By Glenn R. Kreider
P&R Publishing 2014.
The focus of this book is on the condescension of God. Condescension? Sometimes that word is used in a negative sense, but that is not the way the author intends it. Rather God’s condescension is viewed in a positive sense. God waived his privileges and humbled himself in order to relate to his creatures in a way that they could understand. Andy Crouch is quoted who states “In an earlier day, condescension meant the powerful treating everyone they met with dignity and respect.” Kreider sees this as an apt description of our God. The book, in a simple way, walks you though the Old and New Testament pointing out ways that God has graciously condescended himself to humanity. By simple, all I mean is that the book is focused on the Scripture. You’ll likely discover new observations about God that you overlooked in familiar Bible stories. Indeed, familiarity can be a problem, as we think we already know the story and fail to notice aspects of it as a result.
The humility of our God can be an overlooked theme. Why? The author proposes two reasons. One, there is something counter-intuitive about it. God is great so how could he be humble? We misunderstand humility as a form of weakness. Second, we are uncomfortable about what this would mean for us. If God is humble, then we should certainly be humble too. (Uh-oh.) While the book points out examples of God’s humility in his interactions with humanity throughout both the Old and New Testament, the ultimate act of condescension – the Incarnation of God through Jesus the Son – receives 2 chapters of focus. It is also emphasized earlier in the book that Jesus is the ultimate focus of all the Scripture.
The book has a much needed eschatological theme on the culmination of God’s plan for this world. Jesus will return to earth and live here once again. Here is an excerpt:
“…the hope of the followers of Jesus is not just that they will go to be with him, but that he will come to them – that he will return to the earth and make things right when he lives on the earth forever. In short, the hope of redeemed humanity is not heaven, but earth. Heaven is a temporary home until the day of resurrection, when heaven will come down to earth and the God of heaven will make the earth his home (Rev. 21:3). When the work of redemption is completed, the triune God will condescend to dwell eternally on this planet.” – pages 162-163
Something discussed on my blog in the past is divine accommodation. God graciously condescends himself and communicates with people in a way that matches the time and place in history, as well as their ability to comprehend. If God used methods totally foreign to the place and time, likely the people would be confused or not understand. Therefore, we will naturally see similarities between the way God was working and the surrounding culture at the time. The book offers examples of this in the biblical story, and also quotes several theologians such as Herman Bavinck:
“If God were to speak to us in a divine language, not a creature would understand him. But what spells out his grace is the fact that from the moment of his creation God stoops down to his creatures, speaking and appearing to them in human fashion.” (pages 29-30)
I recommend this book to you. It is practical as it helps us realize that if God is humble, we should be humble too. Condescension, or the voluntary humbling of oneself for the sake of others, is both an attitude and an action that should be reflected in our lives.
* Dr. Kreider was a professor of mine in seminary. While many of my profs were helpful to me, Dr. K (as we called him) was that one special teacher that transformed my thinking on a number of issues. He brought clarity and understanding in areas where my thinking was fuzzy or confused, and I was excited to find out he was writing this book. I drove over 2 hours to my weekend classes with Dr. K, and it was more than worth it. I am thankful he was (and is) so willing to travel to the DTS extension sites to teach.*