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Edwards’ Trinitarian Redemption

[This is a guest post by Andrew Finch. Andrew is a new Th.M. student at Western Seminary and is participating in this summer’s Th.M. seminar on Jonathan Edwards.]

This post is another part of the on-going series of posts on Jonathan Edwards and his writings. I chose to read the book, Treatise on Grace and Other Posthumously Published Writing, which was edited by Paul Helm. This book included three of Edwards writings specifically on the Trinity. First, just a quick plug for the book, Helm does an amazing job of connecting these writings with the more major/well-known writings by Edwards and shows how these writings flow and connect with the other major themes in his bigger writings. This was worth the price of the book itself especially as I will be writing my paper on Edwards’ Trinitarian theology.

I found it very interesting in my readings of Edwards as a whole that there was not an explicit Trinitarian theology presented in them. But after reading, Treatise on Grace, Observations Concerning the Trinity and the Covenant of Redemption, and An Essay on the Trinity I realize that much of Edwards’ Trinitarian thought is in his writings just not explicitly. It is hard to understand his use of terms like: love, idea, unity, and beauty, without seeing them in a Trinitarian perspective. Thus, his Trinitarian thought weaves its way into much of his other thought life and treatises but we would not know it if that is all we read. I believe that this also plays a part in Edwards being characterized by his Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God sermon. There are many other facets that make up who Edwards is just as Sinners is only one view of who God is to Edwards (see for instance his sermon Heaven is a World of Love, which gives a picture more of God as love).

Edward’s explicit Trinitarian writings are very interesting because he doesn’t seem to take sides on the plurality vs. unity. Today, scholars find it hard to approve of both, arguing that there is only one or the other in the Trinity. But Edwards seems to affirm both. In all three of the writings mentioned above he portrays the Son as the Wisdom and the Spirit as Love of the one God. And by doing this emphasizes their unity. But also in these same writings he reveals the Trinity as a family of Persons thus revealing plurality.

Flowing from this seems to be Edwards’ basis of an Augustinian model of the Trinity. The terms Edwards used for the Son as the Idea, Image, Word, and Wisdom of God brought to my mind the same terms that Augustine used to define the Son. The same goes for the Spirit where both define the Spirit as the divine Love or Joy.  His social model of the Trinity with the focus on love and communion brought to my mind what I studied about the Cappadocians, especially Gregory of Nyssa. It seems as though he was borrowing from the thought of Gregory especially when he said in his essay on the Trinity, “…the society and family of three.” I believe seeing these two connections with Edwards’ Trinitarian thought are keys to interpreting his understanding of these themes throughout the rest of his writings.

These writings presented in this book reveal the close connection between Edwards’ understanding of grace and the connection it has to the Trinity and redemption in general. First as was said above most of the things said in these writings are ideas that are stated elsewhere in Edwards’ writings but are given more discussion here specifically. The idea that each person in the Trinity plays a part in redemption is explained more fully. He says in An Essay on the Trinity, “Glory belongs to the Father and the Son that they so greatly loved the world: to the Father that He so loved that He gave His only begotten Son: to the Son that He so loved the world as to give up Himself. But there is equal glory due to the Holy Ghost, for He is that love of the Father and the Son to the world.” Edwards goes on to say in his Treatise on Grace, speaking of the dependence of believers on each person of the Trinity for redemption. “The Father approves and provides the redeemer, and Himself accepts the price of the good purchased and bestows that God. The Son is the redeemer, and the price that is offered for the purchased good. And the Holy Ghost is the good purchased; for the sacred Scriptures seems to intimate that the Holy Spirit is the sum of all that Christ purchased for man (Ga. 3:13-14).” For me personally I have never thought of the doctrine of the redemption in these terms and I love the way Edwards expressed it. Seeing the Holy Ghost’s involvement in redemption was very interesting especially when seen how Edwards characterizes the Holy Spirit as grace that is given to the believer. He concludes his Treatise by saying, “I suppose there is no other principle of grace in the soul than the very Holy Ghost dwelling in the soul and acting there as a vital principle.” I very much appreciated the importance Edwards placed on the Holy Spirit’s role in redemption and in the life of the believer. It seems as of late that the focus on the Spirit’s work in people’s lives is not as important as it once was and I think Edwards has a lot to say on this to bring the Holy Spirit back to the forefront of our minds.

