AN ANALYSIS OF TRINITARIAN THOUGHT IN JOHN OWEN AND JONATHAN EDWARDS
A Paper Presented to Dr. J. Scott Horrell Dallas Theological Seminary
In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Course TS 901 Trinitarianism in Owen and Edwards
by Nathaniel Mark Claiborne December 2009 Box #373
TRINITARIANISM IN JONATHAN EDWARDS AND JOHN OWEN In the history of Christian thought, there have been many thinkers who have shaped and influenced the minds of those to come. For many in the Evangelical tradition, especially the Reformed veins of it, Jonathan Edwards and John Owen are two such men. The author of this paper particularly was introduced to both men‘s thought through the sermons and writings of John Piper, who had been greatly influenced chiefly by Edwards, but much by Owen as well. What was initially fascinating to this author particularly about Edwards was his attempts to expound on the traditional doctrine of the Trinity, as was highlighted by Piper in a footnote of his work Pleasures of God. The ideas Piper presented of Edwards was the seed that has now eventually led to further study of just what Jonathan Edwards thought about the Trinity. As for John Owen, it was not so much Piper as a good friend who recommended reading an abridged version of The Glory of Christ.1 The clarity and the depth of Owen‘s thoughts on God were astounding, and it immediately became a reading project to work through Owen‘s other works on the members of the Trinity, as well as his writings dealing with indwelling sin, mortification, and temptation. While examining both within this paper will be a daunting task, it is merely meant to compare and contrast two similar yet differing approaches to the Trinity‘s place within both men‘s thought. As one will see, both men made it central to their thinking, yet they did so in rather different ways. A further connection may be explored in that Owen is one of the very few individuals that Edwards cites in his perhaps most famous work, The Religious Affections.2 Before unpacking each man‘s particular works on the Trinity, either as
Starting with the R.J.K. Law adbridged addition. The friend of course was Yuce Kabacki.
Found in Volume 2 of his works. Kapic notes that no one has particularly explored this connection, and it seems that maybe it should a prime consideration for doctoral work on this researcher‘s part. Kelly M. Kapic, ―Worshiping the Triune God: The Shape of John Owen's Trinitarian Spirituality,‖ in Communion with the Triune God, ed. Kelly M. Kapic and Justin Taylor (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2007). 46n.106.
a whole or on the persons themselves, it may be helpful to see briefly how both men approach the subject. John Owen John Owen (b. 1616-d.1683) preceded Edwards by almost a century, and was an English theologian.3 For John Owen, the doctrine of the Trinity can be considered in two ways: (1) By dealing with the revelation of it directly in Scripture to direct us to obedience and worship; (2) By exploring it as it is farther declared and explained by expressions and propositions not within Scripture, but that are meant to safeguard the believer‘s thinking about the doctrine.4 In regards to the first, Owen sees that two things are required, (1) To understand the terms used; (2) and to believe the things that are taught and revealed in them.5 It seems in large part, that to Owen, the aim of the believer in large part consisted of this essentially, as the distinct apprehension of some of the explanations of the revelation were not necessary for faith as it relates to worship and obedience.6 Owen saw what seemed like a division between apprehending the clear revelation of Scripture and believing and obeying it, and on the other hand, being able to explain it in what we might refer to as a theological dialogue of some of the implications of the doctrine. He definitely does not slight the latter, but he saw the former as being primary.
There is actually not much information on the life of John Owen. For a concise overview, consider pg 15-34 of Kelly M. Kapic, Communion with God: The Divine and the Human in the Theology of John Owen, (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007). For fuller treatment, see Peter Toon, God's Statesman: The Life and Work of John Owen; Pastor, Educator, Theologian, (Exeter: Paternoster, 1971). Works, 2:377 in John Owen, The Works of John Owen, vol. 1-16, ed. William H. Goold (London: Banner of Truth Trust, 1965).
Ibid. Works 2:408
3 Explaining the Doctrine of God Owen presents a roughly 50 page defense titled, The Doctrine of the Holy Trinity Explained and Vindicated, in which he outlines the Biblical revelation and the spends a good bit of space expounding on what that does not mean or imply; a polemic particularly aimed against the Socinians7 as well as the Arminians.8 For Owen, extra-biblical language is a necessity in talking about God. Owen goes so far as to say that to deny the use of extra-biblical language in talking about God it to deny the interpretation of Scripture altogether: ―And herein, as in the application of all other divine truths and mysteries whatever, yea, of all more commanded duties, use is to be made of such words and expressions as, it may be, are not literally and formally contained in the Scripture; but only are, unto our conceptions and apprehensions, expository of what is so contained. And to deny the liberty, yea, the necessity hereof, is to deny all interpretation of the Scripture… Wherefore, in the declaration of the doctrine of the Trinity, we may lawfully, nay, we must necessarily, make use of other words, phrases, and expressions, than what are literally and syllabically contained in the Scripture, but teach no other things.‖9 He then goes on to explain that whatever follows from what is directly revealed is no less true than the original revelation.10 His application of this is to point out the because Scripture asserts plainly that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one God it necessarily follows that they are one in essence (making sense of how three can also be one) but yet also three in their distinct
There is not an appropriate space to deal with the Socinians in depth, but due to the possibility of their obscurity, it may be helpful to note that Socinus, who originated the ideas was a contemporary of Calvin. ―Socinus was in short a theological liberal, and his system laid the foundation for deism, Unitarianism and a host of similar variations, ranging from process theology and open theism to the pure skepticism of the so-called Jesus Seminar.‖ See Phillip R. Johnson, ―The Writer for the People of God,‖ in John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, & Doxology, ed. Burk Parsons (Lake Mary, FL: Reformation Trust, 2008).106 (I ran across this in my devotional reading before writing this section of the paper, hence what seems like an unusual connection detailing some of the background of the Socinians.) Works, 2:371-413. For Owen, both groups denied basic tenets of the faith and were viewed by him as deadly heretics. See pg. 19-29 in Carl R. Trueman, The Claims of Truth: John Owen's Trinitarian Theology, (Carlisle, Cumbria, UK: Paternoster, 1998).
Works, 2:378-79, italics are original, underlining mine.
Ibid. It would not be correct to construe Owen as arguing that whatever follows is on par (as in on the same level as) with special revelation, but rather he seems to make a claim about truth value.
subsistencies (making sense of their ―threeness‖).11 For Owen, then the basic doctrine of the Trinity, what he considers the sum of the revelation on this matter is that, ―God is one; - that this one God is Father, son and Holy Ghost; - that the Father is the Father of the Son; and the Son, the Son of the Father; and the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of the Father and the Son; and that, in respect of this their mutual relation, they are distinct from each other.‖12 Obviously, this was not the last word one could have on the doctrine of God as Trinity, but was the basis on the starting point of any further exposition. Here and elsewhere, Owen‘s thoughts on the doctrine of God can be split into three basic groups: (1) those dealing with God‘s attributes, (2) those dealing with the relationship of God to creation and providence, and (3) those dealing with predestination and the economy of salvation.13 While our focus here will move through just some of Owen‘s works, the previous listed categories from Carl Trueman‘s study will prove useful as a way of organizing Owen‘s thoughts for easier digestion.14 The focus will be narrowed further to not just Owen‘s thoughts on the doctrine of God in general, but when the emphasis is more Trinitarian. Also, the latter category will be truncated just a bit, for it starts to cross over into what would be considered more soteriological material, and involves works outside the scope of this study. Since Owen‘s works themselves fill 24 hefty volumes15, and even isolating the works dealing explicitly with the doctrine of God, one is still left with well over 1500 pages of hard
Ibid. Works, 2:377, italics original.
Trueman, The Claims of Truth: John Owen's Trinitarian Theology, 102. Trueman notes though that these categories have fluid boundaries and have implications for one another.
14 Trueman‘s study is very helpful, however it is a bit more technical in nature and has the downside as Kapic notes that is barely deals at all with Owen‘s Communion With the Triune God. See Kapic, Communion with God: The Divine and the Human in the Theology of John Owen, insight from pg 149, section on Owen in this regard is pg 147-205. 15
Only 16 are listed in the bibliography and only Vol 1-4 and 10 were actually utilized in this study.
19 18 17
Those three works alone come close to right at 1000pgs.‖20
John Owen. so necessarily this paper cannot actually dig too deep in that area without not only hitting water. ed. 2:1274 John Owen.16 The Glory of Christ. is to worship and glorify God. (Scotland. This is also in Works.
. the nature and being of God himself. This is also in Works. this work is also found in Works. UK: Christian Focus Publications. 2007). The primary works considered then will be the aforementioned Doctrine of the Holy Trinity Explained and Vindicated (henceforth DTEV).19 It should be fairly obvious why DTEV was chosen from volume 2 of Owen‘s Works. John Owen. A paper of thesis length could easily be written just examining Owen‘s thought on the Holy Spirit. Pneumatologia is much more massive than this particular work and in fact covers volumes 3 and 4 in Owen‘s Works. but was not part of the primary reading for this independent study. Communion with the Triune God. for Owen the nature of God is the foundation for Christian life: ―The nature and being of God.17 and The Holy Spirit: His Works and Power. Owen. Kelly M. 3. 1:273-461. 2004). Like Christologia above. Pagination will follow this edition.18 The latter three were chosen because they are the most readily available works by Owen at the popular level and still cover a breadth of area in Owen‘s thought that can be examined for its Trinitarian structure. Illinois: Crossway Books. 2004). Kapic and Justin Taylor (Wheaton. In short. (Scotland. Volume 1 of Owen‘s Works contains Christologia (1:1-272) which will be accessed as well. and that which renders this worship our indispensable duty is. 62. but starting to drown in it. Attributes of God Prior to really discussing how John Owen conceived of the attributes of God. UK: Christian Focus Publications. The Holy Spirit: His Gifts and Power.5
reading. however. is the foundation of all true religion and religious worship in the world. The great end for which we were made. The Holy Spirit: His Gifts and Power. The Glory of Christ: His Office and Grace. it may helpful to look into his overall conception of the divine nature and its place within both theology and the Christian life. some reduction become necessary in the scope of this study. Communion with the Triune God.
Owen‘s works. subsisting in the same undivided essence. for Owen. Owen places the nature and being of God at the base of the Christian life. ―Worshiping the Triune God: The Shape of John Owen's Trinitarian Spirituality. otherwise.24 what will follow then is some of the highlights from the works studied. bear only an arbitrary (from a human perspective) relationship to his
Ibid.22 While he assigns priority somewhat to the Father.. There is not a single place where Owen deals with the attributes in a systematic fashion. God has revealed Himself as Trinity and is to be worshiped and glorified as such. Owen makes the fundamental distinction not between God‘s communicable and incommunicable attributes. 62.‖21 Owen maintains a generally explicit Trinitarianism throughout his writings (at least to this author‘s knowledge) rather than a unified work specifically on the nature of God as Trinity. he bases his entire work on the Holy Spirit on that initial assumption: ―God has revealed himself to us. that which upon all else is built. with this introduction to the priority of God‘s being as Trinity.‖ 20. which I am making synonymous with treating them in a systematic fashion.‖23 The relations of the persons to themselves will be explored in a later section. The reason for this primarily is to demonstrate a satisfactory answer to the question. This principle might be here enlarged upon and confirmed (but that I have done it elsewhere) for the whole ensuing discourse supposes and depends on it.
