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Oliphant K Scott

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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Emmanuel: The Revelation of the Character of God 27 Nov 2011
By Mike Robinson - Published on Amazon.com
When Cornelius Van Til retired as an apologetics professor over 30 years ago, he and his apologetic method took a lot of criticism. While he was often touted by an erudite guard of academic supporters, effusing about his supreme and most biblical apologetic method, the feeling for many was: where's the argument?

But with Greg Bahnsen's potent entry as Van Til's finest advocate--this innovative method was no longer so quickly and mistakenly dismissed. You may or may not choose to be a presuppositionalist, but Van Til's contemporary admirers have shown that it's an effective way to defend the truth, a way to win debates, and, at times, an intellectual dynamism that produces outstanding books. Many of these books advocate an apologetic built and centered on Christian theology.

To these recognized distinctions, it is time to add one more: K. Scott Oliphint's "God with Us: Divine Condescension and the Attributes of God."

Herein the reader discovers a powerful theological and apologetic resource built upon Christian philosophy in service to biblical doctrine. Professor Oliphint winsomely discusses God's ontology as the One who is wholly independent (His aseity) as the infinite omnipotent being. Oliphint offers outstanding explication concerning God's essential attributes and how the mysteries therein are answered in the person of Jesus Christ: the incarnation of the God who spoke to Moses at the Burning Bush (Exodus 3).

The author discusses essentialism in relation to God's non-essential attributes: "Is it possible that God not create anything? The orthodox answer to this question is, of course, yes. To answer no would mean that God had to create the world, in which case there is no possible world in which God is not the Creator, and, therefore, the creation of the world would itself be necessary property of God's. But then God would have a necessary property (1) was not entailed by his own independence (since the necessity of God's creative activity would entail a dependence on something besides God) and (2) implied some kind of lack in God (since the necessity of something ad extra would mean that God was in need of it in order to be who he essentially is). So `being Creator' is not an essential property that God has."

Oliphint concentrates much of this volume on the revelation of Jesus Christ disclosing to His people God's character and His covenantal relation to them. The discussion concerning God's attributes utilizing Muller, Turretin, and Bavinck make this an important resource for the minister, apologist, theologian, and student. God's ontic stature revealed to men is the foundation for a suitable epistemic standing as one learns that epistemology necessarily relates to ontology.

"It would not be an overstatement to say that the way to a proper understanding of God and his character is given foremost in a proper understanding of the Son Of God come in the flesh, Jesus Christ" (p. 10).

The author opines regarding an aspect of the Creator/Creature distinction: "This should not be surprising, though it is tragic. It is the temptation par excellence for man to see himself as more exalted, or at least to desire such a thing, all the while seeking to place God on a par with his human creatures. The temptation, "You will be like God," was the undoing of humanity, and its infection continues to spread through human hearts in the course of history" (p. 12).

One of Professor Oliphint's aims: "I hope to avoid that temptation in this book. Assumed throughout will be the bedrock truth of God's essential character interests with ours. He is God, and we are not. He is God and there is no other. His ways are not our ways and his thoughts are not our thoughts. (Isa. 55:9) His judgements are unsearchable and his ways inscrutable. No one has known the mind of the Lord, and no one has become his counselor. He is no man's debtor" (p. 12).

Oliphint rightly presses the importance of God and His attributes as the source of one's view: "The first thing that is necessary to grasp about the attributes, properties, or perfections (which I use as synonyms) of God, therefore, is that a basic distinction must be maintained between God as he is and exists in himself and God as he condescends. The theological (i.e., biblical) reason for this distinction is that it is obvious that before anything was created, there was and has always been God. That is, God himself is not essentially subject to time; he does not, according to his essential character, live, move, and have his being in a temporal context. He has no beginning and will have no end. Not only so, but before there was anything created, there was only God. It is not as though things existed- ideas, concepts, properties, and so forth-alongside God prior to creation" (p. 13).

"We should note here that to speak in temporal terms in referring to a nontemporal state of affairs (i.e., the existence of God) is still wholly accurate, given that God himself, in his Word, does the same thing (see Eph. 1:4, 20) There is no other way for finite creatures to refer to such things, be neither is there a need for such" (p. 13).

