Jonathan Edwards on the Experience of Beauty

Jonathan Edwards on the Experience of Beauty

by Louis J. Mitchell


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Jonathan Edwards on the Experience of Beauty relates Edwards' idea of beauty to his understanding of the psychology of religious experience. In his vocabulary of the language of beauty Edwards articulates a traditional understanding of beauty in the various relations that constitute primary and secondary beauty. All beauty, however, is ultimately founded on the beauty of God's Trinitarian being. Edwards' concept of the "sense of the heart," related to his psychology of religious experience, is articulated as an infusion of God's beauty. This experience results in a new perception and manifestation of holiness and beauty in the lives of the saints, both individually and corporately. True believers are to be "proportioned Christians," showing forth beauty in their affections. Edwards explicated this perspective in sermons, treatises—especially Religious Affections—and in a number of cases he presented, including the religious experiences of David Brainerd, Sarah Edwards, and his own awakening and conversion. In these cases, the language of beauty plays a prominent descriptive role. In summary, Jonathan Edwards on the Experience of Beauty shows the importance of Edwards' idea of beauty for his understanding of genuine religious experience. Edwards defines true or genuine religion as an experience of God's beauty that becomes manifested in the beauty of the affections. Further, in articulating that understanding, he utilized the vocabulary of his language of beauty. For Jonathan Edwards, beauty is the structure of genuine religious experience.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781532603594
Publisher: Wipf & Stock Publishers
Publication date: 08/05/2016
Series: Jonathan Edwards Classic Studies Series
Pages: 128
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.30(d)

About the Author

Louis J. Mitchell is a native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and a graduate of Duquesne University. Ordained as a Presbyterian minister, he served in two churches in the Boston area before returning to Pittsburgh to become the Senior Pastor of an active congregation on the urban campus of the University of Pittsburgh, where he was also a chaplain of the university. Although Dr. Mitchell again left Pittsburgh, he continues to be a Steelers fan. For the past seventeen years he has been the senior pastor and head of staff of the historic First Presbyterian Church, Cranbury, New Jersey, which in the 1740s partnered with missionary David Brainerd in the Native American community of Bethel.

Dr. Mitchell holds a Master of Divinity degree from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and both a Master of Theology and Doctor of Theology degree from Harvard University. His doctoral dissertation, directed by Richard R. Niebuhr, focused on the idea of beauty in the thought of Jonathan Edwards. Dr. Mitchell's work on Edwards and beauty has been published in Theology Today, Theology Matters, and in Princeton Theological Seminary's monograph series, Studies in Reformed Theology and History.

Dr. Mitchell has been an adjunct professor at Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he currently serves in that capacity. Additionally, he has lectured in the Summer Theology Program at Princeton Theological Seminary. He has also been a participant in the Pastor-Theologian Program at the Center of Theological Inquiry in Princeton, New Jersey.

Table of Contents

Foreword vii

Acknowledgments and Dedication viii

Introduction ix

I The Language of Beauty 1

The Vocabulary of Beauty 1

The Beauty of Love 5

Beauty and the Trinity 10

Beauty and Glory 12

II The Experience of Beauty 17

A Sense of the Heart 18

Religious Knowledge 20

A Sense of the Spirit 27

Beauty Perceived 29

III The Manifestations of Beauty 31

Beauty Incarnate 31

Excellency of Christ 31

"Proportioned Christians" 41

Corporate Beauty 43

The Beauty of Order 46

The Beauty of Union 49

"One Cannot Subsist Alone" 51

IV Signs Of Beauty 55

Religious Affections 55

Negative Signs 59

Positive Signs 62

V Cases of Beauty 75

A Faithful Narrative 75

The Case of Abigail Hutchinson 77

The Case of Phoebe Bartlet 78

The Case of Jonathan Edwards 80

Some Thoughts on the Revival 90

The Case of Sarah Edwards 90

The Case of David Brainerd 94

Conclusion 105

Bibliography 109

Index 113

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"More and more Christian theologians are beginning to recognize that Jonathan Edwards was not only America's premier theologian but also the thinker who did more than anyone else in the history of Christian thought to relate God and beauty in an integral fashion. Louis Mitchell shows that at the center of Edwards's vaunted 'sense of the heart' was an infusion of God's beauty. Because of its fresh approach and elegant execution, this book should be required reading for all students of Edwards, aesthetics, and religious experience."

Gerald McDermott

Beeson Divinity School

"In this concise study, Louis Mitchell makes clear that beauty is a central category for Jonathan Edwards' theology, and indeed that Edwards was among the very first western Christian theologians to place beauty at the center of his thought. Even more, Mitchell shows how Edwards used the concept of beauty as a means to describe true religious experience. Readers of Edwards and of early modern philosophical theology can be thankful that this formative essay, which has long been difficult to access, is now readily available." 

Kenneth Minkema

The Jonathan Edwards Center,

Yale University

"Both elegant and insightful, this study of aesthetics in Edwards' theology enables us to grasp the role of beauty in Edwards' understanding of human experience. This work contains a definitive introduction to the field and illuminating expositions of particular areas of thought. The section on the person and work of Christ is deeply suggestive, and the articulation of religious experience opens up Edwards' work to the uninitiated reader. This volume remains required reading for those wrestling with the depth and breadth of Edwards' thought."

Michael McClenahan, The BibleMesh Institute; author of Jonathan Edwards and Justification by Faith.

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