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Thinking Out Loud: Jonathan Edwards and the Necessity of Creation.

Jonathan-Edwards

Credit to Perry Robinson at Energetic Processions, for his work in this field that has helped me to understand these issues.

*all quotes, unless otherwise stated, are excerpts from the early paragraphs of Jonathan Edwards’ Freedom of the Will.*

Lately I’ve been thinking about the issues raised by St Maximos the Confessor. The freedom of Christ’s human will and the multiplicity of goods in God. As well as trying to think about Calvinism and the implications of its views in regards to God and creation. In the midst of that, I ended up having a long discussion with one of my friends on Jonathan Edwards. It made me realise why I used to admire him so much. Even now, though I disagree with his beliefs, I appreciate Edwards. He was intelligent, devoted and a good writer. Nevertheless, there are issues raised by his theology that I’d like to address. Bare in mind that I’m only beginning to connect the dots here. My work is open to revision and correction. But if there is any merit to it, then I’m hoping to further look into the issue. So this is testing the waters. Applying ideas I’m learning to a particular case. This will deal with the following ideas:

1. That free will is necessarily about a good/evil

2. The distinction between nature and person

3. Choices being determined by natures

And the implications they have for God, creation and evil. In particular when looking at Jonathan Edwards theology of free will.

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“Will is said to be determined, when, in consequence of some action, or influence, its choice is directed to, and fixed upon a particular object. As when we speak of the determination of motion, we mean causing the motion of the body to be in such a direction, rather than another.”

For Edwards, a thing occurs before the will choose, which will fix what the will chooses. There are sufficient antecedent causes which can explain the effect that is the motion of the will.

” It is sufficient to my present purpose to say, It is that motive, which, as it stands in view of the mind, is the strongest, that determines the will. But may be necessary that I should a little explain my meaning.

By motive I mean the whole of that which moves, excites, or invites the mind to volition, whether that be one thing singly, or many things conjunctly. Many particular things may concur, and unite their strength, to induce the mind; and when it is so, all together are as one complex motive. And when I speak of the strongest motive, I have respect to the strength of the whole that operates to induce a particular act of volition, whether that be the strength of one thing alone, or of many together.”

By motive that is the strongest, I’m going to call what the mind is brought to perceive as the “highest good.” So things move from influence –> attention of mind –> highest good –> Will/decision.

The key issue then with Edwards will be:

  1. Is there One highest good? Or are there many goods of equal worth?
  2. What determines what a mind views as highest good?

Edwards it seems does view that ultimately there is One highest good. This follows the logic of his thinking.

“”Human nature must be created with some dispositions; a disposition to relish some things as good and amiable, and to be averse to other things as odious and disagreeable: otherwise, it must be without any such thing as inclination or will; perfectly indifferent, without preference, without choice, or aversion, towards anything as agreeable or disagreeable. But if it had any concreated dispositions at all, they must be either right or wrong, either agreeable or disagreeable to the nature of things.”

If there is no distinction of varying degrees of goodness between choices, then there could be no choice. Why? Because there would a stalemate and thus nothing to determine which direction the will would move towards. And for Edwards there must be a thing before the will which necessitates a decision towards something.

“By determining the Will, if the phrase be used with any meaning, must be intended, causing that the act of the Will or choice should be thus, and not otherwise: and the Will is said to be determined, when, in consequence of some action, or influence, its choice is directed to, and fixed upon a particular object.”

And it is the nature according to Edwards, with its inherent dispositions which will determine which influence the mind views as most desirable. “Human nature must be created with some dispositions; a disposition to relish some things as good and amiable, and to be averse to other things as odious and disagreeable.”

Thus on Edwards, nature determines which motive the will moves towards.

Problem 1.

For Trinitarian theology to be true, there must be a distinction between person and nature (n/p). The Christological controversies of the Ecumenical Councils were due to trying to articulate the Trinitarian revelation brought by Jesus Christ. That God was both one and three. And that one of the three became man and yet remained God. The doctrine of the Trinity states that God is one in essence, but three in person. One ousia, three hypostasis. But it was not always so defined. Much theological and philosophical work had to go into forming the right terminology to express the doctrine correctly. This included the radical innovation in what it meant to be a person. The person is not a part or quality of their nature. But rather is a reality with the nature, which gives the nature it’s grounding in reality or concreteness. This is the Cappadocian position. If essence equals person, and God has only one divine essence, then God is truly only ever one divine person (the heresy of Modalism). It would be just as true to say that the Father died on the Cross at it would be to say the Son (the heresy of Patripassianism). And it would mean that at the incarnation, the one we call Christ is two persons, one a divine nature and the other a human nature, working together (the heresy of Nestorianism).

