Review: God in Himself

God in Himself: Scripture, Metaphysics, and the Task of Christian Theology, Steven J. Duby. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2020.

Summary: A study of what may be known of God in God’s self rather than in God’s external relations to the world and the role that scripture, metaphysics, natural and supernatural theology, and the use of analogy all play in forming this understanding.

In theology, the distinction is often made between what may be know of God in se, of God in Himself versus what may be know of God in his relations with the world. This holds true particularly in Trinitarian studies, considering what may be known of intra-trinitarian relations versus the was the Triune God interacts with creation.

Steven J. Duby believes that this theological work is vitally important for the church. For one thing, it underlines that while God is complete in Himself without any need of us, he has extravagantly loved us. Furthermore, this takes us into the transcendent wonder of the perfections of the Triune God, a foretaste of the joy to come. And this study sets out to help us reflect more deeply on the interactions of scripture, natural theology, the incarnation, metaphysics, and analogies in our witness to God in Christ among the nations.

This indicates Duby’s approach then. He explores what we may know of God in Himself through the testimony of scripture, the role of natural theology as preparatory, the incarnation of Christ and what this says of God in himself, the interaction of theology and metaphysics, and the role of analogy. We understand something of the perfections of God including the holiness of God and the perfection of love within the Trinity. We grasp more deeply the significance of the aseity of God, that God is uncause and self-existent and independent. We also learn something of the limits of our knowledge.

Duby does something more. These approaches often are set off from each other but what Duby tries to do is show how these work together in an account of God in Himself. He also proposes that what God shows of Himself in relation to the world, while not compromising God’s self existence, is utterly consistent with what we know of God in Himself.

This is a careful work of scholarship, engaging theologians and philosophers through history–Aquinas, Boethius, Turretin, Kant, Barth, and contemporaries like Bruce McCormack and Matthew Levering. It calls for close and careful reading, but I found myself at points caught up in pondering the excellence of God. While this is academic study, weighing the ideas of different thinkers and making its own proposals, it never loses sight of the fact that God can never be the mere subject of our study and dare never be an object for idle speculation, but is always the One before whom we wonder and worship.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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