Letting Theology Be Theology

Theological Principles of John Webster

It has been a little over a year since John Webster passed away. Holding significant positions in theological academia and producing leading essays in systematic and moral theology, many of his peers had the utmost respect for him. Kevin Vanhoozer once said, “I described [him], long before his untimely death, as the greatest living theologian — the best theologian on earth.”[1] Others contributed to a year long tribute to John Webster.[2] Nevertheless, many did not know him, and so, did not have the chance to reap the fruits of his labor. So, who was John Webster and what did he contribute?

The late John Webster (1955–2016) left us with the hope and foundation toward theological theology. Of course, Professor Webster left his readers with his profound doctrine of God — his works are saturated and fixated on God’s triune perfection — but he also made his message quite clear for those to follow: let theology be exactly what it is — theology. Rather than letting man determine the manner of theology, Webster saw that theology’s object, principles, ends, and sphere should determine what theology is and how it is to be done. He aimed at letting theology simply be and govern itself. But it took some time for Webster’s thought come to full maturity.

Biographical Notes: The Rise of a Theological Theology

In his early years, Webster stumbled upon theology “largely by accident.”[3] Being specialized in languages and literature, he went to Cambridge and grew increasingly frustrated and disappointed. Webster then “changed to study theology.”[4] “In the late 1970s,” Webster writes, “systematic theology was still marginal in Cambridge theology…. Christian doctrine was chiefly taught through analysis of problems.”[5] Webster called this method “doctrinal criticism.”[6] Being saturated in this form of so-called “theology,” Webster became “well schooled in the tactics of criticism,”[7] but he wasn’t “taught how to inhabit and think from a tradition.”[8]

After this, Webster took a job “teaching systematic theology in a Church of England theological college.”[9] He often found himself going straight into criticism and often lacking the full scope of Christian dogmatics. Later, Webster took many prominent positions in the academy: teaching position at Wycliffe College in Toronto, he held the prestigious Lady Margaret chair in Divinity at Oxford, he then went to the University of Aberdeen, and finally, before his death in May, 2016, he held his last post at the University of Saint Andrew’s.

During his time in Canada, professor Webster was “inching … through classic and contemporary texts” where he says, “I began to find my way out of doctrinal criticism, to realize that its scruples were in large measure misplaced, and so to rediscover that positive Christian dogmatics is a wise, edifying and joyful science.”[10] After this realization, Webster “resolved to work on the assumption of the truthfulness and helpfulness of the Christian confession,” and so to not spend equal time in criticism or making a defense against criticism.[11] Secondly, he let the content and structure of his work be determined by the Christian confession and Scripture.[12]

Within the next years, however, he noticed two destructive problems in modern theology, especially when he returned to teach at Oxford: First, instead of “appealing to its own theological and spiritual substance, Christian theology had frequently tried to meet its challengers on their own ground, and thereby often robbed itself of the very arguments which it should have mounted in its defence.”[13] Second, Webster noticed that theologians were spending too much time and energy on secondary (derivative) doctrines and that theology’s “centre of gravity is in the wrong place,” that is, it often was, for example, too ecclesiastically focused, Christologically centered, or driven far towards the social gospel while being “underdetermined by a theology of divine aseity,” that is, the doctrine of God.[14]

In all of these twists and turns, Webster stumbled into something that, as he says, he could have learned much earlier from Barth or others that in due time would give rise for he would call theological theology: “the need to do dogmatics, and to do so with good humour, diligently and with a determination not to be troubled about having to swim against the stream, but rather to work away steadily at the given task as responsibly as possible.”[15] The italics here reveal something deep in Webster’s heart: to let theology work on its “given task” in a responsible manner is to (1) recognize theology is a gift, given from God, and so to recognize that theology’s task is given, not determined by man, and (2) to let the task be shaped by what is given. In other words, let theology be exactly what it is — to let theology’s content and material determine what it is and how it is to be done. After this realization, professor Webster would produce some of the greatest theological works of his time.

