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Wed, January 25, 2023
Start: 01:00 PM
End: 02:00 PM

At this week’s Theological Research Seminar, Dr. John Hilber will be presenting, “Divine Accommodation through the Lens of Relevance Theory.” Read the abstract and his bio below.

All are welcome to attend in Hurlburt Hall (room 136) at McMaster Divinity College at 1:00pm or via livestream at the link below:

Join the Livestream
Password: z00m (Note that the password has zeros rather than “o”)


When used theologically, the term “Accommodation” refers to God’s adaptation of actions or language to communicate to finite human understanding. Historically, the early church used the term “condescension.” Calvin used the metaphor, “baby talk.” Unfortunately, this all remains rather abstract, so interpreters of Scripture can all appeal to “accommodation” yet have radically different views on what the text means. Genesis 1 is a good example, where proponents of young earth models, progressive creation, and non-concordant literary readings share the view that on scientific matters God necessarily dumbed down the information he potentially could have revealed. More precise consideration of how the ancient cognitive environment factors into the original human author’s and audience’s assumptions is necessary. Relevance theory helps this challenge by focusing on interpretive options that are inherently most probable within the primary communication situation. The application of speech pragmatics can help untangle the complexities of dual authorship inherent in accommodation. Application of relevance theory also contributes to understanding linguistically how sensus plenior is possible, and it offers categories to think about the doctrine of the incarnation, God’s greatest accommodation.


JohnHilberAfter graduation from Dallas Theological Seminary, John served in pastoral ministry before pursuing doctoral studies at Cambridge University. He served on the faculty of Dallas Theological Seminary and at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. He joined the faculty of McMaster Divinity College as Professor of Old Testament in 2022. He has published commentaries on Psalms and Ezekiel, numerous articles relating the Old Testament to its ancient Near East context, and the monograph, Old Testament Cosmology and Divine Accommodation: A Relevance Theory Approach.

Click here to read more about Dr. John Hilber, Professor of Old Testament at McMaster Divinity College.

About TRS

The MDC Theological Research Seminar (TRS) is a bimonthly gathering for all MDC students and faculty. TRS meets over the lunch hour on Wednesdays, and includes about thirty minutes for the paper presentation and twenty minutes for discussion.

All advanced degree students are invited to present a paper and share your research with your colleagues. TRS is an excellent opportunity to “test drive” a paper you will be presenting at an upcoming conference and receive helpful feedback on your current research projects. Thinking about submitting an article to a journal and want some interaction first? TRS will provide it. Just published an article or an essay and want to share it us? TRS is an excellent opportunity to broadcast it.

This year the organizing committee consists of Dr. Francis PangDr. Wendy Porter, and Dr. Steve Studebaker. To submit a paper, contact a member of the organizing committee.