Thus persons are always the subjects. Not natures. It is also why saying that someone has an evil nature is a confusion of categories. Evil has no existence as being or substance. It’s not a stuff. Evil is only predicated of persons. It’s a description of a character or choice which a person has that deliberately and knowingly moves towards the wrong decision. Natures/substances can only be good or bad to the degree in which they conform to their design/end (a good car works, a bad car doesn’t. But none of these are moral). Let’s see the result then of applying Edward’s understanding of how the will works with the two views of natures and persons. We’ll call the first scenario 1 and the second scenario 2.

S.1 Cappadocian View of Personhood and Edwardsian Free Will

  1. A choice is said to be free if a person does what they want.
  2. The highest want is the efficient cause of the choice
  3. The highest want is determined by the nature
  4. Persons are not reducible to their nature (metaphysical distinction)
  5. Therefore the source of the efficient cause is not the person.
  6. Thus the nature is the true subject of the choice
  7. Persons are passive

S.2 Greek/Arian/Nestorian View of Personhood and Edwardsian Free Will

  1. A choice is said to be free if a person does what they want.
  2. The highest want is the efficient cause of the choice
  3. The highest want is determined by the nature
  4. Persons simply are their natures (conceptual distinction only)
  5. Therefore the source of the efficient cause is the person.
  6. Thus the person is the true subject of the choice
  7. Person is active

On S.1 you have the nature/person distinction but a passive person. But then person cannot truly be called a subject. On S.2 you have a collapse of nature and person and but the person can be said to be active and still the subject. If the n/p distinction is to be up held, and agents are active, it must assume that these agents qua persons have inherent causal power to break away from the determined path of previous events. In other words the origination of motion in choice is not grounded in their essences but personhood. This is an inherent power which I think must be necessarily denied on Calvinism. If I throw a rock and it hits someone in the face. It would be accurate to say both that the rock hit them and I hit them. But when I say the rock hit them, that rock has no inherent ability of motion. It cannot move out of the direction that I have thrown it. Or just decide last second to go down rather than straight. The only thing it can do is be moved by external forces.

On Calvinism, human persons do not have inherent causal power to move away from the determined outcome of past events. They are only moved by the first cause to a determined reaction, depending on their individual essence to the stimuli of their circumstances. The person is only aware of the direction which their essence brings them, but is under the illusion that anything they do originated in them. The same way that if naturalism is true, then everything someone does is but physics and the laws of nature. Regardless of what they think. So any secondary causes having a real difference doesn’t exist here. Unless one wants to say that all a person is, is their rational essence. In which case they are subjects. Or one could say that creatures do have this inherent power bestowed on them by God. In which case you’ve moved out of Calvinism, to a more free will position. To have this inherent power, is to have Libertarian Free Will. And to be secondary causes that make a difference. Simply put, their LFW decisions aren’t up to God.

The distinction of nature and person makes the Libertarian view of Free Will possible. Here since persons are not reducible to their natures, their nature doesn’t determine what choice decision is made. It just determines the range of decisions possible. Leaving alternative possibilities. Note however that on Edwards gloss, whether you pick scenario 1 or 2, nature determines the choice. On the first because the person is passive. On the second because the person simply is their nature.Since nature is fixed as it is, this eliminates alternative possibilities, thus making his determinism possible. No possibility of alternative possibilities “By determining the Will, if the phrase be used with any meaning, must be intended, causing that the act of the Will or choice should be thus, and not otherwise: and the Will is said to be determined, when, in consequence of some action, or influence, its choice is directed to, and fixed upon a particular object.”

