I find it hard to stomach Jonathan Edwards view of trinitarianism... any ideas?

Thomas_Goodwin

Puritan Board Freshman
I read a gospel coalition breakdown of it, and I feel I can reject the view partially. Does anyone a full perspective on the issue?
 

Regi Addictissimus

Completely sold out to the King
I am assuming it is one of these articles:



 

Thomas_Goodwin

Puritan Board Freshman
For Edwards, God the Father is “the Deity subsisting in the prime, unoriginated and most absolute manner.”13 He is the “fountain of the Godhead,” and thus Scripture rightly refers to God as “without any addition or distinction.”14 But since the Father is infinitely happy in himself, it follows that he “perpetually and eternally has a most perfect idea of himself, as it were an exact image and representation of himself ever before him and in actual view.15 This perfect idea is exactly like him in every respect and therefore “is God to all intents and purposes.”16 Indeed “by God’s thinking of the Deity, [the Deity] must certainly be generated.”17 A second person of the Godhead is begotten, and that person is the Son.18 Edwards was convinced that this view was in agreement with Scripture, and he cited 2 Cor 4:4, Phil 2:6, Col 1:15, and Heb 1:3 in support. As Paul Helm has observed, Edwards developed “an ingenious and bold” ontological argument for the generation of the Son, arguing that where a person has an idea of a non-material object, that object comes into existence. Since God is a perfect spirit, his idea of himself is himself.19 There are problems with this line of reasoning (to which we will return), but it formed the basis for Edwards’s argument from reason for the existence of the Son. He claimed, “If God has an idea of himself, there is really a duplicity; because [if] there is no duplicity, it will follow that Jehovah thinks of himself no more than a stone.”20 In sum, the Son is “God’s perfect idea of God.” He is the Word of God and the wisdom of God since knowledge, reason, and wisdom are the same as God’s perfect idea of himself.21

Edwards identified the Holy Spirit as the divine act of love between the Father and the Son.22 Relying on 1 John 4:8, Edwards argued that the Godhead subsists in love. If we have love dwelling in us, we have God dwelling in us (1 John 4:12), and “that love is God’s Spirit” (1 John 4:13).23 Edwards believed that 1 John 3:23–24 reinforces this view: love is the sure sign of the Spirit’s presence in the believer. And 1 John 4:16 “confirms not only that the divine nature subsists in love, but also that this love is the Spirit: for it is the Spirit of God by which God dwells in his saints.”24
 

Thomas_Goodwin

Puritan Board Freshman
Solution? Don't read TGC.

You really need to clarify what you don't agree with. Give people something of substance to interact with. Provide links.
For Edwards, God the Father is “the Deity subsisting in the prime, unoriginated and most absolute manner.”13 He is the “fountain of the Godhead,” and thus Scripture rightly refers to God as “without any addition or distinction.”14 But since the Father is infinitely happy in himself, it follows that he “perpetually and eternally has a most perfect idea of himself, as it were an exact image and representation of himself ever before him and in actual view.15 This perfect idea is exactly like him in every respect and therefore “is God to all intents and purposes.”16 Indeed “by God’s thinking of the Deity, [the Deity] must certainly be generated.”17 A second person of the Godhead is begotten, and that person is the Son.18 Edwards was convinced that this view was in agreement with Scripture, and he cited 2 Cor 4:4, Phil 2:6, Col 1:15, and Heb 1:3 in support. As Paul Helm has observed, Edwards developed “an ingenious and bold” ontological argument for the generation of the Son, arguing that where a person has an idea of a non-material object, that object comes into existence. Since God is a perfect spirit, his idea of himself is himself.19 There are problems with this line of reasoning (to which we will return), but it formed the basis for Edwards’s argument from reason for the existence of the Son. He claimed, “If God has an idea of himself, there is really a duplicity; because [if] there is no duplicity, it will follow that Jehovah thinks of himself no more than a stone.”20 In sum, the Son is “God’s perfect idea of God.” He is the Word of God and the wisdom of God since knowledge, reason, and wisdom are the same as God’s perfect idea of himself.21

Edwards identified the Holy Spirit as the divine act of love between the Father and the Son.22 Relying on 1 John 4:8, Edwards argued that the Godhead subsists in love. If we have love dwelling in us, we have God dwelling in us (1 John 4:12), and “that love is God’s Spirit” (1 John 4:13).23 Edwards believed that 1 John 3:23–24 reinforces this view: love is the sure sign of the Spirit’s presence in the believer. And 1 John 4:16 “confirms not only that the divine nature subsists in love, but also that this love is the Spirit: for it is the Spirit of God by which God dwells in his saints.”24
I am assuming it is one of these articles:



>Gospel Coalition
There's your problem, sir.

