The Will and the Natures of Man

But just because we have the natural ability to choose, that does not mean we have, as Adam and Eve did, the ability to choose either good or evil. Since the fall into sin, since we are dead in our sins apart from Christ, we have lost the ability to choose for Christ. But we still choose, because sin did not destroy the image of God that we are as God’s human creatures. The will always chooses, but it chooses according to the nature of the person choosing. In the garden, Adam’s will could choose to obey or disobey. After the fall, we still choose, but we always choose what we want, and we always want sin. Our depravity does not mean that we do not choose; it means that, in our sin, we always choose sin. When we’re converted to Christ, there is a change of our nature, so that we can choose either to obey or disobey, just as Adam could. In the new heaven and new earth, since we—our nature—will be glorified, we will still choose, but we will always and only choose the good. In none of these cases do we lose our wills; the will remains in its natural state.

 

K. Scott Oliphint, The Majesty of Mystery: Celebrating the Glory of an Incomprehensible God (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016), 167–168.

Rationalism and Worship

Rationalism never leads to proper praise and worship. It can only be smugly satisfied with its own intellectual accomplishments

 

K. Scott Oliphint, The Majesty of Mystery: Celebrating the Glory of an Incomprehensible God (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016), 166.

Covenantal Characteristics

When there was no creation, there was no anger or wrath of God; without creation, and the entrance of sin, there would be no need for God to be gracious. Because these characteristics present themselves in light of God’s voluntary condescension, we can call them “covenantal.”

 

K. Scott Oliphint, The Majesty of Mystery: Celebrating the Glory of an Incomprehensible God (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016), 102.

Loving God with All Your Mind

But what does it mean to love God with our minds? At minimum, this means that we are to know God—that is, we are to read and understand what Scripture says about God, and to submit intellectually (and otherwise) to that teaching. We are to think God’s thoughts after Him. Those thoughts are found in God’s revelation. When we read Scripture, when we study it, we are to see it as the only true description of what reality is like. We are to reorient our thinking, so that the things around us, and within us, take on the truth that God has spoken. This requires intellectual effort.

 

K. Scott Oliphint, The Majesty of Mystery: Celebrating the Glory of an Incomprehensible God (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016), 12.

Mystery is infused with Truth

...mystery, if we understand it biblically, is infused through and through with the truth that is found in the Word of God. Mystery is the lifeblood of the truth that we have in God’s revelation; it flows through every truth that God gives us.

 

K. Scott Oliphint, The Majesty of Mystery: Celebrating the Glory of an Incomprehensible God (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016), 10.

Mystery Grounded in Scripture

Here is the paradox: A true, biblical view of mystery has its roots not in a lack of understanding, but in the teaching of Scripture. As a matter of fact, it is just the teaching of Scripture that gives us the biblical truth of that which we hold to be mysterious.

 

K. Scott Oliphint, The Majesty of Mystery: Celebrating the Glory of an Incomprehensible God (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016), 10.

The Majestic Mystery of God

Nothing should motivate true Christian worship more than the majestic mystery of God. Things that we understand, that we can wrap our minds around, are rarely objects of our worship. We may seek to control them. We may try to manipulate them. We may want to change them. But we will not worship them, not really. If what we are seeking is true worship, it is the riches of the mystery of God and His ways in the world that will produce and motivate worship in us and to Him.

 

K. Scott Oliphint, The Majesty of Mystery: Celebrating the Glory of an Incomprehensible God (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016), 4–5.

Christian worship begins with mystery

Christian worship, as well as Christian theology, begins with mystery. Mystery is not something that functions simply as a conclusion to our thinking about God. It is not that we learn and think and reason as much as we can and then admit in the end that there is some mystery left over. Instead, we begin by acknowledging the mystery of God and His ways. We begin with the happy recognition that God and His activities are ultimately incomprehensible to us. When we begin with that recognition, we can begin to understand God properly and so worship Him in light of who He is and what He has done.

 

K. Scott Oliphint, The Majesty of Mystery: Celebrating the Glory of an Incomprehensible God (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016), 5.

Absent-Thinking Education

...one of the negative consequences of a practical emphasis is that one can proceed apace through every program of education, including a doctorate, and never undertake the type of study that used to be touted as foundational for any true, meaningful, and lasting education.

...

An education that is focused on practice may produce employment, but it may also produce a society wherein reading, thinking, studying, meditating, synthesizing, and persuading are virtually absent. Witness, for example, any televised political debate. No matter which side of the political spectrum one is on, to call what happens on television within an hour or two a debate is, from the perspective of history, laughable.

