Sunday, June 4, 2023

The Becomingness of God: Jonathan Edwards’s Metaphysics (Part III of IV)

February 17, 2014

G.H. Durrie - Winter Scene in New England (1851)by Rev. John J. Bombaro

This article is the third in a series that formerly appeared in the Clarion print and online editions. You can find Part I here and Part II here. For more of Dr. Bombaro’s work on Jonathan Edwards, be sure to check out his 2011 book on Jonathan Edwards’s Vision of Reality: The Relationship of God to the World, Redemption History, and the Reprobate. 


In the previous installments of this series we have considered (1) how Edwards’s spiritual sense facilitated for him a vision of God-at-the-center-of-reality, (2) how he understood that reality to be a matrix of divine beauty or the reality of God’s comprehensiveness, and (3) that God’s all-comprehension includes and comprises the “fruit” of a particular disposition essential to God’s nature and essence: which is to say, Edwards’s metaphysics of finality suggests that the “ends” appropriate to the divine nature are inseparable from the very nature or essence that determines the Divine Being.  We may further add that, for Edwards, telic-orientation is not a “non-moral” propensity, but one intrinsically moral due to its relational nature.

As Edwards’s spiritual worldview begins to take shape, it incorporates and develops fundamental theological concepts of God, the Trinity, the work of Christ and the Spirit, and the entire drama of redemption in time. Reality was not only to be reconceived and reinterpreted in light of God’s all-encompassing presence, but also the purpose of the Divine Being’s presence in every facet of existence.

Be that as it may, the conversation concerning Jonathan Edwards and divine dispositions has been dominated, in an almost entirely uncontested fashion, by Sang Hyun Lee’s interpretations.  Lee believes Edwards’s concept of God is ontologically unique, and that its uniqueness lies in his conception of God “as essentially a disposition,”[1] where God’s most irreducible essence is a disposition, replacing Aristotelian-Scholastic notions of substance with the idea of disposition or habit.  Edwards’s ontology for the Divine Being, according to Lee, has cosmological implications as well.  For, as Lee argues, the exercise of the divine disposition of self-communication is truly expansive: it replicates ad extra the prior inner actualities of God.  Consequently, in spatiotemporality, God expands.  He is more, as it were, than before.

Here, however, Lee’s views on divine dispositions are shown to be more eisogetical than exegetical commentary on Edwards’s theocentric metaphysics.  Edwards does not abandon Thomistic “substance” language in favor of dispositional forces and habits, nor does he conceive of God’s self-enlargement as an essential (ontological) expansion.  So far from anticipating the categories and concepts of process theology, Edwards’s concepts and nomenclature concerning the becomingness of God must be understood in light of his philosophical idealism.  It is in intelligent perceiving minds that God “enlarges” Himself in the cosmos.  For Jonathan Edwards, God ad extra is the idea of God perceived by minds in another realm.


The Immutable Mutable God

Like so many theological systematicians and philosophical theologians throughout the ages, Jonathan Edwards sought to maintain a coherent balance between the presentation of an immutable God and God’s creative, communicative, and purposeful activity – the God that he envisioned as sublimely but beautifully present in this realm.  So when his apologetical “Ens Entium” was philosophically depicted in “Miscellanies” No.107[b] as the Being whose “essence is inclined to communicate himself,” he was making a conscious attempt to assuage the tension between the God who “enlarges himself in a more excellent and divine manner” (End of Creation) and a totally changeless God, without any element of potentiality in Him (Westminster Confession of Faith, II).  In “Miscellanies” No.107[b], Edwards addressed the same question with which every notable theologian from antiquity to Thomas Aquinas and Aquinas to himself wrestled: how could an immutable Being be capable of any creative and purposeful activity with the world?

This question is also one of value and meaning: if the life of God is unaffected by His relation to the world (the doctrine of impassibility), then how can God’s involvement in the world have any genuine meaning either to Himself or to the world?  Held in tension by these questions are the issues of the being and becoming of God, and the impassibility and communicativeness of God; the implications of which encroach upon both sentient and non-sentient beings.  For Edwards, then, the challenge was to present God’s immanence coherently (contra emerging Enlightenment deism), while maintaining God’s transcendent immutability (contra materialism).

