Jonathan Edwards on “Necessity”

Robin Phillips had posted some problems on Edwards’ view of necessity and evil.  It made a lot of people at Orthodox Bridge excited.  Phillips, contra what some may think, wasn’t actually attacking Edwards.  He was showing, on his gloss, that Edwards’ reasoning was headed in a dangerous place.  Fair enough, but I don’t think it was.  I think the questions Edwards raised were already there.

I understand Phillips (and the more knowledgeable Anchorite apologists) want to avoid placing God under “necessity,” since that seems to move closer to Origenism.  But what if necessity is being used in a slightly different sense?  What if the urge to avoid necessity leads one to accidentally posit an agnosticism in the knowledge and being of God (this is precisely what “Prometheus” challenged these guys with.  I don’t think anybody caught on to it.  Everyone replied to him along the lines of cut-and-paste quotations from Palamas that answered nothing).  I will try to expand upon these two points:

1. Necessity:  The pleasant pagan P. Miller explains, “Edwards, we must remember, did not take cause in the positivistic sense of that which determines the effect, but rather as that which is necessarily and aesthetically antecedent” (Miller 257).  More could be said, but I think I have demonstrated that Edwards cannot be pinned as a necessitarian in either the Origenist or mechanistic sense

2.  Necessity anyway:  regardless of how uncomfortable it makes us, any Christian who refuses to embrace open theism has to face the problem: sin has happened.  Did God know that?  Is God’s knowledge of future contingencies real?  If not, you need to abandon omniscience (and probably omnipotence).  If yes, then we have another question:  if God knew it was going to happen, then that means it was going to happen.

Sidenote:  most of the NT talk of the second person of the Trinity rarely deals with the high Christology like Logos asarkos.  Rather, it speaks of the Son who was always-destined-for-Incarnation.

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