God, Glory, and the Good: A Study in the Theological Aesthetics of Jonathan Edwards

Dissertation, Boston University (1993)

The topics of aesthetics, excellence, and disposition in the thought of Jonathan Edwards have been closely studied recently. The major philosophic point they together embody has yet to be identified, however, largely for lack of a full dialectical appraisal. This study undertakes that task. The thesis argued is that Edwards' treatments of aesthetics, excellence, and disposition are integrated by his theory of divine glory, specifically by the fact that divine glory gives dialectical priority to value over formal structure in anything that is real. The key evidence for the thesis lies in Edwards' point that the divine essence is a disposition to effect glory, prior to what is effected in both the essential Trinity and in divine creating. The God-world relation this entails proves pivotal throughout Edwards' thought. ;The dialectical thrust of Edwards' idea of glory is clarified and illustrated by reference to Plato's concepts of the Form of the Good and normative measure . Edwards' theory is shown to reflect--no doubt unconsciously--Plato's view that the Good is the prius of philosophic construction and evaluation. ;This study undertakes a detailed exposition of Edwards' writings to develop the major theoretical components of his philosophical theology: experience and religion, knowledge and ethics , being, creation, and Trinity. Each of these is evaluated for coherence, adequacy, and plausibility insofar as these merits stem from the primary norm of divine glory that each theoretical component presupposes. Edwards' overall vision is similarly judged. From the standpoint of glory as norm, a number of cardinal elements in Edwards are reexamined, for example, sensibility, the affections, consent to being, the primacy of relations, and disposition. ;It is here argued that Edwards' theory of divine glory comprises his major lasting contribution, giving his vision theological depth, religious power, and philosophic range and subtlety. As the single principal norm, divine glory is at once the primary feature in virtue of which God is both knowable and worshipful, as well as the norm that sets philosophy's enduring tasks of theory construction and evaluation and informs the criteria it must employ
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