«PRINCETON THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY CHRIST AS INDISPENSABLE MEANS TO THE END FOR WHICH GOD CREATED THE WORLD: THE SIGNIFICANCE OF CHRIST’S RESURRECTION ...»
PRINCETON THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY
CHRIST AS INDISPENSABLE MEANS
TO THE END FOR WHICH GOD CREATED THE WORLD:
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF CHRIST’S RESURRECTION IN JONATHAN EDWARDS
A FINAL PAPER SUBMITTED TO
DR. SANG HYUN LEE
IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS
FOR THE COURSE
TH950: THE PHILOSOPHICAL THEOLOGY OF JONATHAN EDWARDS
DEPARTMENT OF THEOLOGY
One such account of the theological significance of Christ’s resurrection can be found in Jonathan Edwards. In this paper, I will show how the bodily resurrection of Christ is incorporated into Edwards’ larger vision of God’s creative purpose. Christ’s resurrection is systematically significant for Edwards because the humanity of Christ is an indispensable means to the end for which God created the world.
In order to substantiate this claim, I will first offer an exposition of Edwards’ dissertation, Concerning the End for which God Created the World, arguing that his understanding of the singularity of God’s creative purpose depends on the hope of union with God. Second, I will show from selected texts that Edwards understands this human union with God to be perpetually mediated by the God-human Jesus Christ. The resurrected flesh of Christ unites God and creation and mediates between God and creation, so that even as God accomplishes his singular creative purpose the Creatorcreature distinction is preserved. Therefore, since the humanity of Christ is indispensable, the resurrection of the incarnate son becomes a necessary presupposition of Edward’s theology.
John L. Drury
In order to identify the role of the risen Christ in God’s creative purpose, we must first identify what God’s creative purpose is. Why did God create the world? For what reason(s), if any, did God create? In his dissertation, Concerning the End for Which God Created the World, Jonathan Edwards’ answer is that God not only had a purpose for creating, but a singular purpose: God’s self-communication to creatures.1 God is inclined toward this one end out of regard to himself as well as to creatures.2 This dual-regard forms a single end in view of the progressive union between God and creation. Such a union is necessary to prevent a duality in God’s creative purpose. The heart of Edwards’ argument is thus the singularity of God’s creative purpose. God creates out of regard for himself, which includes God’s regard for sentient creatures in view of their progressive union with him. In what follows, I will show how Edwards’ recurring account of union with God functions within his argument for the singularity of God’s creative purpose.
The claim that Edwards argues for the singularity of God’s creative purpose is uncontroversial, but the bolder claim that this argument is the central concern of the dissertation requires justification. Although this bolder claim will be supported by the exposition of Edwards’ argument as a whole, it is nevertheless prudent at the outset to identify literary clues that corroborate this claim. In particular, the introduction and conclusion of the dissertation indicate that the governing question of Edwards’ dissertation is whether God’s end in creating is singular or plural.
God’s glorification in creation is self-glorification because the triune God repeats his fully actualized disposition to know and love himself in time and space. Thus God is “in some sense” enlarged by creating the world. Cf. Sang Hyun Lee, The Philosophical Theology of Jonathan Edwards, 2nd ed.
(Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000) pp. 201-210.
This inclination is not accidental to God’s being because Edwards has introduced an element of potentiality into his doctrine of God alongside an affirmation of God’s actuality. According to Edwards, God is fully actual, but not purely actual. The conceptual means for integrating these notions is the language of disposition. Cf. S. H. Lee, Philosophical Theology, pp. 175-185 John L. Drury TH950 Term Paper Edwards’ introduction sets this question as the agenda. Although the explicit purpose of the introduction is the explanation of terms, Edwards identifies the larger problem he aims to address. After distinguishing between chief and ultimate ends, Edwards suggests that there may be a being for whom a whole series of actions serve one end: “if any being had but one ultimate end in all that he does, and there be a great variety of operation, his last end may justly be looked upon as his supreme end.”3 In such a case, one’s chief end and ultimate end would be the same thing: “the ultimate end of all must be valued more than any one of the particular means” (410). Edwards hints that “[t]his seems to be the case with the works of God” (410). But he goes on to note that one may
have multiple supreme ends:
if an agent in his works has in view more things than one that will be brought to pass by what he does, that are agreeable to him, considered in themselves … then he must have more things than one that he regards as his last ends in what he does. But if there be but one thing that an agent seeks, as the consequence of what he does that is agreeable to him, on its own account: then there can be but one last end which he has in all his actions and operations (411).
Although these ultimate ends may be crucially distinguished as either original or consequential, Edwards leaves open the question concerning the singularity of God’s end in creation. In the final paragraph of the introduction, Edwards sets up the two
if there be but one thing that is originally, and independent on any future supposed cases, agreeable to God, to be obtained by the creation of the world, then there can be but one last end of God’s work, in this highest sense: but if there are various things, properly diverse one from another, that are, absolutely and independently on the supposition of any future given cases, agreeable to the Divine Being, which are actually obtained by the creation of the world, then there were several ultimate ends of the creation, in that highest sense (415).
singularity of God’s end in creating. But from the beginning, the question is being raised.
