Theology of Jonathan Edwards (McClymond and McDermott)

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BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
by Oxford University Press, 2012.

Edwards as a Symphony

McClymond and McDermott (hereafter MM) accept Sang Lee’s thesis that Edwards held to a dispositional ontology. God is a communicative being whose disposition is his essence (MM 5). And key to this dispositional ontology is “beauty.” God’s beauty is beautifying. We see this in Edwards’ typology: beauty and being are interrelated (15).

We will go ahead and address what is probably the most controversial claim: God’s being is dispositional (529). They define that as his essence is “constantly exercised inclination to repeat his already perfect actuality.” Does this work? Maybe. They maintain simplicity by referring to God’s “already perfect actuality.” Further, God’s essence is had by him necessarily, otherwise he wouldn’t be God. This way we don’t have to worry about the difficulties positing Libertarian Free Will to God.

I don’t want to go whole hog on the project just yet, or at least not until I read Sang Lee’s work.

Aesthetics

Beauty constitutes the divinity of God (95; WJE 2.274). This means rather there is a proportion of excellence to will. Beauty implies proportion. “All beauty consists in similarity or identity of relations” (97).

Metaphysics of Edwards

“The entire structure of his reasoning implied an analogia entis” (105). There is a continuity.

Anti-materialism: no matter is properly substance; God is only true substance (107). Matter can’t be self-subsisting. It has to rely on some Cause beyond itself. It’s not so much that God is the underlying substance of all things, but rather God’s knowledge is. It is better to say that Edwards is an immaterialist rather than an idealist (114).

Edwards has a tendency towards occasionalism. No created thing can be the cause of its existing from moment to moment.

Typology

All of history and nature is signification (117). His key argument was that if moral philosophy needs to use language from nature to express its concepts, then there must be an ontological analogy.

Revelation and Scripture

Revelation is participation in the divine being himself (130). God communictes his perfect fullness to His Son, “an emanation,” then to believers, who then participate in an increasing knowledge of God by the power of the Spirit (131).

God as Trinity

Idealism: “An absolutely perfect idea of a thing is the very thing” (194). Thus, God’s perfect idea of himself generates another person, the Son. This reasoning has biblical warrant (Hebrews 1:13).

Was Edwards an innovator? He did not share Aquinas’s reluctance to use the word “person.” Here MM follow Amy Plantinga Pauw’s lead in seeing Edwards as starting with the persons and boldly affirming “plurality in God” (198). He rejected the traditional Western reasoning that the persons were only modally distinct from the essence. Rather, he reworked the “conception of divine oneness that revolved around the notions of excellency, harmony, and consent” where “the three persons of the Trinity...act as a society” (199 n13).

The End of God in Creation

Edwards ties together metaphysics and ethics. MM suggests that the principle of proportionate regard unites the two dissertations (210). What God does is fitting with regard to ends x, y, and z. This implies a “calculus of values” where things have degrees of existence and degrees of excellence.

The Affections and the Human Person

“The human person for Edwards is a bundle of affections.” These affections are “springs of motion.” Edwards appears to use the language of faculty and psychology in his discussion of the soul, but he takes it in new directions. The affections move the soul, which means they move the mind as well (312).

Thus, there is a unity of the human person. The will and affections “are not two faculties,” but different expressions of the inclination which is already pre-loaded with judgment (Works of Jonathan Edwards 2:97). Therefore (in language similar to John Frame), the mind or understanding is the human self in one mode of operation (MM 314).

Free Will and Original Sin

The will is that by which the mind chooses. It chooses by its perception the greatest. The will isn’t the cause of action. It is the effect (341). The will isn’t just a faculty. It is the mind choosing. Every act of the will presupposes a cause. This cause is the “motive.” The strongest motive determines the action of the will.

Criticisms

*This is more Oxford’s fault than the authors’, but this is a miserably bound book. The binding is simply awful.

*The authors occasionally make Edwards seem more interested in topics than he actually was. Edwards was interested in world religions, to be sure, but he wouldn’t have been appreciated at interfaith conferences.

*There is a really bizarre Freudian reading of Edwards and Calvin as “struggling with their fathers” (664).