One question I have concerning his Trinitarian thought especially as it pertains to the Son is his overuse of type-antitype. I know that during his day typology was very frequent in all the writings and sermons but he seemed to use it excessively to the point where he was pushing the bounds of seeing Christ in the Old Testament. I know we discussed this a little in class but I am wondering what others thought of his use of typology in his writings (not just the ones listed above)?

A Rap on Trinitarianism

I am doing some research for my Th.M. thesis which will be on monarchianism and its impact on the development of the Trinity and I came across this video. Who knew they could make a rap song out of modalistic monarchianism.

Besides, what better way to celebrate Trinity Sunday than with a good rap song?

On the value of reading Thomas Aquinas

This past Fall semester I took an independent study class on Church History in the Middle Ages as both an overview of the period but also a chance to study one of the greatest theological minds in Thomas Aquinas. At this same time, I was taking a philosophy class and little did I know how much these two classes would be intertwined. This was also the first time I have ever studied Thomas Aquinas extensively so I was in for a treat.

Aquinas has become one of my favorite people to study in church history. One of the things I learned the most about Aquinas is that he had so much to say that helped theology. I valued his insight he gave to theology in his Summa Theologica. I wrote my paper on the development of the Trinity in his Summa. And one of the main points for Aquinas in differentiating between the Persons of the Trinity was his doctrine of Word and Love. I really liked his definition of the Son being Word and the Spirit being Love and how he used these to explain procession and relation in the Trinity.

Another key point that I learned from Aquinas was the interrelation of philosophy and theology. The whole first question of his Summa Theologica is used to defend the superiority of theology over philosophy but that philosophy does have a part to play in the discussion/interaction. This is where Aquinas develops his “handmaiden” view of philosophy. That theology is to be the topic that is to be studied but when needed philosophy can come beside and help theology say things it otherwise would be unable too.

For being a church history fan, I really enjoyed seeing how Aquinas used the early church fathers in his writings. He seemed to rely heavily on Augustine, especially in developing his Trinitarian theology. But Aquinas was not afraid to question and correct what he thought someone from before his time said. His basis for correcting was that there was more revealed information now then they had back then so it was proper for him to reinterpret them. He did this when he questioned Augustine’s understanding of essence but what was funny was he used Augustine to prove his point of reinterpretation. So he question Augustine, interpreted Augustine his way (that is Aquinas), then backed up his interpretation with Augustine.

Finally, and this goes for the study of church history as a whole I have truly come to value history as it pertains to my beliefs. I find it amazing to see where the beginnings of my beliefs came from and how they moved throughout church history. The development, questioning, and acceptance of different theological points throughout church history are fascinating. This is something that I feel is lacking in much of ministry. We fail to explain the history behind some of our beliefs. Yes, I understand not all people are fans of history but I have come to the belief that it is important for those in the church to understand where their beliefs came from. We are great at explaining and defining different theological terms but that is where it is left. There is no discussion of how we got to this point in our theological development. History is important to understand where we are today, especially church history for the church!

For those who feel Aquinas is beyond their understanding I would challenge them take up and read and see how easy Aquinas is to understand. His way of writing is very structured and thorough and thus easy to outline and read (again personal preference). I would recommend a little understanding of philosophy. I believe I would not have understood some of what I read if it was not for the philosophy class, I was taking. I would say to stop waiting and read Aquinas though; he is such a great read!

Emergent Dualism?

[This post is part of a series that the Th.M. students at Western Seminary are doing this semester on understanding the relationship between philosophy and theology.]

