K. Scott Oliphint is Dean of Faculty and Professor of Apologetics and Systematic Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary (WTS) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Oliphint is an ordained minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and holds a PhD from WTS. Oliphint is a leading voice of Reformed apologetics and the author of numerous publications, including Christianity and the Role of Philosophy (P&R, 2013) and Covenantal Apologetics (Crossway, 2013). Most recently, Oliphint released a fascinating exploration into some of the most shadowy corners of the Christian doctrine of God in hopes of encouraging a celebratory response to the glory of his incomprehensibleness.
The Majesty of Mystery: Celebrating the Glory of an Incomprehensible God is comprised of nine chapters that address questions pertaining to the trinity of God, the incarnation of God in Jesus, the relationship of between God and his people, the providence of God and human choices, etc. The book is written with the layperson in mind, and thus should be easily accessible for most to enjoy. Oliphint is convinced that “nothing should motivate true Christian worship more than the majestic mystery of God” (p. 4). It is here that readers get a glimpse into the tone and purpose of the book, and Oliphint does well to bring the readers back to this point over and over again. As Oliphint summarizes, “These are questions that recognize some of the mysterious tensions that Scripture presents to us. They are good questions, but wrong answers to good questions can rob us of a full, and fulfilled, Christian life, and they rob God of His proper glory. Proper answers—answers that allow the mystery of God and His ways to shine brightly—will evoke in us proper worship, preparing us for an eternity of worship with Him, in which, because of the majestic mystery of God’s triune character, we will be ‘lost in wonder, love, and praise’” (p. 14-15).
The strengths The Majesty of Mystery are numerous. First, and probably foremost, Oliphint is a brilliant thinker and a capable communicator. The level of conversation generally exhausted for the topics addressed in this book tend to land outside the realm of the target audience. Oliphint has distilled and packaged an enormous amount of rich theological consideration into a rather small and approachable volume. Second, the tone, as Oliphint has set out from beginning to end, wonderfully complements the material therein. It allows the reader to move beyond the theoretical and into the throne room of God. Third, the scope of the volume is calculated and appropriately organized for a work of this nature. It is clear that Oliphint spent considerable time pondering the most relevant topics that exhibit tension, and the result allows readers to admire the mystery of God while ushering them towards practical means of worship. Much more could be said about the above, but these three, alone warrant acknowledgment here.
The Majesty of Mystery: Celebrating the Glory of an Incomprehensible God by K. Scott Oliphint is a wonderful demonstration of how to move beyond theological tension to a formed doxology that stands in awe of the incomprehensibleness of God. Oliphint is clear that his treatment does not attempt to explain “exactly how these mysteries work, or even how they can be!” (p. 207). Still, it is clear, as Oliphint acknowledges, “that they are the sum and substance of our Christian lives and experience” (p. 207). Thus, rather than seek to reconcile the irreconcilable, Oliphint encourages us not simply to ignore or run away from such tensions, but to worship through them as we seek to know and love God more faithfully.