There’s a cause we’re usually warned in opposition to taking issues as a right. The issues we assume will all the time be there are normally the issues that get uncared for on the backburner. This will additionally occur theologically. As Protestants, we’re good at debating doctrines like soteriology, ecclesiology, and worship. If we take our doctrine of God as a right in our discussions, nevertheless, we gained’t understand when it’s being tinkered with, misapplied, and even changed. A well timed and well-met treatment to this drawback is Matthew Barrett’s new work, None Larger: The Undomesticated Attributes of God.
In a theological local weather the place a big portion of American evangelicals imagine issues contradictory to the Christian religion, None Larger comes as a spring within the desert. Whereas Barrett—affiliate professor of Christian theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary—has each proper to bemoan the benefit with which many can discover biblical passages about constructing a wall whereas seeing no drawback with the assertion “Jesus was the first and greatest being created by God the Father,” grilling evangelicalism isn’t his purpose. None Larger is a constructive and doxological work, showcasing the great thing about an orthodox doctrine of God.
Creator and Creature
Barrett first helps us discover confidence in how we are able to actually know God in any respect. For the reason that Enlightenment, modernity usually offers in dichotomies, giving man the choices of univocal and equivocal information; both we all know God completely, the best way God is aware of himself (univocal information), or we all know nothing in any respect, and all actuality is merely our interpretation (equivocal information) (33). Barrett attracts on Augustine and Calvin to clarify that, although we’re finite creatures and may’t exhaustively comprehend our infinite Creator, we nonetheless can actually know him.
Modernity has it backward: We don’t hypothesize our option to God; God reveals himself to us. He doesn’t reveal his complete essence to his finite creatures, lest his glory consumes us (Ex. 33:22; Heb. 12:29). As an alternative, like a nurse to a toddler, he “lisps” to his creation. He accommodates our colleges and speaks to us in his Phrase in a manner we are able to perceive.
We don’t hypothesize our option to God; God reveals himself to us.
For instance, Barrett highlights that although God doesn’t actually have eyeballs and wings, because the psalmist will at occasions attribute to him (Ps. 17:8; 34:15); nonetheless, these analogies inform us true issues about God. His “eyes” depict his omniscience, and his “wings” inform us that he’s our haven and our refuge. Simply as our language of God is analogical, so is our information. Since our information is an analogy of God’s good information, we all know we’re at the very least able to understanding the reality about God and the world. Being made in God’s picture, we’re not God, however we’re like God. In theological phrases that Barrett explains and applies, God’s information of himself and actuality is the archetype, whereas our information is the ectype. In different phrases, our information is a “derivative,” a “copy” and “imitation” of the unique.
Communicable and Incommunicable
The e-book’s subtitle, The Undomesticated Attributes of God, captures Barrett’s ethos. The classical classes of God’s attributes are his communicable and incommunicable attributes. Whereas God’s communicable attributes are these that may be communicated and imitated by his image-bearers (love, justice, goodness, wrath, and so forth), we are able to’t mirror his incommunicable attributes. God alone is immutable (unchangeable), impassible (can’t be acted upon), omniscient (all-knowing), omnipresent (is current in all places always), and so forth.
Right here is the place Barrett’s subtitle and the Creator-creature distinction play such an vital position: As a result of God isn’t made with human fingers because the idols of different nations, and since God isn’t contingent on the world (as Greek philosophy asserts), he can’t be seen as a bigger model of mankind. He isn’t a projection of man into the heavens. The excellence between Creator and creature isn’t a dimension distinction. “He is not a God who simply possesses our powers but in endless measure,” Barrett warns. “No, an infinite God transcends our characteristics altogether” (44). Barrett goes on to clarify that that is why God’s love, judgment, mercy, jealousy, and the remainder of his attributes don’t contradict one another (234). As a result of God isn’t like man however is in himself good, all he does is ideal.
The excellence between Creator and creature isn’t a dimension distinction.
The rationale God can do all issues completely is defined by his attribute of simplicity. This attribute, Barrett explains, will get at the concept God isn’t made up of components. In different phrases, he’s not merely a recipe of attributes. In contrast to created issues which can be good and dangerous on various levels, God is all of his attributes concurrently: “Is one thing true as a result of God says it’s true, or does God declare one thing is true as a result of it’s true? The query betrays God’s simplicity. God doesn’t bow to some exterior norm for reality, nor does he invent reality ex nihilo. God is truthfulness itself. All reality is reality as a result of it mimics the very nature of God, who’s reality. . . . If God is a straightforward God, then he is his perfections eternally” (80–81).
These insights are what makes None Larger stand aside. Whereas systematic theologians have a knack for complicating issues, Barrett breaks from the stereotype and applies these doctrines each virtually and pastorally. He exhibits that the orthodox doctrine of God isn’t merely a philosophical paradigm positioned over the Bible. Quite, he exhibits the reader that these attributes of God do essentially the most justice to the biblical textual content, arising out of the Scriptures themselves. Barrett’s work teaches us how these doctrines assist to carry the entire Scriptures collectively, somewhat than pitting them in opposition to one another as if passage x contradicts passage y.
None Larger does many issues superbly: it handles lofty ideas faithfully, but it applies them virtually, refusing to jettison these conversations only for the theologians.
For instance, in 1 Samuel 15:11, God is alleged to “regret” making Saul king, however verse 29 says, “for [God] is not a man, that he should have regret.” Barrett argues:
The language of “regret” isn’t meant actually however serves as a sign, indicating to the reader not solely that God has judged Saul however that God’s plan all alongside has been to lift up a king after his personal coronary heart. By declaring his “regret” God is saying that this new king is on the horizon (“The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you . . . and has given it to a neighbor”). (107)
Since God isn’t merely “the big guy upstairs,” we all know that each one of our language and metaphors of him—rock, lion, tower, mild—aren’t complete of his essence. As an alternative, the biblical authors “believe they are communicating who God is in relation to the created order by means of his mighty works and words” (128).
Whereas many depict Christian dogma because the yardstick that retains individuals away from Jesus and the Bible, Barrett reveals to the reader how nurturing these doctrines are for the Christian. Quite than chilly and inflexible guidelines, as a result of the doctrines come out of the Scriptures they naturally nourish and luxury the sheep. They not solely guard us in opposition to the wastelands of heterodoxy, however in addition they assist us cherish the truth that God is God, and we’re not.
Like its subject material, None Larger does many issues superbly: It handles lofty ideas faithfully, but it applies them virtually, refusing to jettison these conversations only for the theologians. That is maybe the e-book’s crown jewel. Barrett exhibits us that the great thing about these doctrines are such that nobody ought to take them as a right.