Jonathan Edwards Week – Sex & God’s Glory

Earlier this week we saw that Edwards believed that “God is a communicative being.” This significance of this is that God is all about his glory – specifically God is all about communicating his own glory ad intra (within the Trinity) and ad extra (to sentient beings he has created). Then we asked the question:

How do sentient beings, participate in the glorification of God? What is these beings role (whether humans or angels) in glorifying God? Two answer this other question we need to look at two other axiom’s Edwards’ Trinitarian theology… but we’ll save that for later.

Today we get to those two points and what it means for our sexuality.

Two Axioms

Axiom 1 – In the beauty of spiritual community the glory of God becomes visible.

Axiom 2 – The church glorifies God when it knows and delights in Him.

It is clear that for Edwards God’s self-glorification was fundamental to his theology. To put it quite simply, Edwards believed that God is all about his self-glorification. God is glorified when the beauty of the spiritual community becomes visible and when this same community knows and delights in him.

So What Does This Mean for the Church’s Sexuality?

First, we must take seriously the fact that sexual sin within the church is not merely a private matter, it affects the whole community and it is a violation of the love that ought to be seen within the church.[1] Second, we must oppose sexual morality done simply for the sake of being moral, rather we must encourage sexual morality by encouraging people to find delight in God. As people’s knowledge of and delight in God grow, their desire for sexual sin will begin to diminish. If the church would begin to do these simple things, the church would certainly bring much glory to God.

Do you want to know more about this these two axioms or Edwards understanding of sexuality in the church? Then come to ETS MidWest 2015, April 10 & 11 – I will be presenting a paper titled:

Bad Books and The Glorious Trinity:
Jonathan Edwards on the Sexual Holiness of the Church


[1] Paul picks up on this in his letter to the Thessalonians: For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you. (1 Thessalonians 4:3-8 ESV)

Jonathan Edwards Week – Ontological Argument(s)

Jonathan Edwards makes an interesting (and prior to a few weeks ago unknown to me) ontological argument in one of his miscellanies. But before we get to that, a little bit on Ontological Arguments[1]:

Ontological arguments are arguments, for the conclusion that God exists, from premises which are supposed to derive from some source other than observation of the world—e.g., from reason alone. In other words, ontological arguments are arguments from nothing but analytic, a priori and necessary premises to the conclusion that God exists.

The first, and best-known, ontological argument was proposed by St. Anselm of Canterbury in the 11th. century C.E. In his Proslogion, St. Anselm claims to derive the existence of God from the concept of a being than which no greater can be conceived. St. Anselm reasoned that, if such a being fails to exist, then a greater being—namely, a being than which no greater can be conceived, and which exists—can be conceived. But this would be absurd: nothing can be greater than a being than which no greater can be conceived. So a being than which no greater can be conceived—i.e., God—exists.

There are several types of ontological arguments

  1. definitional ontological arguments;
  2. conceptual (or hyperintensional) ontological arguments;
  3. modal ontological arguments;
  4. Meinongian ontological arguments;
  5. experiential ontological arguments;
  6. mereological ontological arguments;
  7. higher-order ontological arguments; and
  8. ‘Hegelian’ ontological arguments;

The first three sorts of ontological argument are probably the most commonly thought of argument when we say “ontological argument.” The first one basically goes something like this:

1-God is a being which has every perfection. (This is true as a matter of definition.) Existence is a perfection. Hence God exists.

The second one goes something like this:

2- I conceive of a being than which no greater can be conceived. If a being than which no greater can be conceived does not exist, then I can conceive of a being greater than a being than which no greater can be conceived—namely, a being than which no greater can be conceived that exists. I cannot conceive of a being greater than a being than which no greater can be conceived. Hence, a being than which no greater can be conceived exists.

Argument 2 is closest to Anselm’s type of ontological argument.

The third argument goes something like this:

3- It is possible that that God exists. God is not a contingent being, i.e., either it is not possible that God exists, or it is necessary that God exists. Hence, it is necessary that God exists. Hence, God exists.

Now lets turn to Jonathan Edwards’ argument then we can classify it:

27a. God is a necessary being, because it’s a contradiction to suppose him not to be. No being is a necessary being but he whose nonentity is a contradiction. We have show that absolute nothing is the essence of al contradictions; but being includes in it all that we call God, who is, and there is no one else besides him.

The Modal argument has several premises:

  1. It is possible that God exists
  2. God is not a contingent being
  3. Hence it is necessary that God exists.
  4. Hence God exists.

Edwards arguments can be parsed out this way:

A.It is possible that God exists.
B.God is a necessary being.
(Arguments for why God is a necessary being: It’s a contradiction to suppose God is contingent. No being is a necessary being but he whose essence is just being.)
C. God Exists.

But it could also be parsed out another way:

  1. “God” includes being.
  2. It is contradictory to have “God” without being.

