God's Morally Perfect Being
Imprint: Baylor University Press
Sales Date: 2023-03-15
237 Pages, 5.50 x 8.50 in
- Published: April 2023
For Professors: Exam Copies
God is all-powerful. God is all-knowing. God is ever-present. But is God humble?
Though the answer may seem obvious, humility is rarely identified as one of God’s attributes. Christianity has traditionally emphasized an array of divine attributes centering around omnipotence. In Divine Humility, Matthew Wilcoxen attempts to supplement traditional study of the godhead by focusing on God’s humility.
Wilcoxen first examines how to refer properly to God’s being. Contending with those who say that human concepts cannot communicate God’s being at all, Wilcoxen articulates an account of theological concepts that holds together simultaneously both God’s objectivity—that he is "for us"—and God’s subjectivity—that he remains yet totally free. Wilcoxen argues that the concept best positioned to achieve this objective is humility, which, in the Christian tradition, has been considered the paragon of virtues and should thus fittingly be attributed to God’s character.
Wilcoxen next explores divine humility through the work of three different theologians—Augustine, Karl Barth, and Katherine Sonderegger. Augustine, Wilcoxen argues, ascribes humility to God in a tantalizing way, but fails to explain further its doctrinal implications. Karl Barth articulates a more developed doctrine of divine humility by linking God’s divine being to his redemptive work. But Barth’s account ultimately suffers because it flatly equates humility with obedience and divides the divine will into the separate entities of the Father and the Son. It is the recent work of Katherine Sonderegger that best articulates an account of divine humility that carries forward Augustine’s mantle and overcomes the problems in Barth’s account. By connecting God’s humility to divine energy, Sonderegger shows how God can be near to creation without overwhelming it.
Ultimately, Wilcoxen contends that humility’s importance as a divine attribute indicates that it should be fully considered in any Christian doctrine of God. Divine Humility serves as an important reminder to Christians that God, as powerful as He is, is also a God of great magnanimity and love.
1. Morally Perfect Being Theology
2. Definitions of Humility
3. Scripture’s Suggestive Tensions: Augustine
4. Divine Humility as an "Offensive Fact": Karl Barth
5. The Mystery of Divine Energy: Katherine Sonderegger
Divine Humility is a well-informed, judicious study of important topics in contemporary theology. It makes a unique contribution to those topics, a contribution that may prove of considerable practical use to the church.~Peter J. Leithart, President, Theopolis Institute
Wilcoxen is a massively talented theological writer. Divine Humility is a very serious study of the doctrine of God arguing that the way to name God is ‘humility.’ It is high praise to say that it is a good book rooted in the Good Book, and it will be welcomed gratefully by scholars and students reflecting on the doctrine of God.~Matthew Levering, James N. and Mary D. Perry Jr. Chair of Theology, Mundelein Seminary
Wilcoxen posits that humility is a necessary property of a morally perfect being and necessary bridge between God’s being ad intra and his actions ad extra. This is a dogmatic account, a thick theological description, of divine humility.~Kevin Vanhoozer, Research Professor of Systematic Theology, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Trinity International University
…A significant study worthy of careful consideration. [Wilcoxen’s] exposition is elegant, his judgments mature, and his analysis is penetrating. In this, he has given us a model of theological retrieval that is both faithful and contemporary, rooted in the tradition but without fear of developing it where necessary.~Derek Rishmawy, Ad Fontes
A meticulous work of theological scholarship that is as informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking. An ideal and core addition to church, seminary, community, college, and university library Contemporary Christian Theology collections and supplemental studies reading lists, Divine Humility is unreservedly recommended for students, clergy, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject.~Midwest Book Review
[The book] offers an account of divine humility that not only avoids several potential pitfalls for theology proper; it also serves as a solid foundation for understanding and practicing the human virtue of humility. Wilcoxen’s account encompasses what Barth says about Christ’s humility, understood as obedience through suffering for others, while avoiding the problems inherent to it.~Michael W. Austin, International Journal of Systematic Theology