Friday, January 06, 2006

Jonathan Edwards on deification

It does not appear that Jonathan Edwards was a big fan of deification. He says in Religious Affections,
Thus not only the manner of the relation of the Spirit, who is the operator, to the subject of his operations, is different; as the Spirit operates in the saints, as dwelling in them, as an abiding principle of action, whereas he doth not so operate upon sinners; but the influence and operation itself is different, and the effect wrought exceeding different. So that not only the persons are called spiritual, as having the Spirit of God dwelling in them; but those qualifications, affections, and experiences, that are wrought in them by the Spirit, are also spiritual, and therein differ vastly in their nature and kind from all that a natural man is or can be the subject of, while he remains in a natural state; and also from all that men or devils can be the authors of. It is a spiritual work in this high sense; and therefore above all other works is peculiar to the Spirit of God. There is no work so high and excellent; for there is no work wherein God doth so much communicate himself, and wherein the mere creature hath, in so high a sense a participation of God; so that it is expressed in Scripture by the saints "being made partakers of the divine nature," 2 Pet. 1:4, and "having God dwelling in them, and they in God," 1 John 4:12, 15, 16, and chap. 3:21; "and having Christ in them," John 17:21, Rom. 8:10; "being the temples of the living God," 2 Cor. 6:16; "living by Christ's life," Gal. 2:20; "being made partakers of God's holiness," Heb. 12:10; "having Christ's love dwelling in them," John 17:26; "having his joy fulfilled in them," John 17:13; "seeing light in God's light, and being made to drink of the river of God's pleasures," Psal. 36:8, 9; "having fellowship with God, or communicating and partaking with him (as the word signifies)," 1 John 1:3. Not that the saints are made partakers of the essence of God, and so are godded with God, and christed with Christ, according to the abominable and blasphemous language and notions of some heretics: but, to use the Scripture phrase, they are made partakers of God's fullness, Eph. 3:17, 18, 19, John 1:16, that is, of God's spiritual beauty and happiness, according to the measure and capacity of a creature; for so it is evident the word fullness signifies in Scripture language. Grace in the hearts of the saints, being therefore the most glorious work of God, wherein he communicates of the goodness of his nature, it is doubtless his peculiar work, and in an eminent manner above the power of all creatures. And the influences of the Spirit of God in this, being thus peculiar to God, and being those wherein God does, in so high a manner, communicate himself, and make the creature partaker of the divine nature (the Spirit of God communicating itself in its own proper nature); this is what I mean by those influences that are divine, when I say that "truly gracious affections do arise from those influences that are spiritual and divine."
This is a difficult thing for Dr Edwards to say. I am trying to figure this doctrine out right now, and his calling these kinds "heretics" gives me more pause. He believes that in our "partaking of the divine nature," God has communicated himself, and the goodness of his nature in particular. I cannot help but notice that he does not cite the passage that most opened me to the "Orthodox" view, Col 2:9-10: "For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority" (ESV [οτι εν αυτω κατοικει παν το πληρωμα της θεοτητος σωματικως και εστε εν αυτω πεπληρωμενοι ος εστιν η κεφαλη πασης αρχης και εξουσιας ]).

Notice the striking repitition of the πληρω- words here. All the "fullness [πληρωμα] of the Godhead" dwells bodily in Christ, and then comes the haunting words: you have been "filled" [πεπληρωμενοι] in him.

I still have a lot of questions, and I repudiate the Mormon idea that we become "gods." But in some way we share in the fullness in which Christ himself shares. I don't know what that way is, and I am not terribly anxious to try to articulate it specifically. But I am open to the idea that, as the Apostle Peter reminds us, we have "become partakers of the divine nature" (2 Pet 1:4 (ESV) [γενησθε θειας κοινωνοι φυσεως]).

7 Comments:

Anonymous Joel said...

Seems Edwards was addressing a particular heresy of the "Famlists"

See

"Nor yet is it such a mystical union, as is between Christ and believers. Indeed that is a glorious union; but though believers are said to be in Christ, and Christ in them, yet they are not one person with him. They are not christed into Christ, or godded into God, as blasphemous Familists speak."

http://www.ccel.org/ccel/flavel/fountain.htm

Not sure what a Famlist is altogether, but Flaves seems to indicate they believed in a dissolving union.
But theosis is not about a confusion of identity that results in a single person.

1/06/2006 01:19:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Thanks for the clarification, Joel.

1/06/2006 01:24:00 PM  
Anonymous Joel said...

That should be Familist and Flavel.

1/06/2006 03:00:00 PM  
Blogger lilrabbi said...

Ryan, have you ever read CS Lewis' essay, "Transposition"?

1/07/2006 11:08:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

No. Where is it? In God in the Dock?

1/07/2006 11:35:00 PM  
Blogger Bob M said...

Ryan,
I heard Piper, in his talk on Athanasius last year, discuss deification. It is under point #7 here:
http://www.desiringgod.org/library/biographies/2005_athanasius.html

1/14/2006 12:00:00 AM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Thank you for that link, Bob. I heard Dr Piper discuss this on a recording of that talk. I am not sure I would come down where he is or not. I need to study this more before I can come to definite conclusions. I have gathered that Reformed circles are not terribly fond of the idea.

