In this week’s Mere Fidelity podcast Derek Rishmawy, Andrew Wilson, Matt Lee Anderson, and I discuss the doctrine of divine accommodation and its immense importance within several contemporary debates, from discussions of the Bible and science, to the morality of God’s actions in the Old and New Testaments, to the applicability of various scriptural teachings, to the dangers of certain forms of apophatic theology, to the concept of cultural relevance and contextualization. Early in the podcast, Derek reads a quotation from Herman Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics Vol. 2: God and Creation, which encapsulates this doctrine forcefully and succinctly:
1. All our knowledge of God is from and through God, grounded in his revelation, that is, in objective reason.
2. In order to convey the knowledge of him to his creatures, God has to come down to the level of his creatures and accommodate himself to their powers of comprehension.
3. The possibility of this condescension cannot be denied since it is given with creation, this is, with the existence of finite being.
4. Our knowledge of God is always only analogical in character, that is, shaped by analogy to what can be discerned of God in his creatures, having as its object not God in himself in his knowable [sic.] essence, but God in his revelation, his relation to us, in the things that pertain to his natural, in his habitual disposition to his creatures. Accordingly, this knowledge is only a finite image, a faint likeness and creaturely impression of the perfect knowledge that God has of himself.
5. Finally, our knowledge of God is nevertheless true, pure, and trustworthy because it has for its foundation God’s self-consciousness, its archetype, and his self-revelation in the cosmos.
Hope that you enjoy the podcast and, as usual, leave your comments beneath this post or, even better, beneath the post on Mere Orthodoxy. We’ll do our best to answer any questions or engage with any thoughts that you might have.
“His knowable essence…”
Uh oh. The Cappodcians just felt a disturbance in the force.
Good catch! I copied and pasted it from elsewhere and had forgotten about that. The error is in the original (translated) text.
There’s been a good mix topics so far. Enjoying it. I haven’t listened to this one yet but would you say that analogy is necessary for accomodation?
Short answer: yes. 🙂
lol, that is a short answer. I’m trying to think of accomodation that doesn’t depend on analogy – not going very well…
I’d love to hear your thoughts if you come up with any ideas.
On the necessity of analogy for accommodation, one other possibility is simplification (a simplification might use analogy but it needn’t use it) . So by analogy (hoho), we begin a new subject by being taught the basics and then gradually introduce complexity. It’s hard to think how this would apply to revelation. Another issue here would be the reason(s) for accommodation; analogical knowledge is typically grounded in the ontological distinction between creator/creature but simplification wouldn’t be. In principle it seems we could understand in a complex way what is presently known in a simple way.
You wrote: “creation, this is, with the existence of finite being” — I’m not sure whether you’d advance the idea that being can be infinite; is not being determinacy, and so finitude? I’m not sure what else being would be other than determinacy at some level.