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ORGANIZATION AND PURPOSE
This systematic theology is produced by the Intercontinental Church of
God to reflect its doctrines, beliefs, practices and traditions.
Within the Church, the systematic theology establishes a coherent and
consistent reference for the ministry and for the lay membership. As such, it promotes
unity among the ministry and further understanding among the members. As a formal record
of the Church's beliefs and teachings, the systematic theology provides an official source
of public information about the doctrines of the Intercontinental Church of God.
The Bible alone is God's written revelation to man. This systematic
theology is simply an attempt to explain our comprehension of God's Word as believed,
taught, expounded and applied by the Church. It is written by men for menand is
consequently not to be put on a par with God's Holy Word. The systematic theology is not
to replace the Bible nor to supersede or overshadow it. The point of view is that of
looking up toward, and not down upon, God's Word. Although we are building a
superstructure, the Bible will always remain the foundation. The readership of this
theology is cautioned not to lose this perspective.
A specific approach is followed in
order to make this systematic theology applicable and relevant to ourselves
and to others. A document intended to fulfill the goals of being accurate,
readable, unifying and informative must, of course, be written in a manner
that can accomplish these goals. This Systematic Theology Project is
therefore somewhat different from other systematic theologies whose goals
are different from ours. While other projects may be aimed at scholars or
theologians exclusively, this work is to be used as a practical working tool
for the field ministry of the Intercontinental Church of God. As such, there
will be material--for example, on Christian living and Church
organization--that is not ordinarily found in academic systematic
theologies. Some of these subjects could be classified as administrative
practices or Church traditions rather than doctrines and beliefs. The point
is that everything included is given as guidelines for the ministry.
Therefore, we are under no illusion that this systematic theology is like
any others. It is unique and intentionally so.
It remains in a loose-leaf form. It
remains an 'incomplete document. It is an ongoing project. However, in its
present form, it represents the most comprehensive statement of doctrines
and practices of the Church of God, International, to be found outside Holy
Now, with the initial establishment of the more formalized systematic
theology, certain fundamental difficulties arise as by-products of the process. First is
simply the "look" of apparent perfection and permanence. Only the Bible itself
claims total inspiration, and any systematic theology must be at least somewhat arbitrary
and artificial. The Bible is God's Word, presenting with great literary scope and
historical sweep the record of God's instructions to man and man's relationship with God.
As such, the reality of biblical truth is coherent and integrated. Biblical
"doctrines" are not formally categorized into topics, subtopics and
sub-subtopics. But this is what must be done in any systematic theology. We have obviously
tried to formulate the overall organization to best represent the current teachings of the
Intercontinental Church of God. Yet, since this doctrinal organization, as with any
doctrinal organization, must divide the truth of God into independent subjects, the full
impact of the tight interrelationships and interdependencies among all doctrines must of
necessity be somewhat sacrificed. Furthermore, we fully recognize the numerous ways in
which this systematic theology could have been organized. We have no illusion that what is
hereby presented is perfect or cannot be improved, but we intend to accurately reflect the
contemporary teachings of the Church.
The Church recognizes "doctrine" as simply being the basic
tenets of teachings of the Bible and the Church. The importance of understanding true
doctrine is as vital as understanding God's master plan itselfsince doctrine in
reality is only this same master plan broken down into its component parts. The challenge
of any systematic theology is to take these various parts and organize them in a clear and
The paradox of any systematic theology (as discussed in the section on
the Bible) is that no one doctrine can be understood apart from all the other doctrines,
and it is impossible to comprehend all the doctrines without understanding each individual
one. The interrelationships and interdependencies among all the biblical teachings are
extremely strong. The structural associations and interactions among the numerous
doctrines are not therefore limited to a simple two-dimensional linear progression.
Rather, what we are confronted with is a multidimensional structure with the number of
dimensions just about equaling the number of doctrines. This means that to explain fully
almost any of the biblical doctrines, one would have to explain most of the others.
