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Seeing God: The Beatific Vision in Christian Tradition

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Christianity Today  2019 Book Award for Theology/Ethics To see God is our heart’s desire, our final purpose in life. But what does it mean to see God? And exactly how do we see God—with our physical eyes or with the mind’s eye? In this informed study of the beatific vision, Hans Boersma focuses on “vision” as a living metaphor and shows how the vision of God is not just Christianity Today  2019 Book Award for Theology/Ethics To see God is our heart’s desire, our final purpose in life. But what does it mean to see God? And exactly how do we see God—with our physical eyes or with the mind’s eye? In this informed study of the beatific vision, Hans Boersma focuses on “vision” as a living metaphor and shows how the vision of God is not just a future but a present reality.  Seeing God is both a historical theology and a dogmatic articulation of the beatific vision, of how the invisible God becomes visible to us. In examining what Christian thinkers throughout history have written about the beatific vision, Boersma explores how God trains us to see his character by transforming our eyes and minds, highlighting continuity from this world to the next. Christ-centered, sacramental, and ecumenical, Boersma’s work presents life as a never-ending journey toward seeing the face of God in Christ both here and in the world to come.


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Christianity Today  2019 Book Award for Theology/Ethics To see God is our heart’s desire, our final purpose in life. But what does it mean to see God? And exactly how do we see God—with our physical eyes or with the mind’s eye? In this informed study of the beatific vision, Hans Boersma focuses on “vision” as a living metaphor and shows how the vision of God is not just Christianity Today  2019 Book Award for Theology/Ethics To see God is our heart’s desire, our final purpose in life. But what does it mean to see God? And exactly how do we see God—with our physical eyes or with the mind’s eye? In this informed study of the beatific vision, Hans Boersma focuses on “vision” as a living metaphor and shows how the vision of God is not just a future but a present reality.  Seeing God is both a historical theology and a dogmatic articulation of the beatific vision, of how the invisible God becomes visible to us. In examining what Christian thinkers throughout history have written about the beatific vision, Boersma explores how God trains us to see his character by transforming our eyes and minds, highlighting continuity from this world to the next. Christ-centered, sacramental, and ecumenical, Boersma’s work presents life as a never-ending journey toward seeing the face of God in Christ both here and in the world to come.

30 review for Seeing God: The Beatific Vision in Christian Tradition

  1. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    It was Grounded in Heaven by Michael Allen, that made we think we had overcompensated in our understanding of eschatology and the beatific vision as a new creation. It seems that prior to the emergence of Neo-Calvinism, reformed and evangelical thought had an imbalance in its grasp of the beatific vision, heaven and glory, sometimes under-realising the radical change that the final resurrection would make to our vision of the future in a new haven as and earth. There was a confused use of the te It was Grounded in Heaven by Michael Allen, that made we think we had overcompensated in our understanding of eschatology and the beatific vision as a new creation. It seems that prior to the emergence of Neo-Calvinism, reformed and evangelical thought had an imbalance in its grasp of the beatific vision, heaven and glory, sometimes under-realising the radical change that the final resurrection would make to our vision of the future in a new haven as and earth. There was a confused use of the term “heaven” in terms of the resurrection future that implied a bodiless existence or a kind of existence that did not require a body! Kuyper and Bavinck and the Neo-Calvinist school after them, rightly wanted to clarify the future as a restoration of creation, indeed this creation. But then it seemed that this much needed re-calibration of eschatology, had itself tipped too far in the other direction. Time was spent discussing the details of what we might or might not enjoy in the new creation, my favourite foods, drink, music and cultural projects. These were all well and good, by them seemed now to occupy the front row. Thus one heard less and less of the themes connected with the beatific vision: the beholding of Christ, the radical changes that deification (dare we even use the term?) and glorification might bring to our bodies and our sensory experience, and what might it mean, after all to be taken up closer into the life of the Trinity? Allen had noted that as we had become more prosperous in the modern world, and so more attached to the good things of this life, we had started to fashion in the future in the image of the present. With this we turn to this sizeable volume form Hans Boersma, which is a kind of follow-up and expansion of themes first broached in his earlier book heavenly participation. Boersma’s account of the beatific vision is a rich, detailed and careful account of the development of the doctrine, form scripture, Gregory of Nyssa, Plato and Plotinus, and Thomas Aquinas and Gregory of Palamas, Bonaventure and Nicholas of Cusa, Dante and then Calvin, John Donne and the Puritans, notably John Owen, Richard Baxter and finally to Jonathan Edwards. En route Boersma takes in the views of moderns like Hans Urs von Balthasar, Abraham Kuyper and Herman Bavinck and Henri de Lubac. There is a lot in these 400 pages, and the scope and discussion is impressive. Boersma is of course developing his own theology of participation and the sacramental strain. The benefit of this approach is that he consciously aim to link the life of the present to that of the future sacramentally. This avoids the charge of escapism or other-worldliness disconnected from the life o the present. There are two or three key concern that Boersma wants to bring to the fore: 1. That the beatific vision is not distant future hope that has no traction in the present. Quite the opposite. The future is sacramentally present with us, so that we live with the end in view and in sync with the future. 2. Boersma is at pains to stress, along with Calvin, Owen and Edwards, that the glorified Christ is the focus of the beatific vision, rather than a direct "view" of the essence of God. Calvin had his an interpretation of 1 Cor. 15 that suggested that the mediatorial office of Christ (not the hypostatical union!) would be consummated in Christ handing his kingdom over the Father, opening into a more direct vision of God.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Samuel Parkison