Some aspects of Oliphint's exposition, apropos God taking on covenantal properties (God, within His aseity, takes on properties that His eternal being did not have, distinct from His divine essence, before Creation), may be controversial, with good reason, in some circles; nonetheless the conversation needs to be advanced. How this concept relates to God's simplicity and immutability is problematic for finite men to designate. God acted in human history which culminated with divine condescension through the incarnation and its ongoing extension. This prompts questions regarding the utilization of theological categories like where do the new properties abide? How are they connected to God's immutable attributes? How does God retain His immutability if something is added to His ontic status? Are these ontic categories (covenantal) an aspect of God's substance, action, or thoughts? How is God an eternal Creator? These and other issues are not easily resolved; mysteries remain as finite men attempt to grasp truths concerning the infinite. Thus philosophical theology must press on as it proceeds from the revelation of God; philosophy is obligated to remain in service to theology.

The good professor observes: "So, in keeping with Reformed thought, how do we think of God's properties relative of his being? Perhaps the best we can do is to affirm that all these essential properties, while being identical to each other, are, nevertheless, I some way modally distinct. That is, their distinctions lie in their mode of existence within the Godhead. Somewhat analogous to our understanding of the Trinity, we can affirm both that there are distinctions within the Godhead and that there is only once essence, who is God. As in our understanding of the Trinity, therefore, we do not posit that what we have in God's properties are essentially different `things'; what we do posit that what we have is a distinction with no essential difference. God is, as tribune, both one (essence) and three (persons). So also we affirm that he is essentially both one (essence) and many (properties), without in any way allowing for essential composition in God or for a real essential difference in him."

Oliphint's Van Tilian theology, with its almost evidential void, would seem the very opposite of apologetic muscle. It's philosophy in subjection to theology! How essential is it to know about God's aseity? And how can that necessary truth properly be conveyed to a non-Christian?

But the theological force and philosophical care is precisely what makes "God with Us" a valuable resource. It provides a scripture-based foundation for theology and apologetics: God and His character, His power and utter uniqueness. All this in accessible prose, bestowed for the analysis of the budding theologian or apologist. Scholars have Muller for the historical view, Van Inwagen for the very minute philosophical exactitudes, Van Til for apologetic methodology, and now they have "God with Us" to understand how to communicate these truths to the non-specialist.

On God's Independence: "The aseity of God, therefore, must be the place on which we stand in order to assert anything else about him, given that anything else we say about him depends for its proper understanding and meaning on that aseity. Or, to put it a bit more succinctly, unless God is a se (of himself), he is not God, and no characterization of God that excludes aseity can be trust of him. Any theology that denies or otherwise negates this aseity cannot be sustained as a true, biblical doctrine of God. A god who is not a se, and thus who is essentially dependent, is god who is unable to be God. In order for God to be who is, he must be and remain essentially independent" (pp. 17-19).
Concerning proper interpretation, he author stresses Moises Silva's words: "Our evangelical view of the unity of Scripture demands that we see the whole Bible as the context of any on part... To the extent that we view the whole of Scripture as having come from one Author, therefore, to that extent a systematic understanding of the Bible contributes to the exegesis of individual passages" ( p. 23).

Oliphint on the selective difference between paradox and antimony: "Antinomy ... has to do with the state of affairs... Thus, it is more metaphysical than epistemological ... because the focus of an antinomy is on laws that are an essential aspect of certain entities, the primary concern has to do with the way thing are. As Van Til notes, it has to do with the way God is- his character as a se, his unchangeable decree, etc.- on the one hand, the way the universe or people in the universe are, on the other hand. This conflict of laws is something that obtains whether or not we believe it or able to formulate it. Paradox, in the way that I will use it, has to do with the articulation of antinomies, or the posting of things that seem contradictory. A paradox involves conflicting or seemingly contradictory propositions that themselves are presumed to be true" (p. 37).

