Mirrors of God : the Church and the problem of divine hiddenness

  • Derek Scott King

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis (PhD)


This dissertation offers an ecclesiological response to J. L. Schellenberg’s problem of divine
hiddenness by centering on the nature and role of the Church. The introduction states this aim
and outlines the methods of this dissertation. Chapter one introduces the problem as formulated
by Schellenberg and surveys responses to it.

Chapter two argues that Schellenberg’s argument adopts problematic assumptions related
to theological epistemology. In contrast, it analyzes Gregory of Nyssa’s theological
epistemology of knowing God by participation. It concludes a primary way one knows God is in
the Church. Chapter three focuses on the nature of the Church by depicting her as the body of
Christ. Beginning with Gregory’s reflections on the body of Christ, the chapter argues that the
Church is a mediator of divine revelation. The Problem of Discernment, however, makes
discernment of Christ’s actions difficult. In response, the dissertation focuses on three roles of
the Church: the Church Gathered Inclusive, Church Gathered Exclusive, and Church Scattered.

Chapter four focuses on the Church Gathered Inclusive by describing how the liturgy
leads to knowing God. Beginning with Gregory’s reflections on seeing God, the chapter argues
that nonbelievers can experience Christ through the liturgy. Chapter five focuses on the Church
Gathered Exclusive by describing how the sacraments lead one to know God. Beginning with
Gregory’s reflections on baptism and eucharist, the chapter argues the sacraments are a
participation in Christ. Chapter six focuses on the Church Scattered by highlighting individuals
restored in Christ’s image. Beginning with Gregory’s reflections on the image, the chapter
argues that individuals are mediators of divine revelation.

The conclusion summarizes previous conclusions and articulates three points that
cumulatively form the ecclesiological response to divine hiddenness. After responding to a final
objection, it concludes the Church is a solution to the problem of divine hiddenness.
Date of Award1 Dec 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of St Andrews
SupervisorThomas Harley McCall Jr (Supervisor) & Andrew Bartholomew Torrance (Supervisor)

Access Status

  • Full text embargoed until
  • 24 November 2026

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