Other than the short vindication. he is to be worshipped and glorified. The Claims of Truth: John Owen's Trinitarian Theology. Trueman states that Owen never provides an exhaustive list. as such. is ―intentionally and consistently Trinitarian in structure and Christocentric in emphasis. it can now be helpful to explore the attributes. the Trinitarian nature of God is an assumption and starting point for Owen. In fact. Further.
. general and special. Interestingly though when dealing with the attributes. particularly his Communion With the Triune God.6
As one can see. and. italics mine. therefore. 103. as Three in One. of his decretive will. that is. ―Does God‘s revelation.
Kapic. as three distinct persons.
The whole creation. 2nd ed. 96.. Trueman notes that this type of distinction was more Lutheran than Reformed. we speak of the ontological Trinity. in all its excellency. or absolute. it is not as theologically significant as one would expect on first glance. the most fundamental of these attributes appears to be aseity: ―God alone wants nothing. William Edgar (Phillipsburg. He has it all in infinite perfection from himself and in his own nature. or does it have some positive relationship to God‘s inner being?‖25 Owen resolves the question by making a distinction between God‘s absolute and relative attributes. The Son is centrally active in the subjective work of salvation. 103.. cannot contribute one mite to the satisfaction or blessedness of God. ed. While it does not appear that Owen uses any of the preceding. however. employs the incommunicable/communicable distinction. a term that Owen does use is the equivalent idea of ―self-subsistence‖:
Ibid. and breath. The Glory of Christ: His Office and Grace. By the latter is meant the distinction of persons within the Godhead in so far as this distinction has bearing on the works of God with respect to the created universe. The Defense of the Faith. and all things‘ (Acts 17:25). Edwards was also interested in answering this question in a satisfactory way. 104 As we will see later. while the relative attributes are those that are spoken of in terms of God‘s dealings with creatures. stands in need of nothing. and His completeness within His own being. Cf to this definition of aseity: ―God is in no sense correlative to. ed. he at other times. Owen to my knowledge does not use the word ―aseity‖ but appears to be describing an attribute that other Reformed theologians will call aseity. But when God is contemplated as active within himself. Christian Apologetics.7
essence. This roughly translates into the distinction between the ontological Trinity and the economic Trinity: ―The ontological Trinity must be distinguished from the economical Trinity. Ibid. 2003). 9. nothing can be added to him. K.26 Absolute attributes are those that God possesses simply by his own act of self-existence. italics mine. The Father is centrally active in the creation and sustaining of the universe. self contained. although. Scott Oliphint (Phillipsburg.‖ Cornelius Van Til... 29.27 For Owen. NJ: P & R Publishing. The Spirit is centrally active in the subjective work of salvation. Cornelius Van Til. Other terms for this could be independent.
28 27 26
. 2008). self existent. seeing he ‗gives to all life. Ibid. In all this the triune God is active with respect to the universe. NJ: P & R Publishing. Owen. or dependent upon anything besides his own being. 4th ed.‖28 While Owen does not explicitly talk of divine aseity. what is outlined above does constitute a rough definition of aseity and helps to emphasis the self-existence of God.
and to him. infinite goodness to communicate the effects of this being to that which was not. internal actings. ineffable. Infinite being in self-subsistence. Ibid. Hence he gives himself that name. infinite being and goodness. Ibid. Moreover. or now are. or shall be. which is in the three distinct persons. Owen adds here too the idea of
Owen. Owen couples it with goodness. but he also couples it with absolute goodness as the spring of the desire to communicate Himself to that which was not Himself.8 ―God alone has all being in him.. and through him. in a nature intelligent and self-subsistent. especially in regards to what one might term the ―ontological Trinity:‖ ―This gives us the true notion of the divine nature antecedent to the manifestations of it made by any outward effects: infinite being and goodness. and infinite wisdom and power in that communication. The goodness of God is the meekness of the divine being to be communicative of itself in its effects. which. when all things else that ever were.
.‖31 Here one sees Owen highlighting aseity again as an absolute attribute of God as the necessary cause of everything. they are no otherwise but as ‗they are of him. And when they are. being and goodness are correlates of another in respect to the ontological Trinity and while later Reformed scholars will assign aseity the primary position in speaking of God‘s attributes. ‗I AM‘ (Ex 3:14) He was eternally All. answering the manner of its subsistence. The Glory of Christ: His Office and Grace. which is necessary in the first cause and spring of all things. being wrought by infinite power and wisdom.. were nothing. eternally blessed in the knowledge and enjoyment of itself by inconceivable. both of which were entirely necessary to exist in God prior to any creative activity whatsoever: ―Being and goodness must be the first outward effects of the divine nature.‖29 This connection between God‘s being in goodness seems fairly crucial for Owen. Hence this is the first notion of the divine nature. do represent to us the glory of God in the creation of all things.‖30 It seems that for Owen. 160.‘ (Rom 11:36). 161. his being and goodness are the same. are gloriously manifested in that.
and likewise. which in all honesty is very in keeping with Owen‘s approach to God as Trinity anyway. always. in which the glory of all the other excellencies of God is manifested: therefore the manifestations of the whole glory of God proceeds originally from infinite wisdom. than in that of any inanimate creatures. This may be as good a time as any to highlight that Owen does not seem to typically make hard and fast distinctions and has a very holistic approach to God as Trinity.‖33 As our discussion shifts to God in relation to creation and providence. as in the creation of man.
.‖32 At this point though one can see the thought is shifting toward relative attributes. or those that God has in relation to His creatures. the economic Trinity is marked by infinite wisdom in all things: ―The wisdom of God is absolutely. but here it is seen as directive of all external acts.
Ibid. Owen cannot discuss long God in relation to the created order without discussing redemption and predestination. Wisdom was grounded as an absolute attribute. God does not. it is that which is directive of all the external works of God. It would be fairly impossible to isolate Owen on the attributes without some overflow into how those attributes relate to the created order. 61.9
absolute wisdom and absolute power. Hopefully though a flow from one category can be establish to emphasis the unity and the distinction. and in all things infinite.. wisdom is what guides that communication: "Infinite wisdom is one of the most glorious properties of the divine nature. God cannot.. 167. It seems that while absolute goodness is what leads the ontological Trinity to communicate itself. it is worth noting that these are not really static categories either. or in other words. Ibid. act with more wisdom in one thing than in another.
161. I will use ―economic‖ and ―ontological. Owen concludes that.
. In this he communicated a finite. to all things that were created for the manifestation of that glory. Likewise. However. but as was seen. Ibid. Better definitions could probably be used. the latter simply referring to God in Himself apart from relation to creatures. an attribute like omnipresence tends to be more applicable as a relative attribute (when it is defined as ―causally active at every point in the contingent universe‖) as there needs to be some kind of external reality for God to be omnipresent in relation to. by his own will and pleasure acting themselves in infinite wisdom and power. Some of the attributes. this does not exactly equal the differentiation between incommunicable and communicable attributes. I realize of course this is a sticky category to predicate anything meaningfully about. the distinction between absolute and relative attributes is more or less such a distinction.‖ the former referring to God‘s actions in relation to creatures. I am simply using the conventional language at this point.‖36 Owen then is distinguishing between a God that is absolute and independent and a creation that is relative and dependent. this initial or first creation was essentially a ―communication of being and goodness by almighty power. limited dependent being and goodness to other things without himself. The Glory of Christ: His Office and Grace. the wisdom and goodness discussed in the last section underlie much of what Owen thinks of God‘s creative acts: ―This being and goodness of God. and mere creatures.34 The last category did not apply exclusively to the ontological Trinity. For Owen.
Owen. when one makes the primary differentiation between ontological Trinity and economic Trinity. directed by infinite wisdom. however.‖37 In it God made known His glory and power as stated in Romans 1:19-21. In ruminating on Isaiah 57:15.35 Shifting to creation in general though. 148.
It should be noted in passing.. yet has still be communicated something of the nature of God. Owen does not bypass that there is a great distance between God conceived as such. produced the creation of all things. such as goodness and wisdom which Owen seems to attribute as absolute (so definitive of God in Himself) are actually communicable.10 God in relation to Creation Another way to conceive of this category is as one that has more to do with what would now be termed the economic Trinity.
Throughout this paper.
post Incarnation and Resurrection. this idea will be pick back up in the next section with reference to the incarnation. It is here though in terms of relating to God that Owen devotes a whole treatise to unpack. Owen‘s Communion With the Triune God is based on a series of sermons he delivered on how to relate to God as Trinity. Owen. there is no communication of God apart from Christ:
Ibid. but it also tends to fit here in discussing any communication whatsoever between an absolute being and His relative creatures. essential greatness of the nature of God. Owen. 138. By the Son alone we have access to him. The Holy Spirit: His Gifts and Power. In speaking of Christ as the Head of the new creation.. to illustrate fluidity between categories. Essentially.‖ 19. as they are the fruits of the mediation of Christ. Again. therefore bestows them on us. and so must come down to our level in order to communicate Himself to us. with his infinite distance from the nature of all creatures thereby. Kapic. ―Worshiping the Triune God: The Shape of John Owen's Trinitarian Spirituality. 96.
.‖38 Or in other words. causes all his dealings with them to be in the way of condescension or humbling himself. and not merely as the effects of the divine bounty of the Father. Italics original. the infinite. Communion with the Triune God. God is beyond comprehension and accessibility as He is in Himself. in this present world. and states rather plainly that ―this whole book is taken up in the description of the communion that is between the Lord Christ and his saints…‖40 Owen it seems very much takes seriously the idea that there is one Mediator between God and man.39 He is especially Christocentric in this regard.‖41 This idea of course is even more explicit in The Glory of Christ.11 ―Therefore. the man Jesus Christ. and so sees Him as the member of the Trinity to which we direct most of our focus: ―We have nothing to do with the Father immediately. 142. and by the Son alone he gives out his grace to us…The Holy Spirit.
is Jesus Christ the Son of God incarnate. Owen devotes more time to writing about the Holy Spirit. but it is not immediately from him that they are communicated to us. issues in the work of the Spirit on us. It is the Son whom he loves. one can also see that he does not neglect the other persons. Eph. The Glory of Christ: His Office and Grace. as can be the tendency of some more Christocentric theologians.12 ―This new head. And he does it immediately by the Spirit. This is probably because as Kapic notes. grace. in which God has gathered up all things in heaven and earth into one. I am just aware that this can be an issue. 1:22-23). and Owen as well as Edwards both avoid it.44 While his Communion With the Triune God is mostly focused on communion with Christ. (See 1 Cor 11:3. one family.‖42 Further Owen highlights the how the Father communicates to us through the Son and by the Spirit: ―The person of the Father is the origin of all grace and glory. no supply of virtue. and has given all things into his hand. as he recognizes that ―The Holy Ghost is the immediate efficient cause of all external divine
. and as far as treatment in his Works. ―Worshiping the Triune God: The Shape of John Owen's Trinitarian Spirituality. ―John Owen self-consciously viewed himself as a theologian of the Spirit. Owen‘s writings on the Spirit occupy two complete volumes in his Works. This glory was reserved for him. Kapic. Owen. one body. He has made a way for their communication to us. while Owen sees Christ as the sole communicator of God to us. in whom they all now consist. As noted before. and possibly even before him.‖43 Interestingly. Italics mine.‖45 Owen places the Spirit prominently in his external dealings of the Trinity. and am not compelled to dig up examples. the Holy Spirit and the Father are not absent.
