Ware, A. Bruce. God’s Greater Glory: The Exalted God of Scripture and the Christian Faith. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2004. 254pp. $17.99.

Summary

In God’s Greater Glory: The Exalted God of Scripture and the Christian Faith Bruce A. Ware speaks both practically and theologically as he sets out to “understand and portray God more fully as he is” (10). In his previous work, God’s Lesser Glory: The Diminished God of Open Theism, he refutes Open Theism’s understanding of God. This newer work sets out to explain positively what the previous work stated apophatically, namely the unfathomable majesty of the sovereign God revealed in Scripture.

The book begins with several introductory matters, most importantly his definition of divine providence that will be used throughout this work. He defines providence as follows:

God continually oversees and directs all things pertaining to the created order in such a way that 1) he preserves in existence and provides for the creation he has brought into being, and 2) he governs and reigns supremely over the entirety of the whole of creation in order to fulfill all of his intended purposes in it and through it (17).

Within this definition he speaks of providence in two ways, as preservation and as governance, the central questions of this work address the nature of God’s relationship with humanity and as such, the primary focus is defining God’s providence as governance and explaining “how we . . . live out our lives in the light of this divine governance” (19).

The text itself is divided into two main sections. The first addresses the biblical foundation of divine providence. The second gives the practical application of divine providence thus stated. Within the introduction, Ware lays out seven enduring questions concerning providence and ten essential features of divine providence properly delineated. The seven questions are answered throughout the work while the ten features become the subject of the first section. The questions posed by Ware are as follows:

1. What is the relation of divine providence to human freedom?
2. What is the relation of divine providence to moral responsibility?
3. What is the relation of divine providence to good and evil respectively?
4. What is the relation of divine providence to natural law?
5. What is the relation of divine providence to salvation?
6. What is the relation of divine providence to practical expressions of the Christian faith, such as prayer, evangelism, and Christian service?
7. What is the relation of divine providence to the very nature and character of God
(19-23)?

The second chapter provides a framework through which divine providence can be understood. The primary task of constructing this framework is bring a harmony between the “transcendent otherness” and “immanent nearness” of God. Here and throughout this work Ware warns of duality reductionism, where one aspect of God’s character is extolled at the expense of other seemingly contradictory characteristics. This chapter avoids that pitfall and provides a balanced and very helpful understanding of how God both exists outside of and independent of the created order and is intimately involved in every aspect of that order.

The chapters three through five describe God’s rule over, through, and with creation respectively. Chapter three discusses God’s rule over creation. He begins by explaining God’s exhaustive and meticulous sovereignty. He then explains the compatibility between divine sovereignty and human freedom by refuting the Arminian view of libertarian freedom, the freedom of contrary choice, and placing in its stead a freedom of inclination, man’s freedom to choose in accordance with his strongest inclination. Chapter four explains God’s rule through creation. Here Ware answers the question of evil in a rather unique way by proposing a Calvinistic understanding of middle knowledge. Proponents of middle knowledge assert that, “God can envision a free agent in various sets of circumstances or states of affairs, and it is claimed that God knows what the agent would do in each differing state of affairs” (113). Classically stated Molinism holds to libertarian freedom; however, he presents a nuanced understanding combining middle knowledge with a freedom of inclination. This both maintains human accountability and prevents God being directly responsible for evil. Chapter five presents how God rules with creation; this chapter brings numerous apparent paradoxes of the divine-human relationship into harmony.

Section two now takes what many would perceive to be an abstract concept and explains its practicality by providing concrete application within the context of life. Chapter six expounds man’s relationship as lived behind God; using suffering as an example Ware explains God’s purposeful concealment of the means by which He will bring His sovereign will to pass. Chapter seven demonstrated the relationship between divine providence and the believer’s life lived before God in prayer. Chapter eight lays forth the gracious gift of service as believers live in submission under God.