John Webster’s Works[16]

As noted above, Webster took some time to come to the conclusion that theology should be governed by its material. In his earlier work, Webster spent much time in modern criticism and theology. Michael Allen observed, “Professor Webster’s work began with reception of modern Protestant theology. He introduced the English-speaking world to the Lutheran systematic theologian and philosopher of religion, Eberhard Jüngel.”[17] Webster produced a number of works on Jüngel’s thought and theology.[18] In his second group of publications, Webster put forth works on the Swiss theologian, Karl Barth.[19] However, in the last twenty years or so, Webster started to produce his own theology, and “establish[ed] himself as a dogmatic theologian.”[20]

In the recent years, Webster put forth many volumes of collections of essays. In the Cornerstone Series, Webster renewed two volumes: Word and Church and Confessing God.[21] He produced a little book called Holiness.[22] He also produced a work on the Bible, titled, Holy Scripture: A Dogmatic Sketch.[23] In his final years, Webster put forth a trilogy of mature works: The Domain of the Word[24] and two volumes called God Without Measure[25] on God and the works of God, and on virtue and intellect. Throughout his works, especially his mature works, Webster made his thoughts on theology very clear: to let theology be what it is, we must let it be theology. That is, we must let its material content, principia (principles, sources), ends, and sphere govern our idea of what theology is and how it is to be done.

The following will cover some of his mature and prominent essays on theology and its matter and manner including: “Discovering Dogmatics,” “Theologies of Retrieval,” “Principles of Systematic Theology,” “Biblical Reasoning,” and finally, “What Makes Theology Theological?”.

Stage I.1: “Discovering Dogmatics” (2002)

Webster wanted theology to be governed by its material and sphere. In “Discovering Dogmatics,” he noticed other theologies gave too much focus in distracting areas. This is not to say that inquiry on something is wrong, but these focuses were “underdetermined by a theology of divine aseity.”[26] Here, Webster subtly makes known that proper theology is determined by theology proper.[27] Additionally, he says “theology … is not a matter of ‘free speech’ … unattached, undisciplined by the ‘object’ to which theology is by its very nature bound.”[28] Positively, theology at its best speaks in a manner bound to its object.[29]

Webster also argues that the context of theology matters. He writes: “theology is properly undertaken in the sphere of the Church — in the sphere … of the human community which is brought into being by the communicative, saving presence and activity of God.”[30] Hence, theology is the activity within the “sphere in which God’s limitless and supremely effective power is unleashed.”[31] Thus, theology is an activity in the sphere of God’s saving presence.

Webster saw modern theology’s failure of defending their own beliefs by stepping onto their challengers’s “own ground.”[32] From this, Webster indicates that theologians need to use the sources of the church. This makes quite a bit of sense because theology is done in the sphere of the church and God’s presence. One should also note that during Webster’s shift from “doctrinal criticism” to theological theology, he immersed himself in theological tradition(s). Hence, the church’s texts do not only include Scripture, but also its tradition.[33]

In “Discovering Dogmatics,” Webster plants the seeds of theological theology. He subtly notes the object (God) should govern theology, the sphere has a major role in theology, and finally, using the church’s resources is essential.

Stage I.2: “Theologies of Retrieval” (2007)

In “Theologies of Retrieval,”[34] Webster calls for a “retrieval” or ressourcement: “‘Retrieval’ is a mode of theology, an attitude of mind and a way of approaching theological tasks which is present with greater or lesser prominence in a range of different thinkers.”[35] Retrieval and ressourcement both use various past writers, and to do so “is a spiritual responsibility and joy.”[36] Webster calls for “the reclamation of tracts of the Christian past as a resource for present constructive work.”[37] Despite its many forms, retrieval puts forth the attitude of confidence in building upon past traditions.[38] How is this helpful?

