Steven Duby has written a brilliant work that presents “a rational for the pursuit of theologia in the strict sense of the word: knowledge of God in himself without primary reference to the economy” (293). In other words, against those who think we can only know God in the incarnation (as an example), Duby responds that we can know God in ways that include incarnation but also includes natural revelation, the Old Testament, and so on.
In particular, Duby retrieves and restates the commonsense and Reformed teaching that God reveals himself in nature and in Scripture. Yet as Christians have noted, natural revelation due to human nature and to its natural limitations can only go so far. Duby explains, “Such knowledge [natural knowledge] provides traction for the reception of supernatural revelation, but its sufficiently and suppression by sinners underscores the need for it to be corrected and augmented by the gospel” (293).
The gospel, or “supernatural revelation” therefore serves as the primary form of conveying truth about God—a standard that corrects natural knowledge. Interestingly and rightly I might add, Duby affirms the properness of using metaphysical language about God. Lastly, he sets out a detailed explanation of analogy—in particular highlighting an analogy of attribution.
The major success of Duby’s work is his theological exegesis, which not only engages directly with Scripture but also pulls from a whole host of earlier Christian writers—whether Greek or Latin. This adds a sense of historical awareness and catholicity that commends the book.
He takes to heart his encouragement to read writers throughout Christian history: “Protestants can should be catholic and avail themselves of the work of Athanasius, Augustine, Boethius, John of Damascus, Peter Lombard, Thomas Aquinas, and many other pre-Reformation theologians” (295).
Due to the technical nature of this work, likely only professional theologians, students, and motivated pastors will benefit from this work. As a framework for thinking about God in himself, Duby’s work succeeds. It may just become required reading for anyone who wants to write or to think aloud on God for the next decade.* I highly recommend it for the audience that I listed above.
*I heard someone make a similar statement online. IVP Press provided me a review copy the book.