Divine Fullness: A Dogmatic Sketch

Michael Allen
Associate Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology
Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando

Theologians have lots of words. Specifically when speaking of God, the scope and mystery of the Godhead demand that we have many words at hand to attest his transcendent goodness and might. The reader will remember the words at the end of the Gospel according to John: “Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (Jn. 21:25). Attesting the breadth of the Savior’s light requires many words, indeed too many for any one book to bear. How much more true must this be when we speak of the glory of the whole Godhead? While we speak of God being simple, one, and unified, the corollary of that claim is that we can only know him by rather complex and rich catenas of words meant to brim over and point to his excess.

Hence confessions and catechisms regularly make use of many attributes or character traits to insist that we keep our eyes upon the full breadth of God’s goodness. For instance, the Westminster Shorter Catechism asks and answers: “What is God? God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth” (WSC 4). While longer lists appear in Larger Catechism 7 and in the Confession of Faith chapter 2, even this short answer resorts to almost a dozen terms to attest the bare minimum which must be said of the divine character. These and other terms have been confessed and debated throughout the centuries. Interestingly, however, one divine attribute has not achieved the prominence it deserves: divine fullness. It does not appear overtly, for example, in any of the Westminster Standards, and that silence is by no means unique to that strain of Reformed theology or even to Protestantism more broadly. When one looks for fullness in the brilliant riches of Christian doctrine, ironically one typically finds only void and want.

We might seek to account for this modern reticence regarding the riches of the divine glory. Since John and Paul speak of God’s fullness, why did it cease to capture our imagination? Why has the language of fullness fallen out of favor in recent Christian theology? Does this follow from a reaction to supposedly Hellenistic thought (and the purported Hellenization of the early church)? Does this silence somehow relate to modern rationalism which seeks to think by means of quantifiable elements rather than mysterious principles? Are particular exegetical trends related to the Greco-Roman backgrounds of Pauline and Johannine teaching to account for this trend? Such anatomies of the modern silence would be no doubt significant, but they are beyond the bounds of this study. In this brief essay, we will offer a sketch of divine fullness, seeking to note its biblical roots, taking in its relation to other elements of the doctrine of God, tracing its effects into the works of God in election, creation, incarnation, and beyond, and finally asking what practical uses the doctrine bears, that is, what ethical entailments follow from this particular divine reality. In so doing, we are attempting to reorient theological reflection with regard to a biblical theme that has been forgotten. Given the modern forgetfulness, perhaps a broad sketch can help reframe our imagination in a useful manner.

Introduction: A Dogmatic Sketch of Divine Fullness

Fullness is not a Christian word. We must go a step further than this even, admitting that divine fullness is not a Christian idea. In saying this, we do not deny the presence of such claims within the Christian tradition or even the Holy Scriptures. Rather, we note that the language is not exclusively or even originally Christian. It is common jargon and borrowed terminology. Fullness (the pleroma) regularly appears in pagan Greek literature prior to and contemporaneous with the New Testament writings. Taken from elsewhere, it becomes Christian.[1] Here we plunder the Egyptians (Exod. 12:36) by taking up language from the wider world and put it to the use of pointing to the incomparable one and his gospel.

Any time such common language, charged with metaphysical and moral entailments in a non-Christian manner, appears in holy writ, we do well to be vigilant in observing how it is used. Words do not carry meaning in and of themselves, but they mean things within contexts. While fullness would no doubt sound familiar to hearers or readers of the New Testament writings (which, of course, is part of its power), what is said there would be markedly unfamiliar in key respects. Thus we are reminded that we need to be alert to the Christian difference that situating language in the economy of the gospel has upon words like fullness (or other terms that are shared with pagan thought on God: infinity, omnipotence, eternity, goodness, and the like).

