Editor’s note: This post provides an overview of the theology studies of Epistemology and Bibliology with applications pointing to biblical counseling. In this series of posts, Terry Enns provides an overview of 10 different areas of systematic theology. This post was excerpted from a message at our Annual Conference. You can listen to the message here. Read also the other posts in this series:
- Introduction — A Theology of Biblical Counseling
- Epistemology and Bibliology — A Theology of Biblical Counseling
Theology proper is the doctrine of God. The first statement of A. W. Tozer in The Knowledge of the Holy profoundly says,
“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.…For this reason the gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like. We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God. This is true not only of the individual Christian, but of the company of Christians that composes the Church. Always the most revealing thing about the Church is her idea of God, just as her most significant message is what she says about Him or leaves unsaid, for her silence is often more eloquent than her speech.” [p. 1]
So what we believe about God is one of the most essential things about us.
God’s Attributes Reveal God
How do we know about God? What do we know about Him? God has revealed Himself to us through His attributes, which are revealed and explained in His Word. There are a variety of ways of categorizing His attributes, but the one I have found most helpful are the categories of His communicable and incommunicable attributes.
The communicable attributes are those that have some aspect resident within us. For example, consider the holiness of God. We are not perfectly holy as God is perfectly holy and yet we can be set apart, distinct, and used in particular ways for God. We can be saints; in fact, Scripture calls us saints as believers in Jesus Christ. So there’s a sense in which the holiness of God is communicated through us.
In contrast, the incommunicable attributes are those attributes where nothing about them is reflected in us. One example is God’s self-sufficiency, which means God has always been; He is reliant on no one and dependent on nothing for His existence. That is not the least bit true about us. There’s nothing about us that is self-sufficient; we are completely reliant on God for everything, from our creation through every moment of every day we are dependent upon Him.
God is a Triune Being
God is also a triune being. He is one in essence, which means there is one God and He is three in person. These three persons are distinct in relationships and yet equal in authority (1 Pt. 1:2). For example, when God authors Scripture, He is writing under the authority and by the empowerment of all three distinct members of the Trinity.
An ancient drawing helps us understand the nature of the Trinity. This diagram emphasizes the unity of the Triune God while maintaining the distinctness of the three Persons of the godhead. It demonstrates that all members of the godhead exist at the same time (denying modalism), and work for the same purposes while being distinct from one another.
Of the Trinity, B.B. Warfield says, “There is one only and true God, but in the unity of the Godhead there are three coeternal and coequal Persons, the same in substance but distinct in subsistence.” So God is one God, but He is eternally existent in three persons. God is always the Father, always the Son, and always the Spirit. They have a relationship together and each serves to glorify the other and work together in harmony with one another while maintaining their distinct personality.
Why is it important to defend the doctrine of the Trinity? We defend the Trinity because the Trinity establishes the uniqueness and the transcendence of God. God isn’t like us. He’s different, He is greater, and He is superior. The Trinity is also essential because it establishes the deity of all members of the Trinity. And the Trinity is intrinsically connected to the Gospel and our spiritual lives. As Fred Sanders has noted,
“Personal evangelism, conversational prayer, devotional Bible study, authoritative preaching, world missions, and assurance of salvation all presuppose that life in the gospel is life in communion with the Trinity. Forget the Trinity and you forget why we do what we do; you forget who we are as gospel Christians; you forget how we got to be like we are.…the gospel is Trinitarian, and the Trinity is the gospel. Christian salvation comes from the Trinity, happens through the Trinity, and brings us home to the Trinity.…
“The more we explore and understand the depths of God’s commitment to salvation, the more we have to come to grips with the triunity of the one God. The deeper we dig into the gospel, the deeper we go into the mystery of the Trinity.” [The Deep Things of God, 9-10, 13]
All of Life is About God
Because God is God, all life terminates in Him; we live for Him, to please Him, to glorify Him (2 Cor 5:9). We live to please the Lord (1 Cor 10:31). Everything is about God. So all counseling is therefore theocentric — it’s God-centered, and not anthropocentric, or man-centered. That is really going to help your counselees and it is going to help you, because the questions in life and the problems we have in life are because we tend to live for self and not for God. So one of the things we constantly do is to work toward pointing our counselees back to God. They need to find their sufficiency and hope in Him and not in themselves, to find their joy in Him and not in themselves, to find their satisfaction in Him and not in their possessions. Everything is about living for Him and being pleasing to Him (2 Cor. 5:9).
One Final Thought
We also want to note the blessed consequence of knowing God in increasing depth: knowing the truth of God will produce rest and trust in Him. The more you understand about God, the greater your God becomes; the more magnificent God becomes to you, the more you will be able to rest and trust in Him.
A strong theology of God is significant because of the next topic: anthropology, or the doctrine of man.
Terry Enns is the pastor of Grace Bible Church in Granbury Texas. He has over twenty years of pastoral counseling experience, and is a certified counselor with the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC, formerly NANC). In addition to his preaching and pastoral duties at Grace, Terry maintains an active blog at Words of Grace.