God’s end in creation is Himself, to glorify Himself. Does that make God selfish? No, Edwards says, and for two reasons (cf. Holmes, God of Grace and God of Glory: An Account of the Theology of Jonathan Edwards , 58-61).

First is an overtly Trinitarian answer. Virtue is to love God, also for God. Therefore, God’s virtue “must consist primarily in love to himself .” But Edwards adds at once that self-love is “the mutual love and friendship which subsists eternally and necessarily between the several persons of the Godhead.”

Second is an implicitly Trinitarian argument, which has a neat twist. God displays His glory in creation and history. That glory is known and loved by rational creatures, who know and love God by participating in God’s own knowledge and love (which, Edwards says elsewhere, are the Son and Spirit). So the self-glorifying display of God’s glory is at once the incorporation of human beings into the glory of Triune life. Self-glory and glorification of creatures are identical. As Edwards puts it, “God’s respect to the creature’s good, and his respect to himself . . . are united in one, as the happiness of the creature aimed at is happiness in union with himself.” This union with God becomes “more and more strict and perfect,” so that it becomes “nearer and more like to that between God the Father and the Son; who are so united that their interest is perfectly one . . . the creature must be looked upon as united to God in an infinite strictness.”

The basis for Edwards’s denial that God is selfish is, in short, deification.

Articles by Peter J. Leithart

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