The Philosophy of Jonathan Edwards: A Study in Divine Semiotics

By Stephen H. Daniel | Go to book overview

IV

THE TRINITY AND CREATION

The greatest hurdle to understanding the meaning and significance of Edwards' doctrine of the Trinity is the presumption of a classical-modernist, humanistic perspective of intentionality. From that perspective every substance is a subject whose ends or purposes can be predicated of it as part of its personal history. As the starting point for all explanation of existence and action, the subject serves as the terminus for predication through which it is related to other things in virtue of its intentionality. Because discourse itself (in such an account) is about things in relation to one another, it cannot challenge the assumption that the world is populated by substances whose objects and objectives have meaning in terms of their relation to some subject. Like all other substances, God must accordingly be related intentionally to other things, either as the object or objective of their actions or as an underlying subject causing their existence.

For Edwards, such an account inappropriately extends to God the logic of predication that describes the fractured relations of fallen creatures. It simply assumes that mind, person, intention, or purpose can be predicated of God as yet another thing in this discursive constellation, when in fact the discursive exchange of divinity designates the alternative to this way of reasoning. In contrast to the Neoplatonic via negativa, Edwards' divine semiotics does not treat God as some kind of super-substantial substance; for the uncritical acceptance of the priority of substance itself rests on the creaturely logic of predication. In its place, Edwards portrays subjects and the world in general in terms of a discourse in which substances, mind, and ends are functions in the exchange of signification.

The question of an end or purpose to the existence of the world thus does not begin with the assumption that intentionality reveals the presence of a person guiding an action, for the very notions of person and action are intelligible only in terms of a prior discourse. As will be argued in chapter 6, subordination of the place of subjects has implications for Edwards' doctrine of human freedom. The present chapter is more concerned with Edwards' recognition that a classical-modernist notion of purpose assumes a concept of person at odds with his defense of a doctrine of the Trinity. Specifically, I will suggest that insofar as Edwards links God's creation of the world to the relations of the persons of the Trinity, he focuses the discussion of God's relation

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The Philosophy of Jonathan Edwards: A Study in Divine Semiotics
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • Introduction 1
  • I - The Prospect of Semiotics 11
  • II - The Discourse of Typology 41
  • III - The Logics of Creation 66
  • IV - The Trinity and Creation 102
  • V - The Ontology of Original Sin 130
  • VI - Freedom and Moral Agency 152
  • VII - The Knowledge of Beauty 177
  • Concluding Remarks - The Propriety of Christ 197
  • Bibliography 201
  • Index 208
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