A Evaluate of James Dolezal’s “All That Is in God”


I actually want I had not waited so long as I did to learn James Dolezal’s 2017 guide All That Is in God: Evangelical Theology and the Problem of Classical Christian Theism (Reformation Heritage, 2017). As it’s, I solely picked it up a month or so in the past, however I might have picked it up a lot sooner if I had realized what an essential guide that is. It’s solely 137 pages, however it’s with out query probably the most important books that I’ve ever learn. I don’t agree with all the things on this guide. Actually, there are components of it that I discovered fairly irritating. However, the primary thesis of this guide is one that should seep down into each nook and cranny of evangelical theology.

Why This E book Is Necessary

Dolezal’s fundamental rivalry is that classical Christian theism has virtually disappeared from many quarters of evangelical theology. For Dolezal, classical Christian theism is “marked by a robust dedication to the doctrines of divine aseity, immutability, impassibility, simplicity, eternity, and the substantial unity of the divine individuals” (p. 1). These are doctrines which can be the bedrock of the Nice Custom and even of the older Protestant confessions (e.g., Belgic Confession, Thirty 9-Articles of Faith, Westminster Confession of Religion, and Second London Confession of Religion).

Dolezal argues that present evangelical theology is usually bereft of the doctrine of God mirrored on this custom. Modernity has eaten via it like a common acid with the end result that many evangelical theologians look askance at fundamental doctrines that had been as soon as thought of the muse for each main custom of Christian theology. As an alternative evangelicals have embraced a perspective that Dolezal labels as “theistic mutualism.” Theistic mutualism teaches that God exists in a give-and-take relationship together with his creatures in such a manner that includes God’s very essence. Dolezal argues that theistic mutualism isn’t merely the angle of course of theologians but in addition of many evangelical Calvinists. He writes,

“Many [evangelical Calvinists] share with open and course of theists the theistic mutualism perception that God’s being is such that He’s able to being moved by His creatures… Confessional Calvinists who uphold any facet of theistic mutualism are confronted with the peculiar and maybe insurmountable problem of reconciling their mutualist understanding of the God-world relation with the language and intent of the classical Reformed creeds” (p. 3).

The center of the issue traces again in some ways to the lack of the doctrine of God’s simplicity—the idea that God will not be composed of components however is one divine, ineffable unity of being. The doctrine of God’s simplicity is mirrored in scripture, however it’s primarily the mandatory implication of God being the prime mover. He’s the uncaused trigger and due to this fact can don’t have any important qualities which can be the consequence of some actuality outdoors of himself. God’s simplicity implies that all that’s in God is God.

“If God is straightforward, there could be no actual distinction between his essence (or substantial type) and attributes… Correctly talking, God is sweet by advantage of God, not goodness. He’s clever by advantage of God, not knowledge. He’s highly effective by advantage of God, not energy. He’s love by advantage of God, not love. And once we say that God is goodness itself, knowledge itself, energy itself, and love itself, we don’t imply that these are so many truly distinct components or varieties in God, however merely that He’s all that’s concerned in these phrases by advantage of His personal divine essence as such… There’s nothing in God that’s not equivalent with His divinity, nothing that’s not simply God Himself” (pp. 42, 43).

There are such a lot of errors that stream downstream from the failure to understand this fundamental level about God’s nature and being. And it is for that reason that this guide and its thesis are so essential. Personally, I can see this lacuna not solely within the present evangelical panorama. I additionally see it in my very own formal theological coaching. A lot of it merely didn’t lay this fundamental groundwork of the religion. I’m not blaming anybody for this or saying that my expertise was uniquely egregious. I feel Dolezal is appropriate that this can be a pervasive downside throughout the spectrum of evangelical theology, and it wants correcting. Even the 2016 trinity debate is known extra clearly as a consequence, in some ways, of the issues that Dolezal outlines on this guide.

Dolezal’s Remedy of These He Disagrees With

Though I’ve excessive reward for this guide, there are at the least two objects that I discovered problematic with it. The primary one is that this. Dolezal generally fails to deal precisely with sure evangelical theologians. He singles out an extended checklist of heavyweights together with John Body, Kevin Vanhoozer, D. A. Carson, Charles Hodge, J. I. Packer, Alvin Plantinga, Bruce Ware, Wayne Grudem, and plenty of others. In response to Dolezal, all these theologians show tendencies to theistic mutualism.

Generally, nevertheless, Dolezal treats numerous theologians as if they’re the identical. For instance, Vanhoozer says issues in a manner that’s distinctive to Vanhoozer, however his Remythologizing Theology represents a really traditional view of God. Dolezal merely reads Vanhoozer in a manner that distorts what he’s saying. Maybe one might argue that Body might be extra cautious together with his language, however Body is hardly in the identical camp as Alvin Plantinga or course of thought. These whom Dolezal labels as theistic mutualists are literally a various lot, however generally that truth will get misplaced on this evaluation.

I’m not saying that Dolezal’s critiques are all off-base. However, generally Dolezal describes different theologians’ views in methods they themselves wouldn’t acknowledge. For instance, Dolezal argues that Bruce Ware has denied the doctrine of God’s simplicity, not in so many phrases however as a needed consequence of Ware’s description of how God’s feelings seem to vary. Dolezal writes,

“We’d rightly conclude, then, that for Ware the fact of God’s so-called tendencies or attitudes is an actuality of being in Him that’s not equivalent with His divine essence or nature as such. They can’t be points of His nature since Ware insists that these realities change, whereas the divine nature can not” (pp. 65-66).