Contents include:

Contents include:

* About the Attributes
* Hermeneutics and Theology Proper
* The I Am
* Essential Characteristics
* Eimi/Eikon Distinction
* Before Abraham was...
* Christology guides Theology Proper
* The Son of God With Us
* And more. 300 pages.

"The trinitarian argument leads to a distinction between incarnations as the common work (opus commune) of all person int he Trinity which terminates in the person of the Son and the assumption of human nature, which, in a restrictive sense, is the personal work of the Son alone. Inchoatively, the incarnation is a common work of the divine persons but terminatively it is the work of the Son. In this latter sense, incarnation is the opus proprium [proper work] of the Son, a personal rather than essential work, not a common but an economical or dispensative work" (p. 174).

Oliphint rejects any real contradiction in the revelation concerning Yahweh: "In all of this we must keep in mind, however, that there is no antinomy or contradiction in God. He is completely and exhaustively coherent in all that he says, does, and is.. Thus, the admission of antinomy and paradox in Christianity points us to the complexity of God's simplicity, the unfathomable depth that is God complete and incomprehensible perfection, for which, among other things, we worship him" ( p. 226).

"One final point must be made, however, with respect to my general methodology and critique. Suppose it is argued, given what I have said, that since God takes on covenantal properties, some of which appears to undermine his aseity (e.g., his give-and-take responses to us), it is no stretch of mind to affirm that God also takes on the covenantal property of risk, in which he, though essentially a se, determines to take a "hands off" approach in his relationship to us. Or more radically, suppose someone wants to argue that God's taking on covenantal properties includes, for example, the fact he does have a strong arm, and like. The answer to these kinds of arguments must be the beacon that drives all of our discussions of this sort. This answer is that 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 Scriptures" (pp. 278-279).

A couple of criticisms: Overall this volume is a smooth read for the non-scholar, nonetheless the author should have provided a Glossary for terms that selected readers may not be familiar with. Additionally, the author is generally very careful in his contentions, but in a few places, perhaps, he should have employed less universal assertions: "... God's condensation, which is expressed by way of covenant, has not been taken seriously enough" (p. 14). Yet it has been taken with deep gravity by countless scholars, so perhaps this statement, and a few others, could have been posited with greater precision.

"God With Us" is a rigorous and lucid presentation of the character of God revealed in Christ; its meaning and application. Oliphint's Reformed emphasis gathers from well-established scholars while adding his own insightful and discerning argumentation. He has brought Theology Proper to a new generation of readers as he engages current thought for use in the pulpit, classroom, apologetic encounters, and philosophy. This volume is a lively escort to an essential subject. My FULL review is on my site.

By Mike A Robinson
Author of "Truth, Knowledge, and the Reason for God."
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent! 16 Jan 2014
By SLIMJIM - Published on Amazon.com
Anyone who wants to get a taste of strong Robust Reformed Theology Proper ought to read this book. Scott Oliphint, the professor apologetics and systematic theology at Westminster Theological Seminary does an excellent job in this book. My copy is heavily highlighted with notes and comments. The following are some of the points that stood out to me:

