Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Book Review - God With Us

Book Review – God With Us by K. Scott Oliphint

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.


  1. Someone pointed me to this review and I wanted to thank you for your kind words. It seems "layfolk" get this in a way some "scholars" seem bent on missing. Thank you again.

  2. Scott, your most welcome. This is a wonderful book that I'll be encouraging others to read. Thanks for your contribution to my 'course of study'.