Margaret Brueggeman

Professor Westblade

Jonathan Edwards


“The End For Which God Created the World”

Thoughts on Jonathan Edwards


            Historians and theologians have questioned God’s purpose in the creation of man. The 18th century theologian Jonathan Edwards expounds upon Gods divine purpose of his creation in the dissertation “The End For Which God Created the World.” He states that God’s Chief end in creation is the glorification of himself. This understanding of God’s chief end is simplified into a triad of thoughts. He begins by addressing reason revealing God, who created the world, having nothing to gain nor plausibly receiving anything from his creation. Therefore, this logically leads one to the understanding that God is the chief end. He continues with God as being the first cause of all things and the supreme and last end of all things. Finally, he explains the chief end and purpose is the Glory of God. While Jonathan supports each point with a plethora of scriptures, the context of the scripture are not entirely accounted for leaving many unanswered questions. Thus, his interpretation of glory and glorifying of God misrepresents the scriptural bases of Gods being. Therefore, in meek and humble words I will try to establish a biblical understanding of God, his glory and the glory of him.

            Reason suggests, according to Jonathan Edwards, that God in all of his goodness is the benefactor of all the actions, thoughts, and will of his creation. In this you find that a God whose hand directs and enacts all workings of his creation is completely independent and above his creation. We also find that God has nothing to gain nor can receive any reciprocal goodness from his creation. As he explains, “the notion of God creating the world, in order to receive anything properly from the creature, is not only contrary to the nature of God but inconsistent with the notion of creation”[1] Furthermore, he explains mans depravity and sole dependence upon God, “now if the creature receives its ALL from God, entirely and perfectly, how is it possible that it should have any thing to add to God, to make him in any respect more than he was before, and so the Creator become dependent on the creature?”[2] So his salient points of reason are stated.

            Reason is a deductive process where one accumulates fact, analyzes those facts, and rationally constructs belief based upon those facts. Thus, reason is a foundation for any argument. For, the purpose of establishing a reasonable argument gives a certain amount of credibility to the thought. Therefore, Jonathan Edwards established reason as the basis for his argument, which is supported through and by scripture. His conclusions deduce two main positions. First he declares, that God is the being the beginning and the end. Secondly, he establishes that “whence all things originate; so, he is the last, final cause for which they are made.”[3] Jonathan’s thesis can be deduced from his scriptures provided. Stated in Revelation 1:8, “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, an which is to come the Almighty.”[4] Jonathan cites Revelation 1:11, “Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and last,” 17, “And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last,”[5] and 22:13, “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.”[6] Each scripture, Jonathan uses to establish point one, presents God’s state of being, for he is the beginning and the end. However, theses scriptures do not portray God’s intension or motive for the creation. In conjunction with his first statement, Jonathan’s notion, that all things are created by him, for him, and to him, is commonly professed in the word, Bible. However, with in the supporting scriptural references there is discontentment regarding the context of the scriptures. Jonathan’s scriptural references are as follows: Romans 11:36, “For him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever, Amen,” Colossians 1:16, “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.” The one verse that Jonathan takes from Romans chapter eleven contains the key words, for him, all glory, are present, which might make the verse seem as though it is entirely supporting this understanding. However, when this one verse is considered within the whole chapter its meaning and content give the notion of the nature of God’s existence or his state of being. Jonathan Edward’s states, “the scriptures represent God as making himself his own last end in the creation of the world.”[7] Therefore, I fail to comprehend how these scriptural references decisively and firmly demonstrate God’s motive and intent toward the establishment of creation as being exclusively for himself, complete independence from creation, and for the glorification of himself.

            God created the heavens and the earth and all things. In this creation God created man, a living soul, in his image, Adam. Because of Adams sin, motives or actions contrary to that of the Lord’s, he fell from the garden. Thus, the Bible is the story of the redemption of Adam, man. Now having established who man and his place in the structure of creation, let us consider, first, the relationship between God the Father and his son. Secondly, let us examination the meaning of glory and how man glorifies the Lord.