I have no one specific in mind at this point. so all our ascending towards him beings therein. 164. power. no act of rule towards this family. 139. and as such he poured more time and energy into exploring questions related to the third person of the Trinity than anyone else in his day. or goodness to angels or men. but what is immediately from this new head into which they are gathered. The Holy Spirit: His Gifts and Power. none other could be qualified for it or worthy of it (Col 1:1719)…There is no communication from God. As the descending of God towards us in love and grace.‖ 39. on whom is all their dependence.
or applies the power of divine excellencies to their operation. establishing. and upholding of all things. Hebrews 1:3). and eminently to one. and through him. rational and moral. but by way of eminence to the Father. Each person. and to the Spirit (Job 33:4). 78.‖46 Further Owen sees the entire creation overseen by an act of the Spirit: ―The works of God thus finished. and absolutely to God. ―The beginning of divine operations is assigned to the Father. This all makes sense when Owen states more fully his understanding of all the acts of the persons as being acts of the whole Trinity: ―All divine operations. to the Son (John 1:3). natural and animal. and by him all things consist‘ (Col 1:17. The divine persons are one in essence.. and order among them. 116. ‗for he is before all things. as we shall find in our progress.13
operations.47 This forms an interesting juxtaposition between the persons of the Trinity taking primacy in different contexts. The subsisting. and the finishing of all these works. acting by the same will. For as the preservation of the universe depends on the powerful influence of divine providence. relation. the same wisdom. Son. Hence every divine work is distinctly assigned to each person. 77.. are all things‘ (Rom. are usually ascribed to God absolutely because the several persons are undivided in their operations. and to him.
. because each person is God. Elsewhere Owen states that. therefore. so there are particular operations of the Spirit in all things. is the author of every work of God. The Holy Spirit: His Gifts and Power. 11:36). is ascribed to the Holy Ghost. Italics original. Ibid.. Ibid.‖49
Owen. ‗for of him. are not deserted by the Holy Ghost. 81. but in their manner of subsistence. whether in nature or in grace. but the Holy Spirit is prominent when it relates to the created order. is ascribed to the Son. there is distinction.‖48 In this sense it seems Owen is viewing the Father as the ultimate source of all divine operations. Ibid. for God works by his Spirit. and the divine nature is the same undivided principle of all divine operations. as the work of creation is distinctly ascribed to the Father (Acts 4:24). the same power. who is Father. and Spirit.
and yet all their actings ad extra being the actings of God. that particular instances are needless. of the self-same God.14
Owen does not feel that listing out the distinct acts each person has in respect to creatures is necessary. Owen sees a progress in God‘s revelation of Himself to his creatures. the will. he also sees that individual person are highlighted. Owen sees the Trinity acting as a unit as something that is directly within the text of Scripture. 63. Owen (and Edwards) is simply trying to be faithful both to Scripture and to the idea that God is one God. However. And these things do not only necessarily follow.. Additionally. as it seems to him rather self evident. in the revelation made concerning God and his subsistence in the Scriptures.‖50 But to demonstrate the unity of the persons in action was an emphasis that Owen values and so articulates carefully in his work dealing with the Holy Spirit. This is so evident from the whole Scripture. Going back to his ideas of creation. This is perhaps stated most plainly in his articulation of it in his DTEV: ―Hereby each person having the understanding. but are directly included. Owen makes a distinction of how God revealed Himself in the first creation and how it has progressed in the new creation:
Ibid. and power of God. and are all the works of one. becomes a distinct principle of operation.‖51 One can see here that Owen is again going back to his distinction between what is expressly revealed in Scripture and what can be adduced from it by way of explaining the original. ―These divine persons are so distinct in their peculiar subsistence that distinct actings and operations are ascribed to them…There are also special and distinct actings of each of the divine persons towards the creatures. 2:407
. Works. specifically in the context of redemption (something Edwards also sees both goes in a different direction). they are undivided. For sure.
which were more or less similar to other Reformed theologians in
Owen. for us. ―God has herein revealed himself as Three in One.. but that knowledge and understanding should give rise to certain key results. God intends the special revelation of each person distinctly. 134. goodness.‖53 This should serve well as reminder that one‘s goal in studying the Trinity is never academic learning. and in us. For Owen. this is ―not to fill our minds with notions of God. with superior light to what was afforded under the Old Testament. how to obey and live to him. the bulk of that material is drawn from outside the scope of works stated at the onset.15 ―In the first creation.
. leaving on his works only some obscure impressions of the distinction of persons. wisdom. God seemed chiefly to intend to glorify the essential properties of his nature. the relation of God to salvation is focused more on predestination and other soteriological concerns. While we understand that. a full discovery of the economy of the Holy Trinity. but ―by a declaration of the mutual acts of the divine persons towards each other. subsisting in the unity of that being whose properties he so displayed. till we come to the enjoyment of him. but rather to know the persons of the Trinity and respond to them accordingly. and of their distinct external actings towards us. how to obtain and exercise communion with him.‖ this ―glorious mystery of the Holy Trinity‖ is made known to us not by so many words. 113. Rather than dealing with Owen‘s formulations of predestination. his power. mere knowledge even of God is not the pinnacle of the Christian life. Ibid. in his peculiar distinct operations.‖ And as Owen concludes. But in the new creation. which for Owen consists of worship and communion. The Holy Spirit: His Gifts and Power. God in Relation to the Economy of Salvation While in the categories set forward by Trueman. it is helpful to see that Owen understands there to be a specific purpose in God‘s revelation of Himself to His creatures. 52 Before starting the next section and developing this idea further in the context of redemption. but to teach us how to place our trust in him.
Overall with respect to the Incarnation. And it had been absurd to bring in God under perpetual anthropopathies. after the fall there is nothing spoken of God in the Old Testament. as grieving. 2007). were it not but that the divine person intended was to take on him the nature in which such affections do dwell.56 This seems to be a rather original way of dealing with the anthropomorphic nature of much of the language about God in the Old Testament.
Trueman. While it can be argued in a certain sense that nothing can be said of God without using anthropomorphisms. Book 1 chapter 13. William Edgar (Phillipsburg. The Scripture speaks of God in that way. two distinct natures. In fact there is no other way for us to speak of God. the form and essence of God.55 In returning to Owen‘s idea of God demonstrating a progress in his self-revelation.54 this paper will instead focus on the Incarnation and Owen‘s understanding of that aspect of God in relation to the economy of salvation. The Claims of Truth: John Owen's Trinitarian Theology. 326. nothing of his institutions. the one eternal. Calvin‘s use of ―accommodation‖ in the Institutes.‘ (John 1:14). 57 for Owen. but what has respect to the future incarnation of Christ. nothing of the way and manner of dealing with the church. we must be alert to the danger that we should forget that God is the original and that we are the derivatives. and God. See specifically his Death of Death in the Death of Christ in Works. the idea of speaking of God in human terms pointed to a time when God himself would take on human flesh. everything after the fall in Owen‘s mind pointed toward the Incarnation: ―And indeed. 133. On the other hand. finite. repenting. which is our nature. The Glory of Christ: His Office and Grace. Cf.
It should be noted though that Owen‘s understanding of soteriology and predestination is explicitly Trinitarian and his understanding of the Incarnation and redemption is subordinate to his understanding of God as advanced above.‖ Cornelius Van Til. limited.
―We must speak of God anthropomorphically. confined to a certain place. Owen sets forward a fairly orthodox understanding of it: ―There are in him in his one single individual person. and the like. ed. the other having a beginning in time.
Owen. An Introduction to Systematic Theology: Prolegomena and the Doctrines of Revelation. which he took on him when he was ‗made flesh and dwelt among us. immense. 75. NJ: P&R Publishing. infinite.
Owen. well-pleased. 132.16
his time. 10:140-481. almighty. The Glory of Christ: His Office and Grace. being angry.
78. Edwards has a similar understanding and applies it to the formation of Christ in the believer.‖61 But in light of rejecting Kenosis. Ibid. As will be seen below. an interesting correlation is drawn by Owen to the burning bush incident. suffered and rose again. Owen sees the human nature of Christ as ―filled with all the divine graces and perfections of which a limited. created nature is capable. One sees here Owen‘s stance on whether or not Christ had a human soul.. by an ineffable act of his divine power and love. but he cased not to be what he was.‖59 For Owen. 98. 118. God thus dwells in this bush.64 In relation to the Father. 101-102.. The Holy Spirit: His Gifts and Power..‖60 Clearly Owen will reject Kenosis then. that is. assume our nature into an individual subsistence in or with himself. Christ ―did. Ibid. He confesses at one point that ―I do not understand absolutely the glorification of the human nature of Christ. Ibid. but that of a creator and a creature.‖62 Even this though was not enough to prohibit Owen from seeking further understanding and insights into the mystery of the Incarnation. that very soul and body in which he lived and died. It is not said that he ceased to be in the form of God. Owen sees
Ibid. with all his good-will towards sinners.‖63 and in respect to the Holy Spirit sees that there is ―no other relation between the person of the Holy Ghost and the human nature of Christ. but continuing so to be..17
To further illuminate. he speaks of ―The eternal fire of the divine nature‖ that ―dwells in the bush of our frail nature.123. yet is it not consumed thereby..
. Owen then spends considerable time attempting to understand the issues around Christ‘s human nature. even as the divine nature is his. 124. though that also be included in this.
Owen. he ‗took upon him the form of a servant‘ in our nature: he became what he was not. and does so in so many words when ruminating on Philippians 2: ―This is his condescension. to be his own. Ibid.
(2) The knowledge of ourselves in reference to the will of God concerning us. the ground of all our hopes of salvation. 54. 188. (3) Skill to walk in communion with God…‖67And for Owen. Communion with the Triune God. this can only be known through proper perception of Christ: ―This is the foundation of our religion. Owen.‖66 Owen‘s epistemology relies on one properly understanding the nature of God primarily and then one‘s self in relation to God. he cannot see the Incarnation except in relation to other persons of the Trinity. namely. Owen himself outlines true wisdom and knowledge in three heads: ―(1) The knowledge of God. The Glory of Christ: His Office and Grace. and longsuffering toward sinners. his nature and his properties. again. the Rock on which the church is built. (3) his wisdom. 107. is the love of the Father. and again reinforces the idea that any act ad extra of the persons of the Trinity is an act of the whole Trinity. As far as practical application. eminently. forbearance.‖68
Owen. though also otherwise discovered. of life and immortality: all is resolved into this. the representation that is made of the nature and will of God in the person and office of Christ. the Incarnation provided a window into the attributes of God that could otherwise not be known: ―There are other properties of God which. and savingly only in Jesus Christ: (1) his vindictive justice in punishing sin.
. Ibid. (2) his patience.18
that ―The eternal disposing cause of the whole work in which the Lord Christ was engaged by the susception of this office. yet are so clearly. for the redemption and salvation of the church. in managing things for his own glory. (4) his all-sufficiency. something Owen always sought to elucidate.‖65 For Owen then. in himself and unto others. The Glory of Christ: His Office and Grace. Owen. 184..