Dogmatic theology provides intellectual discipline by returning the mind again and again to the testimonies of the prophets and apostles. Dogmatics reminds us of the need to have our thought sanctified; with false presuppositions and assumptions confronted and mortified, and with new categories and concepts enlisted and vivified. Dogmatics prompts us to follow the Bible’s teaching all along its way, never narrowing our focus and in so doing losing its breadth and wholeness. Given our propensity as individuals and groups to focus in on hobby-horses, this canonical contextualization is no small matter. Dogmatics also compels us to have our priorities and emphases shaped by those marked by Holy Scripture itself: in so doing, its repetitions, its logical connections, and its literary emphases reconfigure our hierarchy of values. When we so frequently misidentify first and second things, such schooling proves essential. Finally, dogmatics hones our approach to any single theme by showing the lineaments that connect it to other biblical doctrines. Dogmatics always returns us, sooner or later, to the God “from whom, through whom, and to him are all things” (Rom. 11:36).

As we seek to think biblically about divine fullness, then, we do well to have our thoughts ordered by the whole Bible. We will consider the topic in four movements: the fullness in God (wherein life and bounty are his own in and of himself), the fullness from God (whereby he shares that life and bounty with his children), the fullness by God (whence comes all that is needed to share that life and bounty with his children), and the fullness before God (which traces the ways in which human faithfulness bears the marks of divine fullness). Good theology must lead eventually to ethics, prayer, and praise, but it may do so only in such a way that the graciousness of those human actions has been described by means of contemplating God and his works on our behalf, through Christ and the Spirit.

Fullness in God: Life and Bounty In and Of Himself

Divine fullness is first and foremost a reality within the divine life. God is rich and full with life, light, and all bounty. He possesses these realities in and of himself as the triune God, such that his fullness is that of the eternal triune relations and of the distinctly Trinitarian unity. His riches are owned by he who is without beginning or end and thus who is characterized by aseity. Yet his bounteous bliss goes beyond mere self-existence or self-sufficiency to also require that we attest his excess, wealth, and fullness. All that he has, he is, and he has all and more.

The doctrine of the Trinity not only identifies God by his singular name, as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Mt. 28:19), but also depicts the relational character of God’s life. The persons share perfect bounty and life in and of themselves; for instance, the way in which the Son shares that self-sufficiency and fullness in and of himself with the Father is attested by Jesus: “For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself” (Jn. 5:26). While Bonaventure speaks of the Father as “fullness as source,” the Son and Spirit possess fullness as generated and spirated, each in their own personal mode of subsistence.[2] God is full, not only of power or knowledge but also of love within the triune communion. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have shared perfect charity with one another for all eternity, such that their actions toward us do not begin their life of love but only express the public overflow of what has marked their own unity from everlasting unto everlasting. Only with such an understanding can we confess not simply that God acted lovingly or that God took upon himself a loving posture but that “God is love” (1 Jn. 4:8; see also 1 Jn. 4:16). John presses home the eternal nature of God’s love in that the divine demonstration of love in sending his Son is immediately described as an occasion for “making manifest among us” that love, rather than initiating or beginning that love (1 Jn. 4:9).

The divine fullness has also been expressed in part by the doctrine of divine aseity. This confession of the self-existence of God speaks to the fact, negatively, that God does not receive being from another and, positively, that God possesses life in and of himself. Aseity is not equivalent to the well-intentioned but logically-mangled notion of being causa sui or cause of one’s own being. Aseity speaks, rather, to existing apart from any cause and, thus, it removes God’s existence from the same sort of category as that of every other being. While God has being, his being, then, is not of a type or sort to be likened unto or related nearly to human or creaturely being. Traditionally, language of the analogia entis has been intended to emphasize both the shared fellowship but also the marked and qualitative distinction between God’s way or mode of existing and that of all creatures.[3] We do not share existence univocally, though we do both exist (and hence equivocation regarding being cannot be appropriate). The realm of analogy means to acknowledge being with a difference. While the notion took on a very different sort of meaning in late modern theology and, thus, received brutal responses from some in the Protestant world (such as Karl Barth), we can appreciate its classical concern to express the very biblical principle of the Creator-creature distinction (signaled by texts such as Exod. 3:14 and others) alongside the equally scriptural reality of fellowship in being.