The issue with this sentence is that Dolezal accuses Ware of an implication that Ware explicitly denies, and Dolezal makes the declare even after quoting Ware’s denial of the alleged implication. As Ware himself says, “no such change impacts within the slightest the unchangeable supremacy of his intrinsic nature” (quoting Ware on p. 65). In an prolonged footnote, Dolezal concedes, “Ware affirms the ontological immutability of the divine nature” (p. 66, n.7). Given Ware’s personal {qualifications}, Dolezal would have accomplished higher to allege an inconsistency slightly than an outright rejection of God’s impassibility. Dolezal’s critique on this regard might need been learn as odd theological polemics besides that he has raised the stakes actually excessive on this guide. He writes, “A minimum of true faith is at stake within the contest between theistic mutualism and classical Christian theism” (p. 104).

My criticism will not be that Dolezal probes what he perceives to be inconsistencies in different theologians’ views. My criticism is that Dolezal generally suggests {that a} theologian has embraced an implication that the theologian has explicitly denied. Dolezal is responsible of this not solely with Ware but in addition with John Body (p. 72), Rob Lister (p. 92), and others. I feel a number of the downside right here has to do with Dolezal’s ungenerous studying of “God-talk” within the writings of different theologians. Dolezal acknowledges that our language about God will not be univocal, however then he usually accuses different theologians of solely talking univocally about God. I don’t know why he makes this ungracious assumption time and again on this guide (e.g, pp. 77-78). It isn’t essential to the essential work of restoration that he’s pursuing on this work. And it overlooks the truth that lots of the theologians he critiques are nicely conscious that our language about God will not be univocal.

Body, for instance, needs to talk because the Bible speaks whilst he understands the Bible’s language analogically. But Dolezal appears to “literalize” Body’s “God-talk” in a manner that Body himself wouldn’t settle for. All of us wrestle with the constraints of creaturely language, particularly when the subject material is God. And but we all know that God has revealed Himself to us in creaturely language. To make use of the phrases of Calvin, God lisps for us (Institutes 1.13.1).

Is Human Language Ample?

And that leads me to my second criticism about this guide. Dolezal makes statements that make actual issues not just for our discuss God but in addition for the doctrine of Scripture itself, and they’re issues that he leaves unresolved. Dolezal argues that one of many main motives for theistic mutualist departures from divine simplicity is the constraints of creaturely language about God (p. 60). Human language is usually a dependable information to the character of created actuality (p. 59), however it’s not a dependable information in our discuss God (p. 60). Dolezal writes,

“We can not uncover the way of God’s being by trying to learn it off the floor grammar of our propositions about Him. The form of our propositional statements is just suited to correspond in a one-to-one method to multipart and composite beings” (p. 60).

This assertion is uncontroversial in my opinion, and it’s exactly why all of us acknowledge that our language about God can’t be univocal. As Dolezal writes, “A easy God will not be composed of components; thus, His being can’t be immediately mapped onto any multipart statements we make about Him” (p. 60). The important thing qualifying time period right here is “immediately.” However generally Dolezal appears to lose this qualification.

Dolezal generally comes throughout as despairing of language altogether as a dependable information to understanding God’s essence. He writes, “Our odd creaturely patterns of speech (e.g., topic + predicate) don’t fairly match God in the way in which that they match creatures” (p. 59). I feel this commentary is why Dolezal is fast to criticize different theologians. He sees them writing sentences that use topics and predicates to explain God, and He rapidly alleges that they’re utilizing language univocally to explain God’s being. However what if that’s not what they’re doing? What if they’re merely making propositions about God which can be just like what we discover in scripture?

And that is the large downside that Dolezal leaves unresolved in my opinion. It isn’t simply that he has a low view of language. He generally writes as if our language will not be satisfactory to speak precisely to us about God’s being. For instance,

“If we’re to faithfully protect the infinite and unsurpassable glory of God’s being, we must get well the older dedication to divine simplicity and the incomprehensibility of God and forsake the misguided path of pondering that our thought or language adequately computes the mysterious method of God’s existence” (p. 78).

I don’t deny that God’s being surpasses our means to explain or comprehend fully, however I feel it’s a large downside to counsel that our language will not be satisfactory to speak true issues to us about God. Dolezal criticizes John Body on these grounds, “Body has nice confidence within the means of human thought and language to adequately symbolize the being of God” (p. 72). Does Dolezal disagree with Body on this? If he does, does he see how this suggests an indictment of the propositions of scripture itself? I’m sure that Dolezal would object to such an implication, however he would have accomplished nicely to clarify how such an implication doesn’t essentially observe from his argument.

And that is the issue that I felt was left unresolved on the finish of this guide. Dolezal is appropriate to disclaim that our language about God is univocal. I feel he’s incorrect to disclaim that our language is satisfactory to explain true issues about God. We must always not blush concerning the method of God’s revelation to us within the Scriptures. Likewise, we must always not blush to talk about God in the way in which that scripture does. However Dolezal appears to censure such speech as proof of theistic mutualism. I feel that is problematic and infrequently prejudicial. Dolezal tends to privilege theological discourse on the expense of biblical discourse, however our actual process is to convey each collectively.


I’ve gone on at size about two issues that I discovered with this guide, however I don’t want for that to undermine what I stated on the outset. The strengths of this work far outweigh any shortcomings that I could have recognized right here. This can be a actually essential guide that must be extensively learn and regarded. We do want a restoration of classical Christian theism in evangelical theology, and this guide is a good useful resource spurring us on to that finish.


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