If one wants to be a Trinitarian and have this gloss of free will, then it means the persons of the Trinity are passive to their nature. Neither the Father, Son, or Holy Spirit are subjects. But their impersonal essence is the subject. In which case, God’s essence being essentially and immutably as it is, must create. Creation is no longer optional for God, but is actually now necessary. No creation would mean a different divine essence. Which either means God’s essence isn’t immutable. Or a different essence is a logical impossibility and thus God can’t exist without creation. And by extension evil is necessary. For a Calvinist then, the reprobate would be necessary. God needs them to be God. And he is not so much being merciful to the elect in saving them. As he is preserving his existence by a necessary act. Since the world becomes necessary and thus the actual world by extension. With all things that includes.

The problem doesn’t end there. Since the world would have an eternal past too. “For if the cause of the universe were an impersonal set of necessary and sufficient conditions, it could not exist without its effects. The only way for the cause to be timeless and changeless but for its effect to originate de novo a finite time ago, is for the cause to be a personal agent who freely chooses to bring about an effect without antecedent determining conditions. A finite time ago a Creator endowed with free will could have acted to bring the world into being at that moment. In this way, God could exist changelessly and eternally sans the universe, but choose to create the world at a first moment. By ‘choose’ one need not mean that the Creator changes His mind about the decision to create, but that he freely and eternally intends to create a world with a beginning. By exercising his causal power, he brings it about that a world with a temporal beginning comes to exist. So the cause is eternal, but the effect is not.” (A Biblical, Philosophical, And Scientific Exploration by Paul Copan and William Lane Craig).

But by making “an impersonal set of necessary and sufficient conditions” (the essence) the determiner of God’s choice, the same problem as above arises.

Given this understanding of will and necessity, how could Satan, Adam, Eve and a great number of Angels, ever fall into sin? Their natures would have had to determine it. But how could it unless God created them defective? Given their perfect design, Adam and Eve could not head towards evil. Since mankind is made in the image of God. Unless the God they’re imaging is… dare I say it?

The only way to begin avoiding a necessary creation is to posit that Trinity have libertarian free will. It was not up to their nature whether to create or not create. It was up to them. To ask what determines persons is simply to assume libertarianism is false. LFW says that there is no sufficient antecedent to a choice bar the person. They are the terminus/origination for the why of a choice. Anything else either denies the distinction between nature and person. Or says that persons are passive.

Problem 2.

It is true the will is always inclined towards real or apparent goods. The problem for Edwards is his view the goods require a dialectic of varying degrees of moral worth.

“”Human nature must be created with some dispositions; a disposition to relish some things as good and amiable, and to be averse to other things as odious and disagreeable: otherwise, it must be without any such thing as inclination or will; perfectly indifferent, without preference, without choice, or aversion, towards anything as agreeable or disagreeable. But if it had any concreated dispositions at all, they must be either right or wrong, either agreeable or disagreeable to the nature of things.”

And thus ultimately only one Good. The greatest Good.

“I have rather chosen to express myself thus, that the will always is as the greatest apparent good, or as what appears most agreeable, is, than to say that the will is determined by the greatest apparent good, or by what seems most agreeable; because an appearing most agreeable or pleasing to the mind, and the mind’s preferring and choosing [the function of the will], seem hardly to be properly and perfectly distinct (p. 12f).”

Obviously then, for Edwards and Christianity in general, God is the highest good. But, given Edwards line of thought, does God have a multiplicity of goods in himself (metaphysically distinct but not separate)? Or is God one and simple good (only conceptually distinct). It could not be the former. Since choosing requires degrees of good for choice to be possible, for God to be a multiplicity of goods, would be have aspects of himself that are less good than others. Which is absurd. Thus God must be one simple good. And since God is only moved towards the good. And he is the good. And the good is simple and one, there is only one choice for God to choose ever. God then has no alternative possibilities. Consider then that God chose to create. He could not have chosen otherwise. It is metaphysically impossible (creation is now part of what it means for God to be the good. And God can’t not be the good) and thus would be morally wrong to choose otherwise (There is only one good, thus to choose anything else is evil).

Once again, creation becomes necessary. And by extension evil. The reprobate and the elect.

