“Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it” (Ps 139:6). David’s words in this verse sum up my thoughts when I come before Scripture, good books, and teachers of theology. Discourses on various doctrinal concepts have kept theologians busy for millennia. It is simply too wonderful, and yet, entirely fascinating. There is a majesty in mystery, as K. Scott Oliphint puts it, and it is worth plumbing the depths of theology.
In one sense, The Majesty of Mystery is extremely deep and will stretch anyone’s brain. Mostly, that is because of the subject matter it is willing to contend with. Oliphint takes on some of the most complex doctrines in the whole system of Christianity, such as the Trinity, the Incarnation, God’s eternal decrees, God’s providence, and more. These chapters, nine in all, are filled with appeals to confessions of faith, the teachings of church history, competing viewpoints, and biblical exegesis, making for a very challenging read, but in a good way. Os Guinness’ endorsement rings true, calling it a “bracing antidote to the casual, buddy-buddy theology that is so common in our times.”
While the book is deep, I would also argue that The Majesty of Mystery is a great book for beginners. While Psalm 139 will prove true even for this book, Oliphint doesn’t talk over the reader’s head. He is careful to define terms, to illustrate the meaning of concepts as best as he can, and to be sensitive to the layperson who might find themselves reading this book.
Anyone looking for a beginner to intermediate-level read on Reformed theology’s teachings on the nature and work of God would greatly benefit from this book. But for the pastor and the theologian, Oliphint has provided for us plenty of solid examples for how to communicate these concepts effectively to our congregations and people.
If this is your first time reading this kind of book, may I encourage you not to get discouraged in the middle, but press through. You likely won’t finish this book an expert on these issues. You may never reach expert level in your lifetime, like the rest of us! But you will finish The Majesty of Mystery with a deeper understanding of who God is and what He has done and is doing. Also, you will be stirred to worship and enjoy the splendor of His glory. This is our chief end, as the Westminster Shorter Catechism reminds us, which means this book will prove good for our souls. May I encourage you to take up and read, and wonder at His mystery and majesty!