Reflecting on the past reorients the mind so it is not distracted from theology’s object. As Webster says, theologies of retrieval often do not focus on “the study of problems but rather descriptive elucidation of faith’s objects.”[39] Further, those doing retrieval often find themselves in “immersion in texts and habits of thought of earlier …  theology [that] opens up a wide view of the object of Christian theological reflection, setting … descriptions of the faith unharassed by current anxieties.”[40] Additionally, Webster says of retrieval: many “are usually concerned to ensure that the proportions of … Christian teaching are not governed by the constraints of circumstance but by the object of Christian doctrine, that is, God and the economy of God’s grace.”[41] In other words, retrieval reorients the mind to theology’s object — not our circumstances or curiosity. Again, Webster continues his theme: the object and sphere determines theological practice. “Theologies of retrieval have often urged the foundational status of the doctrine of the Trinity, which must be allowed to govern the entire corpus of systematic theology.”[42] Whereas Webster earlier says theology should be determined by aseity,[43] he now precisely says theology’s primary object is the Trinity, which should determine all of theology.

Stage II.1: “Biblical Reasoning” (2008)

While at the University of Aberdeen, Webster wrote “Biblical Reasoning.”[44] Here, he brings his theological notions to fuller maturity. He immediately expands earlier notions by defining Christian theology:

Christian theology is biblical reasoning. It is an activity of the created intellect, judged, reconciled, redeemed and sanctified through the works of the Son and the Spirit. More closely, Christian theology is part of reason’s answer to the divine Word which addresses creatures through the intelligible service of the prophets and apostles. It has its origin in the Spirit-sustained hearing of the divine Word; it is rational contemplation and articulation of God’s communicative presence.[45]

Additionally, Webster proposes two things we need to know in order to understand theology: “what Scripture and reason are and what they are for.”[46] Webster says this requires that “the ontology and teleology should derive from the material content of the Christian confession and, accordingly, should demonstrate a free relation to other considerations of the nature of texts and rationality.”[47] Therefore, one must understand “the place of Scripture and reason in the divine economy.”[48] This necessarily involves two related senses: God’s triune work in the created realm, and the sphere of creatures.[49] Here, Webster develops his theme that “theology derives its own rules from its particular object”[50] with a special emphasis on the sphere of the theologian’s text (Scripture) and mode of task (reason).

Webster gives four points of theology’s domain, that is the divine economy: (1) it is grounded in the triune God’s ontological perfection; (2) it is the history of fellowship between God and creatures;[51] (3) it “includes the history of redemption;”[52] and (4) it is revelatory.[53] From these points, Webster immediately shows that the possibility of creaturely knowledge of God and a “cognitive relation resides in God alone.”[54] Because God has given his external Word and the Holy Spirit, this cognitive relation is possible. Note the inference: the work of the Spirit and the “prophetic and apostolic words” are “ambassadorial; they are an embassy of God’s eloquence”[55]

Webster then turns to understanding reason in its domain. Webster immediately notes “Reason, ‘is a grace, and gift of love.’”[56] He explains “reason is a primary instrument of fellowship with God. By reason we are brought to apprehend, cleave to and obey God — to ‘contemplation’ in the sense of intelligent adoration.”[57] He gives three points of reason’s nature: it is created to know, love, and obey God;[58] it is defiled and thus fallen into futility;[59] and, for the Christian, it is renewed and restored as “one of the things … brought to the cross (1 Cor. 1.28).”[60]

In sum: “Christian theology is biblical reasoning. It is the redeemed intellect’s reflective apprehension of God’s gospel address through the embassy of Scripture, enabled and corrected by God’s presence, and having fellowship with him as its end.”[61] Three things can be said here, according to Webster: (1) Scripture is the cognitive principle in which theology is directed and evaluated, and finds its subject matter — God; (2) theology’s ontological principle is God, who, out of his perfection, “extends towards creatures in Word and Spirit;”[62] and (3) “the cognitive principle is grounded in the ontological principle.”[63] Therefore, “theology has to be characterized as a determinate sort of inquiry, what [Webster] will elsewhere call a positive science that is governed by its specific object.”[64] How is this inquiry to be done?