Owen. goodness. 155. one can gain an understanding of what separates believers from unbelievers.19
From this and elsewhere in Owen. love. 55.70 and that once believers come to see Christ in the correct fashion through the regeneration that is effected by the Holy Spirit. through the precious promises of the gospel. and grace.‖ Owen then wisely concludes that. instead the point of contention. for.
. so as that the very same spiritual nature is in him and in the church. one cannot grow in knowledge and wisdom. specifically. by the formation of a new nature. ―He who discerns not the glory of divine wisdom. implants in our souls all those gracious qualifications. power.‖ So that then ―the same divine nature it is that is in him and us. as to the essence and substance of them. and worse yet. will be covered in the next section.‖71 This is the basis of communion with the Triune God in Owen‘s understanding. Implications for Contemporary Trinitarian Studies An issue that has surfaced in recent discussion in Trinitarian studies regards subordination. along with other avenues of further study. we are made partakers of his divine nature. in the person and office of Christ. that is. The Glory of Christ: His Office and Grace. This is just a colloquialism without deeper theological significance. with the way of the salvation of sinners by him. Different than the Arian controversy of yesteryear.. one can see that the Incarnation was only part of the puzzle. is an unbeliever. is to be counted among unbelievers. unless he gives us also his nature to be ours. Finally for Owen in this regard. and that. with which he himself in his human nature is endued.
Ibid. his own nature.‖69 Without a proper perception of Christ as the express image of God. Christ then ―communicates himself to us. in us. ―It is not enough for us that he has taken our nature to be his.
72 Owen does not deal with issue in quite the same manner as it is being addressed today. In regards to this paper. A son. personality) with the other divine persons. He starts by clarifying that economic subordination can in no way translate into ontological subordination: ―Distinction and inequality in respect of office in Christ. MI: Kregel.
Works. but at the same time does see distinctions. wherein this distinction lies and what is the ground thereof. ―It remains only to intimate. even though Calvin had relatively little to say on the topic. 12:3-6. stating that ―He is placed in the same rank and order.his subject. Owen does see an absolute equality of the persons. but rather highlights the issues at stake. and philosophical considerations. Who's Tampering with the Trinity: An Assessment of the Subordination Debate. the Holy Spirit by the way of immediate efficacy. Owen also sees ontological equality. Although Erickson is not as careful in unpacking the position of everyone he mentions. as will be seen below in Edwards on this topic. Owen elaborates on this distinction:
A helpful. He also does not resolve the debate. 1 Cor. 1 John 5:7. Erickson.‖75 Elsewhere. and the place that each side tends to fall concerning Biblical.‖73 In reference then to the Holy Spirit. and at times can have hard edges. theological. Now. Owen. he goes on to cite Matt 28:19. in a word. does not in the least take away his equality and sameness with the Father in respect of nature and essence. At best this should be seen as inadequate and is owing either to negligence on Erickson‘s part. but he is not silent on the topic. without any note of difference or distinction as to as distinct interest in the divine nature (that is. .‖74 Again. synopsis of the current state of affairs is Millard J. 2:388 Italics original. Owen states that. Phil 2:78. the Son by the way of communicating from a purchased treasury. Works. as we shall see. Concisely. 2:401-02. of the same nature with his father. 104
. a considerable shortcoming of Erickson‘s work is that it lacks mention of either Edwards or Owen as the survey of historical considerations ends with Calvin. or negligence on the part of some of the key players in the discussion to not adequately wrestle with what these two great minds thought and wrote about the Trinity. Communion with the Triune God. may in office be his inferior. historical. this is that the Father does it by the way of original authority. and therein equal to him. (Grand Rapids.20
the issue at stake here concerns subordination within the ontological Trinity laying at back of the already agreed upon economical subordination. 2009).
Owen does however. all the essential properties of that nature in that person. subsisting in an especial manner as the Father. for elsewhere in reference to the Holy Spirit Owen will defend his personhood by saying that: ―I say. provide somewhat of a summary statement on his position. although. As in the person of the Father there is the divine essence and being. it becomes difficult to maintain there is no ontological inequality. This has certain philosophical implications. a divine person is nothing but the divine essence. distinctly subsisting in the same divine essence or being.‖77 Again.
. Owen does not completely clarify whether this property is absolute or relative. and Spirit. It is helpful too. yet some understanding of a distinction economically. returning to the above quote on the distinctions. or the Son to be a person. subsisting in an especial manner. Now. and because this person has the whole divine nature.21 ―The distinction which the Scripture reveals between the Father. as he sees the distinction in their internal relations as preceding their external actings: ―Now. all of this to underscore Owen‘s view of absolute equality of the persons ontologically. but one would assume it is the latter rather than the former.that there
Works. For he to whom all personal properties. 2:407 Emphasis original. is that whereby they are three hypostases or persons. one should bear in mind as seen above that Owen was keen to emphasize that divine actions were actions of the Trinity as one. the Father has the property of begetting the Son. .‖76 It is helpful here that Owen clarifies his understanding of divine personhood. any other way than we may prove the Holy Ghost to be so. it is impossible to prove the Father to be a person. and operations are ascribed and to whom nothing is ascribed but what properly belongs to a person. for if this property were essential to the Father. attributes. and so are we taught to believe in him to be. which may help to clarify the above issue. upon the account of an especial property. so it is the foundation of those distinct actings [Sic] and operations whereby the distinction itself is clearly manifested and confirmed…Our conclusion from the whole is. 65. as the nature of this distinction lies in their mutual relation one to another. adjuncts. with its property of begetting the Son. that Owen holds that ontologically. Owen. The Holy Spirit: His Gifts and Power. Son. he is a person.
in this discourse. Jonathan Edwards Very properly termed ―America‘s theologian. as will be seen in his development of the doctrine of the Trinity. Son. and briefly a president of Princeton.1703-d. He was really therefore British and would have sounded very ―British‖ to us. his direct discourse on the Trinity and persons of the Godhead more
Works. theologian. most of which unfortunately were unable to be covered at any length here. and provides many avenues of further study. But he did live and die on what would become American soil. Edwards will develop a rationale for the ontological distinctions. voluntary. omnipotent principles of operation and working: which whosoever thinks himself obliged to believe the Scripture must believe. and considering his arguments against the Socianians and their link to open theism and process theology.
. unlike John Owen. it may be helpful for those seeking to defend an orthodox conception of the Trinity to pick up some of the accessible works of John Owen for further study. and Holy Ghost. and will develop it further as will be born out below.1758) was a pastor. we are not solicitous. and is perhaps best known outside of evangelical Christianity for the sermon ―Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. could we hear him speak now. 2:406
Although in a certain sense a misnomer since Edwards died almost 20 years before the Declaration of Independence. so the name sticks. perhaps from reading Owen. distinct.22 is nothing more fully expressed in the Scripture than this sacred truth. intelligent. Father. Owen seems just as relevant now as he was in his own day.‖78 Edwards will pick up on this line of thinking. he does have much to say on the doctrine of God. and concerning others. that there is one God. He played a key role in the First Great Awakening.‖79 Jonathan Edwards was possibly not just the greatest Christian mind to live in the Colonies. but is quite possibly the greatest thinker that America has produced.‖ which is considered a classic in early American literature. In conclusion to Owen though. missionary to Native Americans. While Edwards produced copious amounts of theological and philosophical literature. which are divine. Jonathan Edwards (b.
it is impossible to cover adequately the topic at hand at any depth. is his originality of language. The Supreme Harmony of All: The Trinitarian Theology of Jonathan Edwards. who because of the scattered nature of his writings. it underlies much of what Edwards has to say elsewhere. and much more so with Edwards. the latter of which was written after Pauw‘s and so interacts both with Edwards on the Trinity and with Pauw‘s interpretation of him. but preferred Lee‘s Introduction and Danaher‘s work. Also. Grace. there is a broader range of secondary literature on Edwards. Sang Hyun Lee. requires more digging to find nuggets. 113-144.80 Like Owen. The Works of Jonathan Edwards.‖ in Writings on the Trinity. All were accessed on-line though http://edwards.‖ it certainly was a subject he spent much time thinking over and developing. 2003). 3
Amy Plantinga Pauw.81 Edwards‘ contribution to Trinitarian studies can be seen in his attempts to remain within the bounds of Nicea and Constantinople (as did Owen). what is striking about Jonathan Edwards‘ writings on the Trinity is his seamless connection of doctrine and practice.edu. and I tended to follow his assessment of Edwards when they conflicted. (Grand Rapids: William B.82 What is still difficult though. 123 (New Haven: Yale University Press. although at times.23
scattered. Indeed. Miscellanies are in volumes 13. ―Editor's Introduction. ed. The scope then of this exploration of Edwards is more or less limited to his Discourse on the Trinity and some of Edwards‘ various ―Miscellanies. in exploring Edwards. 18 & 20.
. and Faith. 2002). Danaher departs at some points from Pauw. vol. Pgs. 193.‖ that either directly or indirectly have to do with the subject at hand. vol. which is probably in part due to his attempts to formulate an orthodox
Discourse on the Trinity is in vol 21 of Jonathan Edwards. Explaining the Doctrine of God Much like John Owen. yet helping to articulate a ―practical Trinitarianism‖ as Amy Plantinga Pauw puts it in her doctoral dissertation. 21 (New Haven: Yale University Press. 1957-2004).yale. Sang Hyun Lee. but judging from his ―Miscellanies. Eerdmans Publishing Company. the secondary sources can be more obscuring rather than illuminating. I read Pauw‘s book.
85 One can see that while Edwards ultimately used Scripture as the norm and source of his theology. or one could say interdependent with reality.84 To articulate this in summary form may do slight injustice to his thoughts on the matter. 13:256-57.‖ and ―temper. and relations.86 Edwards later uses this conception of God‘s being as a disposition87 that abides by communicating his fully self-actualized being within Himself (God‘s triune relations in se) and to the created order
Lee. but rather using it in the sense of a more social conception of being. when he approaches the doctrine of God. Works.‖ ―tendency.
Ibid. as someone correlative to the universe itself.‖ no.‖ 5-6.‖ ―law. The reason for this stems from Edwards‘ understanding of ―being‖ as something inherently disposed to more activities and relationships. and is not even afraid to use reason to deduce what is latent in the text itself.24
doctrine of the Trinity while not ignoring the philosophical issues of the Enlightenment. If God was inherently relational.
This term was employed along with ―habit. but unlike Owen. in short. ―Editor's Introduction. yet not enjoying that within His own being. This is crucial to God being God.‖ ―propensity. Lee highlights that Edwards attempts to formulate an alternate conception of reality to the one presented by John Locke in An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. ―Editor's Introduction.
Lee. Locke had effectively ―locked‖ everyone up in their own perceptions. he sees God as inherently Trinitarian. and understanding his vantage point here is necessary to enter into his other thoughts on God‘s existence. Edwards‘ goes to great length to philosophize on the nature of being. Self-contained is used by others like Van Til in relation to asiety. Edwards agrees that much more can and should be said about the Trinity than what Scripture says. an idea that was unacceptable from a Christian standpoint. activities.83 The outcome of this. is a conception of the essential nature of things not in terms of selfcontained substances but rather in terms of dispositions. which when focused on the latter implies that God must enjoy relationship in Himself prior to creative activity. then God becomes dependent on the world itself to actualize Himself.‖ ―inclination. 6.
