Part 1: Theology Proper -- By: Lewis Sperry Chafer

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 095:379 (Jul 1938)
Article: Part 1: Theology Proper
Author: Lewis Sperry Chafer

Part 1:
Theology Proper

Lewis Sperry Chafer

(Series continued from April-June Number, 1938)

[Author’s Note: This the first of a series of connected articles in the general field of Theology Proper is to be followed by several other sections from the same general division of Systematic Theology, including besides this paper on Naturalistic Theism, Biblical Theism and Trinitarianism.]


The term Theology Proper is a somewhat modern designation which represents the logical starting point in the study of Systematic Theology; being, as it is, its primary theme, namely, a scientific investigation into what may be known of the existence, persons, and characteristics of the Triune God-Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Quite apart from the works of the members of the Godhead, Theology Proper is subject to a two-fold division: (1) Theism, which concerns the existence and character of God as an extramundane Being, the Creator, Preserver and Governor of the universe; and (2) Trinitarianism, which is the recognition of the three Persons who comprise the Godhead, with specific reference to their functions and characteristics, and their relationships within the Godhead.

I. Theism

The etymology of the word Theism would give it a wide range of application; but in common usage it has come to mean a belief in God, and incorporates a system of beliefs which constitutes a philosophy, restricted, indeed, somewhat to those findings and conclusions which human reason

suggests. Even in its Biblical expression, Theism is not confined to Christianity, though Christianity is a theistic system. The term Theism could with practical value be more largely used and the field of truth which it connotes more clearly defined. I. H. Fichte writes: “It is now time again to install Theism, that inextinguishable and fundamental conviction of humanity, as a science in its true significance; but therewith equally to free it from so many obstructions and veils which long enough have darkened its true light. Theism is neither an hypothesis grubbed out by onesided speculation, as some represent it; nor is it an invention of priestcraft, nor superstitious fear, old ways of representing it which one still unexpectedly meets. It is also not the mere confession of an exclusive school of religion. But it is the ultimate solution of all the world-problems, the unavoidable goal of all investigation, silently effective in that which externally denies it.”1

Since all lines of general study of necessity are related to created things, there is no more exalted subject to which the finit...

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