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Seeing God
The Beatific Vision in Christian Tradition
Hans Boersma
Foreword by Andrew Louth

PAPERBACK; Published: 2/10/2022
ISBN: 978-0-8028-8019-2
Price: $ 34.99
487 Pages
Trim Size, in inches: 6 x 9
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Winner of the Christianity Today Book Award in Theology/Ethics (2019)

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.

Table of Contents

          Foreword by Andrew Louth
          1. Plausibility and Vision: The Beatific Vision in Modernity
Part One: Beatific Vision in Early Christian Thought
          2. Philosophy and Vision: Plato, Plotinus, and the Christian Faith
          3. Progress and Vision: Gregory of Nyssa’s Unending Search
          4. Anticipation and Vision: Augustine on Theophanies and Ecstasy
Part Two: Beatific Vision in Medieval Thought
          5. Transfiguration and Vision: Thomas Aquinas and Gregory Palamas
          6. Mystical Union and Vision: Symeon the New Theologian and John of the Cross
          7. Faculties and Vision: Bonaventure and Nicholas of Cusa
          8. Speech and Vision: Dante’s Transhumanizing Journey
Part Three: Beatific Vision in Protestant Thought
          9. Accommodation and Vision: John Calvin on Face-to-Face Vision of God
          10. Modernity and Vision: John Donne’s Restoration of “Commerce twixt heauen and earth”
          11. Christ and Vision: Puritan and Dutch Reformed Articulations of the Beatific Vision
          12. Mediation and Vision: An Edwardsean Modification of Thomas Aquinas
Part Four: Beatific Vision: A Dogmatic Appraisal
          13. Pedagogy and Vision: Beatific Vision through Apprenticeship

Christianity Today 2019 Book Award for Theology/Ethics
“Hans Boersma’s Seeing God is the most significant and theologically comprehensive treatment of this topic in English since Kenneth Kirk’s classic The Vision of God. And, far more than Kirk, Boersma provides the invaluable service of breaking down the barriers (mostly barriers of misconception) separating differing Christian traditions, East and West, Orthodox and Catholic and Protestant. This is theological reflection of the most illuminating kind.”
— David Bentley Hart
author of Atheist Delusions and The Beauty of the Infinite
“Christian theology has traditionally identified the beatific vision as the ultimate end of humanity. But what does it mean to ‘see God’? How can we pursue such an end if it is beyond our understanding? Building on his exemplary ‘sacramental ontology,’ Hans Boersma here offers us a ‘sacramental teleology’ in which the end of humanity—the visio Dei—is revealed sacramentally within the created order. A profound and important work.”
— Simon Oliver
Durham University
“Only Hans Boersma could write this book. With a superb command of the Scriptures and of the Reformed, Protestant, and Catholic traditions, he revisits the neglected topic of beatific vision and reminds us what it is to see God in Christ. An energizing book from one of today’s best theologians.”
— Janet Soskice
University of Cambridge
Seeing God is a subtle yet sustained polemic against the notion that the Christian eschaton is simply an improved version of the universe as we know it, and that Christian Platonists—Nyssen, Augustine, Dante, Jonathan Edwards, C. S. Lewis—were all wrongheadedly otherworldly. Boersma’s breviary for sacramental ontology, advocating a more ‘vertical’ kind of theology and spirituality, deserves consideration among so-called Christian materialists and contemporary proponents of the ‘renewed cosmos’ approach to eschatology.”
— Michael McClymond
Saint Louis University
“Hans Boersma’s Seeing God provides a richly comprehensive historical account of theologies of the beatific vision. But it also successfully mediates between the Nyssen account of eternal progress into God and the Thomist account of an eternal finality, and it properly modifies Aquinas by insisting that the final vision will be one achieved essentially and not accidentally in the resurrected body. This is a wonderful achievement.”
— John Milbank
University of Nottingham
“This is a striking manifesto, in the form of a gentle, subtle, moving, and encyclopedic tour through the church’s long reflection on our final destiny of gazing upon God’s face given in Christ. Boersma eloquently unveils the powerful truth that we are made in our bones to thirst for such a vision and that the ordering of our lives is properly geared toward this end.”
— Ephraim Radner
Wycliffe College
“The doctrine of the beatific vision, the final vision of God, has been sidelined in some recent theological discussions. In this rich and exciting study Hans Boersma restores the appreciation of its centrality that was common in earlier Christian traditions. He invites us to engage in the ultimate adventure of our lives—to become who God made us to be and thereby come to know God in ways that anticipate the vision of him in his fullness. A wonderful and supremely worthwhile feat.”
— Lydia Schumacher
King’s College London
“Remarkable. . . . Hans Boersma seems to me a one-man ecumenical movement, as he explores with rare skill the different ways of thinking that have expressed Christian faith and hope.”
— Andrew Louth
from the foreword
“In creating a resource tracing the doctrine of the beatific vision through the ages, Boersma does an excellent job of tracing the beatific vision from the pre-Christian era with Plato and Plotinus through the post-Reformation era with Johnathan Edwards.”
— Southwestern Journal of Theology
“We would do well to join Boersma in the hopeful pursuit of our ultimate end.”
— The Living Church
“Boersma has succeeded in the task he set himself: to re-articulate the beatific vision in a ‘Christological, God-focused’ way with an ecumenical and sacramental core.”
— Theology
“Seeing God is historical theology of the first order.”
— Scottish Journal of Theology
Andrew Davison in Church Times
“Beholding God — the beatific vision — has been considered the chief joy of the saints for much of Christian history. I suspect that it does not feature anything like as often today as a subject for sermons or devotional writing. That makes Hans Boersma’s Seeing God specially welcome.”