What is Divine Accommodation?                                                                     By Jack Kettler


The concept of divine accommodation in Christian theology refers to the idea that God, in His divine revelation, communicates with humans in ways that are understandable and accessible to their limited capacities. This principle suggests that God, being infinitely transcendent, adjusts His communication to match the cognitive and cultural context of the recipients of His revelation.


Divine accommodation is grounded in the Christian belief that humans are created in God's image, which includes the capacity for reason and understanding. However, this does not mean that humans can fully comprehend the divine nature. Therefore, God accommodates His communication to our level, using language, concepts, and cultural expressions that are familiar to us.


This principle is evident in the Bible, where God often uses anthropomorphic language to describe Himself and His actions. For instance, the Bible speaks of God's “hand,” “eyes,” and “ears,” and it describes God as “walking” in the garden with Adam and Eve. These expressions are not to be taken literally but rather as instances of divine accommodation, where God is described in human terms to facilitate understanding.


The idea of divine accommodation is also central to the Christian understanding of Jesus Christ, who is considered the ultimate revelation of God. In the incarnation, God the Son took on human form and lived among us, experiencing human life in all its fullness. This act of divine accommodation is seen as God's most profound and intimate form of communication with humanity.


Examples of divine accommodation in the Bible, which show God's interaction with humans in a manner that accommodates their understanding:


1.      Genesis 18:1-8 describes Abraham's encounter with the three men (often considered to be the Lord and two angels) in the plains of Mamre. God appears in human form, eats, and converses with Abraham, showing an accommodation of human form and needs.

2.      Exodus 33:11 - God speaks to Moses “face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend.” Exodus 33:11 shows an accommodation of human communication methods, allowing Moses to understand and relate to God more easily.

3.      Numbers 12:6-8 - God speaks to the prophets in visions and dreams, a form of communication that accommodates the human capacity for understanding.

4.      1 Samuel 3:1-10 - God speaks to the young Samuel in a dream, using a method that accommodates Samuel's age and understanding.

5.      Job 38-41 - God speaks to Job out of a whirlwind, a form of divine communication that accommodates human senses and understanding.

6.      Matthew 1:22-23 - The prophecy of Isaiah 7:14 is fulfilled in the birth of Jesus, showing God's accommodation of human history and prophecy.

7.      John 1:14 - “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.” The Incarnation of Christ is the ultimate example of divine accommodation, as God takes on human form in the person of Jesus Christ to interact with humanity on a personal level.

8.      1 Corinthians 1:21 – “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” 1 Corinthians 1:21 shows God's accommodation in the method of salvation, choosing to communicate the gospel through human speech and preaching.


These above examples illustrate the principle of divine accommodation, where God communicates and interacts with humans in ways that are accessible and understandable to them despite their vast differences in nature.


In conclusion:


The Christian idea of God's accommodation is a theological principle that acknowledges God's infinite transcendence and His accommodation of human limitations in His revelation. It underscores the belief that God desires to communicate with His creation in ways that are accessible and understandable to them.


God appropriates humanly intelligible means to communicate real knowledge of himself. God speaks to us in a form that is suited to our human capacity.


From Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin, 1.17.13:


“Because our weakness cannot reach his height, any description which we receive of him must be lowered to our capacity in order to be intelligible. And the mode of lowering is to represent him not as he really is, but as we conceive of him.”


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“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)


Respected author Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife, Marea, are active members of the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler's extensive work includes 18 books defending the Reformed Faith, which are available for order online at Amazon.