— Classical and Fixed or Personal
and Changing — Coherent or
What follows here are examples of professing
Christians defining “classical theism” and “Christian” theism,
as distinct from Biblical theism.
If the reader only keeps in mind the simple profession of
the Apostles’ Creed, he will easily see the deficits of
“classical theism” and a narrowly defined “Christian theism.”
He will also see that these authors move back and forth
between “classical theism” and “Christian theism” with a
facility that denies inherently infinite differences.
Then, I will have a
brief discussion of this issue.
“According to classical theistic
belief—classical Muslim and Jewish—as well as Christian
belief—first of all there is God, the chief being of the
universe, who has neither beginning nor end.
Most important, God is
personal. That is,
God is the kind of being who is conscious and enjoys come kind
of awareness of his surrounding (in God’s case, that would be
Second, (though not second in importance), a person has loves
and hates, wishes and desires; she (sic)
approves of some things and disapproves of others; she (sic)
wants things a certain way…. Persons have affections.
A person, third, is a being who has
beliefs and if
We human beings, for example, believe a host of things….
That there is such person as God….
“But second, unlike human persons, God is a
person without a body.
(In a footnote, Plantinga states, “The Christian doctrine
of the Trinity introduces complications here: the second person
of the Trinity, has indeed
has, a body.
Here I propose to avoid these complications; I’ll use the
word ‘God’ as a name for the first person of the Trinity.”)
He acts, and acts in the world, as human beings do, but,
unlike human beings, not by way of a body.
Rather, God acts just by
willing; he (sic)
wills that things be a certain way, and they are that way….
Something similar goes for knowledge…. (God) is all-knowing
(‘omniscient’) as well as all-powerful, he knows everything that
can be known. Of
course, there are disputes in this area.
Theists argue whether God know the future, he knows what
free beings will in fact do….
Finally, God has created the world—from the
largest things it contains to the smallest.
He has created all the stars and planets, all the
galaxies and black holes, all the quarks and gluons and
electrons (assuming that there really are such things).
He has created all living things—plants and animals and
human beings—either directly, or by employing other beings and
processes…. (God) also sustains its existence; without his
sustenance, the world would disappear like a candle flame in a
high wind. Further,
God governs the world in such a way that it displays a certain
constancy and regularity…. God created the various structures of
the world freely….
What laws or regularities the world displays is a contingent
matter; the same goes for the sorts of structures and
(Alvin Plantinga and Michael Tooley,
Knowledge of God,
Ed: Consider the above comments on including
Islam and Judaism in Plantinga’s theistic position in the
“Islam makes God unknowable and remote, fearing that his direct
involvement in the world will revitalize him. If the
Islamic God were truly a se, he would not lose his
transcendent glory by entering history. Islam also turns
predestination into fatalism, thus veering toward (sic)
an impersonal concept of God. Judaism today (whatever
recent scholarship may conclude about first-century Judaism) is
a religion of works, rather than of an a se God who gives
what we cannot repay. And Judaism, like the Jehovah’s
Witnesses and other cults, rejects the Trinity, which, as we
have seen, is closely related to God’s aseity."
(John Frame, “Divine Aseity and Apologetics,” in Oliphint
and Tipton, Revelation and Reason, fn120)
“Classical Christian belief includes, in the
first place, the belief that there is such a person as God. God
is a person: that is, a being with intellect and will. A
person has (or can have) knowledge and belief, but also
affections, loves, and hates; a person, furthermore, also has or
can have intentions, and can act so as to fulfill them. God has
all of these qualities and has some (knowledge, power, and love,
for example) to the maximal degree. God is thus all-knowing and
all-powerful; he is also perfectly good and wholly loving. Still
further, he has created the universe and constantly upholds and
providentially guides it. This is the theistic component
of Christian belief. But there is also the uniquely Christian
component: that we human beings are somehow mired in rebellion
and sin, that we consequently require deliverance and salvation,
and that God has arranged for that deliverance through the
sacrificial suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ,
who was both a man and also the second member of the Trinity,
the uniquely divine son of God. I shall use the term ‘Christian
belief’ to designate these two components taken together. Of
course, I realize that others may use that term more narrowly or
more broadly. There is no need to argue about words here: the
beliefs I mentioned are the ones I shall discuss, however
exactly we propose to use the term ‘Christian’. I also recognize
that there are partial approximations to Christian belief so
understood, as well as borderline cases, beliefs such that it
simply isn’t clear whether they qualify as Christian belief. All
of this is true, but as far as I can see, none of it compromises
my project. (Alvin
Warranted Christian Belief)
I have commented more completely on
this Preface elsewhere .
“Classical theism is an approach to the
doctrine of God that emphasizes unchanging being, divine
transcendence and sovereignty as captured in a set of divine
attributes that typically includes atemporal eternity,
immutability, impassibility, and divide simplicity.
Classical theism was developed over centuries by
theologians critically interacting with important pagan
philosophical theology including that of Plato (as Form of the
Good), Aristotle (God as Pure Act and Unmoved Mover) and
Plotinus (God as transcendent One).
