While in seminary, I became fascinated with the study of revelation. God’s disclosure of his actions and character took on heightened meaning in consideration of the biblical story and what God wanted to be made known about himself. But I’ve noticed that this topic can be treated with some remote detachment in the quest to understand God’s character and promises.
God With Us: Exploring God’s Personal Interactions with His People throughout the Bible pops this airy bubble. Glenn Kreider, professor of Theological Studies at Dallas Seminary (he also was my thesis advisor) provides a refreshing look at God’s revelation as he interacts with his creation. Kreider anchors the theme of God’s revelation in terms of his condescension, which he defines as “to descend to a less formal or dignified level.” (24) It is a downward act of condescension that we can know God and it also reveals this heart for his creation. Kreider states, “From the beginning of the biblical story, God’s humility is on display in his activity in the created order. Since what he does reveals who he is, God is revealed as a transcendent being to care for his creation.” (16)
Kreider continues by saying the ultimate expression of condescension is in the incarnation noting, “The Creator of the universe became a creature without ceasing to be the Creator.” (33). In Jesus divine humility he secures redemption for those who will trust in him and Kreider points to the fact that this is instructive for the attitudes of Christians and how they represent Christ. But Kreider broadens the scope of revelation to give a holistic view of God’s condescension in terms of creation, fall, redemption and re-creation.
Thus, in God With Us, Kreider wants to show that divine condescension happened from the beginning of Genesis, stating “any involvement of God in his world is an act of condescension. Further that God humbles himself and interacts with his creation is the major plot line of the Bible and each of the Biblical stories.” (24) Since Jesus is the ultimate expression of God’s condescension, Kreider aptly notes that Scripture must be read through a Christological lens. With this foundation, he traces through the biblical narrative noting God’s intentional interaction with his creation as he interacts with selected texts of Scripture.
As he goes through the Old Testament in Chapters 3-5, a few features prominently will hit the reader in context of the overarching theme as Kreider highlights the trajectory of God’s implementation of his covenantal promises.First, God interacts with the culture of time [I would add it actually comes from him anyway in the form of imitation]. Second, God does so with some of the most unlikely candidates. Third, God demonstrates continual mercy in the face of human failing and judgment.
Chapter 6, “The Everlasting Incarnation of the Eternal Son” is where the rubber meets the road. Kreider recounts the story of Jesus’ birth in a way that is more befitting to actual events than the polite, pristine displays of our Christmas pageants. I really appreciated his section on the shepherds and how they would have been considered in that society. Yet in keeping with Kreider’s theme, this is the group to whom God delivered the message of the birth of the Savior. How incredibly fitting that I read this chapter during Advent season.
Chapters 7-8 focus on Jesus earthly ministry, death burial and resurrection and the apostles ministry to continue what Jesus implemented. A striking feature in Chapter 8 is Kreider’s discussion on how Jesus demonstrated that greatness is actually service, the same kind of service that God provided in condescending to his creatures to make himself known. Kreider also highlights this theme in portions of the epistles.
Kreider then concludes the biblical story with God’s consummation of his historical acts in Chapter 9. Lest you think this is a liberal lovefest, Kreider does not shy away from acknowledging God’s judgment on those who reject belief in the Son. But God With Us also compels the reader to consider God’s extraordinary patience with his creatures. Citing 2 Peter 3:3-9 , Kreider notes, “The godly response to the delay in Christ’s return is to be similarly compassionate and merciful towards unbelievers. Surely scoffing is ungodly, but perhaps so is an unbridled and even enthusiastic desire for God to destroy all his enemies–and soon.” (188)
He then ties the bookends of the biblical story together, from creation to re-creation demonstrating the last impact of God’s intention towards his creation.
When he created the world (Gen. 1-2), God gave to humans, those created in his image, the responsibility to care for it. But they consistently rebelled against him, destroying the earth, he created. But God has not given up on us. He redeems us for his glory and re-creates the heaven and earth, making it inhabitable for us forever. He then moves into our neighborhood. (200)
In exploring God’s interaction with his creation, Kreider also leaves the reader with compelling applications of how God’s people should interact with this world and the people in it, that is with humility, love and the desire to make a difference. Only the hardest of hearts would come away unfazed by the need to adopt this attitude even if you don’t agree with every point of doctrine. The few areas that I found some disagreement pale in comparison with Kreider’s overarching treatise to consider the immense mercy and humility that was demonstrated to us.
Don’t confuse this with an academic treatise. While it’s content is rich theologically, the format and language are very user-friendly, reaching to an audience who would probably never set foot in a formal academic setting. He also initiates each chapter with an anecdotal story that connects with each chapter.
I also appreciated that he wrote in a way that was accommodating to non-dispensational perspectives, especially considering that the book is published through P&R Publishing. Though Kreider readily acknowledges a pre-millennial dispensational position, the focus of the book centers on God’s redemptive actions as he interacts with his creation and his consummation in a re-created earth. This does much in bridging the divide between the varying eschatalogical positions and demonstrates the kind of priority we should give to it. Surely, everyone can agree on Rev. 21!
Overall, it is Kreider’s gracious and reconciling tone that match the theme of the book and demonstrates the attitude one should adopt in consideration of God’s condescension. It reminds us that divine revelation should invoke humility.