Aseity gestures toward fullness, though it does not comprehend the doctrine. Aseity specifically signals the fullness or self-sufficiency of God’s existence.[4] Fullness moves beyond that claim to make a still further one. God has “life in himself” (Jn. 5:26), but he is also blessed “from everlasting unto everlasting” (Neh. 9:5). God not only possesses mercy but is “rich in mercy” (Eph. 2:4) and has “riches of his glory” (Rom. 9:24). Whereas aseity is necessary to fullness, touting the self-possession of God’s existence, aseity is not itself sufficient to signal the overflow that is the divine fullness. God is not only without beginning or end as a se, that is, the “first and the last,” but also the “living one” who is replete and filled to overflowing with vitality (Rev. 1:17-18). Indeed, he is not only “Alpha and Omega,” but also the one “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty” (Rev. 1:8; see also Rev. 4:8).[5] This fullness marks God out to be the one known by the high priest as “the Blessed One” (Mk. 14:61),[6] the “blessed God” (1 Tim. 1:11), and “God, the blessed and only ruler, the king of kings and lord of lords” (1 Tim. 6:15). When we attest the blessedness and richness of God in and of himself, we indicate his reality as the one who possesses all fullness and whose own character is rich. He not only has what he has by himself—rather than from another—but he has it excessively.

Fullness from God: Sharing that Life and Bounty with Others through Election, Creation, and Incarnation

God’s fullness does not leave God locked up in himself. The logic of the gospel’s God runs in just the opposite direction. Precisely out of his fullness, God overflows in grace and free favor unto others, and he gives lavishly without thereby giving himself away. Indeed, one of the most significant features in tracing out the divine fullness is the new perception we may now possess of grace, for the bestowal of a blessing to another can only truly be called grace (undeserved favor of one sort or another) when the one bestowing the gift has all that they need and needs nothing from the object of that gift. We can see how his rich possession of all blessings in and of himself shapes and marks the manner of his election, creation, and incarnation.

First, divine fullness marks the election of God’s children not for anything foreseen in them but by God’s mysterious will alone. “He chose us in him [Christ] before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:3-4). And this divine predestination in Christ Jesus flows from the “God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” who is himself “blessed” (Eph. 1:3-4).[7] The unconditional nature of divine election flows not from arbitrariness as if election is randomness, but we speak of unconditional election as coming from or arising out of nothing in and of the human object of election. This reality was relayed powerfully by Moses (Deut. 7:6-8) and later by Paul (Rom. 9:6-29). Election does come from somewhere, though, and it does express wisdom. It comes not from a wisdom or logic based on reciprocity and of the blessing of those who merit, deserve, or will make best use of a gift. Rather it comes to the dead, and it expresses the wisdom and logic of divine generosity. We can refer to this as a logic and not mere arbitrariness, because it flows from God’s self-possession of the fullness of life and bounty. Should God need supplementation or fulfillment, it would make all the sense in the world for him to elect those with potential. In light of his fullness, however, his electing love flows seamlessly to seek out the small, insignificant, and even sin-drenched.

Second, divine fullness shapes the very character of creation itself, wherein nothing is needed or utilized other than the divine voice. The doctrine of creatio ex nihilo speaks not only of the distinction between uncreated being and created being but goes a step further to attest that the creative activity of the uncreated one does not find its origination, supplementation, or coordination in any input from the created order. It is not for nothing that the prologue of John states that “all things were made through him [the Logos, who is with God and is God], and without him was not anything made that was made,” and then it immediately shifts to say that “in him was life” (Jn. 1:3,4).[8] The vitality—and possession of not only his own life but that of all—leads to the creation. The text makes this plain then by saying further that “the life was the light of men” (Jn. 1:4). In other words, God’s own life—his full life within the triune being of God—illumines and spreads. The metaphor of light is apt because the sun’s rays spread without in any way diminishing the luminosity of the sun itself. God’s spreading and sharing—specifically here, his act of creating all things with the input or help of no other—does not in any way diminish God.

