for us as finite creatures to question or even attempt to understand the actions of God. Romans 9 discusses that the Lord will sovereignly choose some and others he will not. We are not told why or how, but it is clear that God has chosen! Election begins the process or order of Salvation. The next most important thing that must be recognized is that salvation is only available through the finished work of Jesus Christ. A person must place his or her trust and faith in Christ as the only means by which sin can be atoned for. It was necessary for Christ to die, having taken on the sin of the world to satisfy the wrath of God. This is something that cannot be accomplished by any human work or discipline. Only through the Holy Spirit is a person brought to Christ for the forgiveness of sin.

A person becomes a Christian when they are moved by the Holy Spirit to transfer their trust and faith for the forgiveness of their sins from themselves to God’s provision, Jesus Christ. They recognize their sinfulness and understand their inability to be right with God. They believe that Jesus Christ, through his atoning death and bodily resurrection is the only means by which they can be made right in the eyes of God. Upon the reception of this salvation the person is indwelt by the Holy Spirit who is given as the deposit guaranteeing the person’s inheritance and place in the Kingdom of God. The justifying work is complete in the Believer upon the moment of salvation. Salvation cannot be lost and anyone who places his or her faith in Christ for the forgiveness of sin is eternally secure in his sacrifice and the promise of God. This salvation secures a place for all eternity in communion with God in his Kingdom. The Believer is able to stand with confidence before God, without fear, at Judgment because Christ took the penalty for his or her sin. The Believer must pursue the process of sanctification by which the Holy Spirit continues to mold him or her life on earth back into the image and likeness of Christ. Sanctification will not be complete in earthly life, but only when Christ is eternally glorified at the end of the Age. This can be seen as the great paradox of the Christian faith; we strive for that which we are incapable of attaining while on earth. Why do we choose to do this? Our Lord has called us to do so and the Holy Spirit moves us to further experience a life of obedience in honoring God.


Reading and attendance report for Greg Hinton:

Reading: 50% complete

Attendance: 4 class periods missed over the semester


 

Bibliography

Berkhof, Louis. A Summary of Christian Doctrine. Edinburgh, United Kingdom:  Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1938.

Bettenson, Henry & Chris Maunder. Documents of the Christian Church, new ed. Oxford, Great Britain:  Oxford University Press, 1999.

Davis, John Jefferson. Handbook of Basic Bible Texts. Grand Rapids, Michigan:  Zondervan Publishing House, 1984.

Grudem, Wayne. Bible Doctrine. Grand Rapids, Michigan:  Zondervan Publishing House, 1999.

Leith, John H. Creeds of the Churches. Louisville, Kentucky:  Westminster John Know Press, 1982.


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[1] Grudem, 42.

[2] Ibid., 44-8.

[3] 1 John 5:8.

[4] John 4:24.

[5] John 5:26.

[6] Davis, 61-2.

[7] Much of this information is taken from the early church creeds and statements. I specifically referred to the Councils of Chalcedon and Constantinople found in John H. Leith’s Creeds of the Churches, Louisville (Westminster John Know Press, 1982), 33 & 35.

[8] Matthew 4:23-4; 7:28-9.

[9] John 8:29; 15:10.

[10] Berkhof, 83-8.

[11] The doctrine of sin will be discussed later in this paper, but is a significant part of the doctrine of man and must be mentioned here to provide an accurate description of humanity in its current state.

[12] Grudem, 190-2.

[13] Ibid., 210.

[14] Deuteronomy 32:4; Job 34:10; James 1:13.

[15] Romans 5:12-21.

[16] Ephesians 1:4-5.

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