Interpreters of Edwards have usually understood his idea of God’s creativity not as static, but as an activity of divine self-communication.[2]  Self-communication in this scheme is a mono-directional activity in which God, in His prior actuality and perfection, gives rather than receives.  Since the Divine Being only gives out of His “fullness,” God’s completeness and actuality presumably are not compromised.  God still is, so to speak, a “full bucket.”[3]

Yet, even if the self-communicating God of Edwards is not just an inherently beautiful being, but an inherently beautifying being creating out of his “fullness” (à la Delattre),[4] such an idea, as Sang Lee points out, still does not explain the sense in which Edwards speaks of God’s self-enlargement and expansion through divine activity in the time/space continuum.  Additionally, explains Lee, the analysis of Edwards’s idea as merely Neoplatonic, emanationistic, and hierarchical proves inadequate upon recognition of the fact that he combines his emanationistic metaphorical language with a teleological vision in his discussion of God’s self-communication.[5]  As Edwards explains, God creates out of

a delight in his own infinite goodness; or the exercise of that glorious propensity of his nature to diffuse and communicate himself, and so gratifying this inclination of his own heart … to communicate of his own excellent fullness.[6]

There is a premium on intentionality here.  God is not simply “diffusing” or “emanating” meaninglessly.  Instead there is a very real, singular, and functional telos to God’s willful creative activity.  A merely Neoplatonic or emanationistic analysis of Edwards’s “scale of being”[7] does not answer the question “Why?”  To Edwards, God’s “ultimate end” is “the glory of God.”[8]  Therefore, he asserts, the movement of world history has real meaning to God, while God gives meaning and ontology to world history.  Thus far Thomas Aquinas, Reformed Scholasticism, and Jonathan Edwards are on the same page.  All would agree that God created in a certain way, namely in a telic fashion.  Yet Edwards seems to intend more than mere self-communication as the divine telos.  Lee is quick to point out that in End of Creation Edwards says God’s emanating activities are “an increase, repetition, or multiplication” of the divine excellency or fullness.[9]  On this evidence, it seems Edwards does not merely wish to say with his theological tradition that God solely intends to communicate His perfection for glorification, but that God somehow “enlarges” Himself by expanding into (perhaps as) temporality.

Kata Lee

Lee believes Edwards’s concept of God is ontologically unique, and that its uniqueness lays in his conception of God “as essentially a disposition.”[10]  Lee does not merely say that God possesses dispositions but that His most irreducible essence is a disposition.  “The philosophical renovation utilized in Edwards’s theological reconstruction,” Lee argues, “is the replacement of the age-old notion of substance with the idea of disposition or habit.” This assertion does not simply apply to the created order but holds for God too.  Edwards began to think about God’s being, explains Lee, “in terms not of substance … but – utilizing a new language – in terms of dispositional forces.”[11]  Despite making “a new beginning in Christian theology,” according to Lee, the mediating capacity of Edwards’s new ontology enables him “to reaffirm in the strongest possible terms his theological tradition” within a “modern philosophical framework.”[12]  That is, Edwards remained faithful to his theological tradition because he conceived of God’s dispositional essence as “perfect in actuality and also inherently disposed to further actualizations – that is, to repetitions of the prior actuality.”[13]

The upshot of this thinking holds that what is “repeated” ad extra really is God in all His fullness, not merely in terms of communicated glory, but God exercising His “diffusive disposition” in such a way that His prior actuality remains intact.  Yet if we consider this scenario sequentially it suggests “more” God after He exercises His diffusive disposition than before.  Is Lee correct?  Does Edwards posit a God that expands sequentially, proportionately, essentially, or otherwise?

There is no question that Lee is correct to assert Edwards’s employment of dispositional concepts in his ontology.  This is clear from “Miscellanies” No.241 and a number of other places.  Edwards even speaks of dispositions that are “necessary” to “the divine nature and essence itself” (MS sermon Deut. 32:4).  Nevertheless, there are two things which must be addressed here: (1) how Edwards conceives of God’s essence; and (2) what he really means and intends by “ad extra,” which in turn affects the meaning of “an increase, repetition, or multiplication.”

