Imago Dei in Jonathan Edwards: the locus of divine activity for the glorification of the Triune God in the end of creation
Item statusRestricted Access
Embargo end date20/10/2025
Williams, Charles Scott
The central argument of this dissertation concerns how the imago Dei in the theological corpus of Jonathan Edwards ought to be interpreted as the center of gravity of the Triune God’s providential work from creation through redemption, and the fulfilment of the chief and ultimate end of creation, the glory of God. This study initiated an exploration and detailed analysis of Edwards’s account of the rationes divinae aeternae behind the formation, design, and telos of the imago Dei in humankind as the principal object and locus of this Divine activity. Edwards’s account of God’s hierarchy and valuation of ends, his understanding of the Divine disposition of diffusion as the genesis for the creation of the world, and his explanation of the glory of God in the happiness of humans as the supreme and ultimate end for creation, were all essential components of this assessment. The contour of this work then required a thematic analysis of numerous theological forebearers of Edwards from the Patristic, Reformational, and Post-Reformed periods to assess. Our analysis here focused on several key areas in the theology of these theologians as it relates to their views of the imago Dei. These areas include the doctrine of the Trinity. The structure and telos of the imago Dei with an emphasis on its distinctive faculties and capabilities. Our attention considered Edwards’s own view of the Trinity as the dominant Divine image is found in the imago Dei. Edwards employed his own amalgamation of both theological metaphysics and Biblical sources for his view of the Trinity. One of the chief items explored here was Edwards’s theocentrism. This topic has recently been explored as an essential methodological and interpretive key for understanding the entire corpus Edwards’s thought in recent scholarship. This thesis also explored how Edwards viewed God’s activities ad extra as the external expression of God’s inner-trinitarian life ad intra and the implications it has for God’s communicative activity in creation, providence, redemption, and eschatology. As expected, this work also endeavoured to reflect upon Edwards’s subscription to certain analogies or models of the Trinitarian image in the imago Dei. Understanding Edwards’s own view of the nature of imago Dei’s directed our attention to four areas of exploration. A) the origin and use of Edwards’s moral vs natural scheme concerning his categorization of the imago Dei in relation to the attributes of God’s nature and essence; B) the ectype of the imago Dei in its primal and pristine state at creation ante lapsum. The principal matter to be examined here concerns the protology or telos of the imago Dei in humans at creation; C) the post lapsum state of the imago Dei in humankind because of our primal parents’ initial sin; and D) whether Edwards provide any reflection concerning a covenantal formation within the imago Dei an essential and intimate relation between the Triune God and humanity? In contradistinction to the denigration of the imago Dei from ante lapsum to post lapsum this study also concerned itself with an examination of Edwards’s depiction of how the imago Dei is restored through the machinations of the Triune God’s redemptive work in fallen humans. Attention was centered on the revivification of the moral image of God and the progressive restoration of the corrupted natural image of God. This section also examined the covenantal relationship between the Persons of the Triune Godhead and fallen humans and how it underscores the redemptive work. Principal here is the effort to understand how Edwards’s theologies of Divine union defines the union of Christ with the elect and the role of the Holy Spirit as the bond between them to effect and empower the work of redemption. Our final area of concentration for this dissertation was to provide a picture of Edwards’s theology concerning the imago Dei in his eschatological scheme of glorification and participation. More precisely, how does Edwards make the case that the imago Dei serves as an essential locus of Divine activity for the supreme and ultimate end of creation for the glorification of the Triune God in the creature’s good and happiness emanating from their supreme and highest regard for God. Some of the critical aspects of this examination concerns: A) does Edwards maintain the language or concepts of “theosis” or “deification” in his participatory theology or does he navigate in a different direction?; B) does Edwards differentiate the relationship of the redeemed individual with the Divine nature or essence in theosis or participation; C) what is Edwards’s view concerning the nature of the perichoresis and economic unity between the redeemed creature with the Trinity in the union with Christ, and D) how Edwards describe the glory of the Triune God as revealed through the imago Dei in the creature. What this study will revealed was that Edwards possessed a robust, though at times nuanced, theology of the imago Dei. A theology which he mastered inherently, but also addressed in context and relation to numerous other interrelated theological areas. Although a few of Edwards’s theological areas signified a deviation from his Reformed heritage. The preponderance of them were consistent with his Reformed forbearers. Edwards remains soundly in the pedigree Reformed theology as both a theologian and pastor. Edwards presents us with a theologically thorough accounting of how the imago Dei serves as the principal locus of all Divine activity for the glorification of the Triune God from of his pre-creation narrative, through the drama of redemption, and into the eschatological consummation at the end of creation in the new heavens and earth.