Friday, March 07, 2008

Edwards, aesthetics, and the Eastern tradition.

Another article on JE and the Eastern tradition. Michael Gibson concludes that: 

'The core argument of this essay has been that Jonathan Edwards reconceptualized the dogmatic loci of Christian theology through an aesthetic lens, and that as a result his theological vision takes on a remarkable resemblance to the Eastern tradition, most closely resembling the thought of Maximus the Confessor. It cannot be suggested that Edwards in fact read Maximus, let alone that he consciously appropriated the vision of Maximus into his own thinking.'


' I am suggesting that a philosophical and theological line of thinking that can be traced back to Cappadocian and Eastern tradition had surfaced in Edwards's time, and that it infused the variegated sources of Edwards's thinking. Moreover, the state of theological controversy sparked similar types of theological defense and substantiation: as Maximus faced Origenism, Arianism, monophysitism, Macedonianism—controversies surrounding the definition of the person of Christ, the Trinity, creation—so also Edwards entered the dispute over Socianism, Arminianism, the Trinity, the will, and original sin. In a strange way, these two consummate theologians, though separated by over a millennium, constructed astoundingly similar bodies of theological contemplation that pivoted on the axis of God's glory and beauty.'

Much more needs to be written about this alleged connection - see also the article by McClymond in Helm & Crisp, Jonathan Edwards: Philosophical Theologian. For now just to note this latest article.

Michael Gibson, 'The Beauty of the Redemption of the World: The Theological Aesthetics of Maximus the Confessor and Jonathan Edwards'
in Harvard Theological Review (2008), 101:45-76


Blogger Jerry Stutzman said...

Gibson's article is intriguing. I don't recall precisely Lee's and Marsden's arguments against neoplatonism, but if they were limiting neoplatonism merely to Plotinus then I think that is problematic. The Cambridge Platonists were critical of Plotinus and were aware of other neoplatonic traditions. Gibson identifies some important parallels between Maximus and Edwards, but more work needs to be done concerning the influence of Eastern theology on 17/18 century.

5:37 pm  
Blogger Michael McClenahan said...

Thanks Jerry. One thing to ponder is the nature of 'influence' in theological writing. What does it really mean to draw similiar language from two men centuries and cultures apart and discuss the resemblance? Where is the discussion of the Augustinian trajectory of Reformed orthodox teaching and the place of exegesis in the development of the doctrines? I mention this latter point for the obvious (but frequently overlooked reason) that Edwards hadn't read Maximus, but they both meditated at length on the Christian scriptures.

6:31 pm  
Blogger Jerry Stutzman said...

In terms of influences, Edwards is really difficult, and there have been plenty of mistakes in the scholarship in that regard, because of the breadth of his reading, his redefinition of terms, and the convergence of so many ideas at that period of time. You're right that the Augustinian trajectory is important but it is hard to define because there are varied Augustinian traditions. Exegesis is certainly the most neglected aspect - what would have been interesting in the article would have been a comparison of exegetical approaches. I wonder what Maximus's views on typology/allegory were?

2:30 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great resource on the connection of Western and Eastern Aesthetics. If Christianity is to be an authentic voice in the field of Aesthetics, then the Eastern Aesthetic must be explored in more detail.

3:11 pm  

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