- This work has a good discussion of aseity as a foundational doctrine of God: God is God and not dependent upon His creation or creature. From this point, it follows that God’s “essential attributes” are those that entail His independence (17). Also gave a good definition of Divine Simplicity (17-18).
- Oliphint gives a good hermeneutical principle concerning how to prioritize God’s attributes especially concerning passages that are anthropomorphic: “Contrary to what we have just noted, Scripture’s unity must be given priority in our interpretation of the various texts of Scripture. Muller denominates that priority as ‘ontological.’ He means that any and all texts of Scripture (and here we will confine our concerns to texts that deal with the character of God) that seek to tell us something of God’s character must be prioritized on the basis of the fundamental aseity of God” (27).
- The book is helpful in resolving the theological problem of how to account for passages in Scripture that describes God like man while also maintaining a strong aseity of Classical theism. I found it helpful his distinction between God’s essential attributes and Covenantal attributes in which the latter describes God’s condescension in relating to us. I think the term “covenantal” attributes is helpful even for those who might not subscribe to Covenant Theology.
- I thought I read the best nuance definition of antinomy and paradox offerred by Oliphint on pages 36-38.
- Interesting theological extrapolation from Exodus 3:1-14, pointing out Word Revelation and Deed Revelation, and how God’s deed in the Burning Bush tells us something about God: His presence with his people and also Him being self-sustaining.
- At first I thought it was curious that Oliphint was cautious of using the term “Creator/Creature distinction” though he agrees with the idea as taught by those who are before him such as Cornelius Van Til, etc. He has good reason: because God is more than a Creator, one does not want to give the idea that the essence of the distinction between God and all of His creation is because of His role as the Creator; rather, it’s because God in of Himself is wholly different. Oliphint chooses instead to use “Eimi/Eikonic distinction” as a better term, with the term “Eimi” to capture God as the true original.
- Book gives a good refutation of Middle knowledge including the Neo-Calvinistic version (99-105); it must be understood in the context of God’s free knowledge and necessary knowledge which was finely discussed before Oliphint’s critique of Middle knowledge. Here I am recalling Paul Helm’s point in another work of how Middle Knowledge is an unnecessary category in light of God’s free knowledge.
- Oliphint is helpful to points out two kinds of condescension by God: adoption and adaptation (124-25).
- I thought Oliphint has something stimulating to say about the issue of the incarnation. On page 142, he has a good discussion of how the human nature of man is anhypostatic (that is, impersonal) apart from the person of the Son of God while also being enhypostatic (“in person”) through the person of the Son of God.
- Enjoyed how Oliphint’s work was in conversation with systematic theology, historical theology, a tidbit of exegesis and philosophy.
It was beautiful to see Oliphint using the Doctrine of the Incarnation of Christ’s essential Divine nature and voluntary human nature to make us think about God’s relationship with us is much in the same way of His attributes He adds to condescend to us and His essential nature.
5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A layperson's review of God With Us 20 Dec 2011
By Jude M St John - Published on Amazon.com
My ten-year old recently read a John Piper book. "Start `em young" is what I always say. After reading the book my daughter returned it with the admission that she didn't understand all of it. My reponse of "Good!" left her with a puzzled look that required an explanation. I explained that I was of the opinion that we should regularly be reading books that were a little bit beyond our reach; books that would stretch our minds and hearts and cause us to grow. I'm not sure if she will be returning to me for any reading recommendations, but I hold to this idea of reading materials that seem to be deeper and more profound than what we think we are able to ingest.

K. Scott Oliphint's recently released book is just that sort of book for me. I am a layman. I have no degrees in theology and have never taken a course at a seminary or any similar institution. I serve on the board at our church and lead a small group. I like to read and pursue my `theological training' through reading book and listening to lectures and sermons. There will be no doctorate or diploma at the end of my course of studies. So, more than likely, I am a reader just like you. With this in mind, let me declare that God With Us, subtitled Divine Condescension and the Attributes of God, is a book that will challenge the layperson. But it does so in a healthy and beneficial way. In a manner that is accessible to the lay person and with the glory of God clearly in view, K. Scott Oliphint has produced a compelling and awe-inspiring exposition of the theological and apologetical significance of the condescension of God. This late 2011 release came out just in time to be the best book I read this year!

As mentioned above, it would be inaccurate to suggest I understood every nuanced argument and followed every intricate assertion in this book. A few times, sections required a re-read in order for me to grasp what was being said. A very few times, a reviewing of the ideas still left me a little short of complete understanding. Nevertheless, this book is written in an attainable fashion for the average reader. On the back cover, it is clearly presented that this is a book for both laymen and scholars. It seems to me that Oliphint has delivered a book that will be successful in that regard. I imagine that there are issues and ideas that are fodder for theologians. And I know that the book provided me with ample forage for reflective ruminations. Oliphint presents the concepts pertaining to God's attributes and condescension with an approach that one can follow and in a style that reflects the grandeur of the topic.