Webster offers two exercises:[65] (1) exegetical reasoning, the primary task of theology, simply reads the texts and reasons what it says;[66] (2) dogmatic reasoning, which “produces a conceptual representation of what has learned from its exegetical following of the scriptural text.”[67] Webster adds, “dogmatics does this by “seeing Scripture in its full scope as an unfolding of the one divine economy; seeing its interrelations and canonical unity; seeing its proportion.”[68] It is interesting that Webster says that the Scripture-dogmatics relation is not a one-way relationship (Scripture informs and determines dogmatics), but rather, it is a two-way relationship: Scripture informs and determines dogmatics and “these larder apprehensions of Scripture [dogmatics] then inform exegetical reasoning as it goes about its work on particular parts of Scripture.”[69]

In “Biblical Reasoning,” Webster develops his theology by focusing on the nature and end(s) of theology as shaped by its domain. Thus, Scripture and reason (theology) are in the sphere of and a part of sanctification because they are located in the economy of salvation. Therefore, both content and context shape theology. Only when it fits and follows its sphere and shape, theology will be theological.

 Stage II.2: “Principles of Systematic Theology” (2009)

While at Aberdeen, Webster wrote another mature essay, “Principles of Systematic Theology.”[70] Webster continues his thoughts in “Biblical Reasoning” and says that if we are to grasp what theology is, we must understand its nature and ends, which “rests upon an understanding of God and the works of God.”[71] Webster explains this “requires an appeal to material theological doctrine,”[72] and so, defining theology and its tasks depends on God.[73]

Webster expands his notion of theological principia:

 The Holy Trinity is the ontological principle (principium essendi) of Christian theology; its external or objective cognitive principle (principium cognoscendi externum) is the Word of God presented through the embassy of the prophets and apostles; its internal or subjective cognitive principle (principium cognoscendi internum) is the redeemed intelligence of the saints.[74]

Webster “observes that speech about principles depends on the notion that being precedes knowing; further, the order and relation of being(s) shapes the order and sequence of knowing. We do not make knowledge, but knowledge is given to us.”[75] Hence, theology’s order should follow its actual material.

Webster expounds the first principle: God’s infinite knowledge of himself.[76] This self-knowledge is simply trinitarian, and so, identical with his essence. Therefore, it is incommunicable.[77] Nevertheless, God communicates a measure of his knowledge to creatures in the missions of the Son and Spirit.[78] Therefore, theology is possible and its possibility “lies in what God alone knows about himself and yet communicates by disclosure — in God and the Word of God.”[79] Divine and creaturely knowledge are then distinguishable: archetypal and ectypal. This accommodation is in the form of Scripture (the objective principle) and its reception is “contemplation by the saints” (the subjective principle).[80] This inference is: Scripture must be our source, and reason must be redeemed by the Son and renewed by the Spirit in order to understand Scripture.

In light of this, Webster turns to theology’s object, arrangement, and its relation to Scripture. First, the object “of systematic theology is primarily God and secondarily all things in God, the latter being a derivative though no less necessary object of systematic reflection.”[81] The former is primarily God in himself, but includes God’s external movement(s). Webster goes on to quote Aquinas, “All things are dealt with in holy teaching in terms of God, either because they are God himself or because they are relative to him as their origin and end” (Aquinas, ST, Ia.1.7 resp.). Webster puts this in different words: “systematic theology treats God and the works of God, doing so in a way which orders this twofold topic sequentially, according to the metaphysical-dogmatics priority of God.”[82]

Second, systematic theology can be “provisionally systematic.”[83] This means it can only be faithfully arranged by its object — it must follow theology’s primary doctrine, the Trinity, because all other doctrines are treated relatively to it.[84] Therefore, “this material is best set out in an arrangement which combines the historical or dramatic and the synthetic, in order to present to best effect the acts which make up the outer movement of this history, the agents by whom they are enacted, and the origin and telos of the whole.”[85]

Third, theology is always dependent on and looking to Scripture. It should not only “return to this principle as a commentary,”[86] but theology should bring us back to the Bible. As Webster says, “Scripture must be the terminus ad quem of systematic theological analysis, not merely its terminus a quo.” [87]

Webster wants to understand theology by knowing its object and ends. This theme has been present thus far in this presentation, but here, he highlights and expands it. Further, a shift may exist: (1) Webster expands on theological principia, noting the twofold nature of theology’s object; (2) he clearly spells out the primacy of the Trinity in the corpus of doctrine; (3) the cognitive principle is multi-directional: external and internal;[88] (4) he emphasized the need to locate reason and reception in the context God’s saving presence; and (5) Webster emphasizes the possibility of theology.