This is the false dialetic which St Maximos exposed. The idea that choice requires things of differing moral worth. Which is connected to divine simplicity. If the good is one and simple then there can only be one choice. And freedom entails the possibility to choose evil. Edwards’ thinking is simply Origenism “For a soul is always in possession of free-will, as well when it is in the body as when it is without it; and freedom of will is always directed either to good or evil. Nor can any rational and sentient being, i.e., a mind or soul, exist without some movement either good or bad.. (de Principiis – Origen – Book III. Chapter 3. Paragraph 3).” Seeing this same issue, Origen choose not to deny free choice and thus the possibility of multiple falls. Augustine apparently chose to deny alternative possibility and thus free choice in the eschaton and thus there won’t be a fall. [Implying that God has no free choice and is a platonic monad]. And so too, it makes gethsemane about Christ struggling over a good or evil choice. Logically too it would entail that God had to create, since to choose otherwise would be to choose evil. Maximos breaks this dialectic by positing a multiplicity of goods in God (the divine logoi/energies). In which case in heaven the saints retain free will (alternative possibilities) because there are a multiplicty of goods to choose from. Of equal worth. Just like in the garden, Christ’s desire to live is in accordance with the telos humanity. At the same time, there was the good of saving the world. Christ’s struggle was to will both goods in a way that accomplished both, death saving the world then resurrection unto life.

And Edwards, like Maximos agree that the will is moved towards either real and apparent goods. However given the nature person distinction, Maximos puts the will as being an aspect of nature. Not person. The will is a natural property, not identical with the person. Thus it’s not the will that acts, but the person which acts. This makes it possible to have what is the natural faculty, and the way in which one uses it. Without being determined by their nature. The will and the mode/way of willing. The mode of willing is what we call the character.  The natural will/faculty of will is only ever moved towards it’s natural ends. And since God created it’s nature, they cannot be inherently evil. In fact evil has no positive existence.

So humans are always inclined towards their telos. However because nature’ dont equal persons, their mode of willing isn’t fixed to will correctly. For that they need to form habit/character. And without grace they cannot will their telos correctly. The problem is that in willing the natural ends, people being free, don’t always will correctly. And thus don’t will one of the multiple goods in the way it ought. And thus the means to achieve these goods may not be right. And in that case sin is possible. Since one may choose a good in the wrong way. Which would not make their end a good at all. They’ve rather corrupted the good and are therefore heading towards a frustrated end that doesn’t actually exist, and thus can’t satisfy. Evil. Evil is the choice of heading towards non-existence. One who knows the how to will, having virtue, would not fail to achieve the ends in the right way. And thus has a multiplicity of goods to choose from. Free choice for them no longer becomes a matter of good vs evil. Their character seals off evil choices. And thus all their options are according to their telos and thus good.

That is why it was possible, though not necessary for Adam and Eve to do evil. Every inclination is towards a good, but not every manner of acheiving the good is good. There are no such thing as evil that has being. Thus all ends/telos are good. That is why there is no such thing as inherent evil. Neither is there inherent righteousness since these are personal properites not attributable to natures. So all choices, even of devils are towards the good. Not necessarily in the good way. That requires character/virtue. Which is a hypostatic/personal property and thus must be developed.

All creatures from the moment of creation need to deliberate about what is good and how to go about that good. How to best use their natures. This state of uncertainty is called by Maximos “the Gnomic will”. It’s the gnomic state of willing which involves deliberation and uncertainty (2). Due to lack experience/character. We don’t know how to will as we ought. It has to be learned hence sanctification and grace. This gnomic will/state of uncertainty about the good won’t exist in the end/eschaton.

Adam and Eve were not created with a moral nature, but a functioning one. They were united to God by grace (God’s power working in them) in order to live as they were meant to. Living virtuously by the proper use of their natures. Being free to enjoy all the goods that God had for them. That’s why sanctification is important. And that’s why creatures are free. Since character is a personal property of a persons use of their will, God cannot make you have it without forfeiting freedom. So since righteousness is an attribute of persons, and thus of the will, Adam couldn’t have been created with a righteous nature, but a functioning one. He was in a state of righteous (justified- right with God) but had to himself become righteous in character, acting in accordance with what is good for his nature, in order to remain in that state of Grace (connected to God).