Third, divine fullness comes within the realm of the creaturely in the person of the Son. The chosen vessel of God’s care for his elect people is the Messiah, “who is God over all, blessed forever” (Rom. 9:5). “In him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell” (Col. 1:19); indeed, Paul presses further to emphasize the human frame of his divine condescension, “for in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (Col. 2:9). Donald Carson has argued that this incarnational fullness of deity within human being through personal union marks out a greater grace than that known through the law in his interpretation of the Johannine teaching that “from his fullness we have all received grace upon grace” (Jn. 1:16). Carson suggests that “grace upon grace” be read in terms of an antithesis that highlights the still greater mercy shown in the incarnation.[9] While the law was a prior grace, it has been replaced by Christ as the means of experiencing the presence of God, which can now be known in a much greater display of grace precisely because Christ possesses the divine fullness. His fullness has been accented already in the famous claim that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (Jn. 1:14). The incarnate Son’s glory marks out his character as overflowingly rich with the very characteristics of YHWH (for grace and truth are terms which render the divine attributes of Exod. 34:6-7). Cyril of Alexandria speaks of how, possessed of the fullness, the Son’s grace is one which then “gushes forth to each soul” such that the “creature receives” this gift “as from an ever-flowing spring.”[10] The gospel of the Son speaks not only of the righting of wrongs but the glorifying of the ordinary through the mediation of the incarnate Son, himself full to the brim with the Father’s glory and quick to make common those riches for his brothers and sisters.

Fullness by God: Doing All Needful for Sharing that Life and Bounty with Others through Applying Salvation and Extending His Mission

God’s fullness comes to action for the sake of creaturely renewal in salvation through Christ Jesus. In doing so God offers all to the creature without receiving any benefit or recompense from the creature. Paul attests to this divine weightiness in his remarks at the Areopagus: “The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything” (Acts 17:24-25). God is full to the brim; no closeness or communion with us, whether in creation or temple or any other fellowship, serves to fill him up. “Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for ‘in him we live and move and have our being’” (Acts 17:28, likely citing Epimenides of Crete). To the divine fullness in himself there is also divine fullness for others, and in that divine fullness for others there is a sufficient provision enacted by God.

First, God goes still further in applying that work of Christ, fulfilling the needful task of working out salvation by including or enfolding others into his life and death. The goal of knowing God in Christ is such that “you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:19). Regularly, we read of the work done for us by Christ as “bestowing his riches on all who call on him” (Rom. 10:12) or as “the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us” (Eph. 1:7-8). We can see the fullness of God expressed in the human bearing found in the person and life of Jesus, for we are to “all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13). The salvific work of Christ not only meets the bare minimum of our needs, but offers an excessive largesse. For this reason Hebrews can speak of “so great a salvation,” not only in its cause and cost (in terms of incarnation and sacrificial atonement) but also in terms of its conferral (Heb. 2:3). Ultimately, the sufficiency or fullness of God’s work flows from the character of his mercy in his very being, for “our God is full of compassion” (Ps. 116:5) and “rich in mercy” (Eph. 2:4).

Second, God’s fullness presses beyond these two prior graces to still wider provision in enabling Christian mission and actualizing his kingdom here upon earth. Paul tells the Corinthians that “in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge – even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you – so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift” (1 Cor. 1:5-7). The provision of God’s enrichment enables attestation or testimony; Christian witness flows from God’s continuing provision. Divine gifts are not only the origin of mission and the content of its proclamation; the overflowing fullness of God is the very context for and energy unto Christian witness. Indeed, for this reason the church can be likened as “his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all” (Eph. 1:23). The head works through the body – the church – such that it expresses and extends his fullness to the world in mission.[11] The church does not become Christ, nor does the church fill him; just the opposite, he “fills all in all.” But the church does become identified with him and even with his “fullness.”