*Then there is the obligatory section on Barth (673ff). This was completely irrelevant to Edwardsian studies.
 

earl40

Puritan Board Professor
Are the word archetype ectype used at all with Edwards or MM concerning Edwards writings? I ask because if "God’s being is dispositional" the idea of such is impossible to describe without the use of archetypal and ectypal theology, and as discussed before, Frame makes this mistake by importing the ectype into the archetype with his faulty "Tri"perspective of God, which should be totally disregarded.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
Are the word archetype ectype used at all with Edwards or MM concerning Edwards writings? I ask because if "God’s being is dispositional" the idea of such is impossible to describe without the use of archetypal and ectypal theology, and as discussed before, Frame makes this mistake by importing the ectype into the archetype with his faulty "Tri"perspective of God, which should be totally disregarded.

Yes, they are used. No, Frame doesn't make that mistake. I proved that in my thread on Doctrine of God Review.

In any case, Edwards isn't "tri-perspectival." As to God's being as dispositional, I don't want to say too much on that until I read Sang Lee's dissertation. But if we take truths we already know about God, such as his being necessarily, and then add the minor premise that God acts, then he is going to act in a way (disposition) necessary to his necessary existence.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
Which I disagree with your proof in that Frame thinks he can know the incomprehensible God.

You are welcome to reject it. Showing where my proof breaks down is another case. In any case, there isn't evidence that Edwards would have rejected archtyepal theology (since he was following Mastricht).
 

earl40

Puritan Board Professor
You are welcome to reject it. Showing where my proof breaks down is another case. In any case, there isn't evidence that Edwards would have rejected archtyepal theology (since he was following Mastricht).

Where exactly is that proof?
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
Clarification on not defending Frame: I believe everything I have said is correct, but as of lately Frame has overreacted to Dolezal on classical theism. I hold to classical theism, though not Thomism.
 

earl40

Puritan Board Professor
Probably in the reviews forum under Frame, Doctrine of God. I have numerous reasons for not wanting to defend Frame right now. My larger point was that strict apophaticism is self-refuting.

This should be a topic unto itself, so far as apophatic theology goes. For I believe this is an essential way to "understand" theology proper. To state and understand Who and What God is, in Himself, is impossible to apprehend and much less so to comprehend without knowing He is nothing like us who are contingent beings. In other words, "strict apophaticism" is a good way to go, and is not self-refuting, if one understands the distinction between God and His creation.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
This should be a topic unto itself, so far as apophatic theology goes. For I believe this is an essential way to "understand" theology proper. To state and understand Who and What God is, in Himself, is impossible to apprehend and much less so to comprehend without knowing He is nothing like us who are contingent beings. In other words, "strict apophaticism" is a good way to go, and is not self-refuting, if one understands the distinction between God and His creation.

I don't say we can know God "in himself," because I am not sure exactly what "in himself" adds to the meaning.

As far as strict apophaticism, in order to say what God is not, you need at least one knowable property of God in order to use as a standard to deny inadequate predicates to God.
 

earl40

Puritan Board Professor
I don't say we can know God "in himself," because I am not sure exactly what "in himself" adds to the meaning.

As far as strict apophaticism, in order to say what God is not, you need at least one knowable property of God in order to use as a standard to deny inadequate predicates to God.

Name one property that God is that you know of the incomprehensible God. This is a point of what God "in Himself" means, and is lacking in the misunderstanding of archetype theology of which we are discussing. I understand this is confusing, but a subject one ought to look into to humble oneself before The Great I Am.
 

Alan D. Strange

Puritan Board Senior
Jacob:

I don't customarily comment on your reviews but I frequently enjoy them.

Just a historical question/note: do MM cast JC's and JE's struggle with their fathers in a Freudian mold? It is the case that both of these men had various struggles/differences with their fathers. Did MM deal with them from a Freudian perspective?

Peace,
Alan
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
Jacob:

I don't customarily comment on your reviews but I frequently enjoy them.

Just a historical question/note: do MM cast JC's and JE's struggle with their fathers in a Freudian mold? It is the case that both of these men had various struggles/differences with their fathers. Did MM deal with them from a Freudian perspective?

Peace,
Alan

Thanks for the kind words. They mention Freud but don't go into a detailed analysis (id, superego, repressed desires). I suspect they knew they would be laughed at. But I don't know what their point of bringing up the stereotypical "troubled father" image was.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
I just double checked. It says "Both men struggled with their fathers" when they were younger. It doesn't say Freudian, but that was my judgment. I made that judgment because it seemed to be the background of that odd statement.
 
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