This book was awe-inspiring. It painted a picture of Divine condescension that brilliantly shone forth the glory of God. Displaying Christ as the quintessential revelation of God, Oliphint's Christ-exalting explanation of how the church might "understand better just who God is, what he has told us about himself, and how best to think about him" (10) was an exhilarating look into an area of theology that I had not read much about; the condescension of God. Oliphint's book is infused with glimpses of God's glory that he suggests are most clearly seen through a proper understanding of the Son of God come in the flesh. At numerous times throughout this book I found myself contemplating the mysterious and magnificent attributes of God as admired through a the lens of Christ's incarnation. This book is a prime example of how rigorous thinking can lead to reverent adoration of our God.

From my perspective, this exposition of ideas surrounding the attributes of God and how his condescension relates to them had a dual purpose. First, the book is clearly puts forward theology as a principle purpose. Oliphint goes to great lengths to show how comprehending God's condescension sheds light on a proper understanding of theology proper. We can only be appropriately informed about God's character if we consider his condescension. This studious journey walks us through God's revelation of his own name and the ramifications of this name on his essential characteristics. It treks through the distinctions of who God is in himself and how his condescension affects this. It hikes up to lofty heights in considering Christological concepts and controversies. It meanders through the mysteries that are unavoidable in contemplating someone who is far above us.

The second purpose is apologetical. In advancing his ideas of God's character seen specifically in his condescension, Oliphint defends many tenets of his Reformed approach. This defense is against a full-spectrum of allies and antagonists. This book speaks polemically and irenically to everything from open theism to early heresies to exegetical arguments. And though there is an argument to be considered, it is delivered with grace and an obvious humility.

As a book that elevates the exaltation of God in our heads and hearts through a thorough investigation into the character of God as seen in his condescension, I strongly recommend this book. If you are a layperson who wants to be challenged in your thinking about God and enlivened in your affections for him, this is a book you should read. This volume's profound effect on my theological understanding has earned it a place on my bookshelf and its positive production on my affections for God has earned it a place in my heart.

As a book that elevates the exaltation of God in our heads and hearts through a thorough investigation into the character of God as seen in his condescension, I strongly recommend this book. If you are a layperson who wants to be challenged in your thinking about God and enlivened in your affections for him, this is a book you should read. This volume's profound effect on my theological understanding has earned it a place on my bookshelf and its positive production on my affections for God has earned it a place in my heart.

I received a copy of this book from Crossway for review.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Chalcedonian Christology and Theology Proper 23 July 2013
By Clarinet Player - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The concepts contained in this book are essential for anyone trying to interpret Scripture in such a way as to rightly bring together aspects of God's essential character as the independent, self-sufficient, 'a se' I AM and His voluntary relationship to the world He created in His image (especially human beings). Open theists, Molinists, and Classical Arminians, on the one hand, end up slaughtering explicit statements in Scripture about God's independent, unchanging, and absolute being and knowledge for the sake of extrabiblical philosophical precommitments to things like libertarian free will. On the other hand however, not many Reformed theologians have done justice to passages of Scripture which speak more of God's intimate relationality, or passages that seem to say that God in some sense "regrets," "relents," discovers things, is passionately inflamed or propitiated, etc. The usual strategy for the orthodox Reformed is to either relegate such passages to the vague category of anthropomorphism (while the rest of Scripture is "not" anthropomorphic?), or to say that such passages speak not of actual changes in God but rather changes in creation and ITS relationship to God. One can feel the weight of non-Reformed criticisms of such strategies when one takes the very words of each of those passages seriously and remembers that the formal principle of the Reformation was 'sola scriptura.' But if God is truly the 'I AM', just how is it that He can relate with creation in give-and-take relationship?

Dr. K. Scott Oliphint, professor of systematic theology and apologetics at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, PA, and successor of Cornelius Van Til, approaches these issues scripturally, historically, and systematic-theologically. He gives very strong exegesis of Exodus 3, Philippians 2, and John 1 as his main texts of departure. And he shows that a strong, orthodox doctrine of Christ's person and natures, as understood and defined by our fathers at the council of Chalcedon in 451 AD, is not only biblical, but is paradigmatic of the way in which God has related with His people (and the whole world) not only in the incarnation but throughout the whole of redemptive history.