See first entry on the Trinity in his ―Miscellanies. he is still keen to utilize philosophical discourse and ideas in his formulations. Based on Edwards‘ prior metaphysic.‖ 7-8. Most pagan conceptions of God formulate God in just such a way. not to mention the fact that it destroys the possibility of certainty with respect to an outside reality.‖ Ibid. it is not likely Edwards was denying that God possessed this attribute.
. Like Owen though. 94.
Paul Helm and Oliver D.‖91 God for Edwards is true beauty and to so be. (Princeton. 11. ―Does Jonathan Edwards Use a Dispositional Ontology? A Response to Sang Hyun Lee. Ibid. Topics.
Ibid. VT: Ashgate. papers much longer than these have been needed to explain his metaphysics apart from considerations of his doctrine of God.89 One other note to keep in mind before moving forward is Edwards‘ use of beauty. God must be a plurality since beauty is a relation of consent.8-9. NJ: Princeton University Press. The Philosophical Theology of Jonathan Edwards. ―Jonathan Edwards's Dispositional Conception of the Trinity: A Resource for Contemporary Reformed Theology. But also consider Sang Hyun Lee. For Edwards. Such is the dilemma in writing a paper on what the greatest philosophical theologian of recent time thought about the Trinity. The initial aim of this paper was to explore Edwards on the Trinity. For counterpoint though. or one of proportion and harmony. Ibid. beauty and disposition are two ways of looking at the same reality.92 Hopefully this can be clarified further when looking through Edwards‘ writings on the Trinity.93 So unfortunately the discussion so far will have probably proved inadequate. Ibid. 8. 2003). The nature of things.‖ in Towards the Future of Reformed Theology: Taks. see Stephen R.‖ in Jonathan Edwards: Philosophical Theologian. 1999). in other words. Ibid. ed. 90 ―Disposition refers to the dynamic quality.25
(relations ad extra).
. yet something needed to be said before anything else could be meaningfully discussed about the Trinity.
Probably the best treatment would be Sang Hyun Lee. ed. David Willis and Michael Welker (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. is disposed to be actively related in a beautiful way. thus providing a bridge to connect the ontological and economic Trinity.88 It is also through Edwards‘ understanding of being that the psychological model and social model can merge into one extended model of God‘s existence as Trinity. while beauty refers to the manner or direction of disposition. Traditions. Crisp (Burlington. 7. Holmes. 1988).
‖94 He then moves on to unpack what he means by this ―idea. ed. degree. complacence and joy. his own essence and perfections. Edwards‘ thought structure requires a more expositional approach. the account that we are wont to give of it is that God is infinitely happy in the enjoyment of himself. which is the divine love. to all intents and purposes. he comes to similar conclusions as Owen. 21. and that by this means the Godhead is really generated and repeated.‖96 He then illustrates this from our human vantage point: ―If a man could have an absolutely perfect idea of all that passed in his mind. as it were an exact image and representation of himself ever before him and in actual view. It is interesting though that at times.113. which can be grouped into categories and then demonstrated by quotations. exactly like him in every respect. Grace. in perfectly beholding and infinitely loving. is truly God.
. and that this idea of God is a substantial idea and has the very essence of God. Edwards begins his Discourse on the Trinity with this statement about the Father: ―When we speak of God's happiness. and Faith.‖95 Edwards also supposes ―the Deity to be truly and properly repeated by God's thus having an idea of himself. Writings on the Trinity. which will be pointed out when appropriate. and therefore is an express and perfect image of him. all the series of ideas and exercises in every respect perfect as to order.26 Formulating the Trinity Unlike the unpacking of John Owen‘s thoughts on the Trinity. 2003). Sang Hyun Lee (New Haven: Yale University Press. And from hence arises a most pure and perfect energy in the Godhead. this idea that the Father has of himself is ―absolutely perfect. vol. especially in light of the philosophical dialogue of his day.‖ For Edwards. and rejoicing in.
Jonathan Edwards. The Works of Jonathan Edwards. And accordingly it must be supposed that God perpetually and eternally has a most perfect idea of himself. while Edwards seeks to understand how this is possible.
Works. Owen seems content not to pry into how exactly God can exist as three in one. circumstances. 21:114 Ibid.
almighty. Interestingly. Edwards comes to see Christ as the most immediate representation of the Godhead. to all intents and purposes.27 etc. just that it wards off some issues. So that by God's thinking of the Deity. He would be indeed double. This is the material in the footnote of John Piper‘s Pleasures of God that got me started on Edwards in the first place. 117. as it is and at the same time that it is there. This is not to say this particular view is problem free. and the writer of Hebrews in 1:3. [the Deity] must certainly be generated.. views his own essence (in which there is no distinction of substance and act. This is also Edwards‘ understanding of what the apostle Paul means in such passages as 2 Corinthians 4:4. eternal. fullness and strength understands himself. Quite honestly. that idea which God hath of himself is absolutely himself. This representation of the divine nature and essence is the divine nature and essence again. Philippians 2:6.‖97 From this Edwards draws the conclusion that this person is the second person of the Trinity.
Ibid. because it makes it easier to follow his thinking. there is another infinite. this same pre-existent eternality would apply to the Spirit as well. but it is wholly substance and wholly act). On this view. he would be twice at once: the idea he has of himself would be himself again. something will be shown that Edwards was painfully aware of. this gives a quite different understanding of how Christ relates to the Father as a Son. Colossians 1:15. And if it were possible for a man by reflection perfectly to contemplate all that is in his own mind in an hour. and is as very much God as the Father: ―Therefore as God with perfect clearness.99 This idea that the Father has of Himself is how He can be known to us.. in its first and direct existence. for any particular space of time past— suppose the last hour— he would really.
Ibid. be over again what he was that last hour. as long as the Father has existed as a perceiving mind. and most holy and the same God. Jesus Christ the Son of God.
. and of every exercise at and during the same time that that exercise was. so has the Son existed. if a man had a perfect reflex or contemplative idea of every thought at the same moment or moments that that thought was. this construal seems at best to hedge off many of the misunderstandings that stemmed from the language of sonship when applied to Christ.98 Much like Owen then. and so through a whole hour: a man would really be two. 116 quoted at length. Hereby there is another person begotten. 116. As will be born out below.. while opening up others. the very same divine nature.‖100
101 Edwards cites three main reasons to support this idea of Christ as the ―idea‖ of God the Father. ―that that which is the form. the divine essence itself
Ibid. 117-18. This seems really to be just a more philosophically sophisticated way of speaking of Christ as the only Mediator between God and man. pointing out that these texts seem to reflect that seeing the perfect idea (or image) of a thing is to all intents and purposes the same as seeing the thing. The Son in Edwards‘ view is the direct communication God the Father has of Himself. and is also the wisdom. although this is not directly referred to by Edwards. albeit indirectly. rejoicing always before [him]. but God's idea of himself?‖103 From here Edwards then moves on to explain how the Holy Spirit fits into this conception of the Trinity. Edwards points out that really there is no other ―seeing‖ of something than to have an idea of it. is God's idea of himself. it is helpful to quote his compact argument before proceeding to unpack it: ―The Godhead being thus begotten by God's having an idea of himself and standing forth in a distinct subsistence or person in that idea. and perfect image and representation of God.102 and concludes with a rhetorical flair. wherein the Godhead acts to an infinite degree and in the most perfect manner possible.
(1) in 1 Corinthians 1:24. (3) Christ is the amen of God. in mutually loving and delighting in each other. 15:22-24. knowledge.28
Although Edwards has taken a much different path. and express and perfect image of God. Again.
.." This is the eternal and most perfect and essential act of the divine nature. What other knowledge of God is there that is the form. there proceeds a most pure act. 120. compared with Matthew 23:34.. appearance. To see the direct idea God the Father has of Himself is really to see Him. logos and truth of God. (2) Christ is the logos of God. Edwards then references John 12:45. The Deity becomes all act. in beholding which God has eternal delight.
Ibid. (1) Christ is called the wisdom of God. Proverbs 8:30. 14:7-9. "I was daily his delight. he has come to similar Christocentric conclusions in respect to our ability to understand and know God. and an infinitely holy and sweet energy arises between the Father and Son: for their love and joy is mutual. Luke 11:49. but it is the typical passage adduced for this particular point. face. He directly quotes references in Scripture for the first two points. and (2) in John 1.
Ibid.‖ Edwards points out that this not only confirms that the divine nature subsists in love. 121.29 flows out and is as it were breathed forth in love and joy. the Holy Spirit. and by his being denominated Holy.. the Deity in act: for there is no other act but the act of the will.‖ and also on the nature of ―holiness. viz. Edwards ruminates on the nature of ―spirit. this love is primarily a self-love
Ibid. and God in Him.‖108 From there. viz.‖ and that ―'tis in God's infinite love to himself that his holiness consists. as the Scripture teaches us. It naturally expresses the divine nature as subsisting in pure act and perfect energy. Ibid. Which incidentally is what underlies his rather well known Religious Affections.‖ Recalling Edwards‘ understanding of disposition and beauty being two sides of the same coin in reference to being.107 Further. As all creature holiness is to be resolved into love. 121.‖109 One can see that at least so far. confirms it. So that the Godhead therein stands forth in yet another manner of subsistence. 123. dwelleth in God. ―he who dwelleth in love.105 from which we can see that the Godhead or divine nature does subsist in love. ―The name of the third person in the Trinity. he points out that. Ibid. Edwards relies heavily on exposition of 1 John 4.
. and as flowing out and breathing forth in infinitely sweet and vigorous affection.106 Specifically in reference to 1 John 4:16. and there proceeds the third person in the Trinity. 122. It is confirmed both by his being called the Spirit. Ibid. A mind is said to be holy from the holiness of its temper and disposition. so doth the holiness of God himself consist in infinite love to himself.‖104 In unpacking the Biblical data for the above understanding of the Trinity. God's holiness is the infinite beauty and excellency of his nature. he states that ―it is in the temper or disposition of a mind and its exercise that holiness is immediately seated. the Holy Spirit. but that this love is specifically the Spirit because it is by the Spirit that God dwells in men.
in a very Biblically based fashion. The blessing from the Father and the Son is the Holy Ghost. (2) sanctifying created Spirits by divine love. the work of the Spirit. and (3) comforting and delighting those spirits as well. Edwards then unpacks. And in his blessing at the end of his Second Epistle to the Corinthians. Toward the end of his discussion on the Holy Spirit. 23). It is not too surprising then that most of Edwards‘ ideas on the ministry and person of the Holy Spirit are not peculiar to him. That is. it seems more likely that he has worked in the other direction. Edwards seems to have started with the Biblical data. of the Holy Ghost. which he collects under three heads: (1) Quickening and beautifying all things. 123-26. where all three persons are mentioned. but given the depth and breadth of Scripture he mounts after his initial observations. sought to bring the two ends together in dialogue. this will come back into focus. but the blessing from the Holy Ghost is himself. or the partaking. Edwards tries to make sense of the apostle Paul‘s greetings in his epistles that exclude the Holy Spirit. but the communion. the communication of himself. however. The Holy Spirit: His Gifts and Power
. At a later point when dealing with Edwards‘ social model.110 One may be tempted to think that Edwards‘ thought is driven by his philosophical commitments. without ever mentioning the Holy Ghost— as we find it thirteen times in his salutations in the beginnings of his epistles— but that the Holy Ghost is himself the love and grace of God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. This is similar to Owen. Thinking on this at length and reconciling it with the above conception of the Holy Spirit as the actual love of God.30
that God has in knowing Himself. he wishes grace and love from the Son and the Father. he comes to this conclusion: ―I can think of no other good account that can be given of the apostle Paul's wishing grace and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ in the beginning of his epistles. but no mention of the Holy Ghost (John 14:21. and then after ruminating on it in light of his understanding of reality via contemporary philosophy. one aspect of his understanding of the Holy Spirit is worth noting before dealing with some of the objections that have been brought up to Edwards‘ ideas. see pgs in Owen. Christ promises that he and the Father will love believers.
