Chapter

Divine Excellency

Oliver D. Crisp

in Jonathan Edwards on God and Creation

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199755295
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199979486 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199755295.003.0006
Divine Excellency

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Chapter 5 deals with the doctrine of divine excellency, an important constituent of Edwardsian theology proper. Edwards argues that “one alone cannot be excellent.” He maintains that an entity that is without any internal differentiation whatsoever is not as “excellent” and therefore, not as beautiful, as one that does. Building on a careful argument for the conclusion that beauty requires such plurality, Edwards ends up with something approaching an a priori argument for the Trinity via a doctrine of divine beauty and excellency. The chapter argues that Edwards's doctrine of divine excellency forms a conceptual bridge between his work in theology proper and his doctrine of the Trinity, paving the way for his later speculations on the metaphysics of the Trinity. The chapter also argues that his doctrine of divine excellency is not necessarily incompatible with a doctrine of divine simplicity. Utilizing recent work in historical theology by Richard Muller and others, the chapter shows that for many classical theologians, including the Reformed orthodox whose works formed the staple of Edwards's theological education, divine simplicity is a piece of apophatic theology. It says that God is noncomposite but not how he is noncomposite. Edwards's doctrine of excellency, in keeping with the doctrines of the Trinity in these Reformed, and catholic, writers, has a place for simplicity as well as the plurality necessary for a doctrine of the Trinity.

Keywords: divine excellency; divine plurality; divine simplicity; apophaticism; noncomposite nature; Trinity; Reformed Orthodox theology; Richard Muller

Chapter.  10032 words. 

Subjects: Christian Theology

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