Classical Theism in the Pastoral Key

These are truly fascinating times in which to be living when the classical, orthodox doctrine of God is gripping the imagination of the church.

Some may still wonder why such things as simplicity, immutability, and  impassibility, and distinctions such as that between God’s incommunicable and communicable attributes are so important.  Clearly, Barrett’s book will be useful to such, as will Peter Sanlon’s Simply God and James Dolezal’s All That Is In God — very helpful, straightforward guides.  And Todd Billings’ Rejoicing in Lament has some deeply moving reflections on the importance of impassibility as being vital to the believer’s hope.  There can be few more qualified to write on the practical importance of the doctrine of God than someone facing his own mortality in the shape of a deadly cancer.

 

Just over a decade ago, the big surprise in American evangelicalism was the sudden popularity of Calvinistic theology captured by Collin Hansen’s memorable phrase, ‘young, restless, and Reformed.’   More recently, another unexpected trend has emerged – an interest in classical theism, Nicene Trinitarianism, and Chalcedonian Christology.   Both movements connect to significant correctives within the field of historical theology, epitomized in the early modern period by the work of Richard Muller, in Patristics by Lewis Ayres and Khaled Anatolios, and in medieval metaphysics by Gilles Emery and Matthew Levering.  The older historiography — that which traded in generalized clichés and caricatures of ‘scholasticism,’ notions of a monolithic medieval ‘Aristotelianism,’ and naïve contrasts between West and East — lies slain and dead in the dust.

So far, so academic.  But how has this become relevant to the Christian in the pew?  That it is so is evidenced by Matthew Barrett’s new book, None Greater, which boasts jacket commendations from such YRR luminaries as Tim Challies, Tim Chester, and Jared Wilson, men known for making solid theology connect with the Christian public.    These are truly fascinating times in which to be living when the classical, orthodox doctrine of God is gripping the imagination of the church.

Yet some may still wonder why such things as simplicity, immutability, and  impassibility, and distinctions such as that between God’s incommunicable and communicable attributes are so important.  Clearly, Barrett’s book will be useful to such, as will Peter Sanlon’s Simply God and James Dolezal’s All That Is In God — very helpful, straightforward guides.  And Todd Billings’ Rejoicing in Lament has some deeply moving reflections on the importance of impassibility as being vital to the believer’s hope.  There can be few more qualified to write on the practical importance of the doctrine of God than someone facing his own mortality in the shape of a deadly cancer.

To this august group can now be added Terry Johnson’s new volume from Banner of Truth, The Identity and Attributes of God.  The fruit of over thirty-four years of research and reflection on the doctrine of God, this book is both profound in its theology, lucid in its exposition, and deeply pastoral and practical in its tone and intention.   Anyone wanting to dive into the doctrine of God who wants to see how classical theism connects to everyday Christian life – and what is therefore practically at stake when such theology is abandoned – should read this book.

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