Skip to main content

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. 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)


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)

Popular posts from this blog

bible reading dec 3-5

  Bible reading for weekend December 3 -- 5  Dec 3 -- Nahum 1 and Luke 17 Dec 4 -- Nahum 2 and Luke 18 Dec 5 -- Nahum 3 and Luke 19 ================ "The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him. But with an overflowing flood he will make a complete end of the adversaries, and will pursue his enemies into darkness." (Nahum 1:7-8)  TIME'S UP FOR NINEVEH (Nah 1-3). The prophecy of Nahum is God's word to the people of Nineveh, part two. Jonah was part one, chronicling a city-wide repentance of Assyrians in the capital about a hundred years earlier. The closing bookend is Nahum, and the Assyrian empire is big, powerful, and aggressive. Notice the references to chariots (2:3-4, 13; 3:2). The Assyrians were a militarily advanced culture, and cruel in their warfare. Whatever spiritual receptivity they had at the time of Jonah was gone by the time of Nahum. Nahum may not have actually visited Nineveh, for it seems the book was w

bible reading nov 1-2

  Bible reading for weekend Nov 1 -- 2 Nov 1 -- Hosea 7 and Psalms 120-122 Nov 2 -- Hosea 8 and Psalms 123-125 ================   "Were I to write for him my laws by the ten thousands, they would be regarded as a strange thing." (Hosea 8:12) THE RESULTS OF SIN (ch 7-8). Notice the words and metaphors to describe Israel's sinful condition: they are surrounded with, and proud of, their evil (7:1-3); like adulterers in the heat of passion (7:4-5); their anger is like a hot oven (7:6-7); they are like a half-cooked (one side only) cake (7:8); their strength is gone (7:9); they are like silly doves easily trapped (7:11-12); they are undependable like a warped bow (7:16). In spite of all of this they are so proud of themselves! (We might say they have a strong self-esteem.) They have spurned what is good (8:3); they sow to the wind and have no real fruit (8:7); they are a useless vessel (8:8) and a wild donkey wandering alone (8:9); they regard God's law as a strange thing

Howard Hendricks on OT books chronology

When I was in seminary, Howard Hendricks (aka "Prof") gave us a little card with the books of the OT chronologically arranged. The scanned copy I have was a bit blurry and I wanted to make something like this available for our church class in OT theology ("Story of Redemption"). A few minor edits and here it is...