Think of the remarkable grace shown to men and women that God not only gives us reconciliation in Christ but even enlists us as ambassadors or instruments of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:17-20) and goes a step further to speak of us as those “working together with him” (2 Cor. 6:1). We might consider this a remarkable risk; when a project matters, we tend to make sure we do not place its results in the hands of the weak. Yet Paul has noted that these Corinthians who are fellow workers with God are not wise or fitting (1 Cor. 1:20-21). God can enlist weak disciples because God lacks nothing; his mission flows out of his very vitality. God’s fullness enables the frail and fallen to be employed in kingdom work, as his abundance proves to be more than enough to ensure the accomplishment of his intended goals. The blessing pronounced by Paul in Romans 15:13 invokes the filling of God: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing.” It leads to personal transformation that can only be characterized as abundance: “so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” But God’s abundant filling spills over immediately into service and ministry: “I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another” (15:14). God fills by his Spirit, abundantly enriching our hope, filling us with goodness, that we may be filled with knowledge so as to teach and instruct others. The recipient of God’s filling, then, is brought into his centrifugal movement which ever always reaches out to bring more into its blessed possession of all good riches.

Fullness before God: The Resulting Character of Creaturely Holiness as Faithful Prayer and Praise

The fullness of God shapes the faithfulness of human creatures in Christ. Because God’s character is displayed in the gospel, human knowledge and service to God are re-shaped accordingly. To the nature of God corresponds the life and behavior of his creaturely subjects. How does our following the way of Jesus bear the marks of divine fullness? What elements of our covenantal devotion demonstrate the effects of this divine attribute?

First, divine fullness reminds us that we always depend upon God and never out-run our need for his provision. We have received grace and count our lives to be his own (Rom. 14:8-9; Phil. 1:21). Yet when we ask: “what shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits to me?” we answer “I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord” (Ps. 116:12,13). Indeed the Psalmist identifies this action as paying his “vows” to the lord (Ps. 116:14,18). We see, however, that these vows are not made good on by doing something other than calling for more generosity from God and, thereby, going more deeply into one’s dependence upon him.[12] The image of lifting up the cup of salvation is one like Oliver Twist asking “More?” Because God is a Deity of fullness, not lacking but possessing all within himself, we never shift into the mode of returning discrete goods to God. Even our thanksgiving takes the form of calling upon him for still more deliverance (Ps. 116:17).[13] Divine blessedness and its expression through blessing others cultivate the Christian ethic of prayerful dependence and a life always marked by faithful trust in the triune God.

Second, divine fullness prompts us to reduce all things ultimately to God and, correspondingly, to return all things to him in praise. The art of reduction is an intellectual exercise of tracing things back to their deepest cause or principle. We reduce a bodily malady not by forgetting or overlooking it, but by appreciating its deeper roots in a virus or other illness. Similarly, we do not negate, minimize, or disrespect creaturely realities in reducing them to God, but we do accurately assess them in light of his fullness. In this drama of human blight and glory, there is genuine integrity and blissful good within the creaturely realm. These graces are spread far and wide. But we cannot envision these graces separated from the wider orbit of gospel truths, for we see them flowing forth from him; we appreciate them as suspended through him; we see them as purposed unto return to him. “For from him and through him and to him are all things”; Paul hereby locates all reality within the movement of God’s fullness. Thus, he voices an ethical implication: “To him be glory forever” (Rom. 11:36). The blessed abundance of God’s being leads to the wide extent of God’s provision which leads in turn to all glory, laud, and honor being his own. Divine fullness—and its overflow into the gracious economy of his works—shapes the ethic of Christian praise.

Conclusion: Confessing the Fullness of God Yesterday and Today

Let us return to where we began: Is fullness truly absent from recent theology? While the dominant strands of contemporary theology in the wider academy have tilted toward either some form of process theology or to what may be termed evangelical historicism, which is an over-identification to or reduction of God’s being to that action in the economy of the gospel, we can observe some retrievals of the fullness of God. John Webster has sought to refocus attention upon the perfection of God and to think all other realities of the divine or the divine economy always relative to that preponderant beauty.[14] My colleague Scott Swain has sought to reorient contemporary approaches to the trinity (specifically countering those of the Lutheran Robert Jenson and the Presbyterian Bruce McCormack, advocates of leading versions of evangelical historicism) in a similar manner by beginning with the riches that are God’s own:

