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The God who beautifies

The center of Jonathan Edwards' theology is not God's sovereignty, but God's beauty. His oft-repeated term was the "excellence" of God, which the believer is drawn to. And that drawing involved having a supernatural sight (or taste) of this beauty and weightiness (glory) of God.

One of Edwards' favorite metaphors for God is the fountain. Like bubbling waters God overflows with life and goodness. In a paper presented in Budapest last year, Sang Lee notes that...

"...for Jonathan Edwards, God is not only the most beautiful being but in his nature the beautifying being, one who makes other beings beautiful, and thus, as Edwards says, 'the fountain of all beauty.' According to Edwards, God is a disposition, a power to communicate his beauty to other beings. God is in his essence a beautifying disposition or power. (Yale 13:277-78)" (Sang Hyun Lee, "Edwards and Beauty" in Understanding Jonathan Edwards, Gerald McDermott, ed., Oxford, 2009)

Certainly this is what it means when the Scripture speaks of sharing in Christ's glory, or being made in his image, or partaking of the nature of God.

...as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. (Ephesians 5:25-27)

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18)

Comments

Mark said…
What does he mean by saying God is a disposition, a power? Sounds a bit like denying God's personal-ness and turning him into an impersonal force. Wouldn't it be better to say that God is disposed to beautify than that he is a disposition? But maybe it makes more sense in the larger context of his paper.

"To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified." (Isa. 61:3)
Sandy said…
Indeed, this sounds almost pantheistic, and some JE scholars have noted this. Yet from all his writings it is very clear that he holds to the transcendent identity of a personal God, and at the same time emphasizes God's personal immanence more than previous reformed theologians. I think he is identifying God's attribute (disposition to communicate himself) with himself, much like John says, "God is love." (1 John 4)

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