Thursday, January 19, 2012

How God Relates to the World: My Review of GOD WITH US by K. ScottOliphint

K. Scott Oliphint, in his new book GOD WITH US: DIVINE CONDESCENSION AND THE ATTRIBUTES OF GOD, tackles the difficult theological question of how an eternal and infinite God interacts with a time-bound and finite creation. Specifically, the book looks at the attributes of God as revealed to us in Scripture.

How do we reconcile the Bible saying that God is unchangeable, but also giving us several examples of God changing his mind? Or reconciling God having exhaustive foreknowledge with the stories of God “learning” something he seemingly didn't know before, such as in the story of Abraham's near sacrifice of Isaac? Some theologians wrestle with these questions and finally come to the conclusion of viewing God from an open theism framework, that God doesn't know the future choices of free creatures and that God is changed by the actions of people. Oliphint shows how this isn't an option the Bible leaves open, yet he understands the difficultly with the questions presented.

Oliphint proposes that the key to God's interaction with his creation, as well as a biblically orthodox explanation of seemingly contradictory attributes of God presented in Scripture, can be found in the incarnation of Jesus Christ. The incarnation is the pinnacle of God's “condescending” and taking on attributes and properties that he would not normally have apart from creation. Oliphint calls this God's covenantal attributes because in creating God covenanted to condescend to interact with his creation. The incarnation is the clearest example of this as God relates to humanity as a human being, but Oliphint makes a compelling proposal that all of biblical history up to the time of the incarnation features God's condescending to genuinely interact with and react to human beings by taking on human-like properties. This does not change God's essence, but it explains how God can genuinely relate to humanity in a way that seems lacking in the essential divine attributes at times.

Oliphint goes even further by suggesting that the Son of God has been the one revealing the triune God from creation onward and that the incarnation is the climactic culmination of this revelation. The book explores God's independence and essence in a way that inspires awe at the great God who has graciously and mercifully covenanted to condescend to relate to us.

GOD WITH US is written from a Calvinistic Reformed perspective, and while I found a few things I disagreed with, I still found much more to agree with as a non-Calvinistic Reformed reader. This is an important book in the realm of theology proper and Christology. Oliphint gives much to consider and much to build upon. And overall, the book makes much of Jesus.

I received this book for free for review from Crossway Books

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