using a psychological analogy.31 and the love of Christ and the love of the Father are often distinctly mentioned. unoriginated and most absolute manner. see pgs 26-35. It is quite different though from Augustine‘s. is not unique to Edwards.. here is a concise summary of how he understands the Trinity: ―And this I suppose to be that blessed Trinity that we read of in the holy Scriptures. The Father is the Deity subsisting in the prime. 131. but never any mention of the Holy Ghost's love. Ibid. It is somewhat being assumed that the reader is familiar with Augustine‘s model and so will spot the differences as they are brought out. Danaher Jr.‖111 Edwards goes a bit further thinking through why there is no mention of either the Father or the Son loving the Holy Spirit. or the saints for that matter. Edwards has a slightly different conception of communion than Owen had. 130. but both men are concerned with unpacking the Trinity in practical terms and both understand communion to be rather central in that regard. and subsisting in that idea.
. The Holy Ghost is the Deity subsisting in act or the divine essence flowing out and breathed forth. Before getting there though. in God's infinite love to and delight in himself. Columbia Series in Reformed Theology (Louisville. And I believe the whole divine essence does truly and distinctly subsist both in the divine idea and divine love. as will be demonstrated below. or the Deity in its direct existence. and that therefore each of them are properly distinct persons. or having an idea of himself. The Trinitarian Ethics of Jonathan Edwards.‖112 Dealing With Objections This conception of the Trinity.
Space does not allow a formal comparison between Augustine‘s model and Edwards.113 One objection that is usually brought against certain types of psychological analogies is that the Holy
Ibid. and at least sought to counter some of them. For a more thorough comparison. It is interesting though to note that Edwards was aware of some of the implications of how he had unpacked the Trinity. 63-66 in William J. The Son is the Deity generated by God's understanding. 2004). KY: Westminster John Knox Press. He rightly points out that the Holy Spirit is never spoken of as loving either the Father or the Son.
The Father loves because the Holy Ghost is in him. the Holy Ghost is in the Son. 133 Ibid. ―so may it be said concerning all the persons of the Trinity: the Father is in the Son. and the Son in the Father. Edwards himself anticipates some of this: ―One of the principle objections that I can think of against what has been supposed is concerning the personality of the Holy Ghost. Edwards goes on to say that ―All the three are persons. There is understanding and will in the Holy Ghost. Edwards goes on to say that. How therefore can this love be said to have understanding?‖114 Edwards answer will be rather surprising and it seems bypasses much of the concern that is laid at Augustine‘s feet. and the Son in the Holy Ghost. as he is the divine will and as the Son is in him. Surprisingly. If the three in the Godhead are persons. and the Father in the Holy Ghost. and love another. or the divine essence subsisting in divine love. Edwards makes a rather clear departure from the Western tradition with this rather original conception of the Holy Spirit‘s role within the Trinity:
Ibid.‖116 While Edwards and Augustine may be conceptually similar in their models. the divine idea. for they all have understanding and will. In fact. is in him. And the Father understands because the Son. they doubtless each of 'em have understanding: but this makes the understanding one distinct person. they seem to be actually quite different. as he is understanding and as the Holy Ghost is in him and proceeds from him. 132-33 Ibid. understands because the Son. 134
. that this scheme of things don't seem well to consist with that.‖ Then Edwards explains that ―There is understanding and will in the Father. as the Son and the Holy Ghost are in him and proceed from [him]. Edwards employs the idea of perichoresis to resolve some of the difficulty.32
Spirit somehow gets diminished within the Trinity and his personhood is not as strongly considered. the Holy Ghost is in the Father. There is understanding and will in the Son. So the Son loves because the Holy Spirit is in him and proceeds from him. is in him.‖115 Further. who is the divine understanding. So the Holy Ghost. [that] a person is that which hath understanding and will. After quoting John 10:14.
as that is the principle that as it were reigns over the Godhead and governs his heart. ―Introduction. In another respect the Son has the superiority.
Which is really not that hard to do actually. however he seems to be rather neglected in current discussions of subordination in the Trinity. ed. 121 Edwards though. proving not the second person of the Trinity but a second God. that is. however he seems to avoid some extremes of those that hold this particular position today.
See note 73 above. The beloved has as it were the superiority over the lover.‖117 This topic of the equality of persons will be returned to in a later section.119 At least on this account. He sees the argumentation as implicitly tri-theistic.120 This is not to say that Edwards‘ model is without difficulty. divine love. and reigns over him. or in a misunderstanding of Edwards‘ conceptions of ontology. Somewhat related to the last point is the charge that Paul Helm levels against Edwards‘ psychological analogy as collapsing into tri-Theism.‖ in Treatise on Grace and Other Posthumous Writings. any objection against a subsidiary role of the Holy Spirit or lack of personhood attributed to Him. and he begets the beloved Son.
Paul Helm. does not seem to be one of them. he does hold to an order in the ontological Trinity that features the Father as Head (as did Owen). and wholly influences both the Father and the Son in all they do.
. as he is the great and first object of divine love. 147. 21. I may not have adequately demonstrated the point.33 ―In one respect the Father has the superiority: he is the fountain of Deity. He does though seem rather keen to demonstrate the personhood of the Spirit and not just have Him collapse into a divine principle of action. but rather that an almost side-kick role assigned to the Holy Spirit that undermines either His divinity or personhood.
As will be shown below. is probably owing to either a lack in the depth of material read. Paul Helm (Cambridge: James Clarke. Helm is afraid that Edwards has proved too much in his conception of God the Father having a perfect idea of himself. has the superiority. 1971). and believes
Ibid. but Edwards devotes some space to it in the ―Miscellanies‖ as well as Discourse on the Trinity.118 Edwards actually wrote much on the topic. In another respect the Holy Ghost. actually was aware and responded to this criticism. I am not sure I completely understand Edwards‘ ontology or his conception of personhood. but what Edwards has stated here is rather remarkable in its ability to see superiority and subordination as somehow equally ultimate within the ontological Trinity.
The Trinitarian Ethics of Jonathan Edwards. and so of the Holy Ghost. that is. You'll say.
Works.‖124 Elsewhere though Edwards had countered this objection. and that the Son is that idea itself. the essence of the Son. So the Son understands the Father in that the essence of the Son understands the essence of the Father. Ibid.‖126 Edwards then drive his point home. also Pauw. ―So if you say.125 In an earlier entry in the miscellanies.34
that such an objection ―arises from a confusion of thought and a misunderstanding of what we say. it is an idea of the same equilateral triangle. that the Son himself is the Father's idea. when I have a perfect idea of my idea of all an equilateral triangle. to all intents and purposes. for I think it still remains an incomprehensible mystery. also found in Works. and if he has an idea of this Idea. himself. Edwards follows up with the explanation that ―But I would not be understood to pretend to give a full explication of the Trinity. a perfect idea or perception of one's own perfect delight cannot be different. as in himself being the understanding of that essence. 53. but I say.. 'tis yet the same Idea: a perfect idea of an idea is the same idea still.‖122 Edwards offers a reply in one of the miscellanies. Thus. Edwards explains: ―I answer. The Supreme Harmony of All: The Trinitarian Theology of Jonathan Edwards. 21:139-40 Making an Inf-inity? Works. 13:261
. at least in God.n33. 266. the Son has an idea of the
Danaher Jr. The Father understands the idea he has merely in his having that idea. and specifically that one could find an infinite number of persons in the Trinity on this account. but that God generated the Son by understanding his own essence. The Father understands the Son no otherwise than as he understands that essence. or understanding of the essence. the greatest and the most glorious of all mysteries. 13:392-93. that God the Father or Son may have an idea of their own delight in each other. to all intents and purposes.‖123 Here as elsewhere. without any other act. from the delight itself. thus a man understands his own perfect idea merely by his having that idea in his mind. ―we never suppose the Father generated the Son by understanding the Son.
but it seems very much that on Edwards‘ terms at least. the Holy Spirit has an idea of the Father. his analogy does not yield three gods. the idea of God. while on the surface similar in vocabulary to Augustine‘s is really based on John Locke‘s understanding of the human self as the mind. the Son himself is the idea of the Father And if you say. and of the idea in the Father: 'tis still the idea of the Father.‖127 This may not satisfy all objections. Analysis of Psychological Model Edwards psychological model.128 It is more or less a view of the ontological Trinity in terms of God‘s consciousness of Himself and the fullness of his own being. we shall never be able to make more than these three: God. I answer. And if you say. this translates in to God (the Father). his approach might be considered overly intellectual and individualistic.129 Both of their conceptions carry the idea of being a ―psychological model‖ of the Trinity. the Holy Ghost is himself the delight and joyfulness of the Father in that idea. but rather given his underlying metaphysics. I answer. While some may level the charge of intellectualism or individualism against Edwards‘ use of the psychological model. and the mind‘s willing. he has an idea of the Father.. As Edwards will then put it later. the idea God has of Himself (the Son) and the love of God (the Holy Spirit). even though it still at times is hard for this author at least to fully understand. and admittedly still.
. The Trinitarian Ethics of Jonathan Edwards. and delight in God. if we turn it all the ways in the world. his views are not completely problem free. and therefore the same with the Son. So that.‖ 11. Danaher Jr. ―Editor's Introduction. 261-262 Lee.. 64-65. these charges are more at home against Augustine‘s model than Edwards. Because of Augustine‘s adherence to substance metaphysics. it all hangs together rather nicely. but the correspondence between what Augustine and Edwards are saying is not that tight. his idea is still an idea of the Father. the mind‘s reflexive perception of the mind‘s own internal contents. and he does conceive of the Trinity as a ―single mind‖ in
Ibid. Scripture.‖135 In order to know anything then. 18.131 As Danaher notes. the possibility of spiritual knowledge in light of the Trinity. as he clarifies here:
Ibid.134 So then for Edwards. Much like John Owen.36
some ways. Ibid. generates a conception of personhood that views plurality and relationality as equally fundamental as unity. Edwards‘ conception of the Trinity underlies any further possibility of developing a coherent epistemology. The Trinitarian Ethics of Jonathan Edwards. and God See Danaher Jr. ―all spiritual knowledge is nothing other than the communication of the knowledge of God‘s self. chapter 1 for Calvin‘s angle. like Calvin sees all knowledge of ourselves ultimately as being derived from the knowledge of God.
