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Jonathan Edwards on God and Creation Hardcover – November 13, 2012
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"This book is the most important interpretation of Jonathan Edwards's philosophical theology in a generation." --The Journal of Theological Studies
"Once every generation or so a book comes along that redefines prevailing interpretation of a figure or event. This is just such a book for understanding Edwards, one of the most significant figures in early modern religious history and in Christian thought. Addressing long-standing and recent debates about Edwards's theology, philosophy, and metaphysics, Oliver Crisp achieves a new synthesis of Edwards's influences, context, innovations, tensions, and relevance. This is a pivotal achievement with which any serious reader of Edwards will have to grapple."--Kenneth P. Minkema, Executive Editor and Director of the Jonathan Edwards Center, Yale University
"Oliver Crisp contributes in a magisterial and decisive way to the lively contemporary re-appropriation of Edwards. His study arises out of prolonged and collegial discussion. In focusing specifically on Edwards's account of God and creation, he offers an original and lucid exploration of Edwards's doctrine of divine excellency, asking how such an understanding of simplicity is relatable to a belief that creation is a necessary output of God's nature. I thoroughly recommend it."--Iain R. Torrance, President, Princeton Theological Seminary
"Oliver Crisp provides a clear and patient exhibition of Edwards's creative thought. This is combined with the deployment of the analytic skills which are evident in Crisp's earlier books. Here he exposes to view central Edwardsean themes, and offers a judicious comparison with the seventeenth-century Reformed tradition. A noteworthy achievement."--Paul Helm, Teaching Fellow, Regent College
About the Author
Oliver D. Crisp is Professor of Systematic Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary.
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Oliver Crisp introduces many Protestant readers to a number of very important discussions about the the doctrine of God that are rarely mentioned in seminary, but almost always come up in apologetic encounters and in discussions with Catholics and Eastern Orthodoxy (which raises a side issue: are the Reformed seminaries actually doing that good a job in preparing their students?). Fortunately, Crisp helps correct this problem.
Case Study: God's Simplicity.
God is simple by anyone's definition. All this means is that God's identity isn't made up of parts. That is not the same thing as the Thomist definition of simplicity: God's attributes = each other = the persons = the relations (Summa Theologica, 1st Part, questions 19, 28, and 40). Crisp notes the problem: Jonathan Edwards seemed to believe in a necessary creation, which is inconsistent with the Christian doctrine of God. God is not conditioned or determined by things outside himself. However, a necessary creation is quite consistent with NeoPlatonism (since the One must necessarily emanate the Many or it will cease to be the One). Unfortunately, most of the Reformed writers held to a similar simplicity metaphysics, yet they (rightly) denied necessary creation.
Crisp then spends a good few chapters trying to exonerate Edwards from this problem, without any real success. The book is in many ways a sequel to his dissertation, Jonathan Edwards and the Metaphysics of Sin. In fact, I could actually predict most of the arguments in the book from what I know of the previous book. The key to such a prediction, as Crisp makes clear, is Edwards' occasionalism. That's the beauty of this book's simplicity (no pun intended).
Should you get the book? Maybe. The price, while hideous, is actually cheap compared to Crisp's other book on Edwards. Further, the book is worth the price simply for the end notes and bibliography alone. Pursuing the book's reference of secondary literature alone will make the reader an eminent theologian (or at least a smart one).