The “conclusion” explicitly answers the question of the singularity of God’s creative purpose. The title of the final section in Edwards’ dissertation is “Showing That the Ultimate End of the Creation of the World is But One, and What That One End Is” (Ch. II, Sec. VII). This section ought to be read as the conclusion of the whole dissertation and not only as the conclusion of chapter two. This concluding section answers the question raised by the introduction, forming an arc under which the whole dissertation labors. More attention will be given to the material content of this section at the close of my exposition, but from the outset these textual clues indicate that Edwards’ primary focus is the singularity of God’s creative purpose.
In the body of his dissertation, Edwards argues for the singularity of God’s creative purpose in three steps: first, by arguing that in God’s act of creating, God makes himself his own end; second, that God’s consequential ends in creation are also intrinsically valuable to God; and third, that these first two claims are not incompatible in view of the progressive union between God and creatures. The three steps of this argument correspond exactly to the first three sections of chapter one. The following exposition will elaborate each of these steps as well as indicate how the remaining sections fit into this argument.
Step One: God’s highest end in creating must be himself (Ch. I, Sec. I) The first step in Edwards’ argument is to assert that God’s end in creating is himself. Edwards comes to this conclusion by identifying three conditions God’s end must satisfy. (1) Whatever God’s end in creating is, it cannot imply a deficiency in God
is agreeable to reason which would truly imply or infer any indigence, insufficiency and mutability in God; or any dependence of the Creator on the creature, for any part of his perfection or happiness. Because it is evident, by both Scripture and reason, that God is infinitely, eternally, unchangeably, and independently glorious and happy” (420).
Therefore, God’s end in creation must be something internal to his being. (2) Furthermore, this end must have intrinsic value: “Whatsoever is good and valuable in itself is worthy that God should value for itself” (421). (3) To be God’s highest end, this end must be “in itself most valuable” (421). Edwards concludes that the only being which satisfies these conditions is God himself: “if God himself be in any respect properly capable of being his own end in the creation of the world, then it is reasonable to suppose that he had respect to himself as his last and highest end in this work; because he is worthy in himself to be so, being infinitely the greatest and best being” (421). God’s own self-regard thus governs all his works ad extra.
The final two points of this section serve as a transition to the next section by raising the problem of the unity of God’s ends. On the one hand, reason dictates that God is his own end. On the other hand, we can infer from what God actually accomplishes that God values something other than merely himself: “Whatsoever thing is actually the effect or consequence of the creation of the world, which is simply and absolutely good and valuable in itself, that thing is an ultimate end of God’s creating the world… For we may justly infer what God intends by what he actually does” (427). Edwards explores what God “actually does” in the following section.
Step Two: God’s consequent ends in creating are intrinsically valuable (Ch. I, Sec. II)
also intrinsically valuable and thus part of God’s ultimate end in creating. Edwards identifies four intrinsically valuable consequences of God’s creation of the world. This list need not be exhaustive to prove that God values what God actually does in creating the world. These ends are not means to other ends but intrinsically valuable ends-inthemselves. (1) The exercise of God’s attributes is intrinsically valuable: “As God therefore esteems these attributes themselves valuable, and delights in them, so ’tis natural to suppose that he delights in their proper exercise and expression” (430). (2) The knowledge of God is intrinsically valuable: “’Tis a thing infinitely good in itself that God’s glory should be known by a glorious society of created beings” (431). (3) The love of God is intrinsically valuable: “If the perfection itself be excellent, the knowledge of it is excellent, and so is the esteem and love of it excellent” (432).4 (4) The emanation of God’s being is intrinsically valuable: “as this fullness is capable of communication or emanation ad extra; so it seems a thing amiable and valuable in itself that it should be communicated or flow forth” (433).
The intrinsic value of these four consequent ends is problematic for Edwards, because they in some sense compete with the supreme value of God’s own self as God’s end in creation. Edwards begins to address this problem by means of a caveat at the end of this section. “But here as much as possible to avoid confusion, I observe that there is some impropriety in saying that a disposition in God to communicate himself to the creature, move him to create the world… But the diffusive disposition that excited God to give creatures existence was rather a communicative disposition in general” (435). In
disposed. This subtle distinction preserves God’s self-regard as the supreme end of all God’s works ad extra. However, it does not yet answer in what sense God’s consequential ends are really ends in themselves, and how such a claim is consistent with God making himself the end of creation. For such an answer, we must turn to the next section.
Step Three: The intrinsic value of God’s consequent ends is compatible with God making himself his end in creating the world (Ch. I, Sec. III) The third and final step in Edwards’ argument is to explain the compatibility of
his first two assertions. He makes this intention plain in the opening words of this section:
“In the last section I observed some things, which are actually the consequence of the creation of the world, which seem absolutely valuable in themselves, and so worthy to be made God’s last end in this work. I now proceed to inquire, how God’s making such things as these his last end is consistent with his making himself his last end, or his manifesting an ultimate respect to himself in his acts and works” (436). Edwards’ argues for the compatibility of God’s consequent ends with himself as his end by making three claims.