Amazingly Condescending

We don’t usually use the word condescending as a compliment. No, everyone knows that condescending people are offensive. They believe they are superior; and they are a bit ostentatious about how they are stooping down to your level of intelligence for communication. They think that we should admire them for this, but we know that we’ve been insulted.

But what if this is exactly what we need? Certainly, we do not need someone who merely patronizes us all the while maintaining their inflated view of themself. But would we be offended if someone truly superior voluntarily condescends to communicate their glory to us? This is exactly what God has done in Christ, and we should be eternally grateful.

K. Scott Oliphint discusses God’s condescension in his book, Covenant Apologetics. He makes it clear that “this condescension of God is a metaphorical way of speaking” (61). We know that God is present everywhere and cannot become present in a place that he does not already occupy. But this condescension does speak to a different kind of presence, a covenantal one. “It is a presence that is designed to accomplished the purposes to which he has eternally bound himself in his covenant” (62). All of God’s communication with his creation is covenantal condescension: in the garden with Adam, in judgment of his people, when he “comes down to deliver” (Exod. 3:8), when he has spoken to his people directly or through the prophets, and most amazingly, through the incarnation of his Son, Jesus Christ. In fact, Oliphint points out that even God’s revelation of himself in the Bible is a product of covenantal condescension. He explains how this “stooping” reveals God’s character to us, showing his “merciful determination that we have fellowship with him” (62). Praise God for being so condescending!

Our great God lovingly condescends. He has “come down to reveal himself to us” (70). Because of this, we have real knowledge of our Creator and Redeemer. In critiquing Immanuel Kant’s philosophy, Oliphint does agree that the finite mind cannot begin to raise itself to the infinite. But that doesn’t mean that the infinite cannot move to the finite (71). Think about that! It is amazing! And because God has condescended, we are all in a covenant relationship with him. Jesus has revealed himself as Lord of all. We have been made in the image of God. He has revealed himself to all “’through the things that are made’ (Rom. 1:20), in his Son (Heb. 1:1-3), and in his Word” (71).

Have you ever been asked the question, “Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?” Because he has graciously condescended to us, we all have a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Only a god who has not condescended to be Lord could be reduced to a pure concept. The true, triune God, who is the Lord, has come from the infinite to the finite. He has condescended, covenantally, so that we might have “fruition” of him. Apart from that condescension, there is no hope of knowing him; he would only be, at best, “a mere thought-entity.” But since he has condescended, and since the One who condescended is the cosmic and redemptive Lord, we are guaranteed, for eternity, to have true and certain knowledge of him. Whether we suppress that knowledge (in Adam) or rejoice in it (in Christ), in either case we know him. And that knowledge is, in either case, indicative of our covenant status before him. (71)

There is a good kind of condescension. And it is truly amazing that our God has done everything for us in his merciful determination for a right relationship with his people. As Francis Schaeffer so aptly put it: He is there. And He is not silent.


[…] WV. She and her husband,

[…] WV. She and her husband, Matt, have 3 children. She blogs at Housewife Theologian where this article first appeared; it is used with her […]

[…] is the essence, I

[…] is the essence, I believe, of a question that a commenter left on my last article. He asked, “Do you believe it is okay for a woman to think and write about theology, given she […]

Hello I am Marc, king Lothar

Hello I am Marc, king Lothar founded my Region and I am his son in the same way Paul was the son of Abraham ;-)

I'm definitely looking Forward to reading your Responses, especially concerning preaching women ;-)

Lovely greetings.

Lothar's son.

Well, looks like you want to

Well, looks like you want to talk about some of the doozies! It might be easier to answer you with another article, Lothar (Did I get your name right?) If you are interested in a reply, stay tuned...

Hello Aimee, God being

Hello Aimee, God being condescendant makes sense given the existence of free agents having chosen to act badly.

But this is seems utterly absurd if God is the one who sovereignly predetermined every sinner to sin.

It would be like a capicrious child striking his puppet for not having turned left after he moved it to the right. This analogy is not perfect, tough, for unlike humans, a puppet isn't able to feel anything.

Otherwise, I've another question (please pardon my curiosity): do you believe it is okay for a woman to think and write about theology, given she will also be read by men such as myself?

If so, why is not allowed for a woman to preach?

Lovely greetings from Europe.

Lothars Sohn – Lothar’s son

God incarnate is the height

God incarnate is the height of condescension (if stooping low can be considered a height of anything). thanks for laying this out so clearly, Aimee.


P.S. This classical use of the word "condescension" was brought home to me in Pride and Prejudice, where the insufferable Mr. Collins introduces his guests to his equally insufferable patroness Lady Catherine de Bourgh: "The power of displaying the grandeur of his patroness to his wondering visitors, and of letting them see her civility towards himself and his wife, was exactly what he had wished for; and that an opportunity of doing it should be given so soon, was such an instance of Lady Catherine's condescension, as he knew not how to admire enough." What a toady!

Add a Comment