Jonathan Edwards’s Argument Against Unitarianism in Miscellany 96

Today I’m finally putting pen to paper for a short introduction to two of Edwards’s miscellanies for a reader being published by Jonathan Edwards Press.

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In the reader I will be introducing Miscellany 96 which is on the Trinity and Miscellany 279 which is on the torments of hell. The plan is basically to introduce each miscellany and then explain how Edwards’s Trinitarian doctrine relates to his doctrine of hell.

Here is a pretty sloppy summary of Edwards’s two arguments against Unitarianism – a very early modern concern – in Miscellany 96.

Argument #1 – A Theological Argument

Claim: There must be more than a unity in infinite and eternal essence.

Argument:

  1. To be perfectly good is to incline to and delight in making another happy in the same proportion as it is happy itself.
  2. God is perfectly good, therefore God is inclined and delights in making another happy in the same proportion as he is happy.

This claim has to do with Edwards’s idea of communication. A perfectly good being desires and delights in communicating the fullness of itself to others, so that others may enjoy the goodness of that first being.

This however doesn’t get you Trinitarianism yet because a Unitarian God could “potentially” delight in making another as happy as God is himself. More is needed.

  1. Goodness is delight in communicating happiness.
  2. If “goodness” is perfect, the delight to communicate must be perfect.
  3. A delight is perfect if an only if the inclination to communicate happiness to the other is equal to an agent’s own inclination to be happy.
  4. To be the object of perfect delight one must be X and Y
  5. A creatures cannot (1)God cannot love a creature as much as God loves himself, (2) a creature cannot receive the fullness of God’s communication.
  6. Therefore creatures cannot be the object of God’s desire to communicate perefectly.
  7. If God exercises his perfect goodness then he must have fellowship with a person capable of receiving the fullness of God’s love and communication.
  8. If God is good then God must exercise perfect goodness.
  9. God is good
    1. Therefore God exercises perfect goodness
  10. God exercises perfect goodness
    1. Therefore God has fellowship with a person capable of receiving the fullness of God’s love and communication.
  11. It follows that there is an object to which God perfectly delight in communicating which is not a creature.
  12. It follows from this that there must more than a unity in the infinite and eternal essence.

Argument #2 – An argument from Experience

Experience shows that rational creatures, i.e. human beings, cannot be happy apart from communion and fellowship with others.

This is because:

  1. Rational creatures, i.e. a human beings, delights in communicating themselves to another and a rational creature, i.e. a human being, cannot delight without another to communicate himself to.
  2. If a rational creature, i.e. a human being, is happy then there is another.
  3. Experience shows that human beings can be happy, therefore human beings have fellowship with others.

Edwards then adds a “lesser to greater” argument:

  1. If this is true of human beings who are made in the image of God, how much more is this true of God who is perfectly happy?

Conclusion: God’s happiness consists in communion, just like the creature’s does.

Do these arguments convince you?

Do you have any suggestions for formulating these arguments in a tighter way?

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One thought on “Jonathan Edwards’s Argument Against Unitarianism in Miscellany 96”

  1. Maybe I’ll comment on the first argument later, but I’ll start with the second. I haven’t read the relevant material here, so maybe Edwards already address this.

    In order for Argument 2 to get at more than one divine Person, it seems like Edwards must assume that the greatest delight humans have when they communicate with another is when they communicate with a rational being equal to them. This seems assumed because otherwise the a fortiori doesn’t seem to work. That is, he must assume that for one divine Person to have delight in the relevant sense, it can only perfectly be with a divine Person. But this greater sense only follows if it’s the case in the lesser, human sense.

    And if he isn’t assuming this, he’s given a great argument for the eternality of created, rational beings which is biblically false.

    Nevertheless, the problem is that the assumed priciple seems plainly false in the human case. Why can’t I delight in my children as much as I do with my wife? The response might be that I delight in them equally as rational beings, regardless of their development, and that is enough. But honestly, I just don’t think that’s what I’m doing when I delight in my children.

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