'A Dei natura' : a re-examination of Calvin's doctrine of the divine attributes with particular reference to his exegetical works

  • Alden Chapman McCray

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis (PhD)


From at least the middle of the nineteenth century much scholarship on Calvin’s theology has taken the apparent omission of a locus on the divine attributes in his Institutio as evidence that he did not teach a doctrine of God’s essence and attributes, and so instantiated a significant rupture with patristic and medieval theology. Others have claimed that Calvin imported a nominalist or ‘Scotist’ metaphysics of God into Protestantism. This thesis challenges such accounts. Throughout his exegetical works Calvin assumes a classical account of God’s perfections; he regards this account to be both biblically warranted and necessary for metaphysically responsible interpretations of divine revelation. Calvin affirms a series of materially traditional commitments concerning divine attributes in accordance with his own particular theological purposes – chiefly, the scriptural exposition of the nature of God so as to build up trust, hope, and confidence in God as origin, cause, and end of all things. The thesis surveys Calvin’s specific theological, exegetical, and pastoral arguments on a range of incommunicable and communicable perfections, from simplicity and aseity to mercy and grace. It offers a portrait of Calvin as a particular sort of biblical theologian, one for whom divine metaphysics and scriptural exegesis are inseparable modes of Christian reasoning, the conclusions of which are themselves intrinsically generative of Christian piety.
Date of Award30 Jul 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of St Andrews
SupervisorStephen Ralph Holmes (Supervisor), John Bainbridge Webster (Supervisor) & Ivor John Davidson (Supervisor)


  • Calvin
  • Reformed theology
  • Divine attributes
  • Doctrine of God
  • Biblical interpretation

Access Status

  • Full text embargoed until
  • 5th March 2025

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