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Jonathan Edwards and the Life of God

Jonathan Edwards and the Life of God: Toward an Evangelical Theology of Participation

W. Ross Hastings
Copyright Date: 2015
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  • Book Info
    Jonathan Edwards and the Life of God
    Book Description:

    Jonathan Edwards and the Life of God aims to offer a retrieval of Edwards’s theology of participation for contemporary evangelical theology. It critically expounds and elucidates the concept of participation in God, or theosis, in Edwards’s Trinitarian theology as it relates to around three unions: the three persons of the Trinity, the hypostatic union of the divine and human in Christ, and that of believers with Christ. This volume brings Edwards’s rich theological work into conversation with the patristic (Augustine and the Cappadocians) and Reformed traditions (Calvin and, especially, Barth), in order to construct with Edwards a more hopeful, liberating, and truly human version of Christian life. Consideration of the life of God in Edwards thus moves “beyond” in two senses: first, perspectives on participation beyond those of Edwards from Barth, Volf, the Cappadocian Fathers, and others in the tradition, are engaged in order to locate and critique and enhance it; and secondly, in the sense that, as Hastings argues, participation leads, for Edwards and others, into the “beyond” of the beatific vision—the glory of God, which is the hope that, amongst other things, motivates the Christian life.

    eISBN: 978-1-4514-9435-8
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. Chronology of the Primary Works of Edwards
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-18)

    In the midst of renewed interest in the theology of “America’s greatest theologian/philosopher,”¹ many attempts have been made to elucidate an overarching motif or meta-thematic center for the theology of Jonathan Edwards. Divine sovereignty, grace, metaphysical ontology, typology, piety, the covenant history of redemption, divine glory or beauty, ethics, Reformed apologetics through the appropriation of Enlightenment philosophy, and many other motifs have been touted. This range points to the rich and ambidextrous nature of his theology. One scholar has suggested that the overarching trope might be “Edwards’ reconception of the doctrine of God in the form of radical relationality, that...

  6. 1 A Journey of Participation
    (pp. 19-60)

    The good news of Christian salvation, which includes the various facets of justification, sanctification, glorification, and vocation or mission, is often expressed within popular evangelicalism in cold, forensic categories. In these terms, the gospel is presented as a means to being forgiven so that a person can obtain a righteous standing before God, gain heaven, and escape from hell. Often called “the gospel of sin management,”¹ this way of understanding salvation rings familiar for many Evangelicals. However, isolated from a relational ethos and transformed affections (loving Christ for Christ’s sake rather than for my sake, as Edwards suggests), it smacks...

  7. 2 A Journey into the Union of the Trinity
    (pp. 61-88)

    Beyond question, Jonathan Edwards’s theology is just that, atheology. That is, the center of his thought is God. Michael McClymond states this clearly: “Everyone seems to agree on one point regarding Jonathan Edwards. His theology was God-centred . . . He was God-preoccupied and even God-intoxicated.”¹ Our examination must therefore begin with Edwards’s doctrine of God.

    But what kind of God was the God of Jonathan Edwards? Rather quickly, we discover that for Edwards,Godmeans the triune God: three persons of shared divine essence in union. Three persons, who by their union as the one God, constitute beauty...

  8. 3 A Journey yet Deeper into the Union of the Trinity
    (pp. 89-152)

    If we are impressed by Edwards’s confident defense of the Trinity and his commitment to the triune nature of God as intrinsic to who God is, and if we are convinced of his belief in its importance to Christian theology and practice, we might be inquisitive concerning Edwards’s precise understanding of the Trinity. When he sought to elucidate the inner life of God, what did this reveal? In the discussion that follows, we will examine these five salient questions, four of which will be addressed in the present chapter and the fifth in the following chapter:

    1. How is the...

  9. 4 A Journey into the Bond of the Trinity The Spirit in the Trinity
    (pp. 153-200)

    We come now to our fifth question: What particular role does the Holy Spirit play within the Trinity and why is this so important to Edwards’s salvation theology? This aspect is the most crucial in the study of Edwards’s Trinity for elucidating the doctrine of participation in Edwards’s theology, that is, the role of the Spirit within and for the Trinity. In this area, one gains the strongest sense of “journey” in Edwards’s theology—a journey that begins with the Spirit within the inner life of the Trinity and ends with believing humanity in that inner home, through the work...

  10. 5 Journey from Heaven to Earth The Spirit Honored in the Incarnation of Christ
    (pp. 201-264)

    In this chapter, we evaluate the incarnational strand of the “knot” of Spirit-union that draws together this doctrine with the doctrine of the Trinity and the transforming union of the saints with God in Edwards’s mature thought.³ Evaluation of Edwards’s views on the nature and importance of the incarnation will be made in light of Patristic and Reformed-Puritan perspectives (principally those of Calvin, Owen, and Barth). In this evaluation, two things stand out: the emphasis Edwards places on the role of the Spirit in the hypostatic union of God with humanity in Christ and the fact that, for Edwards, this...

  11. 6 Journey of Human Participation in God The Spirit Honored in the Union of the Saints with God
    (pp. 265-322)

    This chapter begins our consideration of the participation of believing humans in God. The great Edwardsian journey by which the eternal union of the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit overflows in love and glory and is reflected in the economic sending of the Son, who is the union of God and humanity by the Holy Spirit, now culminates in the drawing of human believers back into union with God, in Christ, and by the Spirit.

    Edwardsian scholars concur that this glory-remanation step is achieved in Edwards’s theology by means of the grammar of divinization ortheosis, even...

  12. 7 Participation in the Spirit in Justification for Sanctification or for Sanctification and Justification?
    (pp. 323-376)

    Generally speaking, the Orthodox and Western Augustinian traditions oftheosisor divinization are equivalent to justification and sanctification, and the two graces are considered to overlap rather than occur as distinct consequences of union with Christ. By contrast, and on good biblical grounds, Calvin expresses these twin graces (duplex gratia) as distinct but inseparable, as a consequence of the most foundational reality, the believer’s union with Christ (unio Christi). In this regard, Edwards seems to follow Calvin, at least by way of profession. However, I suggest that Edwards’s pneumatically-weighted version oftheosisleads to a blurring of these graces, accompanied...

  13. 8 Journey with Assurance? The Spirit Honored in the Assurance of Salvation in Believers
    (pp. 377-438)

    Assurance of salvation is a matter of perennial pastoral concern and theological controversy.¹ Taken at face value, Johannine assertions seem to suggest that assurance of eternal salvation is attainable, with a high level of certainty, for people of Christian faith: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of Godso that you may knowthat you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13, TNIV, emphasis mine). Provided by John in his first epistle, the criteria for such assurance includes acknowledgement of Christ as the incarnate Son of God (5:5-12), love of God and love...

  14. 9 Journey of Contemplative, Communal Intimacy towards Becoming Fully Human Persons in Christ
    (pp. 439-470)

    In chapter one, we began by expressing the desire that we might in this book offer a more hopeful and liberating version of the Christian journey as the life ofparticipation. By this, we mean thatChristians are human persons ensconced in Christ by the Spirit, without the confusion of human and divine persons. While they are grounded in the security of who Christ is for them, they are characterized by the Spirit-empowered and compatibilist pursuit of likeness to Christ; in this way, they become human beings fully alive, persons-in-relation with God, neighbor, and creation, anticipating and embracing now the...

  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 471-502)
  16. Index of Names
    (pp. 503-508)
  17. Index of Subjects
    (pp. 509-524)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 525-525)