    Absolutely superb. A historical jaunt that justifies a work like Michael Allen’s “Grounded in Heaven.” It seems like Boersma offers some minority interpretations regarding some of the figures he interacts with (at least, that’s how he conceptualizes his own reading), but I’m not familiar enough with some of them to know whether or not he argues his case against the established positions convincingly. As a stand alone work, though, “Seeing God” is thoroughly convincing. He argues that the telos o Absolutely superb. A historical jaunt that justifies a work like Michael Allen’s “Grounded in Heaven.” It seems like Boersma offers some minority interpretations regarding some of the figures he interacts with (at least, that’s how he conceptualizes his own reading), but I’m not familiar enough with some of them to know whether or not he argues his case against the established positions convincingly. As a stand alone work, though, “Seeing God” is thoroughly convincing. He argues that the telos of the Christian life is God—specifically, seeing God in Christ, forever and ever, with ever-increasing appreciation while never ultimately comprehensive. Though remarkably true, even still. Heaven is not ultimately about what we are doing or how we are doing it—it is ultimately about God, and the sum and substance of our enjoyment in heaven is beholding him. Side bar: I’m still waiting to be scared off by Boersma. The Eastern Fathers’ influence on him shines through clearly in his leaning towards theosis, which is a problem, but his own articulation of his “sacramental ontology” doesn’t justify the panic I’ve seen among some Protestants. It sounds much like many Reformed articulations of “general revelation” and providence at its best: the relation between the Creator and the creature is not a symmetrical relation between distinct autonomous entities. God is everywhere always sustaining the cosmos and revealing and speaking of himself through and to everything therein. The difference between Boersma’s metaphysic and the one with which he’s contrasting seems to be the difference between a deistic metaphysic and a Christian theistic metaphysic.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Wyatt Graham

    In short, it’s good. See my review here: http://wyattgraham.com/review-of-seei... In short, it’s good. See my review here: http://wyattgraham.com/review-of-seei...

  4. 5 out of 5

    Kyle Rapinchuk

    Boersma provides a beautiful treatment of the beatific vision in his book, Seeing God. Boersma's historical survey of the doctrine is deep, insightful, and integrated. One of the more helpful qualities of this book is its wide scope (although this makes for quite a long read!), covering early church theologians, Reformation pastors, Puritans, Dante, and even poet John Donne! His ability to compare and contrast various aspects of the beatific vision with previous discussions (what I mean by integ Boersma provides a beautiful treatment of the beatific vision in his book, Seeing God. Boersma's historical survey of the doctrine is deep, insightful, and integrated. One of the more helpful qualities of this book is its wide scope (although this makes for quite a long read!), covering early church theologians, Reformation pastors, Puritans, Dante, and even poet John Donne! His ability to compare and contrast various aspects of the beatific vision with previous discussions (what I mean by integrated above) is immensely helpful. Throughout he shows where theologians stand with or diverge from the majority tradition, and he critiques these moves thoughtfully and fairly. While clearly disagreeing with Aquinas' ultimate analysis of the beatific vision, Boersma nonetheless gives him a thorough and fair treatment, and he lauds many aspects of Aquinas' contribution to the doctrine. Boersma does likewise for each theologian, and he completes the work with an excellent summary of his conclusions while linking the various ideas/facets of the beatific vision with its historical treatment by others. In short, Boersma concludes that the beatific vision, which is our telos in the future but possible in part in the present, is rooted in seeing God in the incarnate and risen Christ, noting an eternal progression (epektasis) into participation in the divine (theosis/divinization) while maintaining a proper Creator/creature distinction. I highly recommend this book, especially for Protestants who think the beatific vision is merely a Catholic doctrine.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Gavin Brand