See Van Til.. An Introduction to Systematic Theology: Prolegomena and the Doctrines of Revelation. through his idealism. something later apologists like Van Til have developed rather fully. Closely related then to the concept of spiritual knowledge the concept of conversion for Edwards. Ibid. The Defense of the Faith. See Calvin‘s Institutes. making the relational nature of personhood the fundamental category of being. the new nature that comes via regeneration.‖132 One can see this in how Edwards articulates first. in Christ.130 However.
. Book 1... one must know God. Although they came to this conclusion for different reasons. Which remember in Edwards‘ conception is the Son. Edwards‘ understanding of the Trinity has implications for how the believer then relates to and has fellowship/communion with God. and Van Til. not only because it provides Edwards with his central vision of the moral life as a life of theosis. Edwards. Edwards. 37. and second. Regarding spiritual knowledge then. ―the psychological analogy is essential to Edwards‘ theological ethics. 133 Also like Owen. but also because it is integral to his theological anthropology and social ethics. specifically.
which dwells in the soul and becomes there a principle of life and action. Works. 463. dwelling there and exerting himself by the faculties of the soul of man. uniting Himself to the soul of the creature as a vital principle. and this is before any proper acts of the will. the mind in many things distinguishes truth from falsehood. 13:194
. stating that this conception. ―by the power of the Holy Ghost. Edwards sees the possibility for further renewal in knowledge. Everyone has knowledge. etc. is in spiritual understanding. and the nature of the soul being thus changed. seems to be a designed resemblance of the conception of Christ in the soul of a believer. especially if it be lively. which did not when the soul was of another spirit. in one of the persons of the Trinity. as the intellect. 13:462-63 Ibid. by the power of the Holy Ghost. glory and delightfulness. its perception of glory and excellency. or the first that this divine temper exerts itself in.‖138 Edwards then.‖
Works.‖139 This Edwards has concluded based on this rational on why the Holy Spirit is termed a ―spirit. 'Tis this is the new nature and the divine nature. Edwards compares this communication of the Spirit of God to the conception of Christ in the womb of Mary.‖136 Once a person then is converted. Divine things now appear excellent. in his own proper nature.‖137 In a very fascinating analogy in the Religious Affections. but it is the mind's sense of their excellency. in the ideas it has of divine things. or in the sense of the mind. Indeed.37 ―for what is done in conversion is nothing but conferring the Spirit of God. glorious. For it is not only the mere presence of ideas in the mind. beautiful. after the manner of a principle of nature. 2:347 Works. but it is only in coming into right relationship with God that one starts to fully understand: ―Indeed the first act of the Spirit of God. it admits divine light. By this sense or taste of the mind. takes rather literally 2 Peter 1:4 and sees the new nature wrought by God in conversion to be the divine nature and ―true saving grace is no other than that the very love of God – that is God. the inclination of the soul is as immediately exercised in that sense of the mind which is called spiritual understanding.
Edwards concludes that. and in which the Godhead is eternally breathed forth and subsists in the third person in the blessed Trinity. divine principle. Interestingly. 21:113
. 13:367 Works. Edwards. 21:194 Danaher Jr. namely.38 ―Here the Apostle does fully explain himself what he means when he so often calls that holy principle that is in the hearts of the saints by the name "Spirit. 65. God‘s idea of Himself (the Son). He calls it the "Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead" dwelling in them. yet our souls are made in the image of God: we have understanding and will. it factors into how we know ourselves and the world around us. for Edwards.‖143As Danaher concludes from this. So that that holy. and this indeed is all the real distinction there is in created spirits. idea and love. believes he sees the exact opposite. and the Spirit of Christ in the Romans 8:10. rather than seeing the soul as an analogy for the relations in the Trinity.. ―There is in resemblance to this threefold distinction in God a threefold distinction in a created spirit. is no other than a communication and participation of that same infinite divine love. as God hath. In the Romans 8:16 he calls it the "Spirit itself. which is God. The Trinitarian Ethics of Jonathan Edwards. He calls it Christ "in them" in the eleventh verse." This he means. In the Romans 8:9 he calls it the Spirit of God. and in terms of his general understanding of apprehension. and its understanding. that the relations in the Trinity provide an analogy for the faculties of the soul. and in the Romans 8:14 he calls it the Spirit of God. Edwards‘ conception of the Trinity in terms of a psychological analogy is not simply theoretical speculation." So it is called the Spirit of God in 1 Corinthians 2:11– 12. the Spirit of God itself dwelling and acting in them.‖142 Elsewhere. which we have observed does radically and essentially consist in divine love.‖140 As one can see. Edwards connects it to both conversion in his Treatise on Grace. Edwards writes that ―Though the divine nature be vastly different from that of created spirits. the spirit itself.141 Remembering that for Edwards. personhood is a concept that one
Works. and its will or inclination or love. and God‘s love or delight (the Spirit). and the difference is only in the perfection of degree and manner. Works. the Trinity is God (the Father).
. because goodness is delight in communicating happiness. Works. 68. and the second is concerning excellence. ends up reinforcing the social analogy. Danaher Jr.‖ and the nature and goal of Christian ethics then is to recreate in humanity personhood as it exists in the Trinity. to which this paper will now turn. or the ontological Trinity. the social model conceives of God in terms or interpersonal participation. Insight from Lee. The Trinitarian Ethics of Jonathan Edwards. or God in relation to creation. When speaking of goodness Edwards sees that. ―To be perfectly good is to incline to and delight in making another happy in the same proportion as it is happy itself.. that is. 66. for Edwards. to delight as much in communicating happiness to another as in enjoying of it himself. Where the psychological model conceives of God in terms of selfconsciousness.‖ 19.39
develops ―from above‖ rather than ―from below.146 Edwards develops his argument for the social model in two streams. it appears that this is perfect goodness. ―Editor's Introduction. 13:263
.145 Analysis of the Social Model While the psychological model lends itself to making sense of God in relation to Himself. The first has to do with the nature of goodness. then God must communicate this happiness to an infinite being as
Danaher Jr. the social model is more apt to explain the economic Trinity.144 Indeed. in his hands it comes into a perspective that clearly emphasizes the threeness of the persons in the Trinity and this in turn. rather than the psychological analogy being used to stress the divine unity rather than the threeness. and an inclination to communicate all his happiness. The Trinitarian Ethics of Jonathan Edwards.‖147 If this is so reasons Edwards.
149 Aside from that implication. here one sees a picture of God‘s goodness as necessarily diffusive and social.
. The Trinitarian Ethics of Jonathan Edwards. But no absolutely perfect being can be without absolutely perfect goodness. God must have a perfect exercise of his goodness.40 ―…to no finite being can God either incline to communicate goodness so much as he inclines to be happy himself. Danaher Jr. but because he delights to communicate himself to another. In addition to his thoughts on goodness helping to develop his social model. springing from this conception of the Trinity. This cannot be because of our imperfection. No reasonable creature can be happy. but because we are made in the image of God. that Jehovah's happiness consists in communion. 149
Danaher Jr. there are clear implications for the imago dei. for the more perfect any creature is. neither can he communicate all his goodness to a finite being. without society and communion. notice as well the similarity to Owen‘s conception of goodness being fundamental to the being of God. Rather than this making creation due to a metaphysical necessity in God. Miscellany #679. So that we may conclude. Whereas in the psychological model locates the imago dei in selfconsciousness. the more strong this inclination.‖ Works. and therefore must have the fellowship of a person equal with himself. 106. as well as the creature's. it instead still preserves God‘s self-complete existence as His goodness is perfectly communicated to the Son.. for he cannot love a creature so much as he loves himself. 109.. As Danaher notes. and is not profited by them. Edwards also uses his ideas on excellence. not only because he finds something in others that is not in himself. the social model locates it in our interpersonal relations. ―God stands in no need of creatures. and no being can be perfectly happy which has not the exercise of that which he perfectly inclines to exercise. 18:238.‖148 As one can see. but space does not permit further reflection on this one aspect. we find. the genius of Edwards‘ position is ―that it holds together the thesis that God‘s creation of the world is an exercise of the will and the social analogy‘s thesis that creation is an expression of the inherent goodness of God‘s nature. 13:264.151 Much more could be discussed regarding the implications of this conception of the social model. which would destroy aseity. Most of his thoughts on excellence are developed in his
148 Ibid. The Trinitarian Ethics of Jonathan Edwards. wherefore. a point Edwards holds150.
6:332. there must be a plurality in God.152 There in Edwards‘ notebook. if God is excellent.‖ in Jonathan Edwards: Philosophical Theologian. there can be no consent in him. inasmuch as.155 As he has said.41
notebook ―The Mind. he writes that the ―highest excellency‖ is ―the consent of spirits one to another. mainly because there cannot be the consent that Edwards sees underlying love: ―Then there must have been an object from all eternity which God infinitely loves.‖ in ―their mutual love one to another. in such case.‖156 For Edwards. VT: Ashgate. Infinite loveliness.‖ which although outside of the stated scope of this study. 2003). For more on this idea. must consist either in infinite consent to entity in general. no such thing as consent. Crisp (Burlington. to God. ―'One Alone Cannot Be Excellent': Edwards on Divine Simplicity. amazingly.
Danaher Jr. for there can be no such thing as consent or agreement. Therefore. Indeed. and therefore. there must be a plurality in God in order for God to be excellent. 13:285. 337
Ibid. The Trinitarian Ethics of Jonathan Edwards. One alone cannot be excellent. ―Again. Paul Helm and Oliver D. Works.
. But in a being that is absolutely without any plurality there cannot be excellency. or some consent of those in that being that are distinguished into a plurality some way or other. 69.. without any reference to any more. Edwards. for in such case there can be no manner of relation no way. 70. specifically drawn from this quotation. there can be no consent.‖154 Recalling from earlier Edwards‘ ideas about beauty and consent. therefore. what we call "one" may be excellent. ed.. cannot be excellent. we have shown that one alone cannot be excellent. either of consent to being in general. will be mentioned here in brief for a few quotations. But we have shown that consent to entity and consent to God are the same. or consent to that being that perceives. the Trinity then must be the ultimate source of beauty and excellence in the created universe. consider Amy Plantinga Pauw. Works. But we have showed that all love arises from the perception. wrote this quotation in his notebook when he was only 20 years old. it is not surprising that in this conception. because of a consent of parts. or infinite consent to God.‖153 His conclusion though after ruminating on this basic idea is illuminating: ―One alone. because God is
This was pointed out by Ibid. otherwise.
71. so unlike Augustine and Thomas Aquinas.. this view itself may not be without difficulties. In Edwards. So that 'tis necessary that that object which God infinitely loves must be infinitely and perfectly consenting and agreeable to him. it is understandable that Edwards would view God as necessarily Trinitarian. but that which infinitely and perfectly agrees is the very same essence. but when coupled with the previous psychological model. 108..161
Ibid.42 the general and only proper entity of all things. just as the psychological model hedges off tri-theism due to its underlying metaphysic.. Danaher Jr. although again.. Ibid. rationality is not connected to a person‘s substantive nature and the distinguishing mark of personhood. for if it be different it don't infinitely consent. Edwards develops his social model in by presupposing that goodness requires another towards whom one can be good and also a similar aesthetic presupposition that ―excellence describes a state of relations that exists as a result of mutual love and consent between a plurality of persons. sociality. 283. Ibid. Ibid.‖159 From there. Edwards does not presuppose that individuality is identical to rationality and personhood. and relation. even though it is more explicitly plural in its conception of the Trinity. Edwards main conception of personhood is relational and defines personhood in such a way that there must be some sort of dialogical relation within consciousness in order for identity to be possible. so the social model avoids this charge as well.160 Rather as seen above.‖157 While the psychological analogy was developed in terms of a single mind‘s reflection and then moving to relation and plurality.
