Mere Fidelity: On Divine Accommodation

How does God accommodate himself to us? How do we know when he has accommodated himself to us, or when we are projecting ourselves back on him?  In this episode, we take up what has traditionally been called the doctrine of ‘divine accommodation,’ and consider its limits and its abuses.

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  • http://derekzrishmawy.com/ Derek Rishmawy

    By the way, for those interested, the extended Bavinck quote can be found here:

    http://derekzrishmawy.com/2014/05/06/5-theses-on-the-knowledge-of-god-or-bavinck-puts-himself-in-a-nutshell/

  • Ryan

    Great thoughts. I think at its heart the misuse and abuse of Inerrancy emerges from a misunderstanding of divine accommodation.

    In our context what would be useful method of teaching, preaching and sharing a sharper understanding of divine accommodation without compromising the revelatory nature of Scripture, the perspicuity of Scripture and the charge of moral hypocrisy?

    • Alastair J Roberts

      Perhaps one of the most important things is to ‘show your working’ to some extent while preaching (or if not in preaching in some other form of teaching to which all persons in the church are exposed). Preaching shouldn’t just be a matter of giving theological information or the meaning of a particular biblical passage. Rather—among several other things—preaching should provide a worked example of how Scripture ought to be handled. The preacher who approaches the biblical text as authoritative and revelatory, trusting that God reveals himself there—not just using it as a springboard for his own thoughts, or as an out of date text—sends an important message to a congregation. When he interprets the text in a rigorous and contextually sensitive manner that nonetheless keeps front and centre the fact that all Scripture is God’s canonical word to his people today, this provides a pattern for the congregation to follow. Whether or not it is in the sermon itself, every church needs to find a way to expose the congregation to models of the careful reading of Scripture and not just give them its predigested results.

      So, in short, the primary way to give a congregation a good understanding of divine accommodation is not so much through teaching it as a doctrine as allowing it deeply to inform your practice, which is then modelled for others.

      • Ryan

        Good words. I think that part of the difficulty though, at least in my Canadian context, is that the understanding that the fundamentalist “literal” understanding of the Biblical text is “true Christianity” and other interpretations are just attempts to make Christianity palatable to our time.

        Appreciate the podcast and the level of discourse on it. You and the Homebrewed Christianity guys should get together for a discussion!

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  • Bill

    Good discussion. I liked your comments about accommodation is often thought of as a barrier to understanding God rather than a bridge to understanding. It seems that some people start with the idea that since God cannot be captured by human language;therefore, words cannot communicate truth about God. Once we buy into this idea, then we are left with substituting either our personal likes and dislikes, or our cultures likes and dislikes. If this is the case, what we are calling “speaking to our culture” might be nothing more than affirming our own preferences.

  • Richard H

    I was surprised none of you brought in Jesus and the incarnation as an example of divine accommodation. (Or did I miss it during a moment of distraction?)

    In addition to the fact of cultural change (which you do highlight), the incarnation of God into a particular time, place, and culture would seem to be an important clue to understand accommodation.

    I appreciate your work in this podcast!

    • Alastair J Roberts

      Thanks for the comment, Richard! I am sure that I remember mentioning the incarnation at some point, although it may have been in unrecorded discussion before or after the podcast. If it wasn’t mentioned in the podcast itself, it was a definite oversight. As you say, it is an important vantage point from which to gain a clearer understanding of the doctrine.