How then do we start? How can we best begin to systematize biblical
theology? Our approach has been first to discern the appropriate subjects necessary to
most efficiently include the full body of the Church's biblical teachings, and then
proceed to organize them into a logical and consistent structure. We developed seven
general categories and over thirty major doctrinal topics for this preliminary draft.
Categories and topics were chosen and organized to best reflect a logical pattern of
biblical order and to emphasize them as taught and practiced by the Intercontinental
Church of God.
1. Primary Doctrines: God, Bible, Jesus Christ, Holy
Spirit, Mankind, Angelic Realm;
Salvation, Faith, Repentance, Baptisms,
Laying on of Hands;
3. Kingdom of God: Kingdom of God, Gospel, Prophecy,
4. Law of God: Law of God, Biblical Covenants, Ten Commandments,
Sabbath, Annual Holy Days, Tithing and Giving, Sin;
5. The Christian: The Christian, The Christian Relationship with
God, The Christian Relationship with Fellow Man, The Christian Family, Healing;
6. The Church of God: The Church of God, Ministry of the Church,
Fellowship of the Brethren;
7. Traditional Christian Doctrines: Statements on almost thirty
traditional doctrines, such as immortal soul, heaven, hell, trinity, Sunday, Christmas,
Easter, rapture etc., presenting the theological viewpoint of the Intercontinental Church
Next, each doctrinal subject was thoroughly explored from both biblical
and Church perspectives to determine the scope of subtopics and concepts that should be
covered. These were then submitted to dozens of ministers for evaluation. The actual
writing of the papers was developed from a carefully constructed outline of concept flow
and was then directed to emphasize a practical product. Each paper was written to be
readable and useful as well as biblically accurate and logical. The papers were then
submitted to other ministers and scholars of the Church for critique, and each paper
passed through many edits. As an explanation rather than as a defense, each doctrinal
paper expresses our beliefs honestly (and hopefully clearly) in a straightforward manner.
This systematic theology is thereby not intended as a challenge or rebuttal to others'
Each particular doctrinal paper contains first a "Doctrinal
Statement" (a succinct and direct declaration of the essence what we believe on the
topic), followed by a "Doctrinal Overview" (an expanded statement summarizing
the basic tenets of the doctrine), and finally a "Doctrinal Exposition" (a full,
detailed explanation of the subject).
One objective this project strives to fulfill, is to project the right
perspective by presenting each doctrine in its proper biblical context and appropriate
relationship to other doctrines. We try to emphasize what is of clear biblical importance.
It is all too easy to focus on a relatively minor point of doctrine to the apparent
exclusion of more fundamental topics. This Usually happens because one has questions he
feels need immediate resolution; at other times it is because one has a particular
interest in the topic. Sometimes points of doctrine generate focus or interest in
proportion to how much the Bible discusses them; this is quite understandable, because
the obscure points are, by their very nature, more intellectually stimulating and
intriguing than the obvious and easily proved fundamentals of the faith. However, no
matter what the reasons, the pitfall of doctrinal myopia is to lose the vision of the
"big picture" of God's master plan. Once one has lost this overview, he has lost
his spiritual way.
The best way to keep our doctrinal focus sharp and clear is to stay
finely tuned to the central figure of the entire Bible: Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is both
the focal point and the "big picture" of the entire BibleHe is the
overview of both testaments. The Old Testament is the story of His creation and government
(Colossians 1:16), His dealings with Israel (1 Corinthians 10:4) and His laws; it also records His
ancestry and the detailed prophecies of His first and second comings. The New Testament is
the story of His life and message, the magnification of His laws, the beginning of His
Church and the announcement of His coming Kingdom. If Christ did not exist, there would be
no Biblethere would be no point to it. Jesus Christ is the Word of God; and since
the Bible is God's written word, it is, in a very real sense, the embodiment of Jesus
Christ in verbal representation on the printed page.