Kata Edwards

Concerning the first point, Lee has been too reductionistic in his analysis of Edwards and dispositions: Edwards never abandoned speaking of God’s essence in terms of “substance.”  For instance, we find him writing a year after his conversion that, “there is no proper substance but God himself,” and again in 1727 that, “there is no such distinction in God of substance and property.”  There is also a 1747 “The Mind” notebook entry entitled “SUBSTANCE,” in which he speaks of God’s “substance” composing the substratum of reality.  In fact, in 1756, approximately a year before his death, he drafted a series of notes known as “Notes on Knowledge and Existence” that correspond in content to some of the philosophical arguments in his monumental treatise, Original Sin.  In them he writes, “God is as it were the only substance, or rather, the perfection and steadfastness of his knowledge, wisdom, power and will.”[14]

Neither did Edwards conceive of God’s essence only as a disposition (or even a set of dispositions).  Instead, his usual manner of speaking of God’s essence (while distinctly idealist) retains a Thomistic (i.e., Aristotelian-Scholastic) character. Consider, for example, “Miscellanies” No.94:

God’s intuition on himself, without doubt, is immediate.  But ’tis certain it cannot be, except his idea be his essence; for his idea is the immediate object of his intuition … And if so, and all God’s ideas are only the one idea of himself, as has been shown, [then God’s idea of himself] must be his essence itself.  It must be a substantial idea, having all the perfections of the substance perfectly.[15]

And now Thomas Aquinas:

The supreme and perfect grade of life is found in mind … the highest perfection of life is in God, where activity is not distinct from being, and where the concept is the divine essence, and where substance is not distinct from essence.[16]

Nor can Lee claim that the philosophical nomenclature that Edwards employed was new.  Both Thomas Aquinas and Reformed Scholastics spoke of God’s dispositions.  Lee cannot even say that the meanings of “substance,” “subsistence,” and “property” have changed for Edwards to accommodate a dispositional conception of God.  As the MS sermon on Deut. 32:4 shows, substance and property are employed in a fashion completely compatible with Scholastic use:

In our selves we distinguish between our souls and the disposition or inclination of our souls – the one is a substance, the other an accident or property of that substance.  But there is no such distinction in God of substance and property.  This is opposite to the simplicity of God’s nature; but all that is in God is God.

In contradistinction to the various levels of reality, Thomas Aquinas and the Scholastics asserted that God alone is incomposite and purely actual, that the essence of every substance except God is distinct from its existence.  The difference between God and created existences lies in the fact that existence is not included in the notion of an essence or quiddity, that is, being or existence is not contained in the definition of their essence.  God serves as the only exception, for He is, in short, subsistent being, in whom substance and properties are collapsed into esse.  We cannot conceive of His essence as non-existent, for in Him essence and existence are identical in reality.[17]  Edwards never abandons these ideas, but aligns himself with them.[18]

To be sure, Edwards does speak about dispositions that are necessary to the divine nature and essence, but such that have a locus – they are of the divine nature and essence, and they are in God.  Moreover, it is God’s fullness that is capable of communication or emanation ad extra.  Excerpts from End of Creation make these assertions certain:

The disposition to communicate himself or diffuse his own fullness, which we must conceive of as being originally in God as a perfection of his nature…. The diffusive disposition in the nature of God, that moved him to create the world … or a disposition in the fullness of the divinity to flow out and diffuse itself.’[19]

According to Edwards, “all that is in God is God.”  This includes essential dispositions but it does not make God a disposition.  As a matter of fact, so far is Edwards from abandoning Scholastic categories in this sense, he even says that, conceptually speaking, God’s irreducible essence is an inexplicable “substance” (“the one idea of Himself”) and the disposition to diffuse Himself may be thought of as a property:

[W]e may suppose that a disposition in God, as an original property of his nature, to an emanation of his own infinite fullness, was what excited him to create the world.[20]

In reality, however, there is “no such distinction in God between substance and property,” for both God’s ens and esse are one.