The triune God is inherently rich, “the everlasting well of all good things which is never drawn dry.” To the gospel’s “blessed God” (1 Tim. 1:11) belong the immeasurable fullness of greatness, power, glory, victory, and majesty, an immeasurable fullness that God enjoys in and of himself (1 Chron. 29:11; Ps. 145:3; Jn. 5:26; Rom. 11:33-35). The divine works ad extra are consequently the free and generous overflow of God’s fontal plenitude (Ps. 36:8-9; Jn. 1:4; 5:21-25; Rom. 11:33-36; Jas. 1:17).[15]

Swain has turned a discussion about divine aseity and self-sufficiency, more restrictive jargon, to the deeper font of divine fullness, biblical and classical language which speaks not only of sufficiency but of excess and resplendence. And he has turned away from history and the dramas of redemption’s story and creational engagement to the deep sublime of God’s eternal repose. Still further, as with Webster’s arguments, he has then tried to show how this divine richness does not undermine the economy or the covenant, but helps show its singular nature: unlike other relations, here is one of grace, true and free.

If there are some voices reminding us of the riches of divine fullness today, we might ask if fullness is really missing from the Westminster Standards? While the specific terms “fullness” and “full” are not to be found on the surface of the text, it is perhaps appropriate to see the judgment present implicitly in the structure of the argument. Westminster Shorter Catechism 4 identifies God as “a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.” Notice that three terms—“infinite, eternal, and unchangeable”—qualify the way in which we hear the final seven terms. God’s being, for example, is one that is infinite, eternal, and unchangeable. Here we see the doctrine of divine simplicity put to grammatical usage, in that the structure of the sentence exemplifies that tenet’s affirmation that God’s attributes are unified in reality.[16]

How do we read Westminster’s litany of divine attributes in light of divine simplicity? Each of the attributes of God is his own infinitely, eternally, and unchangeably; this provides a matrix for interpreting each attribute as interpenetrating the others. They are simple in themselves; for us, knowing them requires dialectical thought to appreciate their oneness. The profusion of terms and their substantive inter-relations, however, point to the weighty fullness of the divine being. God has excessive or rich possession of all his characteristics, such that neither time, space, or anything else might limit or diminish them. The combination of terms found therein—“infinite, eternal, and unchangeable”—intermingle together and attest to the notion of fullness. Each of God’s qualities or attributes bears the fullness or richness which exceeds any single place (infinity) or time (eternity) or any episode or circumstance which might ebb or flow (immutability or unchangeableness). Taken together, then, these terms speak to the self-sufficient blessedness of God. God brims over in excess with each and every one of his many-splendored attributes.

It is worth making explicit that implicit logic, for divine fullness provides a remarkable lens for seeing the movement of Christian theology as a whole. Fullness speaks directly of God and then, secondarily, of other beings from God, in God, and unto God. Fullness bespeaks the reality of Christ by nature and of the body of Christ by grace. Fullness points back to the Alpha of God’s eternal self-sufficiency while also gesturing forward to the Omega of God’s limitless provision for his glorified saints. Fullness reminds us that the triune God of creation is rich and enriching, that the lordly king of our salvation is blessed from everlasting to everlasting and blesses his saints forevermore. Fullness reorients us to one who, in the gospel, gives without giving himself away. Not surprisingly, then, language of fullness appears (under the idiom of blessedness, riches, or fullness) regularly alongside calls to and demonstrations of prayer and praise. Such a God as this—this one summons forth our songs, our prayers, our very selves and all we have.

