Jonathan Edwards on God and Creation

Jonathan Edwards on God and Creation

Jonathan Edwards on God and Creation

Jonathan Edwards on God and Creation


In Jonathan Edwards On God and Creation, Oliver D. Crisp considers two central themes in Edwards's thought--namely, his doctrine of God and his understanding of the created order, and how God and creation interrelate. Crisp argues that Edwards offers some truly original insights on these twinlocithat have important implications for current theological discussion. What emerges is a picture of Edwards's understanding of God's relationship to the created order that differs in important respects from those offered by several influential recent interpreters.

Crisp does not flinch from showing where Edwards made mistakes as well as where he offers fresh insights. Edwards is shown to be at once relevant to current discussion of issues like perfect being theology, panentheism, divine freedom or union with Christ, while remaining something of an idiosyncratic figure whose idealism and commitment to an uncompromising theological determinism can seem out of step with certain modern sensibilities. But, argues Crisp, even if we disagree with the conclusions Edwards reaches, which sometimes jar with our own intuitions about the divine nature or the created order, the clarity, rigor and sheer originality of his thinking offer an important set of themes and ideas with which contemporary theologians can fruitfully engage as they set about the task of constructive theology.


tis expected that the judicious and candid will not be disposed to object that the manner in which these subjects are treated is something above the level of common readers. For though a superficial way of discourse and loose harangues may well enough suit some subjects, and answer some valuable purposes; yet other subjects demand more closeness and accuracy. And if an author should neglect to do justice to a subject, for fear that the simpler sort should not fully understand him, he might expect to be deemed a trifler by the more intelligent. —SAMUEL HOPKINS, PREFACE TO EDWARDS’S TWO DISSERTATIONS, JULY 12, 1765 (ye8, 401)

THIS BOOK DEALS with two central concepts in the thought of the New England Puritan divine Jonathan Edwards. They are not the only two important issues in his thinking and this is not intended to be an exercise in reducing Edwards’s thinking to two central dogmas that somehow “control” the rest of his thought. Nevertheless, what he thought about the relationship between the divine nature and the created order does involve a cluster of issues at the heart of his theology.

In fact, I will argue that what Edwards had to say about these two issues has an ongoing significance for systematic and philosophical theologians. A number of modern readers of Edwards have seen in his work the precursor to some modern idea. For instance, some of Edwards’s interpreters have regarded his thinking about God and creation as a forerunner to process theology. According to process theology the world is contained “in” God, or, perhaps, is like the body of the deity, God being its animating spirit. Douglas Elwood’s study of Edwardsian philosophical theology in the mid-twentieth century is often thought to be an example of this line of . . .

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