. this analogy is clearly starting with plurality. it does seem to comport rather nicely. The Trinitarian Ethics of Jonathan Edwards.158 In sum.
‖ He confides that he is offering it ―only as a further manifestation of what of divine truth the Word of God exhibits to the view of our minds concerning this great mystery. others that are new appear. one can have a fuller understanding of God. he is ―sensible that however.43
In addition. may see something in it wonderful and beyond his comprehension. 139. the number of the wonders that he sees will be much increased still. Mystery can both refer to that which is not fully revealed or obscured from view. it is important to understand that Edwards viewed the models as complementary. wonderful and incomprehensible are increased by it. or the parts of the bodies of animals. and still mysterious as Edwards would affirm. something true in nature but even more true in relation to God: ―Tis so not only in divine things but natural things: he that looks on a plant. at a great distance.
. and the number of those things that appear mysterious. or any other works of nature. 21:140 Ibid. Towards the end of his Discourse on the Trinity. indeed understands more about them.‖162 Edwards then realizes that he is ―far from asserting this as any explication of this mystery that unfolds and removes the mysteriousness and incomprehensibleness of it‖ for as he says. And if he views them with a microscope. But yet the microscope gives him more of a true knowledge concerning them.‖163 There is a sense of humility here. Edwards recognizes that the Trinity is indeed still a mystery in two senses. yet one that is still not comprehensive. When one puts them together and sees them as complementary ways of conceiving of the Trinity. and as much as Edwards has
Works. rather than alternative accounts of the Trinity. but he that is near to it and views them narrowly. and yet the number of things that are wonderful and mysteries in them that appear to him. where he has but an obscure sight of it. has a clearer and distinct sight of them. or it can refer to the unfolding knowledge of something that is never fully comprehended. by what has been said. some difficulties are lessened. ontologically and economically. are much more than before.
Includes an introduction and appendix by Egbert C. Implications for Contemporary Trinitarian Studies Again. that one acts from another. after Edwards had listed all of his observations. Also published later as an independent work. in their actings with respect to the creature. Danaher Jr. it is worth noting his argument at length. entry #1062. 20.166 He begins by granting there is a ―subordination of the persons of the Trinity. and actually wrote an entry in the ―Miscellanies‖ on the subject entitled.44
done to explain God as Trinity. as with John Owen. Selah.‖ clarifying further that they also hold ―that his generation or proceeding from the Father as a Son consists only in his being appointed. Edwards write specifically against those who held that ―that the sonship of the second person in the Trinity consists only in the relation he bears to the Father in his mediatorial character. Edwards however was a little more to the point. Jonathan Edwards.
. 1880). the focus here with lean more towards the current subordination debate. The Trinitarian Ethics of Jonathan Edwards.‖165 This comes at the conclusion of the aforementioned writings. Observations Concerning the Scripture Oeconomy of the Trinity and Covenant of Redemption. constituted and authorized of the Father to the office of a mediator. which rather than taking his typical apologetic form of attacking the logical underpinnings of a particular position. and particularly in what they act in
Works. and that there is no other priority of the Father to the Son but that is voluntarily established in the covenant of redemption. Smyth.. in their actings.
Ibid. and with a dependence on another. and under another. always to come up short. ―Economy of the Trinity and the Covenant of Redemption.‖164 There. he instead offers a rival account that he feels is more in line with orthodoxy. 74. (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. even he realizes that every explanation is by the very nature of things. To see how Edwards came to this conclusion. 443.
Edwards explains. stating that. So that the Father in that affair acts as Head of the Trinity. whereby the persons of the Trinity of their own will have as it were formed themselves into a society for carrying on the great design of glorifying the Deity and communicating its fullness. 431. founded on nothing but the mere pleasure of the members of this society. and the Holy Spirit under them both. nor merely a determination and constitution of wisdom come into from a view to certain ends. Edwards grants.‖169 It is interesting then. which it is very convenient for the obtaining. and that fully. so that there is properly no inferiority. but the question is what kind and to what extent. 20:430 Ibid. as we ordinarily use such terms. ―This order [or] economy of the
Works. there is subordination in the Trinity. Ibid. There is dependence without inferiority of Deity. But there is a natural decency or fitness in that order and economy that is established. but not in an arbitrary fashion. In order to clarify further.45
the affair of man's redemption.
.‖168 So as Edwards frames it. but also that he does not see this extending into the ontological Trinity. is as it [were] repeated or duplicated: everything in the Father is repeated or expressed again. in which is established a certain economy and order of acting. because in the Son the Deity. yet this agreement establishing this economy is not to be looked upon as merely arbitrary. that Edwards sees the order or hierarchy as prior to the covenant of redemption. ― Though a subordination of the persons of the Trinity in their actings be not from any proper natural subjection one to another. the whole Deity and glory of the Father. and Son under him.‖167 But then Edwards notes that this cannot extend to any inferiority in glory or excellence of nature. that there is a certain subordination in the economic Trinity in the context of redemption. this rather demonstrates what is ―more properly called priority than superiority. and so must be conceived of as in some respect established by mutual free agreement. Even though the Son in some sense may be thought of as dependent on the Father for his existence (as it seems in Edwards‘ psychological model). as was seen.
‖ So for Edwards at least. as we must conceive of God's determination to glorify and communicate himself as prior to the method that his wisdom pitches upon as tending best to effect this.‖170 Edwards it seems advocates subordination in the sense of their being a hierarchy within the Trinity.46
persons of the Trinity with respect to their actions ad extra is to be conceived of as prior to the covenant of redemption. It would yield for much more fruitful study to explore Edwards on this idea further and to wrestle with the issues as he has. and maybe find solutions within his many thoughts on the subject. yet also holding that there are hierarchical aspects of their order that come prior to any relation to creatures. Studebaker.. the positions were ―established by mutual free agreement.‖ which then leads to this ―certain economy and order of acting. but it seems he holds to it owing much more to mutual free choice. there is an order in the persons of the Trinity that underlies the order in the covenant of redemption. whereby the persons of the Trinity of their own will have as it were formed themselves into a society for carrying on the great design of glorifying the Deity and communicating its fullness. both economically and ontologically. One additional avenue for further study is in reconciling the models of the Trinity that Edwards uses. All of this adds to a tension in Edwards‘ writing between his egalitarian moments and his complete insistent on equality of the persons of the Trinity. He consistently refers to the Father as the Head of the Trinity throughout this work. A particular work that came to this author‘s attention to late to be integrated into this study is a work by Steven M. but it is not an arbitrary distinction. Jonathan Edwards‘ Social Augustinian
Ibid. 431-32. rather than something that was ontologically necessary.
. yet he seems rather egalitarian when he says above that again.
a few points of comparison are in order. but having not read Studebaker‘s work personally. but at this point. this conclusion could embody another paper entirely.
Kapic. The Supreme Harmony of All: The Trinitarian Theology of Jonathan Edwards
And in fact. both were intently interested in studying the Holy Spirit. but does not interact with it at all.172 Danaher makes a good case that Edwards‘ departs from Augustine on several points.173 At any rate. Just to tie everything together. many more could be added. although he does interact with Pauw‘s work at length. Studebaker develops an argument that Edwards only consistently used one model of the Trinity. there is still much fruitful study possible in comparing and contrasting the thought of John Owen and Jonathan Edwards in general.174 They both then sought to maintain the
171 Steven M. Jonathan Edwards' Social Augustinian Trinitarianism in Historical and Contemporary Perspectives. ―Worshiping the Triune God: The Shape of John Owen's Trinitarian Spirituality. this is another avenue of further study in Edwards‘ Trinitarianism. 172
Pauw. Conclusion Very easily.‖ 42. that is the main point of Studebaker‘s work. 2008). Some of this may result from the fact that both men were interested in judging the validity of spiritual experiences. Indeed. 2 (Piscataway. vol. the Augustinian mutual love model. Gorgias Studies in Philosophy and Theology.47
Trinitarianism in Historical and Contemporary Perspective. and especially in reference to their understanding of the doctrine of God as Trinity.171 In the book. it is time to land this paper safely and call it a day. yet interestingly. both men were essentially Christocentric in the understanding of the Trinity. that interpreters have been using the wrong conceptual lens (a systematic-theological methodology rather than a historical-theological one).
. NJ: Gorgias Press. First. Studebaker is aware of Danaher‘s work. this author cannot comment further on whether or not Danaher‘s or Studebaker‘s analysis can stand the test of logic and both scholars are undoubtedly approaching Edwards with different conceptual lens. and both dealt with a correlate to the modern day Charismatic movement. Studebaker.
and is a must read for those who wish to make their understanding of the Trinity an integral part of the devotional life and walk with Christ. while grounded the experience within a Biblical framework. ―There is no saving knowledge of any
. specifically as Triune. They both saw the Father as Head of Trinity in an ontological sense. although in different ways. but both men seemed intent to illustrate that this was not an arbitrary distinction within the Trinity. Edwards would hardily agree with the conclusion of a study on the doctrine of God that. as seen by the amount of time they devoted to the topic. Much. as both men would want. this goodness was necessarily communicated. The end is to see the glory of Christ more clearly and to worship and commune with God through Christ. both men had much to say about the nature of God. Both saw goodness as fundamental to the divine nature. both men. While it is a quote from Owen. and hardly any work at all has been done by way of comparing and contrasting their thought.48
importance of experiencing God. that understanding God is not an academic exercise. or just something to be perceived as an intellectual challenge. Specifically in Edwards. it comes out that this taxis was chosen by ―mutual free agreement‖ and thus underlies the taxis we see in the economic Trinity. felt that expounding on the Biblical data about the Trinity was not only necessary. but is not an end in itself. understanding God is something that is the highest pursuit one could have on earth. much more could be said on either Jonathan Edwards or John Owen individually. Ultimately. both within the Trinity in se. Edwards‘ understanding of the Trinity was the foundation of his view of ethics. Second. and ad extra. It should be remembered though. Lastly. specifically in the context of redemption. both men place on emphasis on communion with God that is personal as opposed to abstract. Owen‘s Communion with the Triune God stands a magnificent testimony to this facet. but was vital to the life and practice of the church. For both though. and as Danaher unpacks in his book. Owen specifically excels in this regard. Consequently.
Ibid.‖175 Likewise.n2. NPNF 7:375
property of God. no sooner do I distinguish Them than I am carried back to the One. we do well to remember that no sooner do we acknowledge Christ as Lord and bow in worship that we find that ―it is impossible to worship any one person. and manifested by him. being laid up in him. nor such as brings consolation. 419. but what alone is to be had in Christ Jesus. 95.‖177
Owen..‖176 As Gregory of Nazianus said long before Owen or Edwards. Found in Ibid. Communion with the Triune God. ―No sooner do I conceive of the One than I am illumined by the Splendor of the Three. 196-97. From Oration 40: The Oration on Holy Baptism. and not worship the whole Trinity. but is clearly echoed in their writings. Emphasis original..
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