I was reading James Beilby’s book For Faith and Clarity on the topic of Theological Anthropology. There is a chapter in his book written by William Hasker on this topic. It was a brief chapter focusing on the soul and body relationship, it is very well written and discussed many key parts and views of the debate. I appreciated this essay because he had a specific goal in mind and that was to understand how best to define the relationship between the soul and body. But I do not believe I agree with his conclusion. Hasker did a great job of describing some of the key concepts of anthropology. He began his chapter by defining the key terms of rationality, responsibility, freedom, and everlasting life. In defining these terms, he laid the groundwork to look at three different Christian views on anthropology.

The first view was dualism in the Cartesian sense. He believes that this view has a dependency and continuity problem. The dependency problem, as he says on pg. 249, “…becomes more and more difficult to maintaining the independence of mind from brain and body that is the hallmark of Cartesianism.” The continuity problem is defined as there being a, “…great similarity between us and other mammals in both structure and function” so the dualist needs to discern which creatures possess immaterial souls (pg. 249-250). The second view was Christian/emergent materialism. Hasker believes that Christian/emergent materialism cannot be a correct view because of the “causal closure of the physical domain (pg. 251).” This means that every physical event has a physical cause. He believes that “causal closure” removes rational inference and there can be no free will (if understood in the libertarian sense).

Hasker then gives his view called Emergent Dualism, which he believes can answer all four terms. He defines this view on pg. 256 by saying it combines, “…many of the advantages of both Cartesian dualism and materialism and at the same time avoids the major difficulties that afflict these views.” This view accepts the tenet of materialism that a human person “initially consists of nothing but ordinary physical matter (pg. 256)” arranged in great complexity. This view also holds to the understanding of “emergence” which means “when elements of a certain sort are assembled in the right way, something new comes into being, something that was not there before (pg. 256).” Hasker believes that what “emerges” is a new individual, which he sees as the mind or soul (pg. 257). So now, there are emergent properties and an emergent individual (defined as the mind/soul/consciousness). Thus, Hasker believes, that eternal life, freedom, rationality, and being morally responsible are all capable of being applied to this view (pg. 257-258). Hasker does say there is one main problem with this view. “It is that we will have to attribute to ordinary, everyday matter, the stuff of sticks and stones and baseball bats, truly remarkable powers—the powers, that is to produce, when arranged and functioning in certain complex structures, emergent minds with the capacity to seek truth, enjoy beauty, perceive good and evil, and enter into a relationship with God (pg. 259-260).” This to me seems to be more than a huge problem it seems to tear this view apart especially combined with his answer to this problem.

I personally don’t see what this Emergent Dualism has to offer that substance dualism or even traditional dualism can’t offer me. I don’t feel the need to make my view for acceptable to those who hold to evolution or even the neuroscientists he talks about. As stated above Hasker believes that a dualist cannot answer the dependency problem. But the way he responds to the challenge of emergent dualism is interesting. The problem as defined above in emergent dualism requires us to attribute to ordinary things highly remarkable powers. So this view seems to force us to hold beliefs far beyond “what we have been led to expect” (pg. 260). But somehow this isn’t a problem for Hasker since when this Being (God) “chose to make humans and other sentient creatures out of the dust of the earth, we may well suppose that this Being had the foresight to endow that dust with powers that would enable such a creation (pg. 260).” So when we are needed to accept something that we didn’t expect we should be okay with it because God-did-it. But why can’t this be the response of the dualist to say that God-did-it to the dependency problem. It seems to me that Hasker has a problem in his view that is not easily answerable either.

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

I just finished all my work for a class I took this summer from Bruce Ware. It was entitled The Universal Reign of the Triune God. Pretty weighty title right? We discussed two main aspects the Trinity and the Providence of God (I guess you could have figured that out from the title). This class was very eye opening to me about how much I do not know about God. I thought I knew a lot about God but it turns out I knew more about Christ and the Holy Spirit than my Heavenly Father. This class developed in me a more deep and loving knowledge  and understanding of my Heavenly Father. In this class Bruce Ware had us read two of his books entitled, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: Relationships, Roles, and Relevance and God’s Greater Glory. I would highly recommend these books if only for their applicational aspects. Throughout both of the books Ware does an amazing job of revealing how aspects of the Trinity (such as authority and submission within the Trinity and God’s providence) can be applied to our lives and ministries.