In our second point (what Edwards means by “ad extra”), we find Lee takes Edwards too literally.  When Edwards writes about God’s “multiplication,” “increase,” and “repetition,” in each case he prefaces these words with the rhetorical qualifiers, “in some sense,” “as it were” or “in effect.”[21]  Because Lee does not take Edwards’s language figuratively, he can assert that dispositions have an abiding ontological existence, not in, but outside of the mind of God, and that it is in this world of abiding ontological existences that God truly “multiplies” His reality in another reality, so that, sequentially and proportionately, one may say, God has increased or there is “more” God upon such dispositional exercises.

Lee’s analysis proves inadequate for a number of reasons.  First, Edwards’s language does not lend itself to a literal interpretation.  Second, Lee almost makes the exercise of God’s disposition to communicate Himself a mechanistic impulse rather than understanding it in conjunction with Edwards’s idealism (this ties into the first point about God’s essence being “the idea He has of Himself” (“Miscellanies” No.94)).  Lastly (and in connection with the preceding point), the whole notion of self-communication/self-replication must be understood within the framework of Edwards’s idealism.  If, as Lee says, God’s idea of Himself is prior and actual (agreeable to Edwards), then we must understand that what the divine impulse aims at is to have that idea (of the divine fullness) perceived.  As this idea is perceived, or (better) communicated to intelligent perceiving minds by God, it becomes, “as it were, ad extra” in the sense that it is in other minds: God outside Himself is the idea of Himself (or His fullness) in the minds of intelligent perceivers.  This is how God replicates Himself, according to Edwards.[22]

Being in Perception is Edwardsean Becomingness

Strictly speaking, Edwards’s idea of God in other minds attributes something of ontological peculiarity to God and therefore a diversion from his theological tradition.  For instance, Reformed theology has typically made a distinction between God’s essential and manifest glory.  Usually it is the manifested glory that is intended when the question is asked, whether God does everything for His own glory; whether in His works His object is to reveal to intelligent beings the intrinsic and inherent glory of His being and nature.  The essential glory of God typically means all that is glorious in God; in other words, His “fullness.”  Likewise for Edwards, “glory” is a general term to denote the sum-total of all the qualities that constitute God’s excellence.  The nature and attributes of God are the glory of God.  They make Him a glorious being. Where it seems that Edwards incorporates innovations to this position is with his statement regarding God’s “own glory existing in its emanation.”  His tradition would assert that the essential glory of God is a fixed quality.  There can be neither increase nor diminution of it.  The manifestation of the glory of God in the temporal realm is just that, a manifestation of glory.  God is not present here in any quasi-substantial or essential sense, but in activity and will – the glory manifested in the work of creation. However, Edwards’s language and intent must be distinguished from a mere “language of glory” or say, Thomas Aquinas’ assertion that “the first cause, who is purely active and without possibility, does not work to acquire an end, but intends solely to communicate his perfection.”[23]  As Edwards contends, God’s manifest glory is not something distinct from His substantial glory: for him, God’s fullness, whether ad intra or ad extra, is God.  “Ad extra” is really God present in, “as it were,” another mode or sphere of existence, namely in created minds as Himself and the beautiful matrix of existences which, when narrowly considered, really is no different kind of existence to God, because all modes of God’s existence are, as Edwards says elsewhere, “always the same, and after the same mode.”[24]  Thus, there is no change as to how God conceives of Himself.

Edwards’s ontological peculiarity, then, does not consist of God really expanding in the sense that Lee intimates.  Rather, it consists of the idea of God’s glory in created minds, which is nothing other than the immutable God in the mind by degrees.[25]  This is Edwards’s middle way, where he articulates something orthodox and something innovative in the same thought.  In one instance, he says all that is communicated is God’s manifest glory (this is the end of creation to which his tradition would concede),[26] while in the same breath he says that God is, as it were, expanded because what is present is God, not simply His manifest glory.[27]

Thus, if we understand expressions of “repetition” not in an unqualified literal sense, but in the sense that these are concepts which help to communicate the idea of God giving exercise to a disposition(s) to communicate Himself as existing in a different realm, then we are in a position to ascertain the inner logic of Edwards’s notion of the self-communication of God.