Possible Objections

A possible argument against this would be that some choices are at least not intuitively moral choices. For example, though Adam and Eve could not eat from one tree, God did give them all the others to partake of. Would it be a moral decision then for Adam to choose whether or not eat a banana or a pineapple? It must be made clear that I am not positing the thesis that all choices are a dialectic of good and evil. I am saying though that given Edwardsian thinking, this is an implicit idea. That free will at least requires options of differing degrees of good. I say that this is primarily due to his deterministic view of human will. That there needs to be a drawing object to determine the will into motion. This object will always be an apparent or real good. Nobody chooses evil for evil’s sake. No one chooses an option that to them has no good. Then what is the good object to which God is drawn? His end? Can there be a supreme good outside himself to which he is drawn and dependent? There can’t be. Or God wouldn’t be God. So God is the good. His own end. Is there then a multicplity of goods in God? Or is God one good, that we see many aspects of?

It cannot be on Edwards that there are many metaphysically distinct goods in God. Since for Edwards, what one finds pleasant or averse is grounded in their nature. This then requires preference for the nature to incline towards one thing over the other. If there is no preference to determine the will to move, there can be no movement. Thus God’s will only wills good, since his nature only inclines him to good. If then there are multiplicity of goods in God, can one be worse than the other? Can aspects of God be less good than perfect? If then they are all equally good, how can God’s nature move him to any? Since there is no preference to be the determining factor for choice? It would be a stalemate. The only way would be if God were only one single good. Any distinctions being conceptual only. There can only be one good object of choice then for both God and his creatures. Any alternative possibility would defacto be sin. And since God is impeccable, he must then lack any alternative possibility. The freedom of alternative possibility is then always going to be in a framework of going towards the good or going towards evil. There can be no other options. God does not have this freedom. And since creation exists. It must have been a necessary choice. Since the alternative possibility would have been defacto evil. Simply Origenism.

This brings it back to our question of the pineapple and banana. It does not appear that this choice is between good and evil. Why then should God choosing between creating or not creating be a choice between good and evil? The first thing to note is that no created object can be an end. Since that would by definition be idolatry. On top of that, no created object can bring ultimate satisfaction. That is why sin will ultimately leave one empty. Since God made his creatures with an inherent telos/design/end for the greatest good. Which is none other than himself. Thus any created good is always a means to a divine end. Never and end in itself. So the choosing of any created good is only ever the choosing of a means. But the end remains the same all the time. And since there is only one single good, there can be only one single end. And one is either working towards it or they’re not. The freedom then the choose whether to follow this end or not, is only ever a freedom to choose between good and evil. In order then for one to be fixed in choosing the good, impeccable, it would thus require a loss of this freedom. Since once the good is reached, any motion towards anything else would be to choose a different end. But what greater end is there than the one achieved? There is not. So if pineapples and bananas were ends equal to God then the argument for good alternative possibilities would hold. But since there is only ever one end, whether they choose pineapple or banana, they are either moving towards the good or away from it. And that is the point of alternative possibilities. There are only ever really 2. So one’s freedom is indeed a dialectical one where they are choosing good or evil.

But even still. Could it not be said that sure God is always willing the one and necessary good. But maybe the means to that good are not necessary, since there could be many. In this particular instance, more than one way to God. Therefore the choice between creating or not creating was simply a choice between one means over another, in willing the one single good. But none of the means are necessary in and of themselves.

On an Edwardsian framework, this doesn’t work. Unlike us who choose what is “apparently” good to us. God chooses only what he knows is good. And for there to be any choice at all there must ultimately be a difference in good. Thus God chose to create, knowing that it really is the greater good than not creating. And so creation becomes necessary. And since God determines everything that occurs, this world with its evil is necessary too in order for God to be the greatest good.

Also for Edwards, the strongest motive determines the will towards the good. And what one will find to be the strongest motive is determined by their nature. So if one perceived the greatest good, and the disposition of their essence was for it, they would always choose this good. So God is always willing towards the one God that is in/is Himself. Since the disposition of his nature is for the greatest Good. Thus he necessarily chose to create rather than not, because on the Edwardsian schema it had the greater value in light of God’s willing Himself. To create then is inherently and necessarily tied up in what it means for God to be the ultimate good. Since if he chose not to create, he would be going for the lesser good. Which would mean he does not have as the end goal Himself. But something else. Which is idolatry. Which makes the choice evil. Thus following the implications of Edwardsian logic; God is the necessary end and creation and by extension evil are the necessary means. So God needs evil to be God. And God needs evil in order not to be evil.

