5 Symphonic Themes in Jonathan Edwards’ Theology

January 13, 2012 — 2 Comments


Another book I’m tackling in 2012 is The Theology of Jonathan Edwards. So far, and not surprisingly, I’ve really been drawn into this one. Right off the bat, authors Michael McClymond and Gerald McDermott offer 5 recurring themes in Edwards’ theology. They use the metaphor of attending a symphony and how different hearers hear different musical themes emphasized depending on their location in the auditorium.

Edwards theology then could be organized into five symphonic themes (corresponding to an orchestra’s violins, other strings, woodwinds, brass, and percussion):

Trinitarian communication (violins)

God’s self-communication or overflow transpired from all eternity among the three persons of the Trinity, and then occurred once again in the creation of the world (p. 5)

Creaturely participation (other strings)

God communicates, and the creature participates (p. 5)

Necessitarian dispositionalism (brass)

The essence of all being – even that of God – consisted in disposition or habit. Disposition is not a quality possessed by a thing, but is the essence of a thing (p. 5)

Theocentric voluntarism (woodwinds)

This could be called the Calvinistic or theocentric aspect of Edwards’ theology (p. 6)

Harmonious constitutionalism (percussion)

All aspects of salvation are interrelated because all are willed together in God’s eternity and according to God’s decree (p. 6)

As the authors conclude a page over, “To enjoy a symphony most fully, one must listen to all the instruments at once.” What they hear in particular is a symphony where the melody starts with the violins and goes back and forth with the other strings. Occassionally, in some movements it shifts to the brass or woodwinds, and all the time the percussion is playing. But in the end, it keeps returning to the string section over and over again.

To me, this is a great analogy, so I’m looking forward to seeing more clearly how well they develop it in the course of this book.


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I’m an avid reader, musician, and high school Bible teacher living in central Florida. I have many paperback books and our house smells of rich glade air freshners. If you want to know more, then let’s connect!

2 responses to 5 Symphonic Themes in Jonathan Edwards’ Theology

  1. Zacarias Rivera January 12, 2013 at 9:13 am

    I also am an avid reader. I’d say that I also savor the same types of books that you explore. I also am a teacher, but of 11th and 12th grade high school students and my subject is English. In addition to my Bible reading, I read books on education, and a lot of literature. It’s wonderful to read that you teach high school age students and are interested in deep, academic theological tomes. Thanks for all the recommendations I’ve read so far.

    • You’re very welcome, glad we could connect on here! What are some of the best books on education you’ve read, and literarily speaking, what are some books I should get on my list for the summer?

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