 


Infinite to the Finite

[Kant] is right that we cannot move from the finite to the infinite, but he has not considered that the infinite has moved to the finite. In that light, Kant hasn’t even broached the most basic truths of the Christian God. Only a god who has not condescended to be the Lord could be reduced to a pure concept. The true, triune God, who is the Lord, has come from the infinite to the finite.

 


Medieval Effects of Sin

During the Middle Ages, insufficient attention was given, in general, to the problem of sin as it relates to our reasoning process.... Because the effects of sin were thought to be less extensive in their application to us (as compared with Reformation thought), in that sin was not seen as radically affecting our reasoning, there was an improper view of the faculty of reason, especially with respect to reason’s ability to understand and discern God’s revelation and his existence.

 


Unsustainable Unbelief

Unbelief cannot sustain itself; it is unable to make sense of the facts, many of which are the most obvious facts of the world; it assumes, rather than shows, that there is no God, that the world is not created by him, that his character is not obvious in creation, and so on. Then it proceeds to argue its case not by attempting to support those assumptions, but simply by assuming them and then arguing as if the assumptions themselves are, or must be, universal if one is to be “rational.”

 


The Covenantal Wonder of the Gospel

...owing to God’s free, NSD decision, he determined that he would relate himself to that which is other than himself—both the possible and the actual (this would include his eternal decree...). Then, he freely determined to bring about what he had determined would be actual, which itself was a subset of all that is/was possible. This is covenant condescension, and God takes on new properties in executing it; the Eimi, who himself is and always remains a se, takes on the eikon, in that he determines to relate himself to something(s) ad extra.

But this in no way sacrifices, undermines or negates who he is as the simple One-in-Three. He remains who he is, but he decides to be something else as well; he decides to be the God of the covenant. It was, to be sure, a monumental decision. It changed the mode of God’s existence for eternity; he began to exist according to relationships ad extra, which had not been the case before. But it in no way changed his essential character. Is this not the wonder of the gospel, from Genesis to Revelation?

 


Condescension and Essential Properties

He does not tell us in Scripture that he determined to change his essential character. Rather, he tells us that he comes down, that he stoops, that he-while remaining himself essentially-assumes contingent properties in order to relate the things of his creation to himself. He is the initiator and preserver of this covenant relationship.

All of this is to say that it is God who has made compatible what would have otherwise remained incompatible (recall the Westminster Confession, 7.1). To put it in terms of SPC, there are two properties (or two sets of properties) that differ essentially. There are essential properties of God and essential properties of creation. These properties ties differ; they could even be said, perhaps, to be opposites. Thus, there are two entities, x_1 and x_2, creation and Creator, that appear to be incompatible... What unifying entity will supervene on x_1, and x_2 in such a way as to make them compatible without at the same time altering any of their essential properties? In a word, condescension; in two words, God's condescension.

It is God condescending, his act of condescension that, ipso facto, brings together the properties of Creator and creation in such a way as to preserve the essential properties of both, all the while placing them both within the same, unified, context. The unifying element, then, is covenant, the bringing together, by God, of the Eimi and the eikon. To put it in theological terms, the infinite gap that exists between God and creation is bridged by God's covenant condescension with respect to his creation.

 


The Miracle of the Unburning Bush

The miracle of the unburning bush was meant, not simply to show Moses something extraordinary, but rather to give Moses a visible ible illustration of just what it was that God was saying to Moses about his own character. The fire, often (as here) illustrating the presence of God in Scripture," is a fire that is both 'with the bush, without in any way needing the bush in order to burn.

 


Vermigli, The Non-Thomist Thomist

Though Vermigli was trained in the Thomistic tradition (e.g., one of his teachers was Juan Valdes of Spain), in his Loci Communes (posthumously published in 1563) his theological focus is more Reformed than Roman. He denies, for example, Thomas's analogic entis, in which Thomas sought to show that there was a metaphysical coincidence between the being of God and the being of everything else. Vermigli held that God was "other than men" in the nature of his simplicity, goodness, righteousness, wisdom, and so forth. Because of this view of God, Vermigli did not think it possible to understand who God is simply by applying the tools of the mind. God was of a different order of being than anything else. So, the only way truly to learn of him and of his creation was by way of God's revelation.

For Vermigli, then, natural theology had significant theological limits...Vermigli notes that the purely philosophical doctrine of God as Creator is at best marginally useful since to know God rightly one must have faith.

 


Grounding in Christological Revelation

I have sought to ground our discussion, first, in that quintessential revelation of God in Christ, as that revelation informs and exegetes the rest of what Scripture tells us about God, and about “God with us.”

 

Oliphint, K. Scott (2011-11-02). God with Us: Divine Condescension and the Attributes of God (p. 279). Crossway.