Stage III: “What Makes Theology Theological?” (2015)

Finally, Webster wrote an essay while at the University St. Andrews[89] — “What Makes Theology Theological?”[90] The title of the essay clearly shows what Webster tries to answer. Webster’s “bulk of the argument focuses … on identifying the nature of Christian theology by tending to its object, principles, ends, and requisite virtues.”[91]

Webster follows the same notion and emphasis as earlier (especially in his second stage) that the object of theology is “God the Holy Trinity and all other things relative to God.”[92] The primary object is God in two aspects: (1) in se and (2) in his works ad extra. The secondary or derivative object is all things in their relation to God. So, the study of “other things” is theological only when they are related to their origin and end — God. As Webster says, “Theology is a comprehensive science, a science of everything. But it is not a science of everything about everything, but rather a science of God and all other things under the aspect of createdness.”[93]

Webster returns to a familiar topic: theological principia. First, he covers the objective cognitive principle: God’s infinite knowledge of himself and all things and “that theology is foremost a reality within the Godhead.”[94] Second, God communicates a share of his knowledge through “the revelatory mission of Son and the Spirit.”[95] Consequently, “Theology is possible” and “ the possibility of human intellectual acts which are genuinely theological is discerned … by attending to the fullness of God’s own life and knowledge and by tracing the outer words of God’s love.”[96] Similar to his essays at Aberdeen, Webster then discusses human knowledge as created, fallen, and redeemed.

He then turns attention to theology’s ends more directly than before. He distinguishes ends and purposes, and says “theology will be theological when it makes these ends into is purposes, directing and moderating its activities accordingly.”[97] Of “these ends,” Webster lists types: scientific, contemplative, and practical ends.

Finally, Webster speaks of the character and virtues of a theologian. To understand proper virtues, Webster speaks of the telos of divine work — sanctification[98] — and the realm of regeneration. Webster speaks on the virtue of studiousness and on how curiosity distracts, detaches, and distorts theology. This needs restoration. Thus, Webster focuses heavily on the results of regeneration and says theology is theological when intellectual acts “are fitting expressions of the situation of fellowship with God.”[99] Webster goes on to say, “If it is not intent upon Holy Scripture, if it does not appeal to God’s beneficence in prayer, if it does not mortify distracting by right use of the body and set aside ironic detachment from its object, theology will be at best of indifferent value, at worst a strange figure in the kingdom of divine goodness.”[100]

This final stage of Webster’s theological theology has much continuity with his former projects, but develops some notions. Webster uniquely highlights the Trinity by identifying it as the cognitive principle; he also thoroughly speaks on the results of grace, he extensively covers the specific ends and purposes of theology, and he also brings special attention to contemplation of God.[101]

Synthesis

The most prominent theme observed was Webster’s desire to pursue theology wherein its object governed its method and inquiry. Dimly seen in the beginning of this evaluation, Webster progressively saw the prominence of the doctrine of God. He built upon and clarified this object as the determining doctrine of theology, focusing on aseity and the divine processions and their relation to the divine missions.[102] During and after the second stage, Webster highlighted the importance of theology’s domain: the economy of salvation (and so regeneration). Finally, Webster gave extensive attention to the necessary virtues of theologians. 

Conclusion: Theology in the Presence of God

Webster wanted theology to be theology. He was a thorough and a rigorously academic theologian who simply wanted theology to be theological. He did not want it to become perverted or tailored to suit man’s curiosity and fallen appetites. He simply wanted theology’s material to have the determining say over what theology should talk about, and how it is to be done. He wanted theology to be itself — theology. And so, in many of his essay not covered here, Webster always gave primacy to the doctrine of God, and spoke of the things that are not God by way of derivation, that is, by way of seeing them in relation to God as their origin and end.