In fact, Edwards essentially says “it is necessary, that God’s awful majesty, his authority and dreadful greatness, justice, and holiness, should be manifested. But this could not be, unless sin and punishment had been decreed; so that the shining forth of God’s glory would be very imperfect, both because these parts of divine glory would not shine forth as others do, and also the glory of his goodness, love, and holiness would be faint without them; nay, they could scarcely shine forth at all.” [The Works Of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 2, Concerning The Divine Decrees (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2000), 528]

Does it get any more explicit than God’s glory would be imperfect without evil?

Even if one could show that alternative possibilities on the Edwardsian schema don’t amount to a necessary good/evil dialectic. And that one could be an Edwardsian and still believe there are multiple and metaphysically distinct goods in God, it wouldn’t make things a whole lot better. It would just render choice impossible at all. Since God could not have goods in Himself that have varying degrees of goodness. And thus God would have multiple and equal ends in Himself. Which for Edwards would result in a stalemate. God would never do anything. Unless of course, He had libertarian free will? Which for the Edwardsian, is impossible.

Given Reformed theology’s view of determinism and free will, the fact that creation exists, some are damned and evil is a reality, boils down to one of three things

1) God is either determined by necessity of his nature not only to create, but to create a world where people are reprobated.

Or

2) God’s character/Glory is not complete without a world where someone is reprobated.

Or

3) God simply prefers a world where evil exists, though it’s not necessary.

So you either have a God who must necessarily have evil, if he creates must have evil or simply would rather there be evil though it’s not necessary.

If answer 1. Doesn’t Reformed theology constantly stress the sovereign freedom of God? Unless God’s immutable nature determines his actions as well, in which case creation is necessary. Does the Bible present a God who had to create? In fact, John Piper, a well known Calvinist preacher and Edwards enthusiast has this to say:

“Therefore, I would draw out this doctrine for us this morning: It is the glory of God to be gracious to whomever he pleases apart from any constraint originating outside his own will. Or another way to put it would be that sovereign freedom is essential to God’s name.God is utterly free from the constraints of his creation. The inclinations of his will move in directions that he alone determines. Whatever influences appear to change his will are influences which ultimately he has ordained. His choice to show mercy to one person and not to another is a choice that originates in the mystery of his sovereign will not in the will of his creature. And Exodus 33:18–19 teaches us that this self-determining freedom of God is his name and his glory. If God ever surrendered the sovereignty of his freedom in dispensing his mercy, he would cease to be all-glorious, he would no longer be Yahweh, the God of the Bible.” [Piper, John. ‘I Will Be Gracious To Whom I Will Be Gracious’. Desiring God. N.p., 1984. Web. 23 Sept. 2015.]

I don’t use the language of a will choosing or “self-determining will”, since the will is a natural faculty. While this language indicates that will = person. The person is the one who moves uses the will. However I understand what they’re trying to say. However I understand what people are trying to say. In this case, John Piper wants to say that nothing in the creature determines why God chose them. However the idea that God is free from the constraints of his creation is incorrect on the Edwardian gloss. If John Piper is indicating that God’s will is not determined by his nature, then Edwards would have to disagree.

“The Determination of the Will, supposes an effect, which must have a cause. If the Will be determined, there is a Determiner. This must be supposed to be intended even by them that say, The Will determines itself. If it be so, the Will is both Determiner and determined; it is a cause that acts and produces effects upon itself, and is the object of its own influence and action.”

According to Edwards, even if one says the will determines itself, they must posit that the will is still the sufficient determiner of the will. So a necessary cause/effect determination has to be exist for choice to make sense. However Edwards finds this idea to be self contradictory. Motive determines will, and the motive is determined by nature. “It is sufficient to my present purpose to say, It is that motive, which, as it stands in view of the mind, is the strongest, that determines the will.” In fact I believe that John Piper also has this view of free will. “A moral ability is when you are bad enough to choose sin. There’s enough badness in you that you can choose sin. Jesus didn’t have it. There was no badness in Jesus. Therefore he did not ever, in his willing and feeling and in his perception of temptation, he didn’t ever rise to the point of going there. Because that’s evil in us!” [Piper, John. ‘Was It Possible For Jesus To Sin?’. Desiring God. N.p., 2009. Web. 23 Sept. 2015.]

