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Archive for June 13th, 2013

God is With us Oliphint

Purchase: Westminster | Amazon

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.

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