A Theology of the Christian Life

Imitating and Participating in God

Cover Art Request Exam Copy

Where to Purchase


In this book, theologian Christopher Holmes encourages readers to be more deeply captivated by the Bible's witness to God. He gets at the heart of the Christian life by considering some of the great truths of God's existence.

Holmes engages with the church fathers along with Augustine and Aquinas to offer a rich, accessible account of the triune God and the divine perfections. He unfolds a program of spiritual renewal founded on the essential attributes of God, showing how we share in the life of God through imitation and participation and how the doctrines of the triune God and the divine attributes shape our understanding of the Christian life. Throughout, Holmes demonstrates the importance of theology for Christian faith and practice.

A Theology of the Christian Life will appeal to professors and students of Christian theology as well as pastors and church leaders.


Part One
1. The Existence of God and the Christian Life
How Do We Know That God Exists?
Spiritual Sight
2. The Manner of God's Existence and the Christian Life
Sense Perception?
Moses's Example
Familiarity with God
The Soul's Elevation in Prayer
Ascetical Existence
"The Moral Race Course" of the Baptized
3. Perfection and the Christian Life
The Likeness of God
Is Christ Perfect?
The Father's Invisibility
A Light Yoke
4. Infinity and the Christian Life
Angelic Existence
The Bodiless God
The Trinitarian Dimension
God as Ever Greater
The Love of God
Devotion and the Doctrine of God
The Perennial Relevance of 1 Corinthians 15:28
5. Immutability and the Christian Life
The Way of Life
True Worship
The Unchanging God
On Not Diverging from God
Friendship with God
Part Two
6. The Hypostatic Union and the Christian Life
Believing Agency and Being
The Great Difference
Superiority to the Demonic
7. Virtue and the Christian Life
Theological Existence
The Holy Spirit
God's Renown
8. Church and the Christian Life
The One Foundation
A Fruitful Death
The Grace of Prayer


"It would not have occurred to the theologians of Christian antiquity or even those of the High Middle Ages that metaphysics, doctrine, and the spiritual life were discrete disciplines. Today, alas, we can scarcely imagine them as anything else. The great liberating force of Holmes's book is its relentless dedication to restoring a unity that believers should never have put asunder."

David Bentley Hart, author of Roland in Moonlight and Tradition and Apocalypse

"God's existence, perfection, infinity, and immutability are not abstractions. Christopher Holmes shows, instead, why they are the source and summit of Christian living. Drawing fresh insights from the rich wellspring of theologians from the East and West, A Theology of the Christian Life offers a Christ-shaped program of spiritual renewal through participation in God. Holmes is immensely practical, deeply devotional, and thoroughly biblical."

Hans Boersma, Saint Benedict Servants of Christ Chair in Ascetical Theology, Nashotah House

"This book undertakes the counterintuitive task of showing how those attributes of God that distinguish Creator from creature are at the same time to be imitated by us. In doing so, it brings austere aspects of the doctrine of God alive in their spiritually transformative implications. It looks forward to the eschaton in the company of the church fathers and of Scripture, breathing a clear air that enables a rare theological boldness."

Susannah Ticciati, reader in Christian theology, King's College London

"It has been said of various thinkers in the Christian tradition that they were 'God-intoxicated' men and women. The same may be said of Christopher Holmes. I know of no other contemporary theologian who does a better job of showing the deep interconnections between God's being and perfections and the Christian life, especially the life of prayer. This is a lovely book and one that I will recommend enthusiastically to my students."

Joseph Mangina, professor of systematic theology, Wycliffe College

"Many of the great Christian writers down the centuries have set out their theology using the language of 'participation.' Stressing that all things come from God, and that all things find their fulfilment in relation to God, this theology naturally integrates thought, practice, and a common life in the community of the church. Christopher Holmes inhabits this tradition deeply, naturally, and persuasively. His study is particularly notable for the degree to which he is as much at home with the text of the Scriptures as with the writings of the church fathers, Aquinas, or the Reformers."

Andrew Davison, Starbridge Senior Lecturer in Theology and Natural Sciences, University of Cambridge; author of Participation in God: A Study in Christian Doctrine and Metaphysics

"This is a magnificently theological reflection on Christian existence. Books about the Christian life often devolve into banal how-to manuals. Here, however, Holmes explores how the life of a Christian opens up to the reality of God himself, in a way that exposes the deepest truths of divine life. In serious but lucid prose, Holmes's skills as a master systematician are movingly deployed in the service of a mind and spirit suffused with the love and adoration of God. Shaped by the classic wisdom of the fathers and of Thomas Aquinas especially, with Scripture at its root, Holmes carefully opens up for the reader the astonishing promise by which God's perfections are shared with us. Dogmatic and spiritual theology are wedded here in an incomparable contemporary fashion that calls for the urgent attention of every Christian, whether student or scholar, lay or ordained."

Ephraim Radner, professor of historical theology, Wycliffe College

The Author

  1. Christopher R. J. Holmes
    Dave Bull

    Christopher R. J. Holmes

    Christopher R. J. Holmes (ThD, Wycliffe College, University of Toronto) is associate professor in systematic theology and head of the theology program at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand. He is the author of a number of books,...

    Continue reading about Christopher R. J. Holmes