The Foundation for Reformed Theology

John Calvin
In this Email
§ 31, The Perfections of the Divine Freedom
Quick Links

Join Our Mailing List


Thank you again for your ongoing interest in, and committment to, Reformed theology, the study and application of which we cotninue to believe can and will be instrumental in the ongoing reformation of Reformed churches yet today.


Here are a few more reading notes for Karl Barth's Church Dogmatics, volume II, "The Doctrine of God," the conclusion of chapter VI, "The Reality of God." This, of course, is a part of our series of emails accompanying our plan to read Barth's Dogmatics in 2010-2012.


31, The Perfections of the Divine Freedom

The divinity of the freedom of God consists and confirms itself in the fact that in Himself and in all His works God is One, constant and eternal, and therewith also omnipresent, omnipotent and glorious.

1. The Unity and Omnipresence of God (II.1, 440)


"We begin with the unity of God. All the perfections of God's freedom can be summed up by saying that God is One. And to this extent all the perfections of His love, real and operative in His freedom, and all the perfections of His divine being taken together, can be summed up in this one conception. If we understand it rightly, we can express all that God is by saying that God is One. By this He differentiates Himself from everything that is distinct from Himself. By this He rules and determines it, and by this He is also in Himself what He is. He is One. The word oneness has two meanings. It can mean both uniqueness and simplicity. As a statement about God it must in fact mean both." (II.1, 442)


"Necessarily, then, we must say that God is the absolutely One, but we cannot say that the absolutely one is God. . . .

"A good example of the absolutising of 'uniqueness' is provided by the noisy fanaticism of Islam regarding the one God, alongside whom, it is humorous to observe, only the baroque figure of His prophet is entitled to a place of honour. . . . In this way it was able to become a deadly danger to all other forms of paganism and to a Christianity with a pagan conception of the oneness of God. . . . It is, therefore, unthinking to set Islam and Christianity side by side, as if in monotheism at least they have something in common. In reality, nothing separates them so radically as the different ways in which they appear to say the same thing-that there is only one God." (II.1, 448-449)


"Because and as God is one, unique and simple, He is for this reason omnipresent. Omnipresence is certainly a determination of the freedom of God. It is the sovereignty in which, as the One He is, existing and acting in the way that corresponds to His essence, He is present to everything else, to everything that is not Himself but is distinct from Himself. It is the sovereignty on the basis of which everything that exists cannot exist without Him, but only with Him, possessing its own presence only on the presupposition of His presence.

"God's presence includes His lordship. How can He be present without being Lord? And his lordship includes his glory. How can He be Lord without glorifying Himself, without being glorious in Himself And if nothing exists without Him, that means that everything is subject to Him. And that is is subject to Him means that it can and must serve His glory." (II.1, 461)


2. The Constancy and Omnipotence of God (II.1, 490)


"All the perfections of God's freedom and therefore of His love, and therefore the one whole divine essence, can and mut be recognised and expressed by recognising and saying that God is constant. By this perfection of constancy God differentiates Himself from everything that is distinct from Himself. By it He is what He is in Himself, and by it He also qualifies and directs everything distinct from Himself. Because He is constant, and as the One who is constant, He is also omnipotent. And because He is omnipotent, and as the One who is omnipotent, He is also constant." (II.1, 491)


"Faith always depends on calling and calling on election and the Spirit always bloweth where He listeth." (II.1, 508)


"It is because God was in this way one with the creature in Jesus Christ, that there was and is fellowship between God and the creature. We can say already that the reason why God created the world and set up in it the office of reconciliation, is because He was able, willing and ready to be one with the creature in Jesus Christ and because He did in fact do this." (II.1, 514-515)


"All Christian knowledge of God has its source in the revelation of God. And it is there that God meets us as the One who knows-Himself, and us whom He meets, and all things. He does, of course, speak in His revelation. He speaks about Himself. But He speaks to us. And in speaking about Himself to us He speaks about us." (II.1, 545)


"To be thankful of our own free will it is necessary that we should have unconditionally acknowledged the divine foreordination of our free will. It is in the acknowledgment that gratitude to God consists. Our only intention is not to be really and fully thankful if we do not acknowledge the divine foreordination; if we try to exclude our self-determination from it by keeping back some remnant and securing it against it; if we make it, as if it were, a condition of our obedience that we must be assured that we can lay down conditions for God by our obedience or its opposite." (II.1, 586)


"What God knows He wills, and what He wills He knows." (II.1.590)


"If God does not know and will, He does not love either. . . . There is love only where there is knowing and willing." (II.1, 599)


"It is Jesus Christ the Crucified who is Himself the power of God. . . . We must really keep before our eyes God's reconciliation along with His revelation . . . we must really understand His reconciliation itself as His revelation." (II.1, 607)


3. The Eternity and Glory of God (II.1, 608)


"God's eternity, like His unity and constancy, is a quality of His freedom. It is the sovereignty and majesty of His love in so far as this has and is itself pure duration. The being is eternal in whose duration beginning, succession and end are not three but one, not separate as a first, a second and a third occasion, but one simultaneity of beginning, middle and end." (II.1, 608)


"God has and is glory. For God is glorious in the fact that He is eternal, as He is omnipresent in the fact that He is One and omnipotent in the fact that He is constant." (II.1, 640)


"To sum up, God's glory is God Himself in the truth and capacity and act in which He makes Himself known as God. This truth and capacity and act are the triumph, the very core, of His freedom. And at its core it is freedom to love. For at the core of His being, and therefore in His glory, God is the One who seeks and finds fellowship, creating and maintaining and controlling it. He is in Himself, and therefore to everything outside Himself, relationship, the basis and prototype of all relationship. In the fact that He is glorious He loves." (II.1, 641)


"At this point we may refer to the fact that if its task is correctly seen and grasped, theology as a whole, in its parts and their interconnexion, in its content and method, is, apart from anything else, a peculiarly beautiful science. Indeed, we can confidently say that it is the most beautiful of all the sciences. To find the sciences distasteful is the mark of the Philistine. It is an extreme form of Philistinism to find, or to be able to find, theology distasteful. The theologian who has no joy in his work is not a theologian at all. Sulky faces, morose thoughts and boring ways of speaking are intolerable in this science." (II.1, 656)


"This creature is grateful. It knows God, and itself becomes a new creature, by being thankful. To believe in Jesus Christ means to become thankful." (II.1, 669)

Jim GoodloeGrace and Peace,
Dr. James C. Goodloe IV, Executive Director
Foundation for Reformed Theology
4103 Monument Avenue
Richmond, Virginia 23230-3818
(804) 678-8352

"Better Preaching, Better Teaching, Better Pastoral Care"

How to Support the Foundation

The Foundation is exempt from Federal income tax under Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)(3) and is not a private foundation as defined by Section 509(a) of the Internal Revenue Code.