In Christ, the Logos--the eternal, divine Son--took upon Himself, contingently and "ad extra," a human nature, without in any way changing who He (the Logos, and no one else [see enhypostasis/anhypostasis] essentially is as God. Divine nature and human nature are joined in one Person in Christ. In an analogous (actually almost completely the same way--although the incarnation is in a sense one of a kind) way, God has always related to His people not by changing who He essentially is as the independent, a se and 'I AM' God, *nor by simply revealing Himself in ways that aren't ultimately actually true of Himself* (a mistake found in some Reformed writers!), but rather by taking upon Himself, 'ad extra,' attributes that are not essential to divine nature. For example, God takes on the "covenantal" property of being a Creator. Although God is in and of Himself eternally powerful enough to create, the decision to actually create we must understand as a free decision on the part of God--His Creatorship is a contingent attribute--otherwise God ends up dependent on creation in some way to be who He is essentially. A more striking example would be God's covenantal discovery of Abraham's faithfulness in Genesis 22, upon His observation of Abraham's faithful obedience to the command to sacrifice the child of promise. Of course, 'ad intra,' God knew Abraham's heart (God knows ALL things). But, because God took upon Himself, 'ad extra,' covenantal properties in order to relate truly to His people, we should understand the passage "literally." Just as the Son of God "literally" died on the cross, yet it was according to His human nature only, so God "literally" "discovered" Abraham's faithfulness as a new object of knowledge, yet not according to God's 'ad intra,' or "in-Himself" knowledge.

Thus we can (and must) affirm both God's essential, unchanging character as the absolute and independent Triune 'I AM,' AS WELL AS His character as the God who condescends to relate TRULY with His people in covenant, by taking upon Himself attributes not essential to His nature, ultimately in the incarnation of the Son. There is still much mystery here, but Dr. Oliphint spells out these dynamics in detail with constant reference to relevant and well-exegeted Scripture, as well as to the best of the Reformed scholastic tradition (although as you will read, they got some things wrong, too!), and by way of contrast to various forms of modern theological scholarship that threatens to undermine God's essential 'a se' character because of legitimate concerns to preserve God's genuine relationship to His people and to His creation.

This is an absolute must-read for anyone who wants to have a thoroughly Christ-centered and orthodox view of God and how He relates to us, by way of covenant condescension, ultimately by way of the incarnation of Christ and the completion of the work of redemption at Calvary.

I hope the main thesis of this book becomes more widespread in the thought of the Reformed community, as well as more accessible to lower-level readers (this book is probably inaccessible to most high schoolers and some college students without significant training in philosophy). Dr. Oliphint has contributed something really great to the Reformed tradition here, though, by sharpening up some of the ideas you can find in rougher forms in Turretin and other Reformed scholastics, and perhaps more significantly, by applying more explicitly biblical terminology to some of the concepts (he uses language of 'I AM' and "image" or "Eimi/eikon" to describe the distinction between God in Himself and God as condescended). Definitely give it a read in conjunction with 'Reasons for Faith' and 'Covenantal Apologetics!'

S. T. Cowden
5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Character of God 20 Feb 2012
By Sheep23 - Published on Amazon.com
God with Us by K. Scott Oliphint
Not having much familiarity with Van Til nor Oliphint's other books, I believe I was stepping into deep waters when I sent off for this book from Crossway. Instead of going on about what I did not understand about the book (which was much), I want to examine some things that I not only understood but were crucial in the discussion.

The purpose of the book in the beginning is to "think biblically about who God is" (9), and in doing so we might more adequately worship him (11). This purpose statement is right on track with the goal of doctrine in the biblical life, not as some separate mental engagement, but a mental engagement that fuels our whole being in worship. Following this notion, Oliphint proposes that a proper view of God and his attributes is only really understood as we relate in to the Son of God, Jesus Christ (knowledge of him). In posing this thesis, he takes into account some aberrations with respect to God's character and attributes in his introduction. I felt a bit like I was entering a boxing match in which the author was the champion and he was beating down his opponents. Yet, when I looked at the contenders in the bout (open view theism, Peter Enns and his book Inspiration and Evangelicals, and the philosophy of Stephen T. Davis). Suffice it to say, I do think it is very important to reiterate Oliphint's distinction between God as he is in himself and God as he is in relationship to his creation. The final goal of open-view thought is that God is `essentially dependent on the world in order to be who he is and to act" (33). If we believe that God is essentially unaffected by his creation and he is above it, then we will not allow a position such as open view to cloud our view.