One thing that Bruce Ware emphasized throughout the entire class and something I am still wrestling with (this view is also expounded upon in his first book mentioned above) is the idea of the functional relationship within the Trinity (I am still wrestling with this in in the sense that this was the first time I have ever heard about the Trinity being discussed in functional ways). Ware sees the basis of the functional relationship in the supreme authority of God the Father. He emphasizes that this distinction does not involve divinity. All members of the Trinity are fully divine but the distinction does impact the differing roles and relationships. So Ware sees God as the Supreme Authority, Jesus he gives three titles to in relationship to the Father, Eternal Son of the Father (eternity past), Incarnate Son (eternity present), and Exalted Son (eternity future). Thus, according to Ware the Son is under the headship and authority of the Father. But this authority and submission between the Father and Son is based on a love relationship. Then Ware explained his understanding of the Son’s authority over the Spirit as the Son of the Father. (This is a very quick overview of Ware’s understanding of the Trinity so if there are holes I apologize but I tried to keep it short)

One other thing that Bruce Ware began the class with was a challenge to read Scripture through Trinitarian lenses. This really impacted me in the way I read Scripture. He gave us an example taken from Ephesians 1:1-14. There is a richness to be seen and to understand to see God in a fresh way, especially through the relationships of the Trinity. He asked us a question that was very simple but also very thought provoking, “Have I noticed and been attentive to the Trinitarian Persons as I read the Bible?” This question really awoke in me how I have not really read the Bible with the awe that I should have. Instead, I was taking for granted the things the Father was doing in the Bible and the things the Father was doing through the Son and the Spirit. I would focus on the characteristics of God in general but did not notice the characteristics of the Trinity.

USA vs. England in Legos

[From Andrew]

For those of us soccer fans I thought you would get a kick out of this version of the USA/England match on Saturday.

Old Word Version of Paper

Here is a copy of my paper in the Old Word Format for those of you who haven’t upgraded yet :). See post below for Word 2007 document.

“Becoming Like God?”

Becoming Like God?

Here is my paper for my Greek Fathers class. It is a survey of the Doctrine of Theosis.

Abstract:
This paper “Becoming Like God?” is an overview of the understanding of theosis in a few of the early Greek Church Fathers. It is meant as an overview and not a precise understanding of one Church Father because understanding theosis through one Church Father really limits the scope of what theosis meant to these men. The paper begins by trying to form a definition of theosis from the Church Fathers so that definition can be used when reading through each of the surveys of the Church Fathers. The paper then moves into the proponents of theosis beginning first with two key passages in the Bible (Gen. 1:26 and 2 Pet. 1:4). Then the paper surveys the Church Fathers beginning with Irenaeus and ending with John of Damascus. The final part of the paper is a few critiques of the doctrine of theosis and application of this doctrine in an Evangelical framework.

Chrysostom an Anti-Semitic?

I am just wondering if anyone else has read Chrysostom’s Against the Jews/Judaizers? I finished reading parts of it today and it seems as though Chrysostom is very anti-Semitic. I found this interesting for a man who is known as “Golden-Mouth/Tongue” to issued such a harsh criticism of the Jews. In the little research I have done on this some historians believe the title should say Judaizers and so he is telling those of his flock to stay away from the Jewish feasts and rituals…but I am unsure about this interpretation of these writings. It seems to me that John Chrysostom is very anti-Semitic and this could be one of his downfalls of such a great speaking career. Just wondering what anyone else thought. (I know Litfin, in his book Getting to Know the Church Fathers, believes Chrysostom was anti-Semitic).