Tuesday, July 21, 2009

'The centre of Edwards Theology'

The centre of Edwards' Theology:

“The happiness of humans, then, when rightly understood, is not an ultimate end of creation in any way apart from God and God's glory. 'The beams of glory come from God, and are something of God, and are refunded back again to their original. So that the whole of God, and in God, and to God; and God is the beginning, middle and the end in this affair.'”
(Jonathan Edwards: A life, George Marsden, 463)

We were talking in theology last semester about Eschatology and it's effect on the other parts of theology and I asked Peter Adam what 'one thing' should organise the rest of our theology. Peter suggested a 'galactic' model where all the bits of theology float together like the solar system. (I think he was seeking to avoid under or over emphasising a particular part.) However I like Edwards' focus on the centrality of God. I want my theology to be theocentric, so if there is going to be one final trump card or one underlying organising principle, it'll be 'God'. For example: God's nature, God in action, God's words and God's presence or lack thereof.


Jill said...

Ummm... Isn't theology by definition theocentric. Being, as it is, the study of God and the things of God.

I think Peter Adam's response is wise - within our study of God, we need to maintain the various dimensions of our understanding in balance.

Andrew Bowles said...

We need to distinguish between God and theology, though. When you talk about God's nature, God in action, God's words and God's presence you are talking about the doctrines of the Trinity, Soteriology, Revelation, and Pneumatology. God himself is only the indirect object of these doctrines. He is a person (three persons, in fact) who can't be confined by a theological system, even one oriented towards his glory. I think Edwards is referring more to practical piety than systematic theology. But what would I know, I'm not doing a Masters project on the man!

Luke said...

Hi Jill,

It does sound very obvious so maybe it's simply a rediscovering of what is already there!

I agree that Peter's response is wise however it is also incomplete. (No offense to Peter, if he reads student blogs.) While it's wise to be balanced it's also wise to acknowledge that at the end of the day we live history that is linear and a world that is ordered. Describing theology using the model of a galaxy doesn't explain how the different parts should be ordered in relation to each other.

Hi Andrew,

I'd never want my theology to define God! We think God's thoughts after him. This is why I'm excited about making "God" my organising principle rather then one aspect of theology, say eschatology, shaping other parts of theology. (I'd never want to suggest theology can define God, but it certainly can describe what he has revealed.)

Edwards began writing towards the end of his life a sort of grand systematic theology and "God" was the centre of that theology.

Jill said...
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Jill said...

Hi Luke,

I agree that we live in an ordered world, and that our thinking about God needs to be ordered. As I read your comments, you are suggesting that 'order' presumes some sort of heirarchy. I'm less convinced about that when it comes to matters of doctrine. I think that's what I like about Peter's image. The galaxy is ordered, but that order does not necessarily presume an heirarchical or sequential relationship between the elements.