What constitutes his doctrine concerning God as absolutely prior and patently self-“enlarging” in and through created minds may be found in End of Creation, where Edwards responds to a charge of inconsistency for holding both positions:

Though it be true that God’s glory and happiness are in and of himself, are infinite and can’t be added to, unchangeable for the whole and every part of which he is perfectly independent of the creature; yet it don’t hence follow, nor is it true, that God had no real and proper delight, pleasure or happiness, in any of his acts or communications relative to the creature; or effects however produces in them; or in anything he sees in the creature’s qualifications, dispositions, actions, and state. God may have a real and proper pleasure or happiness in seeing the happy state of the creature: yet this may not be different from his delight in himself; being a delight in his own infinite goodness; or the exercise of that glorious propensity of his nature to diffuse and communicate himself, and so gratifying this inclination of his own heart … to communicate of his own excellent fullness.[28]

The act of creation—where we find the whole “scale of created existence”—is, then, the exercise of that propensity in God’s nature to “diffuse” and “communicate” the fullness of Himself.  Clarified further, Edwards believes that the diffusive disposition that moved God to give creatures and non-sentient entities existence was a communicative disposition “in general,” precluding the hypothetical existence of any thing or being: “This disposition or desire in God must be prior to the existence of the creature, even in intention and foresight … For it is a disposition that is the original ground of the existence of the creature.”[29]

After concluding that creation is the effect of an inherent telic-oriented disposition in God to “emanate,” Edwards explains how God “manifests a supreme and ultimate regard to himself in all his works.”  He reasons that God’s self-regard generates, “as it were,” an external impulse toward self-communication because God is disposed to an “abundant communication, and glorious emanation of that infinite fullness of good which he possesses in himself.”[30] This propensity in God to “diffuse” Himself may be considered as “a propensity to himself diffused” (Lee), or “to his own glory existing in its emanation” (Edwards).[31]  His meaning here is threefold.  First, that there is a disposition within God to manifest His glory in another dimension, namely a temporal dimension; and that that manifestation of His glory cannot be separated from what it is that makes Him glorious, namely, His beautiful being.  Therefore, if God is to manifest His glory “externally” He must externally manifest Himself.  This is accomplished by exercising His disposition toward that particular end.  Second, this particular “end” of manifestation is inextricably bound up with the totality of God’s attributes or, the “fullness” of His being.  And third, although God does not create out of need to fulfill a lack or deficiency, yet there is a kind of inevitability that God must create and that His presence in whatever world He creates must be perceived from within that realm in order for it to be a “manifested,” “expressed,” and “expanded” reality.

Thus we have what may be considered both the “beingness” and the “becomingness” of God presented in the concept of an essentially diffusive disposition: “God looks on the communication of himself, and the emanation of the infinite glory and good [the becomingness of God] that are in himself [the beingness of God] to belong to the fullness and completeness of himself, as though he were not in his most complete and glorious state without it.”[32]  For Edwards, then, God is full and fully actual, but because of God’s diffusive disposition it is requisite that that fullness be, as Edwards puts it, “ad extra.”


God replicated in temporal reality does not mean that the Divine Being is “more” than before.  Indeed, not even the incarnation added to God’s glory.  According to Edwards, in the incarnation God’s glory simply “received an additional manifestation.”[33]  Instead, God’s temporal replication facilitates an extra-dimensional manifestation.[34]  In the historia salutis, the incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection are that process at its apogee.  Its culmination is the consummation of the age.

God’s expansiveness (or comprehensiveness) therefore facilitates a mode of existence for God’s fullness that is beyond temporality in the limiting, constraining sense that human beings experience, but which is not simply a negation of temporality altogether.

It must be stressed, however, that what seems to be an allowance for potentiality in God with respect to time and change is really an eternal mental reality in the divine mind:

[“Miscellanies” No.] 553.… ’Tis true that there was from eternity that act in God within himself and towards himself, that was the exercise of the same perfection of his nature.  But it was not the same kind of exercise; it virtually contained it, but there was not explicitly the same exercise of his perfection. God, who delights in the exercise of his own perfection, delights in all the kinds of its exercise … But God, who delights in his own perfection, delights in seeing those exercises of his perfection explicitly in being, that are fundamentally implied.[35]

 God’s idea of Himself, therefore, includes an idea of Himself “virtually” manifested and, therefore, may be considered a perfect and unchanged idea, for to God “the idea is always the same, and after the same mode.”[36] The point is that, although the disposition to be externally replicated was not actualized from a temporal perspective ‘until’ created intelligences existed,[37] nevertheless it possessed a mode of reality for which he can find no better term than ‘virtual’, that for all intents and purposes could be accounted as a full exercise and prior actuality. But for there to be a reality ad extra it must move beyond virtuality to manifest reality with respect to the dimension God purposes to ‘expand’ Himself into, namely, as being perceived in/through created intelligences.[38] This seeming potentiality is, then, the actuality of God’s all-comprehension.

