Jonathan Edwards on God and Creation (Oliver Crisp)

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BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
Oliver Crisp introduces many Protestant readers to a number of very important discussions about the doctrine of God. He also highlights areas of Edwards' thought that are often overlooked.

Case Study: God's Simplicity.

God is simple by anyone's definition. All this means is that God's identity isn't made up of parts. That is not the same thing as the Thomist definition of simplicity: God's attributes = each other = the persons = the relations (Summa Theologica, 1st Part, questions 19, 28, and 40). Crisp notes the problem: Jonathan Edwards seemed to believe in a necessary creation, which is inconsistent with the Christian doctrine of God. God is not conditioned or determined by things outside himself. However, a necessary creation is quite consistent with NeoPlatonism (since the One must necessarily emanate the Many or it will cease to be the One). This is where footnotes are superior to endnotes, for one is often left thumbing back and forth tracking down Edwards references.

But Edwards, while never comfortably a Thomist, does say Thomisty things at times, such as God's being pure act. And maybe God's "must-create" is compatible (pun intended) with a compatibilist definition of freedom.

The book is in many ways a sequel to his dissertation, Jonathan Edwards and the Metaphysics of Sin. In fact, I could actually predict most of the arguments in the book from what I know of the previous book. The key to such a prediction, as Crisp makes clear, is Edwards' occasionalism. That's the beauty of this book's simplicity (no pun intended).

I wonder if there is a book-length treatment of Edwards's occasionalism. That would be a feast for analytic theologians in determining the nature of identity and change through time. Further, does JE's occasionalism make God the author of sin? It's hard to tell.

Conclusion:

Should you get the book? Maybe. It has gone down in price. Further, the book is worth the price simply for the end notes (arg!) and bibliography alone. Pursuing the book's reference of secondary literature alone will make the reader an eminent theologian (or at least a smart one).
 
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