    This was one the most interesting and nourishing theological things I have read. Full of charity for different theological traditions, Boersma fostered in me a deeper longing for ecumenical understanding and cooperation while at the same time developing in me an increased longing to see God in Christ. The added bonuses of being exposed to a host of theologians I have never read and the relevance of the topic for personal transformation made it all the better. Boersma suggests a view of the Beati This was one the most interesting and nourishing theological things I have read. Full of charity for different theological traditions, Boersma fostered in me a deeper longing for ecumenical understanding and cooperation while at the same time developing in me an increased longing to see God in Christ. The added bonuses of being exposed to a host of theologians I have never read and the relevance of the topic for personal transformation made it all the better. Boersma suggests a view of the Beatific Vision through apprenticeship. His pedagogical approach highlights four elements: 1. The vision of God "is predicated on God's continuous providential care..." - "Our vision of God is based on his vision of us." 2. The vision of God "implies a process with an end." - It is fruitful to look at both the history of salvation... and one's personal pilgrimage... as God training us for the beatific vision int he hereafter." 3. The vision of God centers on Christ. - "Theologians such as Gregory of Nyssa, Symeon the New Theologian, Gregory Palamas, Bonaventure, Nicholas of Cusa, a variety of Puritan theologians, as well as Jonathan Edwards - treated the beatific vision in a thoroughly christological fashion." 4. The vision of God is transformative - "By habituating his people throughout history to an ever-greater vision of himself in Christ... God changes us." These four are just the footnotes to the footnotes. The whole book is worth the investment.

  6. 4 out of 5

    James

    An excellent historical theology on the doctrine of the beatific vision. Wide in scope, the author covers a vast range of some of the greatest theologians throughout history: Church Fathers to Roman Catholic to Eastern Orthodox to Protestant. The overlap in concerns is as surprising as the diversity of conceptual differences and emphases. At the very least, this book has impressed upon me the need to include and highlight the beatific vision (or something equivalent) within eschatology today. Hi An excellent historical theology on the doctrine of the beatific vision. Wide in scope, the author covers a vast range of some of the greatest theologians throughout history: Church Fathers to Roman Catholic to Eastern Orthodox to Protestant. The overlap in concerns is as surprising as the diversity of conceptual differences and emphases. At the very least, this book has impressed upon me the need to include and highlight the beatific vision (or something equivalent) within eschatology today. Highly recommend.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kenny

    Highly recommended. Seeing and knowing are often synonymous in the NT—"remembering you in my prayers...having the eyes of your heart enlightened, that you may know..." (Ephesians 1:17ff) Boersma provides a rich historical, theological and Christo-centric survey of the Beatific vision in Christian thought in both the Eastern and Western traditions. A pleasant surprise for me was the similarities of thought on this subject between Gregory of Nyssen and Jonathan Edwards.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Ryan

    Golden

  9. 5 out of 5

    Eun-hyeon Myeong

    A historical survey of the doctrine of the beatific vision. Christ-centered and devotional.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Andrew McNeely

    Boersma tackles the vision of God throughout the Christian tradition in this book - well, except for the Lutheran tradition. Lutherans emphasize hearing rather than vision, and I’m inclined to agree with Luther on this. The historical element of this book, however, is a real treat and a gift to the Church. It is a great survey of philosophers, theologians, and poets who stress the vision of God throughout their works. I am weary of intellectual vision in Christian theology and practice, though. Boersma tackles the vision of God throughout the Christian tradition in this book - well, except for the Lutheran tradition. Lutherans emphasize hearing rather than vision, and I’m inclined to agree with Luther on this. The historical element of this book, however, is a real treat and a gift to the Church. It is a great survey of philosophers, theologians, and poets who stress the vision of God throughout their works. I am weary of intellectual vision in Christian theology and practice, though. I’m not sure how it can actually be maintained.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Cameron Combs

  12. 5 out of 5

    Shawn McCain

  13. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Vojta

  14. 5 out of 5

    Micah

  15. 4 out of 5

    Nathaniel

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

  17. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Swett

  18. 4 out of 5

    Will Tarnasky

  19. 5 out of 5

    Robert Steele

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jason

  21. 4 out of 5

    Luke Rakestraw

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jacob D Gerber

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

  24. 4 out of 5

    Charlie

  25. 4 out of 5

    Mike Dagle

  26. 5 out of 5

    S McDonald

  27. 4 out of 5

    Robert Smart

  28. 4 out of 5

    Thomas

  29. 4 out of 5

    Doug

  30. 4 out of 5

    matthew b baughman

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