Divine Comprehensiveness

Henry B. Veatch suggests that the tendency to consider a universal as a changeless entity arose with Descartes and the rise of the new science.[39]  The mathematical paradigm determined the Cartesian metaphilosophy.  The Cartesian revolution in philosophy, Anthony Lisska argues, destroyed the concept of disposition as a significant ontological category: “Without this category Aquinian [Thomistic] accounts of essence fall by the wayside.”[40]  By bringing essential dispositions into his discussion of God, Edwards was inadvertently addressing Descartes’ mathematical ontology while consciously contesting Hobbes’ material ontology, wherein dispositions were excluded from the discussion because of the difficulty of ascribing numeric values or material properties (or substance-being) to them.  For Edwards, divine dispositions allow for God to be free from the scrutiny of scientific measurement and the “atheism” of materialism,[41] yet their logic gives a strong degree of certainty concerning their exercises.  His conception of dispositions in God, therefore, is not like Descartes’ static habitus, but like Thomas Aquinas’ dynamically expansive habitus in a God who must create because of that inherent propensity to create.[42]  They are peculiar and fundamental to the Divine Being in that, while they necessarily and indissolubly belong to God’s ontological essence, they also make up the relational structure of God’s triunity.

Edwards has been trying to account for four things through his explanation of a “diffusive” divine disposition: (1) a philosophical explanation for how God could be temporally present; (2) an answer to the questions of how and why God could/would intentionally create anything at all, one that would (3) provide a means of accounting for the value of each and every thing that is created; and (4) account for the difference between his understanding of teleology as the account of the temporal actualization of a divine disposition (which, by virtue of its very nature, tends toward a “telos” or “end”) and the developmental teleology as evidenced in the writings of pantheists or deists.  In short, his employment of disposition in this capacity offered a philosophical explanation of God’s comprehensiveness.

Although Edwards’s meaning of comprehension was mentioned earlier, one point requires emphasizing before we begin to examine in the final installment of this four-part series how he, in light of this doctrine, used dispositional concepts in metaphysics.  The point concerns the matrix of reality and its being “comprehended” by God’s existence.  This point is reiterated because it will be important for us to take into account that whether Edwards speaks of causal occurrences, material bodies, or minds, this world cannot in any way be thought of as existing or operating independent of God’s immediate knowledge, essence, and power.


Following his conversion, Edwards saw God’s excellence or beauty in every aspect of life.  He concluded that for God’s beauty to be so it must be inclusive of the created order.  Since the beauty was the same, that is, it was all one beauty – the beauty of God’s being, he concluded that God’s beautiful being must be the matrix through which created reality exists, is known and experienced.[43]  His metaphysical designation for this was “Being in general,” under which both “the system of created being” and the Creator Himself were subsumed.  “Being in general” is, in Edwards’s words, “the great all-comprehending system,” “comprehending the sum total of universal existence, both Creator and creature.”[44]  God’s comprehensiveness is that “system” or, as contemporaries readers may prefer, “matrix”; it is the manifestation or external replication of the divine fullness; it is how God’s abiding immanent/transcendent presence may be understood; and it is the mode of God’s reality in the world that is the spiritual/mental/moral reality of the world, which comprehends all of the Divine Being’s acts and power.[45]  In a word, divine comprehensiveness is God’s inclusiveness or His fullness replicated “ad extra.”


The Rev. John J. Bombaro, PhD (University of London) is parish priest at Grace Lutheran Church in downtown San Diego. He also lectures in the Theology and Religious Studies Department at the University of San Diego. 

[1] The Philosophical Theology of Jonathan Edwards: The Idea of Habit and Edwards’s Dynamic Vision of Reality (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988; rev. ed. 2000), 173.

