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.