Jonathan Edwards On The Trinity: Its Place And Its Rich But Controversial Facets -- By: Ross Hastings

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 59:3 (Sep 2016)
Article: Jonathan Edwards On The Trinity: Its Place And Its Rich But Controversial Facets
Author: Ross Hastings


Jonathan Edwards On The Trinity:
Its Place And Its Rich But Controversial Facets

Ross Hastings*

* Ross Hastings is associate professor of pastoral theology at Regent College, 5800 University Blvd., Vancouver, BC, Canada V6T 2E4.

Abstract: In this summative article on the state of scholarship on the Trinity in the theology of Jonathan Edwards, the author notes the increasingly central place of the Trinity in Edwards’s mature theology, as well as five explicit facets of his doctrine of the Trinity, how they have been located within the Tradition, and received in sometimes controversial ways within recent scholarship. These include the following: (1) The model: does Edwards simply follow the typical western Augustinian model of the Trinity or is his a cobbled mix of Eastern and Western influences? (2) Novelty: did Edwards, in accordance with his desire, in fact contribute something new in the tradition? (3) Ontology: did Edwards reflect a dispositional ontology in his way of understanding the Godhead? (4) Revelation: how does Edwards see the relationship between the immanent and economic Trinity? (5) Pneumatology: does Edwards espouse a new emphasis on pneumatology within the Reformed-Puritan tradition?

Key Words: Jonathan Edwards, Trinity, economic Trinity, immanent Trinity, perichoresis, agency, mutuality, psychological analogy, social analogy, Karl Barth, pneumatology, Christology, beatific delight

Exploring Trinitarian reality is always a dialectical exercise. Edwards, would, I think, have agreed with Hans Urs von Balthasar’s assertion that truth concerning the Trinity “can only be developed in two opposite lines of being and thought that point to each other.”1 My interest in Edwards has focused on the three great unions of his Trinitarian theology: the union of the three persons of the Trinity, the incarnational union of the divine and human natures of Christ, and the remarkable union of human believers and the church with God. This is the gospel. We focus here mainly on the first, the Trinity, but perhaps with an occasional eye towards the incarnation, and especially towards union of the triune God with the saints, or participation in the divine life. That is, on how Edwards was Trinitarian.

A pastoral concern undergirds this theology, namely that the enculturated church might recover the pursuit of affectional, relational, ethical, and vocational holiness which seems today to be in short supply. In that regard, it most needs to recover a sense of who God is. Going to Jonathan Edwards for this may be a good place to start. His theology is just that, a theology. That is, the center of his thought is God. Michael McClymond st...

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