Dr. Jeffrey Johnson has written another excellent book dealing with the issue of the utilization of Greek Philosophy as the lens through which a Christian must look in order to have a “Classical” understanding of God. Dr. Johnson’s concern is for the believer to not feel that he must place undue emphasis on certain Greek Metaphysical and Philosophical notions. As the title states, Dr. Johnson is introducing what he calls “Biblical Classical Theism” as it is contrasted with what he refers to as “Philosophical Classical Theism.”
In Part One, “The God of Natural Revelation”, Dr. Johnson relates to us the ways that God has revealed Himself in Nature. “Natural revelation is the efficacious communication of God in all His creative works whereby He clearly, instantaneously, continuously, and freely reveals Himself to all humanity.” God has told us specific things in an effective way in his Creation. Moving into Part Two, “Pagan Philosophy”, Dr. Johnson discusses how philosophy (i.e. Natural Theology) cannot ultimately give us the answers to HOW God can be a personal God who is also transcendent over His creation. Part Three is about “The God of Christian Philosophy” and outlines various ways that Christians have sought to reconcile Philosophy with both Natural and Special Revelation. We see chapters on Christian Platonism, Christian Rationalism, and Christian Existentialism. These lead into the discussion of “Philosophical Classical Theism.” There are certainly some contradictions involved in attempting to reconcile Philosophy and Revelation. Two of the primary issues are that Natural Theology cannot account for creation ex nihilo or that God can actually have “free will”.
In Part Four, Dr. Johnson comes to a discussion of “Special Revelation” and its necessary and primary place in man’s understanding of the being of God. Pagan Philosophy simply cannot account for certain truths in Scripture. Some of these were mentioned above. Also, the Trinity is a doctrine understood from Special Revelation. The doctrine of the Trinity is a wrench in the Philosophical notion of an unmoved mover – we can see Biblically that there are descriptions of ad intra relations among the Persons of the Godhead. Dr. Johnson stated the following in referring to others in the past who have spoken of an intra-Trinitarian love:
“The Westminster Divine, Daniel Burgess (1645-1713), stated: ‘The infinite glory of the divine persons, shines in their relations one to the other… their blessedness consist in their loving, and being loved of one another.’” and “Thomas Goodwin (1600-1680) claimed: ‘If the divine nature had not afforded in having in it three persons really distinct, knowing, rejoicing in, glorying of, and speaking unto each other, there had not been a perfection of blessedness.’”
The final chapters (19 and 20) on “The Relational God of Scripture” and “The Sufficiency of Scripture” are must-read chapters in this current discussion. I will end this review with something Dr. Johnson stated in Chapter 19:
“There is only one God, and that is the God of the Bible. It is He who made us (Gen. 1:27). It is He who speaks to us (Gen. 1:28). It is He who commands us (Gen. 1:29). It is He who entered a covenant with us (Gen. 2:15-17). It is the One who exiled us, sinners, from His presence (Gen. 3:24) who sent His only Son to redeem us from our sins and bring us back into His presence (John 3:16). How does the Bible define God? To ask this question is to ask how God defines Himself, for the Bible is God’s Word. If we want to know God, this is all that matters. The so-called wise men of this world will say what they will about the nature of God, but the only thing that matters is what God says about Himself.”