[2] Michael J. McClymond, Encounters with God: An Approach to the Theology of Jonathan Edwards (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), 56; Lee, The Philosophical Theology of Jonathan Edwards, 172.

[3] Cf. Roland Andre Delattre, Beauty and Sensibility in the Thought of Jonathan Edwards: An Essay in Aesthetics and Theological Ethics (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1968), 168-84; and John E. Smith, “Jonathan Edwards as Philosophical Theologian,” Review of Metaphysics 30 (Dec 1976), 314-19.

[4] Beauty and Sensibility in the Thought of Jonathan Edwards, 169.  Delattre does not collapse being in to beauty, but maintains being as a more basic metaphysical category: “Beauty,” he says, “…is ultimately to be resolved into being” (25).

[5] The Philosophical Theology of Jonathan Edwards, 172.

[6] End of Creation, Yale-Works, 8:445-46.

[7] End of Creation, Yale-Works, 8:546 n.6.

[8] Ibid., 526.

[9] Ibid., 433.

[10] The Philosophical Theology of Jonathan Edwards, 173.

[11] Ibid., 4.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Lee, “Edwards on God and Nature” in Edwards in Our Time: Jonathan Edwards and the Shaping of American Religion, Sang Hyun Lee and Allen C. Guelzo, eds. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999), 18, 17.

[14] “Of Atoms,” Yale-Works, 6:215; cf. “Things to be Considered an[d] Written Fully About” No.44, Yale-Work, 6:238; 1727 MS sermon on Deut. 32:4 (Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University); “The Mind” No.61, Yale-Works, 6:376; Yale-Works, 6:398.

[15] “Miscellanies” No.94, Yale-Works, 13:258. Cf. “Observations Concerning the Trinity” in Treatise on Grace and other Posthumously Published Writings, Paul Helm, ed. (Cambridge and London: James Clarke & Co., 1971).

[16] IV Contra Gentiles, II. Cf. Opusc. VII, de Substantiis ad Pratrum Reginaldum socium carissimum: “[T]he substance of God is his understanding of himself,” (12).  I refer to Thomas Aquinas only comparatively.  He neither appears in JE’s “Catalogue” of books (read and desired) nor the “Dummer” Library Collection of Yale College nor Timothy Edwards’s library, though JE’s maternal grandfather Solomon Stoddard did possess two volumes of Thomas’ works and one of the later Thomist, Francisco Suárez (See Norman Fiering, “Solomon Stoddard’s Library at Harvard,” Harvard Library Bulletin 20 (1972):262-69).  The Yale 1742 library (listed in 1743) does include “Aqinatis Summa” (ed. and number of vols. not specified).  But it is by no means certain that this was in the Yale Library when JE was a student and later tutor of the college; nor can we be certain that JE read Stoddard’s volumes.  Surprisingly, there is not a single reference to Thomas Aquinas in JE’s entire written corpus.

[17] See Thomas Aquinas, Being and Essence, IV, §§6, 7.

[18] Here Lee would claim that in JE’s dispositional conception of reality, “Habits and laws … are the abiding principles of reality” (The Philosophical Theology of Jonathan Edwards, 48).  Thus Lee attempts to equate being with dispositions.  But, as Leon Chai argues, such an arrangement requires the equating of laws with powers, which cannot be maintained: ‘a law has to do with the manner in which a power is exercised, rather than the power itself’ (Jonathan Edwards and the Limits of Enlightenment Philosophy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987), 143).  Moreover, since JE states that God’s essence is “the one idea of Himself,” Lee would have to equate disposition with ideas, which is precisely what he thesis does not say.  For Lee, dispositions have “a distinguishable reality not only from human minds but also from God as well” (“Edwards on God and Nature” in Edwards in Our Time, 28).

[19] Yale-Works, 8:422, 432, 433, 434, 435.  Emphasis mine.

[20] Ibid., 435.  Italics JE; underscoring added.

[21] Ibid., 433, 440.  Cf. Rufus Suter, “A Note on Platonism in the Philosophy of Jonathan Edwards,” Harvard Theological Review 52 (Oct. 1959): 283-84.