Sent from my SM-A326U using Tapatalk
I posted this above
This is vague. Can you provide some details and maybe a little of your own personal analysis?
 

Thomas_Goodwin

Puritan Board Freshman
For Edwards, God the Father is “the Deity subsisting in the prime, unoriginated and most absolute manner.”13 He is the “fountain of the Godhead,” and thus Scripture rightly refers to God as “without any addition or distinction.”14 But since the Father is infinitely happy in himself, it follows that he “perpetually and eternally has a most perfect idea of himself, as it were an exact image and representation of himself ever before him and in actual view.15 This perfect idea is exactly like him in every respect and therefore “is God to all intents and purposes.”16 Indeed “by God’s thinking of the Deity, [the Deity] must certainly be generated.”17 A second person of the Godhead is begotten, and that person is the Son.18 Edwards was convinced that this view was in agreement with Scripture, and he cited 2 Cor 4:4, Phil 2:6, Col 1:15, and Heb 1:3 in support. As Paul Helm has observed, Edwards developed “an ingenious and bold” ontological argument for the generation of the Son, arguing that where a person has an idea of a non-material object, that object comes into existence. Since God is a perfect spirit, his idea of himself is himself.19 There are problems with this line of reasoning (to which we will return), but it formed the basis for Edwards’s argument from reason for the existence of the Son. He claimed, “If God has an idea of himself, there is really a duplicity; because [if] there is no duplicity, it will follow that Jehovah thinks of himself no more than a stone.”20 In sum, the Son is “God’s perfect idea of God.” He is the Word of God and the wisdom of God since knowledge, reason, and wisdom are the same as God’s perfect idea of himself.21

Edwards identified the Holy Spirit as the divine act of love between the Father and the Son.22 Relying on 1 John 4:8, Edwards argued that the Godhead subsists in love. If we have love dwelling in us, we have God dwelling in us (1 John 4:12), and “that love is God’s Spirit” (1 John 4:13).23 Edwards believed that 1 John 3:23–24 reinforces this view: love is the sure sign of the Spirit’s presence in the believer. And 1 John 4:16 “confirms not only that the divine nature subsists in love, but also that this love is the Spirit: for it is the Spirit of God by which God dwells in his saints.”24
 

Thomas_Goodwin

Puritan Board Freshman
In my mind, as I read this, it sounds like everything except the first member of the trinity is caused for all eternity by the first member of the trinity.
 

Regi Addictissimus

Completely sold out to the King
For Edwards, God the Father is “the Deity subsisting in the prime, unoriginated and most absolute manner.”13 He is the “fountain of the Godhead,” and thus Scripture rightly refers to God as “without any addition or distinction.”14 But since the Father is infinitely happy in himself, it follows that he “perpetually and eternally has a most perfect idea of himself, as it were an exact image and representation of himself ever before him and in actual view.15 This perfect idea is exactly like him in every respect and therefore “is God to all intents and purposes.”16 Indeed “by God’s thinking of the Deity, [the Deity] must certainly be generated.”17 A second person of the Godhead is begotten, and that person is the Son.18 Edwards was convinced that this view was in agreement with Scripture, and he cited 2 Cor 4:4, Phil 2:6, Col 1:15, and Heb 1:3 in support. As Paul Helm has observed, Edwards developed “an ingenious and bold” ontological argument for the generation of the Son, arguing that where a person has an idea of a non-material object, that object comes into existence. Since God is a perfect spirit, his idea of himself is himself.19 There are problems with this line of reasoning (to which we will return), but it formed the basis for Edwards’s argument from reason for the existence of the Son. He claimed, “If God has an idea of himself, there is really a duplicity; because [if] there is no duplicity, it will follow that Jehovah thinks of himself no more than a stone.”20 In sum, the Son is “God’s perfect idea of God.” He is the Word of God and the wisdom of God since knowledge, reason, and wisdom are the same as God’s perfect idea of himself.21

Edwards identified the Holy Spirit as the divine act of love between the Father and the Son.22 Relying on 1 John 4:8, Edwards argued that the Godhead subsists in love. If we have love dwelling in us, we have God dwelling in us (1 John 4:12), and “that love is God’s Spirit” (1 John 4:13).23 Edwards believed that 1 John 3:23–24 reinforces this view: love is the sure sign of the Spirit’s presence in the believer. And 1 John 4:16 “confirms not only that the divine nature subsists in love, but also that this love is the Spirit: for it is the Spirit of God by which God dwells in his saints.”24
You still didn't provide a link or citation. Did you read that resource I shared with you on citing sources last week? Please start giving the sources whenever possible.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Edwards' views were subject to theological--and particularly to Reformed/Presbyterian--criticism much closer to his own time than we are living today. In some respects, we might associate the critiques that arose from the likes of Charles Hodge as mimicking critiques today leveled against the unorthodoxies of JohnPiper or JohnMacArthur. Those both are popular teachers who have a reputation for bold proclamation and a sincere desire to win sinners to Christ, and are thought of as biblical scholars (having above average skill in wielding the Sword of the Spirit). Nevertheless, they have at one time or another raised the critical antennae of those more in tune with historic Christian orthodoxy or (more finely) historic Reformed orthodoxy.