Lastly, Oliphint helpfully gives credence to antinomies and paradoxes regading God's character and decree. I heartily agree that we need to keep in mind what an antimony is when relating to God's character ("two or more entities that in some sense contain laws or operations that seem to be in conflict and resist reconciliation by us" 36).

Oliphint's discussion of Exodus 3 and God telling Moses and thus his people "I AM WHO I AM" is very helpful in speaking of the self-existence of God and his immanence. Oliphint writes, "Both the name and the act (of the unburning bush) imply the immanence of this God....They picture and look forward to the ideal of Emmanuel, God with us...The fire, like God, is in need of nothing in order to be what it is. It transcends the earthly...but in his transcendence is able to dwell among his people" (59). One, the significance of God's naming and acting is in accordance with the entire corpus of Scripture, from the very beginning of creation to the end. We often forget the sense that God's words and his deeds go together. Often, his deeds interpret his words in a very symbolic and powerful way. Secondly, God is not committed to remain aloof from his people, but seeks to dwell tangibly with them in various ways (i.e. burning bush). From God walking in Garden of Eden, to the burning push, to the penultimate event of the Incarnation, God's immanence cannot be forgotten. In talking about the service of worship and liturgy, the concepts of transcendence and immanence can be very meaningful in developing a biblical notion of God.

I thought the discussion regarding Eimi and eikon was a good foray into helping people discern how we both reflect characteristics of God and how God is the utterly transcendent one (90). Not only this, but the `universe too shows forth the characteristics of God' (91). How do we understand this distinction? Oliphint carries us through this terrain by pointing out that `the actual thoughts of God cannot by thought by us' but `we have the thoughts of God available to us by way of his revelation' (92). God has voluntarily condescended to reveal to us something of his character in order that we might image back to him those same characteristics. Put more succinctly, we are forever lost without God stooping down and revealing himself to us. Yet, this type of revealing is not as God knows himself but is mediated revelation. I thought that one application of this was a greater appreciation of the men that God used in revealing his Word (authors of the biblical books). They bore witness to the revelation of God in language and thoughts patterns that the people could understand, be changed by, and in turn bring true worship back to God.

Lastly, Oliphint carefully talks about what it means that God condescended. He says, "We mean that God freely determined to take on attributes, characteristics, and properties that he did not have, and would not have, without creation. In his taking on these characteristics,...they cannot be of the essence of who he is, nor can they be necessary to his essential identity as God" (110). Oliphint uses the term covenantal properties to describe these characteristics of condescension. What he means is that God is in no way constrained by his actions of condescension but does so both voluntarily and with the goal of redemption in mind (112). Throughout the book, Oliphint is careful to make the distinction between God's essential attributes and those which he takes on (covenantal properties) in his condescension. We see this carried out uniquely in the incarnation.

I thought this book was very good in seeking to apply the principles of sound theological reasoning and Scripture to describe God's attributes and character. Often, we see a one-sided philosophical understanding of God's character without primary interaction with biblical texts. Oliphint makes it clear that he is both guided by a presupposition of God's being wholly unique and yet seeking to make himself known. Much more discussion could be made of his understanding of the incarnation, but I will let the reader seek that for themselves.
The only criticism I have is that I had a great difficulty in understanding some of the philosophical language and some of the theologians and thinkers (Turretin, Aquinas, Plantinga). This is probably due to my own lack of study but I still felt this book was in places somewhat difficult to understand. Yet, the read was worth the effort and I commend it to anyone wanting a great discussion of God's character.
Much thanks to Crossway Books for the review copy of the book.
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