[22] Even the idea of those minds is not to be thought of as perfectly outside of the mind of God; they too are ideas prior to God about how God might be ad extra.  Thus when God conceives of Himself ad extra in/through those minds, He must also somehow conceive of Himself as those minds.  JE, sensitive to the need of having to account for the perceiving minds in/through which God “replicates” Himself, resorts to pantheistic and panentheistic language and makes their existences instances of God’s being: hence, God is “the sum of all being,” “the only real being,” “Being in general,” etc.  See John J. Bombaro, “God in Us, Us in God,” The Clarion Review 2 (2004): 7-16.

[23] Summa Theologia, I, Q44, A4.

[24] “The Mind” No.36, Yale-Works, 6:355.

[25] Correspondingly, argues JE, our conception of reality is understood by “degrees” (“Miscellanies” No.662, Yale-Works, 18:200).  The more God communicates ideas that resonate in our minds, the more of God (who communicates the “ideas of existence”) we perceive, and therefore the more our perception of reality corresponds with the “truth,” i.e., God’s truth concerning reality.

[26] Which JE reinforces with the statement: “He [God] can’t create the world to the end that he may have existence; or may have such attributes and perfections, and such an essence” (Yale-Works, 8:469).

[27] “Miscellanies” No.448, Yale-Works, 13:495.

[28] End of Creation, Yale-Works, 8:445-46.  Emphasis added.

[29] Ibid., 438.

[30] Ibid., 436, 438.  Paul Ramsey comments that, “Insofar as this … Pauline concept [of plÐrwma] is used in the first chapter [of End of Creation] as a concept in philosophical theology referring to one of the metaphysical perfections of Deity, it displaces ‘goodness’ in JE’s lifelong attempts to express adequately his vision of God’s end in originally giving creatures being.  The same overriding importance must be ascribed to God’s ‘love’ or ‘benevolence’ in its larger sense” (Yale-Works, 8:438 n. 4).  In short, “fullness” replaces “goodness” in End of Creation as an explanation of that perfection in God that gives futurition to creatures.

[31] Ibid., 439.

[32] Ibid.

[33] “Miscellanies” No.727, Yale-Works, 18:353.

[34] Therefore, Keith Ward’s well-known proposal of a God possessed of a “dynamic infinity,” where there is an admission of temporality and potentiality in God, does not apply in JE’s case.  Although JE does offer several innovations concerning dispositions and ontological structure, and though he claims that there is a sense in which the universe is an inevitable expression or emanation of the reality God, yet his claims for divine self-sufficiency, immutability, and impassibility do not allow him to be categorized as one who espouses “inclusive infinity.” See Ward, Rational Theology and the Creativity of God (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1982), 2-5.

[35] “Miscellanies” No.553, Yale-Works, 18:97.

[36] “The Mind” No.36, Yale-Works, 6:355.

[37] Presumably for JE there is no temporal “until” in this respect.

[38] This calls for a distinction in JE’s use of “real,” “reality,” “actual” and “actuality.” On the one hand, there is God’s reality about Himself, which is complete and full. While on the other hand, there is the creature’s perspective that consists of God’s communication of His reality as their temporal reality, which they only receive (perceive) in part, due to their finite capacities and God’s selective (accommodating and purposeful) method of communication.

[39] Veatch, “Telos and Teleology in Aristotle’s Ethics” in Studies in Aristotle, Dominic J. O’Meara, ed. (Washington DC: Catholic University of America, 1981), 279-86.

[40] Lisska, Aquinas’s Theory of Natural Law: An Analytical Reconstruction (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996), 97.

[41] JE offers sustained critiques of atheism and its relation to what he calls “Hobbesical materialism” in MS sermon on Rom.1:20 (c.1743) and “Practical Atheism” (c.1730) in Yale-Works, 17:47ff.

[42] Summa Theologia, I, Q12, A5.  Lee provides a detail history and analysis of the ideas of “habit” or “disposition” in JE’s background (The Philosophical Theology of Jonathan Edwards, 15-46).

[43] “[God’s] fullness … is the fountain, and so the sum and comprehension of everything that is excellent … [He] comprehends all entity, and all excellence in His own excellence” (End of Creation, Yale-Works, 8:460).

[44] End of Creation, Yale-Works, 8 556, 423.

[45] Ibid., 406.

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