No License

...as with any other systematic theological tenet, it is only as strong and applicable as Scripture allows. It is never a license for pure logical deduction.

 

Scott Oliphint (2011-11-02). God with Us: Divine Condescension and the Attributes of God (p. 279). Crossway.

God's Glorious Mystery

Given that there are opposing laws at work, laws that inhere in two different “kinds” of reality—God’s and creation’s—which themselves are unified by way of the one person of (the Son of) God, any proper attempt at explaining that union will result in paradox. This is as it should be, and it highlights for us the glorious mystery that just is God with us.

 

Scott Oliphint (2011-11-02). God with Us: Divine Condescension and the Attributes of God (Kindle Locations 5391-5393). Crossway.

Affirming Covenantal Properties

...we should not hesitate to affirm that, in taking on covenantal properties while remaining who he is essentially, the Son of God partakes of two different and sometimes seemingly incommensurable kinds of properties, each kind of which should be acknowledged inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, and inseparably. That is, the impassibility/passibility of the Logos (prior to his incarnation) requires that we neither confuse the two (as if the properties of the one, i.e., the Eimi, accrue to the other, i.e., the eikon), change the one into the other (so that they are unified via some kind of property merger), divide them (as if they do not reside in the one person), or separate them (as if they are not actually unified).

 

Scott Oliphint (2011-11-02). God with Us: Divine Condescension and the Attributes of God (Kindle Locations 5338-5343). Crossway. Kindle Edition.

Incomprehensible Covenantal Properties

As in the incarnation, so also in every manner of God’s assumption of covenantal, human properties, we simply cannot comprehend the mode of union at all.

 

Scott Oliphint (2011-11-02). God with Us: Divine Condescension and the Attributes of God (Kindle Locations 5387-5388). Crossway. Kindle Edition.

Slow to Anger

What else could Scripture mean—what else could Yahweh mean—when he says that he is “slow to anger” (cf. Ex. 34:6; Num. 14:18; Neh. 9:17; Pss. 86:15; 103:8; 145:8)? Surely Scripture is not telling us to believe that, in his patience and slowness to anger, the Lord bears no such relationship to us. To affirm such a thing would be tantamount to affirming that Scripture enjoins us to believe what is not the case in reality. If we are simply to believe that God is slow to anger, even though he is not, then we are encouraged by Scripture to believe a proposition to be true when it is false. This kind of language in Scripture cannot be relegated to mere metaphor. The Lord’s disposition toward us in cases like this necessarily depends on our responses to him in this world. When the Bible says that the Lord is slow to anger, there are two covenantal characteristics highlighted: he is slow, that is, patient with us. Thus, there is a real relationship to time in which God takes on temporality; and his anger, though tied to this patience, is nevertheless real. We should not simply believe he is angry or could become angry; he really is angry.

 

Scott Oliphint (2011-11-02). God with Us: Divine Condescension and the Attributes of God (pp. 214-215). Crossway.

Revelation, not Deduction

God’s character and properties—whether essential or covenantal—cannot be driven by pure deduction. They must be understood only in the light of Holy Scripture.

 

Scott Oliphint (2011-11-02). God with Us: Divine Condescension and the Attributes of God (p. 279). Crossway.

Yahweh is the second person of the Trinity

Yahweh is, in fact, the second person of the Trinity, who became incarnate. As such, he is self-existent, as are the Father and the Spirit. Because God is self-existent, each person of the Godhead is.

 

Scott Oliphint (2011-11-02). God with Us: Divine Condescension and the Attributes of God (Kindle Locations 5323-5325). Crossway.

Reason is Ministerial

...reason always functions as a servant, never as a master, to theology. Its proper place with respect to theology is to provide whatever tools might be helpful for theology to carry out its own task. It also means that the law of contradiction, and the use of that law, can never finally determine whether or not a particular Christian doctrine is true. That determination is left to revelation. What reason can do is help theology to organize, articulate, and expand its truths in such a way as to clarify their meaning.

 

Scott Oliphint. Reasons for Faith: Philosophy in the Service of Theology

Consistently Reformed Apologetic

"Being" has been one of the thorns in the flesh of philosophy only because philosophy historically has dogmatically presupposed its own epistemological autonomy. Parmenides was no closer to a proper understanding of being than was Heraclitus. Aquinas was no closer than Hegel. Once one assumes any fact to be apart from God, that fact will never be truly known."Facts are unaccounted for if Scripture is left out of account.'" It is for this reason that Van Til's approach is seen as a worldview apologetic. Only in a consistently Reformed apologetic can we see not just "being" or "reason" or "evidence" or "cause" as inexplicable apart from God, but all "things" are inexplicable apart from the presupposition of the God of Scripture.