It may be of surprise coming from such a prestigious academic, but Webster also cared about theologians being theological, and so, virtuous. Webster deeply cared about the attitude and virtue of theologians. One virtuous call for theologians pervaded his pages: a theologian must be docile and deferent.[103] Theology is far from a proud science; it is a humble pursuit requiring faith.[104] Webster did not care only about what theologians thought, he primarily cared about theologians revering God.[105] One of his students wrote: “When I asked what he thought were the essential characteristics of a good theologian, he discussed intellectual virtues: docility, studiousness, patience, magnanimity, and the foundation for these in the fear of God: ‘we can’t talk about God behind his back. It’s crucial that one develops a sense of thinking and speaking in the presence of God.’”[106] And so, even though John was perhaps the most prominent and gifted theologian of elite academic background no matter who else was in the room, according to the eyes of his student, “he was one of the most humble men I’ve ever known.”[107]

Further, John thoroughly cared about theology’s end: to know and love God. That was his goal.[108] Fittingly, in many of his other essays of which we did not cover here, John Webster fixated his theology on God’s perfect life in himself — of which he now gazes at more worshipfully than ever before.



[1] Kevin J. Vanhoozer, “John Webster: A Testimonial,” Henry Center for Theological Understanding, June 25, 2016, http://henrycenter.tiu.edu/2016/06/john-webster-a-testimonial/.

[2] See, http://henrycenter.tiu.edu/2016/08/john-webster-1955-2016-theologian-essayist-and-friend-a-year-long-tribute/.

[3] John Webster, “Discovering Dogmatics,” in Shaping a Theological Mind: Theological Context and Methodology, ed. Darren C. Marks (Farnham, England: Ashgate, 2002), 129.

[4] Ibid., 129.

[5] Ibid., 129.

[6] Ibid., 129.

[7] Ibid., 130.

[8] Ibid., 130.

[9] Ibid., 130.

[10] Ibid., 130.

[11] Ibid., 130.

[12] Ibid., 130–131.

[13] Ibid., 132.

[14] Webster, “Discovering Dogmatics,” 133.

[15] Ibid., 132. Emphasis added.

[16] This section is indebted to Michael Allen, “Toward Theological Theology: Tracing the Methodological Principles of John Webster,” in Themelios 41.2 (2016): 218–219. Note, this section is far from comprehensive. John Webster has also written numerous chapters in books and journal articles. For a more thorough list, see R. David Nelson, Darren Sarisky, and Justin Stratis, eds., Theological Theology: Essays in Honour Webster (London: T&T Clark, 2015).

[17] Ibid., 218.

[18] For example, John Webster, Erberhard Jüngel: An Introduction to His Theology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986); Erberhard Jüngel, God’s Being in Becoming: The Trinitarian Being of God in the Theology of Karl Barth, ed. and trans. John Webster (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 2001); and more.

[19] John Webster, Barth’s Ethics of Reconciliation (Cambridge University Press, 1995); John Webster, Barth’s Moral Theology: Human Action in Barth’s Thought (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1998); John Webster, Barth (London: Continuum, 2000); John Webster, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Karl Barth (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000); John Webster, Barth’s Earlier Theology (London: T&T Clark, 2005).

[20] Allen, “Toward Theological Theology,” 219.

[21] John Webster, Word and Church: Essays in Christian Dogmatics (Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2016); John Webster, Confessing God: Essays in Christian Dogmatics II (Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2016).

[22] John Webster, Holiness (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003).

[23] John Webster, Holy Scripture: A Dogmatic Sketch, Current Issues in Theology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003).

[24] John Webster, The Domain of the Word: Scripture and Theological Reason (London: T&T Clark, 2012).

[25] John Webster, God Without Measure: Working Papers in Christian Theology, 2 vols. (London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2016).

[26] John Webster, “Discovering Dogmatics,” in Shaping a Theological Mind: Theological Context and Methodology, ed. Darren C. Marks (Farnham, England: Ashgate, 2002), 133.

[27] That is, theological theology is governed by the doctrine of God.

[28] Ibid., 134.

