Book Review: ‘All That Is In God’ by James A. Dolezal

All That Is In God by James A. Dolezal The Garrett Ashley Mullet Show

How do you sum up a book with so audacious a title as ‘All That Is In God’? For starters, to quote its author James A. Dolezal in his own words:

“The chief problem I address in this work is the abandonment of God’s simplicity and of the infinite pure actuality of His being.”

In other words, there is a great world of difference between believing on the one hand that God is complex and complicated – made up of many important parts, yet somehow distinct from those parts – and on the other hand that God is simple, unified, whole, and in a word, One.

I am here reminded of the Shema Yisrael.

“Hear, O Israel: the LORD is our God, the LORD is one.”

Yet many have been confused through the centuries, and even today, at how the Trinitarian God of Christianity can be three in one. How are God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit all distinct and yet unified and whole? Admittedly, it is a hard thing to understand.

As Scottish theologian Sinclair Ferguson has put it, though by his own admission perhaps imperfectly, suppose you were to multiply 1 x 1 x 1. What would you get except for 1? Yet even in getting 1 from multiplying 1 x 1 x 1 you would find that your appreciation of the 1-ness of the 1 was emphasized rather than lessened to any degree through the multiplication of it.

For many a layperson not typically a student of theology, these debates about the fundamentals of Trinitarian monotheism and the peculiar divine essence of God may seem esoteric, austere, impractical, and heady. And such debates can be if we’re not careful. Nevertheless, the study of theology is important for at least a few reasons.

Again, to quote Dolezal:

“One reason that change in God, no matter how small, is theologically devastating is that it would signify some alteration in His being or life and thus, to the extent that such change occur, destabilize human confidence in His covenant promises.”

Put another way, even small changes in how we understand, or more to the point misunderstand, the fundamental nature of God – such as believing whether He is simple or complex, or believing that He either does or does not change in any way – translate into major practical differences to our own assurance of salvation and practical expression and experience of the Christian life.

It is not for no reason, then, that theology was in times past regarded as “the Queen of the Sciences,” with all other studies and pursuits seen as subordinate to her. To quote the Westminster Shorter Catechism:

“Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”

Yet there is something of a paradox when we as fickle, fallen, finite creatures set out to know and understand the God who is immutable, Holy, and infinite, and whose every attribute is personified in Him to the utmost simultaneously without ever lessening or increasing to any degree. How can we ever hope to know, and what should we hope for if complete knowledge and understanding will always be ever out of reach for us?

In short, the answer to this question is that we are able to know of and about God what He wants us to. That is, He is perfectly able both to communicate with sufficient clarity that which He wants to communicate, and also to give us the ability to know and understand that which He has communicated about Himself.

In other words, the hinge-point is not our ability except insofar as His good pleasure and grace are prerequisite. But where His purpose is known to make Himself known to any extent, it is to just that extent possible for us to know, understand, love, glorify, and enjoy Him forever as He blesses us with the ability to.

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