  1. We could argue that it is ontologically Christian and that other versions are degenerations of that principial designation; this ordering is both true in reality and yet backwards in historical and epistemological experience.
  2. Bonaventure, Commentary on Sentences, 1.27.1.
  3. For helpful analysis of classical Reformed endorsement of the analogia entis, albeit in the vein of Thomas Aquinas rather than his later interpreter Cajetan, see Richard A. Muller, “Not Scotist: Understandings of Being, Univocity, and Analogy in Early-Modern Reformed Thought, Reformation & Renaissance Review 14 (2012), 127-150. Muller finds affirmation in Maccovius, Junius, Zanchi, Voetius, and others, at several points disagreeing with the argument presented by J. Martin Bac, Perfect Will Theology: Divine Agency in Reformed Scholasticism as Against Suarez, Episcopius, Descartes, and Spinoza (Leiden: Brill, 2012). Unlike some later renderings of the analogia entis (especially after modifications to the doctrine at the hands of Cajetan and Suarez), the key focus in classical Reformed renderings was on proportionality. For a nuanced reflection on late modern declensions and their Protestant rebuttal by Barth, see Keith L. Johnson, Karl Barth and the Analogia Entis (T & T Clark Studies in Systematic Theology; London: T & T Clark, 2010), esp. ch. 2.
  4. On a positive account of aseity, see John Webster, “Life In and Of Himself,” in God Without Measure: Working Papers in Christian Theology, volume one: God and the Works of God (London: T & T Clark, 2015), 13-28; and especially Augustine, Tractates on the Gospel of John 11-27 (Fathers of the Church 79; Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1988), tract. 22.
  5. Rev. 1:17 and 4:8 surely seek to render an amplification of Exod. 3:14, expanding on that text’s temporal under-determination and amplifying it in all three tenses.
  6. Some translations (e.g. ESV) simply render “the Blessed” here.
  7. On Eph. 1:3-4 and election, see Wesley Hill, “The Text of Ephesians and the Theology of Bucer,” in Reformation Readings of Paul: Explorations in History and Exegesis (ed. Michael Allen and Jonathan Linebaugh; Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2015), 143-164; on election in Romans 9, see also David Gibson, Reading the Decree: Exegesis, Election, and Christology in Calvin and Barth (T & T Clark Studies in Systematic Theology; London: T & T Clark, 2009); Ben Dunson, Individual and Community in Paul’s Letter to the Romans (WUNT 2:332; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2012).
  8. Cyril makes a similar point in interpreting Jn. 3:36 relating this text to Jn. 1:4; see Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on John, volume 1 (ed. Joel Elowsky; trans. David Maxwell; Ancient Christian Texts; Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2013), 115.
  9. D. A. Carson, The Gospel According to John (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991), 132.
  10. Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on John, volume 1, 67 (on Jn. 1:16).
  11. Maintaining the distinction between head and members is no doubt pivotal and attested even in the immediate context here, wherein Paul has just said “And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church”(Eph. 1:22). “All things under his feet” surely includes the church itself. Indeed, we can speak of the lordship of Christ over the church as a preparatory microcosm of his wider reign over all creation, which will eventually bow the knee as his ecclesia has done so already.
  12. For further reflection on how sanctification is always by faith alone, though not of faith alone, see John Owen, Pneumatologia (Works of John Owen 3; Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1965), esp. 413-416; G. C. Berkouwer, Faith and Sanctification (Studies in Dogmatics; trans. John Vriend; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1952), ch. 2; Michael Allen, Sanctification (New Studies in Dogmatics; Grand Rapids: Zondervan Academic, forthcoming), ch. 10.
  13. Calling upon God’s name involves a cry for his rescue, as can be seen earlier in Ps. 116:4.
  14. While present in numerous works now, see most recently the essays published in John Webster, God Without Measure: Working Papers in Christian Theology, volume one: God and the Works of God (London: T & T Clark, 2015).
  15. Scott R. Swain, The God of the Gospel: Robert Jenson’s Trinitarian Theology (Strategic Initiatives in Evangelical Theology; Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2013), 152-153.
  16. For defense and analysis of divine simplicity, see Steven J. Duby, Divine Simplicity: A Dogmatic Account (T &T Clark Studies in Systematic Theology; London: T & T Clark, 2015). A number of criticisms have been launched regarding this doctrine, the most significant of which include Wolfhart Pannenberg, The End of Metaphysics and the Idea of God (trans. Philip Clayton; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990), 11-12; and T. F. Torrance, The Christian Doctrine of God: One Being, Three Persons (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1996), 246-250. Analytic theologians and philosophers of religion have also protested, most notably Alvin Plantinga, Does God Have a Nature? (Milwaukee: Marquette University Press, 1980), 1-9; and Eleonore Stump and Norman Kretzmann, “Absolute Simplicity,” Faith and Philosophy 2 (1985), 353-382.