[29] When theology does this, it tends to be less critical, analytical, and problematic, and begins to be more descriptive, interesting, and theological.

[30] Ibid., 133.

[31] Ibid., 134.

[32] Ibid., 131.

[33] Ibid., 130–131.

[34] John Webster, “Theologies of Retrieval,” in The Oxford Handbook of Systematic Theology, eds. John Webster, Kathryn Tanner, and Iain Torrance (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007). Interestingly, Webster follows his notion in “Discovering Dogmatics” (p. 10), that modern theology failed to defend itself because it did not “marshal … theological resources to meet its detractors” (Webster, “Theologies of Retrieval,” 586). He adds, “drawn away from its ground, theology found itself forced to engage its antagonists on terms which almost inevitably led to its collapse” (ibid., 586). That is, theologians deprived themselves by neglecting their own resources — churchly, God-given texts — from the past and Scripture. Hence, one could say they were therefore not letting the sphere of theology have a say in its method (i.e., using the church’s sources).

[35] Ibid., 584. For an understanding of ressourcement, see ibid., 590.

[36] Ibid., 590.

[37] Ibid., 590.

[38] Ibid., 592.

[39] Ibid., 592. This was a breakthrough for Webster when his theology began to become more theological (Webster, “Discovering Dogmatics,” 130).

[40] Ibid., 584–585.

[41] Webster, “Theologies of Retrieval,” 594.

[42] Ibid., 595.

[43] Webster, “Discovering Dogmatics,” 133.

[44] John Webster first had “Biblical Reasoning” published in ATR 90:4 (2008): 733–751. The essay was republished in John Webster, The Domain of the Word: Scripture and Theological Reason (London: T&T Clark, 2012). The latter text will be used for analysis.

[45] John Webster, “Biblical Reasoning,” 115.

[46] Ibid., 115.

[47] Ibid., 115.

[48] Ibid., 115.

[49] Ibid., 115.

[50] Michael Allen, “Toward Theological Theology: Tracing the Methodological Principles of John Webster,” 225.

[51] It is important to note that this history of fellowship between God and creatures has a goal for creatures: to be “summoned to know and love God” (Webster, “Biblical Reasoning,” 117).

[52] Ibid., 118.

[53] That is, God is made known in the economy of his creative and redemptive acts” (ibid., 118).

[54] Ibid., 119.

[55] Ibid., 120. Later on, Webster calls Scripture “the textual settlement of this embassy” (ibid., 121).

[56] Ibid., 122; quote of D. Turner, Faith, Reason and the Existence of God (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), xiv.

[57] Webster, “Biblical Reasoning,” 123.

[58] Ibid., 124.

[59] Ibid., 124.

[60] Ibid., 125.

[61] Ibid., 128.

[62] Ibid., 129.

[63] Ibid., 129.

[64] Allen, “Toward Theological Theology,” 227.

[65] Very similar to Webster, “Discovering Dogmatics,” 135.

[66] Webster, “Biblical Reasoning,” 130. Webster further says, “Exegetical reasoning is, most simply, reading the Bible, the intelligent (and therefore spiritual) act of following the words of the text” (ibid., 130).

[67] Ibid., 130.

[68] Ibid., 131.

[69] Ibid., 131.

[70] Originally this essay was published in IJST 11 no. 1 (2009): 56–71. It was reprinted in John Webster, The Domain of the Word: Scripture and Theological Reason (London: T&T Clark, 2012). The latter edition will be the material used in this evaluation.

[71] Webster, “Principles of Systematic Theology,” 133.

[72] Ibid., 133.

[73] Ibid., 134. This necessarily involves his works.

[74] Ibid., 135.

[75] Allen, Toward Theological Theology,” 229; cf. Webster, “Principles of Systematic Theology,” 136.

[76] Webster draws this from Matt 11:27; 1 Cor 2:10 (Webster, “Principles of Systematic Theology,” 137).

[77] Ibid., 136–137.

[78] Ibid., 137. Webster again points to Matt 11:27 and 1 Cor 2:11–12.

[79] Ibid., 137.