Monday, 8 September 2014

What is God? by Robert Reymond

Robert Reymond- What is God? 2007 Christian Focus

Coming from the conservative wing of Calvinistic Reformed theology, you might expect Robert Reymond to be a firm advocate of classic theism. Unfortunately, he departs in quite a few places from historic Christian views on the Doctrine of God.

I tend to agree with Reymond's rejection of apophatic theology and the via negativa. He points out that to say that God is incomprehensible is not to say that He is unknowable. I'm not so sure that I agree with his Clarkian insistence that God's nature and attributes must be understood univocally. I certainly agree with his worthy Clarkian rejection of Van Til's idea that God is BOTH unipersonal and tripersonal.

Reymond refers to God's simplicity, affirming that the divine essence is indivisible. He does not elaborate on this as to whether he takes a strong form of simplicity in like with Aquinas. I rather doubt he does.

Sadly, Reymond rejects Divine Atemporality. He opposes philosophical views of divine eternity, opting instead for a shallow biblicism. The problem is that his use of Biblical proof texts to prove divine temporality could just as easily be used to prove Open Theism or the Mormon idea that God has a physical body. This kind of approach leaves me in no doubt that classic theism will inevitably be rejected in some way or another by Evangelical Protestants. The Biblicist mentality cannot sustain a more abstract or philosophical notions about God.

Reymond wrote a very strong defence of the doctrine of divine impassibility, which is included in his book Cotending for the Faith. He seems to use different language, offering a rather watered down view of impassibility, rather like Rob Lister.

This author has been notorious for his rejection of Nicene Christology, even amont Calvinists who otherwise adore his Systematic Theology. He argues that both the early church fathers and the Nicene creed imply a subordinationist christology. He argues that the Son and the Spirit must be authotheotic, as Calvin argued. If they are not authotheotic, they cannot be God. Yet if they have self-existence, presumably the Spirit and the Son could exist without the Father. This can only lead to tritheism. Reymond argues, replying to criticisms from fellow Reformed theologian, Robert Letham, that theology must be subject to Scripture and not the creeds and the church fathers.

This book was a turning point for my own faith journey. It made me realise that I had to choose between a theology grounded only in appeals to Scripture and a theology shaped by creed and tradition. For me this raised very uncomfortable questions about Protestantism. I had become increasingly disenchanted by the failure of Evangelicals to take a firm stance on the classic doctrines of God. I found there was a lip service to divine atemporality, but a wholesale rejection of impassibility and a complete ignorance of divine simplicity. It slowly dawned on me that a 'Bible Only' approach could not sustain classic theism.

1 comment:

  1. "It slowly dawned on me that a 'Bible Only' approach could not sustain classic theism."

    Correct. But why should it?