A. H. Strong: Doctrine of God

Doctrine of God

Augustus Hopkins Strong is an American Baptist theologian, born on the Third of August 1836 in New York. He has a Puritan roots. He was converted during the time of Charles Finney then enrolled later at Rochester Theological Seminary and graduated in 1859. He travelled and studied in Berlin and became a pastor during the Civil War in America. In Cleveland, Haverhill he ministered there for seven years and earned him a name in the Baptist society. He became a towering figure in Baptists circles and revered as a great Theologian among Protestants of his time. He was a proponent of Calvinist.[1] In the preface of Strong’s Systematic Theology he propounded the Doctrine of God because it will be the basis in the volumes of doctrine of man and of Salvation[2] a good reason for theological society that his writings became references for doctrinal commentaries in the especially in the evangelical world.

The science that deals of the study of God is Theology. I wonder if we can know God by studying Him using our limited mind. Understanding him is by the Spirit because God is a Spirit[3] and apart from Him we can never fully know God. The idea of religion seems a proof that God is necessary to every human[4]. Systematic theology describes God by rationalizing and reviewing the scriptures. God is known as the creator[5] and a Father to His son Jesus Christ and to the people his creation. God has a divine nature. There are known and unknown attributes of God. All known attributes of God is found in the Bible and through His general revelation to men. This study will help us know more about what to believe about God. By dissect A H Strong, one of the most prominent Theologian of all time, especially in the Baptist world, he will reveal more about God. Strong, in one of his projects “In Christ in Creation and Ethical Monism”[1899] expressed that God is the sole Ground of Being and all existence or any manifestations about Him have one substance and that is God. Strong’s Christological concept viewed Jesus as the absolute expression of God the Father[6]. Erickson mentioned Strong that he begins his theology with the existence of God and the idea of God is the first truth that all known and unknown knowledge depends on that truth[7]. God has attributes according to human limitations of describing the infinite God. In his systematic theology, Strong started with the attributes of God in order to have a rational account of God’s revelation[8].  The attributes of God has an infinite notion that it cannot be contained by human mind. This belief refutes the idea of Pantheism that God’s being of divine simplicity, where it denies all divine perfections that the qualities of God are finite which is not since God is infinite. The attributes of God for him are those unique and divine in nature which are always together from the idea of God and become the basis of his expression to his creatures[9].

God in three persons, are personal features which are distinct to the person it represents and does not universally attributes to the divine essence.[10] The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are equal in essence and dignity. The subordination of the persons and operation which permits the Father to be officially first, the Son second and the Spirit third, are perfectly consistent with equality[11]. The concept of trinity is a doctrine that we cannot separate from God as He is to the creation.

According to Strong, the idea of God does not however, limit to God’s attributes like being the creator since even without the creation God is still be God[12]. He classified the attribute of God which is the absolute attributes and the relative or transitive attributes. The first is about the inner being of God, which is all about God, and which belong to his nature independently connected while the second is more on the attributes of God viewed by many as being flexible[13].  The same is true that the immanent nature of God is his spirituality while the emanant or transitive quality of God affects the creation which requires an object to express his transitive quality[14].  On the other hand, Holiness is the most basic dimension of God’s nature which was emphasized much in the Bible.[15] The Bible portrays God as having two sides: Holiness and love, these shape the interaction of God with his people and Christian faith gives preeminence to God’s holiness. Christians believe that God held justice as a principle of His nature, not only independent love, but superior to love[16].

And as being a God, His nature such as loving and powerful is his common virtue as a God. [17] As to the transitive quality of God, Erickson’s point of view differs Strong’s concept of preservation. He noted that preservation means a way of God’s maintaining His creation in existence which involves God protecting his creation against any harm and providing the needs of his creation. Further, Erickson and his colleague seems to get Strong’s definition of preservation only refers to the physical matters and exclude human beings means of preservation. In this argument, Erickson quoted Genesis when God provided Israel a means to live by putting them in Egypt. While in the book of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were spared from death from burning because God intervened[18]. However, in God’s providence in Creation, He said that providence is that continuous agency of God where all the events of the physical and moral universe fulfill the original design of his creation.[19] Regarding God’s omnipresence, he expressed the traditional post medieval approach when he used the term “omnipresence” meaning God can enter into the world of men and fills the universe in all its parts[20].