Exponents of classical theism come from all the major
monotheistic traditions, including Judaism (Philo, Maimonides),
Christianity (Augustine, Anselm, and Aquinas), and Islam
classical theism, Anselm’s conception of God as the greatest
conceivable or most perfect being, and Aquinas’ identification
of God’s existence and essence have also been influential
Christians today reject classical theism, claiming that concepts
of Greek origination like impassibility produce a ‘god of the
philosophers’ that has little relation to the God of biblical
admitting that there may
appear to be a tension between scriptural revelation and
classical theism, advocates of the latter argue that there is a
deeper concord, and indeed that this is the best way to
ensure a theology that
is both biblical sound and philosophically coherent.
(Hill and Rauser,
Christian Philosophy A-Z,
182—italics are theirs, bolding is Ed’s)
section entitled, “The Classical Christian Concept of God,”
Francis Beckwith writes:
classical concept of God is the center of orthodox Christianity.
At the center of every religion or philosophy there is
the concept of an ultimate being or beings.
The classical concept of God, or classical theism, holds
that God, the omnipotent, transcendent creator is the only
ultimate being, and that everything else that exists or could
exist depends upon him for its existence.
Although classical theism has been much challenged in
recent thought, we believe that this model of God is both taught
by the Bible and philosophically superior to any alternatives.
“Classical theism is the theism that has been
believed in by most theists in Western civilization.
In particular, classical theism holds that God is (1)
personal and disembodied, (2) the creator and sustainer of all
things, (3) omnipotent, (4) omniscient, (5) omniscient, (6)
immutable and eternal, (7) perfectly good and the source of all
moral values, (8) necessary, (9) the only God, (10) infinite,
(11) sovereign over all things, and (12) knowable but
We can look at these attributes one by one.
(And he does.)
After that, we will examine two concepts central to
Christian theism: (1) the trinity, and (2) the incarnation of
God the Son.
(Francis Beckwith and Stephen Parrish,
See the Gods Fall,
The differences in the above are really
obvious, just in the light of the Apostle’s and Nicene Creeds,
but I will point out a few problems.
The major and devastating argument is that most, if not
all, of these characteristics of God would not be known apart
from the Bible? How
does one get omniscience, omnipotence, omniscience, eternity,
disembodiment (transcendent—above the senses), immutable, and
other attributes from naturalism or natural theology?
Everything observed in the universe is sensed, sensical,
and sensation. One
of the few things on which virtually all philosophers agree is
that empiricism does not give certainty, only probability.
So, where does the certainty of classical theism come
from—from the Bible—sneaking it in without citing the reference.
The God that most philosophers reject is this caricature
of the Biblical God—the god of one of the philosophers.
I agree with Hill and Rauser (above) that there is no
tension between classical theism and the Biblical God—there is
no correspondence at all!
Other issues are these.
(1) Plantinga argues for the same characteristics of God
for the Christian, Jew, and Muslim.
Frame (in the paragraph following Plantinga’s first
quote) demonstrates that this position is untenable.
(2) Plantinga argues, “There is no need to argue about
words here.” Oh, I
thought definitions were central to reasoned arguments.
With no precise definitions, there can be no precise
predicate nor valid inference, and such reasoning is what
philosophy proposes to do better than any other discipline!
Beckwith states, “Classical theism is the theism that has
been believed in by most theists in Western civilization.”
tell, what other theism there is in the West besides a theism
that is (mostly inaccurately) derived from the Bible?
(At least until recent
(3) The reader should note the movement of
Beckwith back and forth between “classical theism” and “the
classical Christian concept of God.”
Few would argue that “classical theism” and “Christian
theism” are identical.
This movement demonstrates his and others’ confusion of
these terms. (4)
Both Hill/Rauser argue for a “biblical sound and philosophically
Beckwith argues for a “philosophically superior” theism.
These statements show the higher authoritative position
that philosophers give to philosophy over theology (Biblical
Classical theism does not exist except in the minds of
is no religion of “classical theism.”
There is no “book” of it for worship or for guidance as a
religion. It is a
contrived term with its only intent to truncate Christianity in
a way that is not offensive to anti-Christians!
(6) The reader should note the use of “she” by Plantinga
in his reference to God from his Tooley debate.
It shows Plantinga’s commitment to philosophy over
Biblical theology, as both Christian and non-Christian
philosophers are commonly using “she” in their generic
designation of a single person (whoops, “per-people,” son is not
generic). I have
written briefly on
the generic use of she. (7)
Then, note his use of
“belief” relative to God in his discussion of theism from
Plantinga and others who debate and argue from
a position of classical theism are (1) standing on an incoherent
position because it is not deductively Biblical, making it
vulnerable from a simple naturalism, and (2) presenting a god
who is not the God of Christianity.
Cornelius Van Til consistently argued that the Christian
(Biblical) system must be defended, as a whole, not piecemeal.
Another philosopher who took the right approach in debate
Greg Bahnsen in his debate with Ben Stein.
All philosophers, theologians, and laymen who believe
that “classical theism” has a place in a Biblical apologetic or
philosophy would profit from Van Til’s and Bahnsen’s approach.