Types In Nature: Jonathan Edwards On Typology -- By: Gerald R. McDermott

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 175:699 (Jul 2018)
Article: Types In Nature: Jonathan Edwards On Typology
Author: Gerald R. McDermott


Types In Nature: Jonathan Edwards On Typology*

Gerald R. McDermott

* This is the third article in the four-part series “A Typological View of Reality,” delivered as the W. H. Griffith Thomas lectures at Dallas Theological Seminary, February 7–10, 2017. The ideas presented in these lectures have been adapted and expanded in Everyday Glory: The Revelation of God in All of Reality (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2018).

Gerald R. McDermott is the Anglican Chair of Divinity, Samford University, Beeson Divinity School, Birmingham, Alabama.

The great Anglican priest and poet George Herbert wrote about looking through a window,

A man that looks on glass,
On it may stay his eye,
Or, if he pleaseth, through it pass,
And then the heav’n espy.1

Two centuries later the Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote of nature radiating the glory of God:

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil.2

Both of these British poets were Christians who saw the world in the way much of the Great Tradition has seen it—not just spotted here and there with signs, some near and some far, but as a sign in and of itself, with meaning from top to bottom. In other words, it’s not “turtles all the way down,” but wheels within wheels of glory, each layer and dimension full of words and images pointing

up and out to the Creator and Redeemer.

I suggest that it is not only tradition that teaches this but also Scripture. Or, in what Heiko Oberman famously called Tradition I, this is the Great Tradition’s understanding of Scripture, which for most of the church until the Council of Trent meant simply the traditional (or orthodox) way of understanding Scripture.3

For example, this is the way the Great Tradition read the author of Job. “Ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you; or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this?” (Job 12:7–9, ESV).

For in this, the beasts and birds and bushes and fish talk. They all say, “The Lord made me, and he is glorious!” Jesus suggested the same when he regularly pointed his hearers to the world of nature for c...

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