Edwards is in a similar condition. He was of NewEngland Puritan stock. His church was the Congregational variety, common among the emigrants from England, but which traced its lineage to the numerically smaller "nonconformist" branch of the church in the mother country. Those who dwell on the fringes tend to be hyper-committed to certain orthodoxies (as they understand them), perhaps even historical ones; and yet their monomania tends also to lead them to a corresponding deemphasis, and even laxity, regarding strict orthodoxy on other often significant matters. The combination of particular emphases and isolation will often lead to "reopening" of old, settled questions in a new setting. "Biblicism," which I'm defining as reading the Bible sincerely, but without commitment to learning with and within the great church tradition, produces far more serious errors in theology than production of "new" insights.

Edwards possessed an astute mind. He was devoted to his calling as a minister, and his writing (as it was fairly popular) brought him additional attention beyond his village into the wider colonial scene. Edwards was trained to be a sound exegete and minister of the Word prior to his ordination. He was, however, far from the center of even the colonial social hub, let alone those of the Old World. There were libraries in the New World, but Edwards would have been much limited in what he might have gained from greater familiarity with patristic writings, with the substance (not merely synopsis from other scholars) of arguments, for instance on the Trinitarian Persons. Edwards had a fine intellect, but circumstances (at the very least) and possibly a too-high impression of the power of a single Spirit guided mind provided ground for a rationalist seed to sprout spoiling tares amidst the wheat.

Edwards was an Enlightenment figure, naturally, given his era. He was a Christian (no atheist) and had a biblical worldview. Even so, he was philosophically a rationalist. He was not against empirical study; he famously wrote a paper (in his youth as a student) of the dispersal habits of baby spiders of a certain variety, based on his careful observations. His general bent was yet toward the mind's capability of arriving at truth by reasoned and logical progress. This power of human reason is unquestionably on display in his Trinitarian relational proposals (referenced). The concept of the Son/2nd Person being God's (the Father's) necessary self-consideration is, without a doubt, a philosophical proposition. Scripture support adduced is for the purpose of verifying or validating the idea; but the idea itself did not arise from the text.

That approach is therefore susceptible to strong criticism, whether from other exegetical considerations (what does the Bible teach?), from other philosophical grounds (are there alternative/better ways of conceiving the relations of the Trinity from a purely rationalist foundation?), and from historical facts, including the history of Trinitarian reflection and the creeds of the church. How, for example, do Edwards' notions fare when compared with the positions of controversy in the ancient church; and later when the same/similar ideas have cropped up in other settings? It does not strike me as wrong for Edwards to speculate as he struggles to put to paper the essentially incomprehensible nature of God. What is wrong is how, upon striking upon a "explanation" that does not fall to Edwards' own rational critique, he presents what he has derived as the soundest description imaginable (i.e. that he has imagined). If there is any comparison between the notions he has worked out, and known errors of past heresies, what is presented in these excerpts has none of his grappling with possible objections.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
I have some notes on Edwards view of trinity. On phone now. Will post when I get home. You are right to be concerned. Very unstable theology on doctrine of God
 

Charles Johnson

Puritan Board Sophomore
For Edwards, God the Father is “the Deity subsisting in the prime, unoriginated and most absolute manner.”13 He is the “fountain of the Godhead,” and thus Scripture rightly refers to God as “without any addition or distinction.”14 But since the Father is infinitely happy in himself, it follows that he “perpetually and eternally has a most perfect idea of himself, as it were an exact image and representation of himself ever before him and in actual view.15 This perfect idea is exactly like him in every respect and therefore “is God to all intents and purposes.”16 Indeed “by God’s thinking of the Deity, [the Deity] must certainly be generated.”17 A second person of the Godhead is begotten, and that person is the Son.18 Edwards was convinced that this view was in agreement with Scripture, and he cited 2 Cor 4:4, Phil 2:6, Col 1:15, and Heb 1:3 in support. As Paul Helm has observed, Edwards developed “an ingenious and bold” ontological argument for the generation of the Son, arguing that where a person has an idea of a non-material object, that object comes into existence. Since God is a perfect spirit, his idea of himself is himself.19 There are problems with this line of reasoning (to which we will return), but it formed the basis for Edwards’s argument from reason for the existence of the Son. He claimed, “If God has an idea of himself, there is really a duplicity; because [if] there is no duplicity, it will follow that Jehovah thinks of himself no more than a stone.”20 In sum, the Son is “God’s perfect idea of God.” He is the Word of God and the wisdom of God since knowledge, reason, and wisdom are the same as God’s perfect idea of himself.21

