Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Overview of Jonathan Edwards theology

The below excerpt is from Kyle Strobel's book Jonathan Edwards Theology: a reinterpretation. Pg 4-5

Underscored, embolden or italicized words and (parenthetical comments) are my own:

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First, Edwards theology begins with God, and in his eternal life as Trinity, as the ontological (nature of being or existence) principle which grounds his systematic task. 

Second, Edwards begins 'from eternity' and then 'descends' to address God's work in time, i.e. Gods economic movement to create (begin something) and sustain (continue it).

Third, this work in time is the work of redemption, directing the revolutions in the world and guiding it towards resurrection, judgment and consummation. 

Fourth and finally, Edwards theology is a theology of redemptive history, grounded in and formed by the God who is redeeming, or more specifically, the God who redeems in, through and as Christ.

Further elaboration of the above points:

First, Jonathan Edwards theology is fundamentally Trinitarian. Edwards account of the trinity is the anchor, or in his words, the fountain of all that is. Edwards theology traces the contours of the trinity so that the ordering, emphasis and teleology (final /designed/ planned objective) of his thought finds its home in his trinitarian analysis. 

Several key concepts come into focus as a result of this ordering. 

   First, Edwards emphasizes personhood. This emphasis grounds his depiction of the Trinity and organizes his discussions concerning God's attributes and his work of redemption. The formal demarcations (what differentiates and distinguishes persons) of the processions (i.e.The Son and Spirit) are not addressed through origin (e.g. begotteness) but through * personhood (i.e. individual understanding and will. Each person has their own understanding [their own unique comprehension of objective truth] and will). 

   * For a further discussion on "personhood" click here

   Second, Edwards develops his formal analysis of the processions in terms of the beatific vision. The Father gazes upon the Son and the Son upon the Father, not in a detached fashion, but with delight (the Spirits spiration). In other words, the happiness of the Father and Son is the Spirit, and the vision of God shared by Father and Son, is, in Edwards phrase, 'happifying'. (makes one happy)

   Last, as an account of mutual beholding in the Godhead leading to affections, Edwards depiction of the Trinity serves as the archetype (he is the source and model; we are like him) for creaturely knowledge of God i.e. knowing God requires apprehension that happifies.

Second, God descends to create the world and sustain it (GOD is the first cause and initiator who comes to us. We do not go up to him). Edwards refers to this as Gods emanation. God is diffusive (outward flowing); he is communicative *(shares and passes along things about himself by words and actions) in both his imminent (within the Trinity) and economic (outward exchange/interaction) existence. God is a God who reveals himself in the world for the purpose of affectionate knowledge (of others) which is an image of his own inner Trinitarian self-knowing. (God is happy in what he sees and knows and seeks to bring others into this happiness),

   *and we are like him in this way. As we receive love from him we desire to pass it along to others. He is the source of that love, for himself first and then to and for us and out to others through us. We are conduits.

This grounds the third point, that God sustains creation for the purpose of perfecting this affectionate knowledge as well as perfecting the union believers have with Christ. God is guiding creation to resurrection, judgment and consummation, which, for the elect, entails the full beatific vision of God (we shall be like him when we see him as he is), or true participation in God's self knowing and self loving. The parallel of God's emanation is thus, in Edwards terminology, *remanation, the glory of God received and communicated back to its divine source.

  *This is at the heart of our value. We are valuable because we can    experience and enjoy God who is most valuable, expressing our value of him  back to him and out to others by pointing others to him.

The Trinity, as the fountain, gives shape to all theology so that the beautification thread formed in his doctrine of the Trinity is woven throughout the whole until it finds its perfection in consummation (i.e. eternal glory). Edwards theology, in this sense, it's cyclical. Everything moves from God, and everything returns to him in judgment. The elect continue on this trajectory (past judgment) to God, while the reprobate do not. 
Rom 11:36  For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
Along with being cyclical, Edwards thought is teleological. The elect do not disappear into God, but commune with God eternally, because this eternal union is *asymptotic – always (throughout eternity) growing closer without collapsing into a singular entity

asymptotic - adjective Mathematics.
  1. of or pertaining to an asymptote (a straight line approached by a given curve as one of the variables in the equation of the curve approaches infinity).
  2. (of a function) approaching a given value as an expression containing a variable tends to infinity. 
  3. (of two functions) so defined that their ratio approaches unity as the independent variable approaches a limit or infinity. 
  4. (of a formula) becoming increasingly exact as a variable approaches a limit, usually infinity. 
  5. coming into consideration as a variable approaches a limit, usually infinity: asymptotic property; asymptotic behavior.
Fourth, Christ as the image of God, is the locus (central focal point or location) of revelation to the creature and as God man, is the point of mediation between God and man. Affectionate knowledge of God, as noted above, entails beholding God. Christ reveals God in his excellencies, calling the elect to behold and see his goodness and beauty. Redemption, through Christ work, is the central thread that shapes Edwards entire theological project. Redemption is what the world was created for and redemption entails God's revealing himself in Christ with affectionate creaturely response.

End of book excerpt
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If redemption is what the world was created for and the rebellion of man proceeds and necessitates redemption than the fall was part of Gods plan from the beginning.

1Pet 1:18  knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. 20  He was foreknown before the foundation of the world (i.e. before anything was created, including mankind) but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you

In order for Christ to be foreknown as the redeemer, it also had to be know why or who he was redeeming i.e. that redemption was even necessary. There is no redemption if nothing needs to be paid for i.e. bought back. 

Redeem defined


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Grace to you
Jim Deal