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Jesus and the God of Classical Theism

Biblical Christology in Light of the Doctrine of God

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In both biblical studies and systematic theology, modern treatments of the person of Christ have cast doubt on whether earlier Christian descriptions of God--in which God is immutable, impassible, eternal, and simple--can fit together with the revelation of God in Christ. In addition, such treatments have called into question whether these concepts and categories still enable insight into the Bible's portrayal of Christ's life and work.

This book explains how the Jesus revealed in Scripture comports with earlier Christian descriptions of God. Steven Duby argues that the Bible's Christology coheres with and even requires the affirmation of divine attributes like immutability, impassibility, eternity, and simplicity. Duby offers a constructive treatment of the person of Christ, illuminating his relationship to the Father and the Spirit, the unity of his person, and the genuineness of his human life and suffering.


1. Biblical Christology and "Classical Theism"
I. Introduction
II. Christological Challenges to "Classical Theism"
III. Opposition to "Metaphysics"
IV. Revisiting God's Perfections
V. Revisiting the Role of Metaphysical Concepts
VI. Conclusion
2. "The Word Was with God": The Son's Eternal Relation to the Father
I. Introduction
II. Biblical Description
III. The Unity and Simplicity of God
IV. Essence, Persons, and Relations
V. Two Challenges
VI. Conclusion
3. "Foreknown before the Foundation of the World": The Son's Election and Mission
I. Introduction
II. Biblical Description
III. Eternal Actuality and the Divine Decree
IV. Election, Immutability, and the Pactum Salutis
V. Procession, Mission, and Historical Assumption
VI. Conclusion
4. "And the Word Became Flesh": The Son's Relationship to His Human Nature
I. Introduction
II. Biblical Description
III. Dogmatic Elaboration
IV. Concerns about the Communicatio Idiomatum and the Extra Calvinisticum
V. Response to Concerns
VI. Conclusion
5. "The Spirit of the LORD Is upon Me": The Son's Dependence on the Holy Spirit
II. Biblical Description
III. Concerns regarding the Unity of God's Operations
IV. Unity and Diversity in God's Operations
V. The Gifts of the Spirit and the Human Experience of the Son
VI. Conclusion
6. "I Have Come to Do Your Will, O God": The Son's Obedience
I. Introduction
II. Biblical Description
III. Faith, Weakness, and Growth in the Obedience of Christ
IV. Questions about Christ's Sinlessness and Spiritual Exertion
V. The Logic of Christ's Spiritual Exertion
VI. Conclusion
7. "A Man of Sorrows": The Son's Suffering
I. Introduction
II. Biblical Description
III. Impassibility and the Nature of Passions
IV. Impassibility and Metaphorical Attribution of Passions to God
V. Impassibility and Reduplicative Predication in Christology
VI. Conclusion


"This wonderfully helpful book shows how to take up the Bible's passionate presentation of Jesus without letting go of the traditional high doctrine of God. Patiently addressing recent worries while carefully engaging the full witness of Scripture, Duby reunites theological goods that have too often been sundered from each other."

Fred Sanders, professor of theology, Torrey Honors College, Biola University

"Over the past two centuries, theologians and biblical scholars alike have questioned the usefulness of concepts like aseity, simplicity, immutability, nature, and substance for Christian reflection on the God of Israel and the person of Jesus. Steven Duby counters that these concepts can play a truly 'ministerial' role in the life of the church by helping to defend the intelligibility and coherence of biblical teaching. Through exacting semantic and logical analysis, Jesus and the God of Classical Theism shows how the judicious use of metaphysical categories, far from obscuring or distorting Scripture's message, might enhance our understanding of it."

Ian A. McFarland, Robert W. Woodruff Professor of Theology, Candler School of Theology, Emory University; Quondam Regius Professor of Divinity, University of Cambridge

"Duby offers a true gift to modern discussions of Christology, grounding categories and discussions from systematic theology in biblical scholarship. This thorough yet continually engaging book is a must-read for those wanting an overview and update on any of the topics covered."

Madison N. Pierce, associate professor of New Testament, Western Theological Seminary

"In the name of a biblically authentic understanding of Christ and the Trinity, modern theology has often cheerfully discarded the classical Christian commitment to God's transcendence--to the ways God is not like us--without counting the cost. Written from an ecumenically alert Reformed point of view, this book will interest and stimulate theologians who share its author's conviction that a truly biblical Christology cannot do without a vigorous affirmation of God's eternity, immutability, and impassibility. Even more, one hopes, it will interest those who do not."

Bruce D. Marshall, Lehman Professor of Christian Doctrine, Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University

"This helpful book details the biblical basis and conceptual coherence of traditional Christologies. Along the way, Steve Duby provides a thorough primer on numerous aspects of classical theism and the modern debates it has generated."

Daniel J. Treier, Knoedler Professor of Theology, Wheaton College

"Steve Duby shows that the doctrine of God as interpreted by early, medieval, and post-Reformation orthodox theologians illumines our reading of the scriptural presentation of the incarnate Son. In so doing he helps demonstrate the christological payoff to concepts like immutability, impassibility, eternality, and even the simplicity of God. If the incarnation is the ultimate test case for biblical metaphysics, Duby shows that many have wrongly found the God of so-called classical theism to be evangelically implausible."

Michael Allen, John Dyer Trimble Professor of Systematic Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary

The Author

  1. Steven J. Duby
    Jodi Duby

    Steven J. Duby

    Steven J. Duby (PhD, University of St. Andrews) is associate professor of theology at Phoenix Seminary in Scottsdale, Arizona. He is the author of God in Himself: Scripture, Metaphysics and the Task of Christian Theology and Divine Simplicity:...

    Continue reading about Steven J. Duby


Christianity Today 2023 Book Award (Academic Theology)

"In this erudite and substantial volume, Duby examines New Testament Christology and how it relates to the doctrines of so-called classical theism. It is an important work, especially at a moment in evangelical theology, and in Christian theology more broadly, when contemporary theologicans are rediscovering and reappraising the rich resources of the Christian past. Duby interacts with a wide range of sources. . . . But most impressive is Duby's deep engagement with the text of Scripture itself, which he treats with exegetical care and theological earnestness."

Luke Stamps,

Christianity Today