The existence of God as the first truth came to Strong is an acceptance on the part of men that they are dependent onto higher standards of life which only Spirit can attain.[21] Strong strongly believed that the existence of God from a rational point of view is not enough, knowing that God is not an object. However, the acceptance of dependency of man to spiritual power and to a Personality which can only be recognized in prayer and worship are the knowledge, God can be thought.[22] Interestingly, he didn’t assume that the scriptures in the Bible do not attempt to prove the existence of God but only declares the knowledge about God.[23]

Therefore God is not a matter because God is a spirit and by all means God is not subject to any matter seen and unseen. Strong quoted scriptures where God was likened to a human with physical attributes, he said that this God’s temporary manifestations to his people and like any other Theologians Strong believes in the concept of anthropomorphism where writers use human terms to describe God[24]. The scripture represent God as personal being but in a highest degree, this is in a sense subject to man’s limited ability to think about the personal being of God. While he is personal he is also infinite and this infinite being is more that spaces in the universe or any unknown world or universe. God moves to the extent of his infinite ways and his infinity is beyond compare to anyone or to anything[25]. This infinite attributes speak of no ground but himself and basic to his nature to exist. Strong’s idea of God’s immutability can be compared to Erickson’s constancy that God is unchanging. This character of God involves several aspects like there is no qualitative change and quantitative change in Him[26]. Immutability is always in line to God’s activity and perfect freedom there is always absoluteness in every aspect of God’s dealing with himself to man or to his creation.

In unity, God’s divine nature is undivided and indivisible. There is always one infinite Spirit in God, a perfect spirit.[27] God is eternal when we say eternal we are talking about the beginning and the end. God as we always heard is the Alpha and the Omega, from Greek alphabet Alpha is the first letter while Omega is the last letter. While this is usually attributed to God, God’s eternal attributes according to Strong is that God has no beginning nor an end, where time has no hold of Him. Time actually is in God’s hand.[28] In relation to God’s moral being, reading through passages in the Bible we can read that despite God’s anger He seems to value his words more than His name. In the Old Testament, His faithfulness and his love which was shown to Israel was proven in the lives of Abraham and to other people whom he chose to show favor for Himself. Strong outlined that all his revelations to his creation is in relation to Him that He fulfills his promises in His own ways. The disobedient and the obedient enjoy the same mercy and goodness which God showed to his people[29].

Finally, we find Strong dependence of bringing out the God who serves according to the scriptures. While he viewed men rational as a way of knowing God the Scripture remains the strongest means of knowing God’s attributes where doctrines can be derived. According to Robinson, the ground of moral obligation is the Holiness of God or the moral perfection of the divine nature.[30] Jesus Christ, as it always mentioned among the systematic theologians remains and forever be the ultimate reflection of the Father where through his Spirit He reveals Himself to Him, the Son.


[1] Wayne A. Grudem. Systematic Theology, an intro to Biblical doctrine. Intervarsity press leicerster, England. Zondervan Publishing House. Grand Rapids Michigan. 1994 Pp23

[2] Timothy Larsen, Et Al. Biographical Dictionary of Evangelicals. InterVarsity Press. England.2003.pp644

[3] John 4:24

[4]A. H. Strong. Systematic Theology, In three volumes. Fleming H. Revell Company. New Jersey. pp58

[5] Genesis 1:1

[6] A H Strong, pp647

[7] Millard J. Erickson. Christian Theology 2nd Ed. Baker Academic. Grand Rapids, Michigan.1988.pp32

[8] Millar J Erickson. pp. 244

[9] James Leo Garret. pp203

[10] James Leo Garret. Pp245

[11] Wayne A. Grudem. Systematic Theology, an intro to Biblical doctrine. Intervarsity press leicerster, England. Zondervan Publishing House. Grand Rapids Michigan. 1994

pp.252

[12] Pp246

[13] James Leo Garrett, Jr. Systematic Theology, biblical historical, and evangelical, vol.1. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company Grand Rapids, Michigan. 1990.pp203

[14] Millard J. Ercikson. pp. 293

[15] Millard J. Erickson pp. 312

[16] Donald G. Bloesch. God the Almighty, power, wisdom, holiness, love. Intervarsity press. Downer groove, Illinois.1995

[17] Millard J. Erickson pp 380

[18] Millard J. Erickson, pp 414

[19] Norman Geisler. Systematic Theoology. Vol 2, God and Creation.Bethany house, Minneapolis, Minnesota.2005.pp564

[20] Pp220

[21] A. H. Strong. Systematic Theology, In three volumes. Fleming H. Revell Company. New Jersey. pp56

[22] AH Strong, pp67

[23] A H Strong, ebid,pp 68

[24] A H Strong,ebid, pp250

[25] AH Strong, ebid, pp 255

[26] Millard Erickson,pp305

[27] A H Strong, pp259

[28] A H Strong, pp 276

[29] AH Strong, pp288-289

[30] A H Strong pp302

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. David
    Aug 08, 2010 @ 17:29:08

    Is there a book entitled Strongs Doctrinal Truths or similar?

    Reply

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