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Calvin at the Centre$
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Paul Helm

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780199532186

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199532186.001.0001

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The Visibility of God

The Visibility of God

(p.98) 4 The Visibility of God
Calvin at the Centre

Paul Helm

Oxford University Press

Calvin is frequently accused of maintaining that God acts arbitrarily, on the basis that he has an unknowable nature which may act capriciously. This chapter argues that this view or set of views is seriously mistaken. Calvin's view is traced back to Augustine, and there is discussion of Gunton's view that for Augustine God is an unknowable substratum, and the similar claims made by Merold Westphal. Calvin holds with Augustine that God's essence is unknowable by us in the manner in which God himself knows it, but that he has revealed his nature. The chapter concludes with a consideration of Karl Barth's views of divine freedom in the light of his criticism of Calvin's, that he espouses a ‘God in general’, and argues that in fact Barth presents two views of divine freedom, one that is inconsistent with Calvin's, the other the barely intelligible view that in his freedom God chooses to be the God he is.

Keywords:   Augustine, Barth, essence, freedom, God, God's nature, Gunton, Westphal

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