In accordance with the focal point and overview of the Bible, this
systematic theology stresses Jesus Christpast, present and future. It tells of His
life. His works, His message, His "good news," His teachings, His instructions,
His laws, His way of life, His admonitions, His corrections, His rebukes, His love, His
mercy, His forgiveness, His people, His friends, His covenants, His Church, His Kingdom,
His promises and His salvation. The focus is on Jesus Christ, as these statements
represent His doctrines which we have attempted to present in an organized and
systematic manner. No one keeping close to the trunk of this tree will ever get caught out
on a limb. No one following the foundational doctrines of Jesus Christ will ever suffer
doctrinal tunnel vision and the resultant spiritual blindness that such tunnel vision can
God's purpose for mankind offers the most incredible possible
potential that can be imagined. Indeed, it stretches the imagination beyond its limit, for
God states that every human being can eventually be born into God's own family, with God
Himself as his or her real Father. Man was created to actually become God, just as God
Himself is God, with the same qualities of existence such as immortality and eternal life.
Man was designed to become a full member of the God family, just as our elder brother,
Jesus Christ is God and part of that family. This mankind's ineffably awesome
potentiala spectacular destiny which will eventually include the entire universe as
part of our inheritance.
for accomplishing this purpose for mankind is equally
breathtaking. God will make His truth known to all human beings from all time and every
place and give to each of them individually a full opportunity for salvation. God is not
willing that any should perish and has structured a plan which will make available to all
people the full knowledge of His purpose and way (though what they do with this knowledge
will be a product of their independent minds to which God has given free moral agency).
This, then, is the essential foundation of biblical doctrine as
believed and taught by the Intercontinental Church of Godthat all mankind, every
human being who has ever lived, will eventually have the opportunity to become born of God
into the family of God, to literally become God. Around this fundamental concept every
other biblical doctrine must revolve and relate.
Owing to the obvious interdependence of biblical doctrines, not
everything to be said on any particular subject can often be presented in the same place
or even in the same paper. The reader is requested to keep this in mind before making
hasty evaluations or jumping to quick conclusions. For example, the complex discussion of
"law and grace" must be woven through many of the doctrinal statements. This has
been an especially confusing subject for those who have erroneously claimed that the
Intercontinental Church of God teaches that salvation can be earned through obedience to
the law. In order for the reader to grasp the full and proper biblical understanding of
the many-faceted interrelationships between law and grace,
several of the following
doctrinal statements, overviews and expositions need to be read in parallel (beginning
with Law of God and Salvation. Then including Biblical Covenants, Sabbath, Ten
Commandments, "Law or Grace" in Traditional Christian Doctrines, and finally
also involving particularly relevant aspects of other papers, such as the historical
comparison between the Intercontinental Church of God and the early New Testament Church
in the Church of God).
All doctrinal statements need to be read in their entirety. By
searching through the systematic theology in general or any one statement in particular
for the answer to an intriguing or needlesome problem one runs the risk of short
circuiting himself. To accurately comprehend the specific subject of one's current
interest, the reader is advised to at least read through that whole doctrinal statement to
appreciate the full scope of the doctrine under consideration, as well as to skim through
any related statements. (For example, many of the more generalbut most
powerfulreasons how we can know that the early New Testament Church observed God's
Feast days are not presented in the statement on Annual Holy Days, but are in Law of God,
Biblical Covenants and especially Sabbath.)
The systematic theology project is the product of numerous ministers
and scholars of the Church. It is only through this substantial resource of knowledge and
experience that we can hope to attain a reflection of God's understanding and wisdom. Yet
the systematic theology must not be cemented in stone. It will need continual revision as
God guides the Church in further understanding of His word.
What is herein presented is therefore still in preliminary form. It
must continue to grow in both scope and quality. But it cannot grow without constant
constructive input from the ministry. Ministers should consider it their responsibility to
help refine the Systematic Theology Project,
contributing to it in the same spirit
with which it was prepared. Hence, we accept, appreciate and welcomeindeed
information which serves to enhance and improve this effort.
This publication is intended to be
used as a personal study tool. Please know it is not wise to take any man's word
for anything, so prove all things for yourself from the pages of your own Bible.
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