This reading looks a lot like the first sort of ontological argument:

  1. By definition, “God” is a being which has every perfection.
  2. Existence is a perfection.
  3. God exists.

All this to say – Edwards has a rather complex and maybe convoluted version of the ontological argument or maybe he has two in the same miscellany.



Jonathan Edwards Week – Edwards and Atonement (Pt. 2)

Yesterday we took a brief look at a quote from Edwards that has been spun into a rather interesting theory of atonement (namely one that Edwards would never had agreed to). Today, I felt like we should look at what Edwards really believed about atonement. Here is Edwards in his own words:

If it be allowed that it is requisite that great crimes should be punished with punishment in some measure answerable to the heinousness of the crime because of their great demerit and the great abhorrence and indignation they justly excite: it will follow that it is a requisite that God should punish all sin with infinite punishment, because all sin, as it is against God, is infinitely hateful to him and so stirs up infinite abhorrence and indignation in him. (Works, 2:565)

We take it that it is required that crimes should be punished with a punishment equal to the heinousness of the crime. Thus it follows that sin against God (an infinite being) merits infinite punishment. Not that Edwards does not mention “justice” in this passage – rather Edwards main argument that sin deserves to be punished hangs on the fact sin is hateful to God and that it stirs up abhorrence and indignation to him. Sin is punished not out of a pure act of justice, rather it is punished because it is offensive to God’s holiness. Sin is not an abstract violation of justice rather it is an affront to a personal and holy God.

This punishment must be meted out upon the one guilty of the sin – no one can take the punishment for someone else, not even God for that would be unjust. Thank goodness for substitutionary atonement! The punishment can be meted out against one person if that one person somehow really is a substitute for the guilty. Mind you, this needs to be more than just a legal substitution, it needs to be a metaphysical substitution for the substitution to be real and not a legal fiction.

In Original Sin Edwards says,

Some things, existing in different times and places, are treated by their Creator as one in one respect, and others in another; some are united for this communication, and others for that; but all according to the sovereign pleasure of the Fountain of all being and operation. (OS 405)

In other words God regards John Doe at T1 and T2 as one being, even though materially they are not, thus metaphysically it is true that John Doe at T1 is the same person as John Doe at T2. Edwards applies this same logic to penal substitution. Edwards believes that God regards the believers as one with Christ and so, ontologically, the believer is one with Christ.

Jonathan Edwards Week – Edwards and Atonement

What does Jonathan Edwards believe when it comes to atonement? Well, its nothing terribly interesting – he takes the traditional reformed line when it comes to this doctrine. However – in one of his miscellanies he says something that has been used by other theologians (John McLeod Campbell initially) to argue that he might have theoretically been open to a different theory of atonement. Lets take a look at that miscellany real quick:

oo. Satisfaction. Now some may say why could not God, of his mercy, pardon the injury only upon repentance without other satisfaction, without doing himself any hurt? I also ask, why could he not of his mercy pardon without repentance? For the same reason he could not pardon without repentance without satisfaction. For all repentance man is capable of is no repentance at all; or which is the same thing, it is as little as none in comparison of the greatness of the injury, for it cannot bear any proportion to it. Now I am sure, it would be as dishonorable for God to pardon the injury upon repentance that did not bear the least proportion to the injury, as for him to pardon without any repentance at all. Wherefore, we are not forgiven now because our repentance makes any satisfaction, but because therby we reject the sin and receive the satisfaction already made.

Here he starts with the same sort of question Abelard asks in his commentary to the Romans – why could God just not forgive without satisfaction being made? It seems obvious to me that the his answer to the question is basically – “because that makes no sense whatsoever.” You see this in his second question – why could God not forgive without repentance? The answer is supposed to be obvious – he can’t – just like God cannot pardon when there is repentance without satisfaction. Why can’t God pardon without repentance without satisfaction? Because our repentance is not enough. Our repentance is too small in comparison to the offense we have committed at all. Therefore satisfaction needs to be made.

This is where other theologians come in – McLeod specifically. McLeod picks up on this supposed insight – that our repentance is not enough to merit forgiveness – and he says that if there were a sort of repentance that was equal or greater to the offense committed against God then that would merit satisfaction. McLeod goes on to argue that Christ – our substitute – makes exactly this sort of repentance. Christ repents perfectly on our behalf.

There are a few problems with this though…

1)How can Christ repent for someone else? Repentance can only happen at the hands of the perpetrator. This however is not actually as big of a problem as one might think. If Christ and the elect actually have an organic – real – and not merely legal union – then Christ’s repentance really is his peoples repentance and Christ can really repent for them because they are one metaphysical entity.