1/14/2006 08:52:00 AM  

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Immoderate: Jonathan Edwards on deification

Friday, January 06, 2006

Jonathan Edwards on deification

It does not appear that Jonathan Edwards was a big fan of deification. He says in Religious Affections,
Thus not only the manner of the relation of the Spirit, who is the operator, to the subject of his operations, is different; as the Spirit operates in the saints, as dwelling in them, as an abiding principle of action, whereas he doth not so operate upon sinners; but the influence and operation itself is different, and the effect wrought exceeding different. So that not only the persons are called spiritual, as having the Spirit of God dwelling in them; but those qualifications, affections, and experiences, that are wrought in them by the Spirit, are also spiritual, and therein differ vastly in their nature and kind from all that a natural man is or can be the subject of, while he remains in a natural state; and also from all that men or devils can be the authors of. It is a spiritual work in this high sense; and therefore above all other works is peculiar to the Spirit of God. There is no work so high and excellent; for there is no work wherein God doth so much communicate himself, and wherein the mere creature hath, in so high a sense a participation of God; so that it is expressed in Scripture by the saints "being made partakers of the divine nature," 2 Pet. 1:4, and "having God dwelling in them, and they in God," 1 John 4:12, 15, 16, and chap. 3:21; "and having Christ in them," John 17:21, Rom. 8:10; "being the temples of the living God," 2 Cor. 6:16; "living by Christ's life," Gal. 2:20; "being made partakers of God's holiness," Heb. 12:10; "having Christ's love dwelling in them," John 17:26; "having his joy fulfilled in them," John 17:13; "seeing light in God's light, and being made to drink of the river of God's pleasures," Psal. 36:8, 9; "having fellowship with God, or communicating and partaking with him (as the word signifies)," 1 John 1:3. Not that the saints are made partakers of the essence of God, and so are godded with God, and christed with Christ, according to the abominable and blasphemous language and notions of some heretics: but, to use the Scripture phrase, they are made partakers of God's fullness, Eph. 3:17, 18, 19, John 1:16, that is, of God's spiritual beauty and happiness, according to the measure and capacity of a creature; for so it is evident the word fullness signifies in Scripture language. Grace in the hearts of the saints, being therefore the most glorious work of God, wherein he communicates of the goodness of his nature, it is doubtless his peculiar work, and in an eminent manner above the power of all creatures. And the influences of the Spirit of God in this, being thus peculiar to God, and being those wherein God does, in so high a manner, communicate himself, and make the creature partaker of the divine nature (the Spirit of God communicating itself in its own proper nature); this is what I mean by those influences that are divine, when I say that "truly gracious affections do arise from those influences that are spiritual and divine."
This is a difficult thing for Dr Edwards to say. I am trying to figure this doctrine out right now, and his calling these kinds "heretics" gives me more pause. He believes that in our "partaking of the divine nature," God has communicated himself, and the goodness of his nature in particular. I cannot help but notice that he does not cite the passage that most opened me to the "Orthodox" view, Col 2:9-10: "For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority" (ESV [οτι εν αυτω κατοικει παν το πληρωμα της θεοτητος σωματικως και εστε εν αυτω πεπληρωμενοι ος εστιν η κεφαλη πασης αρχης και εξουσιας ]).

Notice the striking repitition of the πληρω- words here. All the "fullness [πληρωμα] of the Godhead" dwells bodily in Christ, and then comes the haunting words: you have been "filled" [πεπληρωμενοι] in him.

I still have a lot of questions, and I repudiate the Mormon idea that we become "gods." But in some way we share in the fullness in which Christ himself shares. I don't know what that way is, and I am not terribly anxious to try to articulate it specifically. But I am open to the idea that, as the Apostle Peter reminds us, we have "become partakers of the divine nature" (2 Pet 1:4 (ESV) [γενησθε θειας κοινωνοι φυσεως]).

7 Comments:

Anonymous Joel said...

Seems Edwards was addressing a particular heresy of the "Famlists"

See

"Nor yet is it such a mystical union, as is between Christ and believers. Indeed that is a glorious union; but though believers are said to be in Christ, and Christ in them, yet they are not one person with him. They are not christed into Christ, or godded into God, as blasphemous Familists speak."

http://www.ccel.org/ccel/flavel/fountain.htm

Not sure what a Famlist is altogether, but Flaves seems to indicate they believed in a dissolving union.
But theosis is not about a confusion of identity that results in a single person.

1/06/2006 01:19:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Thanks for the clarification, Joel.

1/06/2006 01:24:00 PM  
Anonymous Joel said...

That should be Familist and Flavel.

1/06/2006 03:00:00 PM  
Blogger lilrabbi said...

Ryan, have you ever read CS Lewis' essay, "Transposition"?

1/07/2006 11:08:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

No. Where is it? In God in the Dock?

1/07/2006 11:35:00 PM  
Blogger Bob M said...

Ryan,
I heard Piper, in his talk on Athanasius last year, discuss deification. It is under point #7 here:
http://www.desiringgod.org/library/biographies/2005_athanasius.html

1/14/2006 12:00:00 AM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Thank you for that link, Bob. I heard Dr Piper discuss this on a recording of that talk. I am not sure I would come down where he is or not. I need to study this more before I can come to definite conclusions. I have gathered that Reformed circles are not terribly fond of the idea.

1/14/2006 08:52:00 AM  

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