For John Piper, sin is not an option for Jesus, since there is no “evil” in his nature, thus it’s not an option for His Will. Ignoring for the moment the implicit Gnosticism of attributing evil to an impersonal substance, John Piper is now in the same dilemma as Edwards. Namely how could Satan, Adam, Eve and the fallen hosts ever sin, if being determined by their nature, they had no “evil” in them before? With this nature driven free will theology, how is it that God’s will could be moved by his immutable nature, in any direction other than the one it has? How is God “utterly free from the constraints of his creation” if his necessary essence, necessarily determines he creates?

If answer 2. Doesn’t Reformed theology stress that God is self sufficient? And that nothing can make him better than he is or add to him? Isn’t God as “the good” sufficient to be the good for us, without needing anything else? Were the Trinity incomplete in their Glory without creation? Without Evil?

Once again, John Piper, like Edwards want to say that God’s glory is lacking nothing. “When God created the world he did not create out of any need or any weakness or any deficiency. He created out of fullness and strength and complete sufficiency. As Jonathan Edwards said, “Tis no argument of the emptiness or deficiency of a fountain that it is inclined to overflow” (Yale: Works, Vol. 8, 448). So we don’t glorify God by improving his glory, but by seeing and savoring and showing his glory (which is the same as knowing, loving, showing).” [Piper, John. ‘Why Did God Create The World?’. Desiring God. N.p., 2012. Web. 23 Sept. 2015.]

This seems to be contradictory however since for them there would not be a full manifestation of his Glory without creation. This is clearly implicit in their theology. And it’s not just creation that must exist. But it must have evil.

“The “seventh” point, the best-of-all-possible worlds, means that God governs the course of history so that, in the long run, His glory will be more fully displayed and His people more fully satisfied than would have been the case in any other world. If we look only at the way things are now in the present era of this fallen world, this is not the best-of-all-possible worlds. But if we look at the whole course of history, from creation to redemption to eternity and beyond, and see the entirety of God’s plan, it is the best-of-all-possible plans and leads to the best-of-all-possible eternities. And therefore this universe (and the events that happen in it from creation into eternity, taken as a whole) is the best-of-all-possible-worlds.” [Piper, John. ‘What Does Piper Mean When He Says He’s A Seven-Point Calvinist?’. Desiring God. N.p., 2006. Web. 23 Sept. 2015.]

If that’s the case, the God is not fully glorious unless he creates. A creation that includes evil. If God is sufficient as the good, in the relationship of the Trinity, without evil. Then why would He not be sufficient as the good for us, since it is in that very relationship and Glory that we are called to partake in? ” And now, Father,glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed... Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world (John 17:5, 24).” John Piper is famous for his line “God is most glorified in us, when we are most satisfied in Him.” But apparently this isn’t true. If we lived in world without sin, where people did just that. Loving God and their fellow man as they ought, God would not be most glorified. It should really read “God is most Glorified when we are most satisfied in him (only if there exist people who are not).” Then God could not enjoy his full Glory before creating? And Creating a world with evil? God could not be fully God before creating. This necessarily ties up goodness and creation. Righteousness and evil become intrinsically united. The world and evil now become necessary extensions of God. God now needs the reprobate. How sovereign is that?

If answer 3. Does Reformed theology teach a God who loves evil? Does scripture? Doesn’t Paul ask what has light to do with darkness? What has God to do with the devil? Is God as revealed in Christ, the one who prefers the very works of the devil that scripture says he came to destroy? The death and destruction for which he wept at Lazarus’ tomb? The sin for which he died on the cross to save us from? Could one love such a God? Should one?

“In opposition to many of the authors in the philosophical tradition, they [the Cappadocians] reject any attempt to understand the creation and ordering of the world as necessary by-products of God’s internal activity. Basil denies that creation took place without deliberate choice or “as the flame is the cause of the brightness.” Gregory of Nyssa likewise attributes creation to the will of God. It is true that Gregory also says that God necessarily wills the good, but this does not in itself exclude contingency, unless one adds (as Gregory does not) that in each case there is only one good.” [Bradshaw, David. Aristotle East And West. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2004. Print.]

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5 comments on “Thinking Out Loud: Jonathan Edwards and the Necessity of Creation.

  1. Pingback: Free Will and Creation in Light of the Multiple Goods in God | Irish With A Tan

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This entry was posted on September 22, 2015 by in Theology and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .
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