However there is a bigger problem…

2)At what point does Christ actually repent? Where do we see Christ’s vicarious repentance in scripture at any point? We don’t. Aside from the fact that vicarious repentance would have been an impossibility in Edwards’ mind, I think the lack of a scriptural basis for this is this particular theory’s fatal flaw.

Jonathan Edwards Week – God is a Communicative Being

One of the fundamental axioms of Jonathan Edwards’ theology is that God is a communicative being. Edwards says that “It is God’s essence to incline to communicate himself.” (Misc. 107) He also says that

“This disposition to communicate himself is what we must conceive of as being originally in God as a perfection of his nature. “(End in Creation, 207)

 So what exactly is God communicating? We might say that in communicating himself God is communicating his own glory. Edwards’ miscellanies shed light on this concept. In miscellanies 247 Edwards says that “His own glory was the ultimate, Himself was His end – that is, Himself communicated.” This divine self-communication (or self-glorification) occurs in two different ways, it occurs ad intra and ad extra – that is within the inner workings of the Trinity and the external workings of the Trinity. Regarding the first Edwards says:

God is glorified within himself in two ways: 1. By appearing or being manifest to Himself in his own perfect idea; or in his Son who is the brightness of his glory. 2. By enjoying and delighting in himself by flowing forth in infinite Love and delight towards Himself or in his Holy Spirit. (Misc 448)

Because God is a communicative being, God tends toward further communication of himself. Thus God is inclined to enlarge, increase, and multiply his own self through a multiplication of beautiful relations. God does this, through the communication of his self-knowledge and self-love, which occurs through Christ and the Holy Spirit respectively. However we are still talking about intra-Trinitarian communication, and we know that God’s disposition to self-communicate can come to completion ad intra. However God’s glory is an infinitely self-enlarging glory so God makes it so that this same self-communication ad intra also occurs ad extra. This partly occurs in God’s creation of the world which is an exercise of of the divine disposition towards self-communication.

Regarding this self-communication ad extra Edwards writes:

It is a regard to himself that disposes him to diffuse and communicate himself. It is such a delight in his own internal fullness and glory that disposes him to abundant effusion and emanation of that glory. The same disposition, that inclines him to delight in his glory, causes him to delight in the exhibitions, expressions, and communications of it. (End in Creation 215)

But all this is about God’s self-communication and self-glorification which all flows out from the Trinitarian life of God. How do sentient beings, participate in the glorification of God? What is these beings role (whether humans or angels) in glorifying God? To answer these questions we need to look at two other axiom’s Edwards’ Trinitarian theology… but we’ll save that for later.

Win a Free Book – The Happy Christian by David Murray

The Happy Christian is…

A unique combination of biblical teaching, scientific research, and personal biography shows those who follow Jesus how to live joyful, purposeful lives.

In The Happy Christian, professor and pastor David Murray blends the best of modern science and psychology with the timeless truths of Scripture to create a solid, credible guide to positivity. The author of the acclaimed Christians Get Depressed Too, Murray exposes modern negativity’s insidious roots and presents ten perspective-changing ways to remain optimistic in a world that keeps trying to drag us down.

The Happy Christian invites readers to shed negativity and become countercultural missionaries by demonstrating the positive power of the gospel in their lives. (HT: Hand & Heart)

If you would like to enter to win a copy (paperback if you are in the contiguous US – digital if you are elsewhere) here’s what you need to do:

  • Comment below regarding why you want to read this book or how you have recently experienced joy in the Lord.
  • Like this blog post.
  • Re-blog this blog.
  • Follow me on twitter – @CWoznicki – and tell me why you want this book.
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I will be announcing winners towards the end of this week. Good luck!

Atonement is Penal and Substitutionary

Atonement is both penal and substitutionary – here is John Webster on what is happening on the cross:

He becomes, that is, the bearer of our sins. “Surely,” Isaiah tells us, “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows” (53:4); and again: “the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (53:6); and again: “he bore the sin of many” (53:12). It’s easy to misunderstand this. If we’re not careful, we can think that what’s happening in the passion is that God is simply punishing an innocent victim for our wrongdoings—as if God simply requires that the punishment for our crimes should be enacted, and it doesn’t matter who is punished. But Jesus is not just a mute sacrificial animal. If he is like a lamb led to the slaughter, it’s not because God is victimizing him; it is because he is God himself fulfilling his own purpose; it is because he is God the Son, freely and lovingly acting out the will of the Father. “It was the will of the Lord to crush him” (53:10). That does not mean that God just vented his anger at sin on Jesus. It means that he, Jesus, the Son of God, is God himself bearing the wounds of our wickedness. God does not save us by sacrificing someone other than himself. God sacrifices himself. In his Son, God himself bears our sins. He makes himself an offering for sin (Hebrews 7:27). Or as Colossians puts it “in him”—Jesus—“all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross” (1:19).

Webster, J. (2014). Confronted by Grace: Meditations of a Theologian.


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