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Revelation and our mode of understanding

It could perhaps be more helpful if we were to begin to see that all of God’s revelation to us is anthropomorphic. It is, then, essentially accomodated revelation; it is revelation accommodated to our mode of being and our mode of understanding. It is not, therefore, that God’s revelation is accommodated to us when it speaks, say, of God’s eyes or his arm or his repentance, while it is not accommodated to us when it speaks of his eternity. One quotation from Calvin may help us see the matter more clearly:

“What, therefore, does the word “repentance” mean? Surely its meaning is like that of all modes of speaking that describe God for us in human terms. For because our weakness does not attain to his exalted state, the description of him that is given to us must be accommodated to our capacity so that we may understand it. Now the mode of accommodation is for him to represent himself to us not as he is in himself, but as he seems to us. Althought he is beyond all disturbance of mind, yet he testifies that he is angry toward sinners.”

While there can be no question that there are truths given to us in God’s revelation that point to his essential character, and others that point to his covenantal character, we should be careful to note that those covenantal attributes of God’s are no less “literal” than are his essential attributes. God’s repentance, then, is not simply something that “seems to us” like repentance. It is literal repentance, he is (covenantally) changing directions because of his faithfulness to his covenant. But it is repentance of a condescended, covenant God who has come down, taking on the form of a creature, in order to glorify himself, and it is repentance that does not in any way sacrifice, undermine, or otherwise alter his essential character as a se. He repents, all the while remaining the eternal, immutable “I AM.”

K. Scott Oliphint,  in Reasons for Faith: Philosophy in the Service of Theology (P&R Publishing Company 2006), page 253-4.

The God who condescends

“The triune God made a decision – a decision of humiliation… This decision carried with it no necessity; it was not necessary for the second person of the Trinity to decide to humble himself. He had every right to refrain from such a decision and to not add to himself the humiliating status of humanity. But he determined not to. This second person – one who was equal to God, who is in the form of God, who is himself God (John 1:1) – did not stop being God (such a thing would be impossible), but rather he took on something that was not a part of his essential character previously. He took on human nature (John 1:14).

To be clear, Christ does not become the opposite of himself by taking on human nature. Moreover, it is not as though he gives up deity in order to become man. This pattern is nowhere given in Scripture; it is, as we have said, an impossibility (given what we understand of God’s essence). Rather, just as the “I AM” remains Lord while coming down to be the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, so the second person of the Trinity remains God, while coming down to assume human nature and therefore becomes the God-man. This, as we have said, is the covenant; as the Westministers Confession reminds us, Christ is the substance of the covenant. It is covenant condescension, inconceivable to comprehend fully, but nevertheless central to a basic understanding of God and his relationship to creation.”

K. Scott Oliphint,  in Reasons for Faith: Philosophy in the Service of Theology (P&R Publishing Company 2006), page 242.