“All that is in God is God.”
What does it mean when we say that God is not served by human hands (Acts 17:25) or that He does not change (Malachi 3:6)? The implications of the Bible’s teaching about the being of God have been pondered and developed for millennia in the Christian church.
The post-Descartes era, and especially the 20th century, have been a disaster for the Christian doctrine of God. In his book, James Dolezal compares common contemporary understandings of the doctrine of God among evangelical scholars with the classical doctrine of God as espoused by the church fathers and the scholastics (both catholic and Protestant). It might surprise many students of Protestantism to learn that the Reformation did not consider it necessary to “reform” the catholic doctrine of God. Protestant orthodoxy stands squarely in the stream of classical theism.
Though it dips into philosophy at times, this is a much needed book. Something has gone very wrong when Protestants hesitate to describe God as simple in essence, “immutable” and “without body, parts or passions” (WCF 2.1). A Reformed seminary professor recently confessed that he first heard about the doctrine of God’s simplicity over a decade into his academic career.
I have some questions about the way he describes the views of his opponents at times, but Dolezal’s work is refreshing, an instance of “the breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds” (C. S. Lewis).
The growth of the discipline of biblical theology has helped the church in many ways over the last century, but it has also had the (often unintended) side-effect of making us forget that God is not just one of the characters in the story of redemption. “God is not a historical individual… In an attempt to understand God as one of the historical characters in the narrative of redemption, many have fallen into the trap of historicizing His very life and existence.” (p. xv)
Other reviews: Kevin DeYoung, John Frame’s critical thoughts, Mark Jones responds to Frame, Denny Burk.
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