Edwards identified the Holy Spirit as the divine act of love between the Father and the Son.22 Relying on 1 John 4:8, Edwards argued that the Godhead subsists in love. If we have love dwelling in us, we have God dwelling in us (1 John 4:12), and “that love is God’s Spirit” (1 John 4:13).23 Edwards believed that 1 John 3:23–24 reinforces this view: love is the sure sign of the Spirit’s presence in the believer. And 1 John 4:16 “confirms not only that the divine nature subsists in love, but also that this love is the Spirit: for it is the Spirit of God by which God dwells in his saints.”24
This sounds an awful lot like Augustine of Hippo's doctrine of the Trinity.
 

Charles Johnson

Puritan Board Sophomore
Some speculate he was influenced by it.
I'd say so. I'd be a really strange coincidence for Edwards to arrive at many of the same formulas that were in use from Augustine to the reformation by complete accident.
Is Augustine's doctrine of the Trinity considered problematic?
Yes, some of the reformers adopted Augustine's psychological analogy of the Trinity, but most did not, and it received some direct criticism. For example, the Leiden Synopsis criticizes both the idea that the Son is generated by the Father's self-conception, and the appropriation of the love of God to the Spirit.
 

Irenaeus

Puritan Board Freshman
Yes, some of the reformers adopted Augustine's psychological analogy of the Trinity, but most did not, and it received some direct criticism. For example, the Leiden Synopsis criticizes both the idea that the Son is generated by the Father's self-conception, and the appropriation of the love of God to the Spirit.
Was Augustine's Trinitarian theology criticized prior to the Reformation?
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
The main problem is that JE is really sloppy in his use of terms like "Being" when applied to God. Moreover, and I am going by memory on his essay on the Trinity. He seems to say that the Perfect Idea as the Father generates another perfect Idea, the Son. He isn't able to say why that process doesn't go on indefinitely. Oliver Crisp has criticized him extensively on that point.
 

Irenaeus

Puritan Board Freshman
I'm not aware of explicit criticism, perhaps some exists, but many of his ideas were not adopted in the east.
His view of the fall and total depravity was ignored in the East, though my understanding is that this is partly due to the growing cultural and linguistic divide already taking shape. @BayouHuguenot please weigh in if I'm wrong.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
His view of the fall and total depravity was ignored in the East, though my understanding is that this is partly due to the growing cultural and linguistic divide already taking shape. @BayouHuguenot please weigh in if I'm wrong.

More or less. Given that the East had Gregory of Nazianzus and Basil the Great, and the fact that Augustine didn't write in Greek (leaving aside the debate on how much he knew), the East wouldn't have found the need to read Augustine that extensively. Moreover, when the Councils enshrined a Trinitarian grammar of sorts, it was more along the lines of Gregory than Augustine. And none of the ecumenical councils dealt with anthropology.
 

Irenaeus

Puritan Board Freshman
More or less. Given that the East had Gregory of Nazianzus and Basil the Great, and the fact that Augustine didn't write in Greek (leaving aside the debate on how much he knew), the East wouldn't have found the need to read Augustine that extensively. Moreover, when the Councils enshrined a Trinitarian grammar of sorts, it was more along the lines of Gregory than Augustine. And none of the ecumenical councils dealt with anthropology.
Has Augustine's Trinitarian theology traditionally been viewed as flawed/problematic in the Western church? (Specifically pre-1500.)
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
Has Augustine's Trinitarian theology traditionally been viewed as flawed/problematic in the Western church? (Specifically pre-1500.)
Not directly. People only got in trouble when they made certain inferences from his thought, like when Abelard accused Lombard over seeing the divine essence as an extra person.

I personally prefer Nazianzus and Athanasius to Augustine but I don't jump on the Augustine = bad bandwagon. He's not my favorite father by a long shot, but I don't attack him.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
Sometimes JE speaks of an "absolute simplicity" in God, which is very Augustinian. At other times he speaks of "dispositions" which leads some to right books arguing that JE holds to a "dispositional ontology" of God, which is very NOT Augustinian.
 
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