Evaluation

Strengths
God’s Greater Glory was extremely insightful and theologically sound. This work has numerous strengths only a few of which will be summarized below. This particular reviewer greatly appreciates Ware’s diligence to provide a detailed summary of the work’s structure and organization in the introduction. This allows the reader to understand the overarching themes and aim of this book thus making its content easier to assimilate.

Rather than simply providing the reader with one perspective throughout the work, Ware is careful to lay out the theological spectrum of views on every issue. Even thought he approaches the task from a reformed perspective he does not do so blindly or uncritically, this reader greatly appreciated his willingness to examine discerningly other theological systems as he completes the task at hand. Along these same lines, this work should serve as an example to all for avoiding duality reductionism by holding biblical truth in tension.

While the second section of the work specifically focuses on the practical nature of divine providence, the work is filled with examples and practical means of appropriating the truths expounded therein. In this Ware has gone beyond the scope of a mere theological treatise and given the reader a work which should drastically impact the whole of life. Chapter six was one of the best treatments of the purpose of God in suffering that this reviewer has read.

This reviewer greatly appreciates Ware’s explanation of the relationship between divine sovereignty and human freedom in chapter three. He is able to explain this topic, and opposing viewpoints, in a very succinct and understandable manner; the third chapter is one of the gems of this work.

To a postmodern culture which places a heavy emphasis upon authenticity in relationship the notion of God’s immutability appears to be the polar opposite of anything remotely resembling a real relationship. Chapter five provides a helpful corrective against those who have overemphasized God’s immutability. Ware maintains that God is immutable and yet presents the reader with a “relationship [that is] radically unlike and human relationship, and one for which no explanation exists on the human level” (156).

Weaknesses
Ware has provided the reader with a fantastic work that is difficult to criticize; however, this reviewer feels that the work suffered from two main weaknesses. First, his explanation of evil could have been more fully developed. Specifically, the reader would have benefited from an explanation of the difference between human evil and divine evil. Scripture clearly delineates what human acts of evil are. The problem of evil; however, is predicated on the presupposition that God’s allowance of human suffering and human evil is in fact an act of evil. Throughout this volume, he frequently quotes from Isaiah 10 to explain the relationship between divine providence, human responsibility, and evil. Within Isaiah 10 Assyria is God’s instrument of judgment upon His people Israel and yet Assyria acts out of the desire of their hearts. This clearly demonstrates the compatibility of human freedom, Assyria’s desire to destroy, and divine sovereignty, God’s command that Assyria destroy Israel. Ware then argues that God indirectly allows evil and is not directly responsible as Assyria acts out the desires of their heart. If Israel is deserving of judgment why would God be guilty of evil for using Assyria as a tool to execute His judgment and uphold His righteousness? Indeed what is evil for Assyria is good for God because it upholds His righteousness and fulfills His covenant promises to Israel (Deuteronomy 28-29); Ware does not pick up on this. Indeed, there is no problem of evil there is a dilemma of grace. Even amidst great suffering and evil, as horrific as it may be, man receives far more that is good than he deserves.

Second, this reviewer greatly appreciates the uniqueness and clarity of Ware’s nuanced explanation of a Calvinistic middle knowledge; however, his explanation, although a helpful, this reviewer does not feel that it is a necessary addition to this particular theological discussion. This reviewer would also like to see the theme of living under God in chapter eight developed further.

Remaining Questions
In the second section Ware address how God’s exhaustive and meticulous sovereignty affects how we live behind, before, and under Him. Specifically how does the church live under the headship of the sovereign Christ? How does the church, and subsequently individual believers live via, or by means of, the Holy Spirit? Finally, in what way must God’s sovereignty affect our understanding of the imago Dei?

Conclusion
Overall, this work presents the reader with an easily accessible and practical exposition of God’s character. This work should not only be praised for its sound theology but for the way in which Dr. Ware brings the weight of God’s glory to bear on the whole of the reader’s life. While his previous, and more polemic work, God’s Lesser Glory may only appeal to those interested in refuting Open Theism this work’s positive lucid proclamation of the majestic sovereignty of God should be read and enjoyed by all.