A few days ago I got word that a paper I wrote on Jonathan Edwards, the Trinity, and violence is going to be published in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological society. Honestly I was quite surprised, I thought the paper was a longshot, but I figured that I might as well turn it in and see what happens – expecting a rejection letter in the mail. I sort of have the tendency to think that everything I write is crap. I guess not though.
Anyway in this paper I talk a bit about how due to his hellfire and brimstone sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” Jonathan Edwards has gained a reputation for portraying God as angry and violent. In recent literature there has been a flury of accusations against evangelicals as portraying God as a violent God. Most accusations of these accusations about divine violence have been leveled against penal substitution, these accusations could also be made against what Edwards calls “The Covenant of Redemption.”
In this paper examine these accusations and answer the question: “Is the Covenant of Redemption in Jonathan Edwards’s Trinitarian theology a form of violence by the Father against the Son?” I argue that the Covenant of Redemption does not meet the necessary and sufficient conditions for a violent act (I take a look at definitions of violence in the work of several theologians and philosophers), thus accusations of divine violence cannot be leveled against Edwards’ conception of the Covenant of Redemption.
I set out the necessary and sufficient conditions for a violent act, namely coercion and harm, and put these into conversation with feminist theology which has been one of the most outspoken opponents about violence in Christian theology. Then I turn to Edwards’s primary treatise on the Trinity and the Covenant of Redemption: “Observations Concerning the Scripture Economy of the Trinity and the Covenant of Redemption.” By examining Edwards’s understanding of 1) the ontological relations between the persons of the Trinity, 2) the economy of the immanent Trinity, and 3) the economy of the Trinity in the Covenant of Redemption it becomes clear that this covenant does not meet the necessary and sufficient conditions for violence. Thus I prove that Edwards is not guilty of placing the son in the hands of a violent God.