            The relationship constituted between father and son is one of life long dependence and reciprocal joy and love. The dependence a father has upon his son changes as the son matures. The father’s hope is that the son will mature into a self sufficient and paternal man, like himself, exit dependency, and ultimately enter into friendship. One must grasp the fundamental and natural truth that God created man in his image, to affirm who Adam, man, is. So let us examine further what principles both nature and divine instruction insist that one exercises in the paternal duty. The Bible states in the book of Genesis chapter 5:3 “and Adam lived a hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, after his image, and called his name Seth.” In this verse we have the same word usage describing the reproduction of a man as the creation of man. Let one also reason that Adam, being God’s creation of man, has a purpose revealed in Christ to be the Lords son. Consequently, the principles of nature and divine instruction insist that we must exercise the love and feeling that God bestows upon his only begotten son toward our own sons. Love can only be shown by the willingness of the father to share his position and to foster a reciprocal friendship, thus establishing life long friendships. As stated in Luke chapter 10:22, “all things are delivered to me of my father: and no man knoweth who the son is, but the father; and who the father is, but the son, and he to whom the son will reveal him.” This being the very words of Christ, who is the Lord our God, leaves us to wonder where man rests in this relationship. In Galatians chapter 4 it is explained that man, through the death and resurrection of the father’s only begotten son, is to receive salvation and be adopted as the Lord’s son. “God sent forth his son, made of a women, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God has sent forth the spirit of his son into your hearts crying Abba, father. Wherefore thou art not more a servant but a son: and if a son then an heir of God through Christ.” Therefore, the nature of God’s own creation and the divine instruction of our savior it is asserted that the creature is to also share this bond of friendship and mutual care. John 15:13-15, “greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do what so ever I command you. Hence forth I call you not servants; for the servant know the not what his Lord doeth: for; but I have called you friends: for all things that I have heard of my father I have made known unto you.” In conclusion one finds that the Lord’s purpose of the creation and salvation of it springs forth from his fatherly love and his hope that his sons will choose, as just stated in John, to follow his commandments and be changed form death to immortality, thus sharing the bond of friendship.

            “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your father which is in heaven.”[8] Glory is to honor and respect something that is beautiful and good. Good works are the willingness one has to entirely obey the Lord, like a father requiring his child to follow and obey his instruction. Through respecting, honoring, and obeying we are glorifying the Lord. Knowing our father is required before one can know what to obey. When the father is known the child has an obligation and hopefully the willingness to mold his/her heart in accordance to the image of Gods will, thus change that which needs fixing and abolishing that which is wicked and evil in our hearts. Eventually giving our entire will and life to the service of the Lord our Father and God. The knowledge of God is acquired through the image we must reflect. Man was made in God’s image, suggesting that we physically resemble God as well as striving to spiritually resemble God. Meaning that the offspring of a human can not be another species, a duck, or a ape, or a donkey, than what it originates from. Thus, by stating that we are created in his image and that we are his son persuades one to think of us as his offspring. Spiritually we are corrupt from original sin, no longer being God’s spiritual son. However, salvation or adoption is made possible through Christ’s sacrifice. Through the spiritual guidance of Christ, as our father for they are the same, and the holy spirit man has the ability to write the laws in our hearts and inward parts. Thus, growing, learning, and revealing more of God’s will. We strive to be the state of an ever perfecting son who is striving for righteousness. For instance when one examines the physical growth from infant, being in the state of ignorance, to young adult, foundational education, to adult, perpetual goal of resembling the spirit of Christ, one sees the development of maturity, knowledge, and wisdom. This physical growth is the same process in which the spirit is converted from corruption to righteousness, however legally saved through crucifixion of Christ. Thus, we are able to glorify the Lord thy God through the willingness to obey God, “Thou shalt love thy God with all thy mind with all thy heart and with all thy soul. For this is the great commandment which I have given to you.” To his honor and glory be for evermore Amen.

            Glorification is not initiated, meaning that God places that motive in the heart, would not be true glorification. For, God obtains more glory through our choseing to obey him. Just as a father finds great abundance of joy and happiness when his children freely obey him because they trust and know that what their father says is the best for them. Contrary to the instances when the father must make the child listen through punishment, which is not only painful for the child but creates sadness in the parents heart. Thus, Jonathan’s notion that, “God creating the world, in order to receive anything properly from the creature, is not only contrary to the nature of God but inconsistent with the notion of creation”[9] itself is inconsistent to the nature of God. For, God is our Lord and Father. The life of struggle that selfish, proud, and arrogant men constantly battle to strive to honor, respect, fear, and love God for ever suggests that we relinquish glory through our ever perfecting will. The statement that God is the Alpha and the Omega represents truth, conversely this does not establish the Lord’s intention for creation. Thus, to say that he is his own intention and motive for creation is not supported. A different discernment of the meaning of glory and a diverse conception of God’s character leads a contrary position critical of Edwards. Thus, I conclude by asserting that man, God’s son, has an obligation and duty to know our father in the spirit, initiated by our free will. Accordingly encourage and motivate our will to build a relationship, friendship, with our Father.








Works Cited


            Edwards, Jonathan. The Works of Jonathan Edwards: Vol. 1. Hendrickson Publishing, Massachusetts, 2003.

            The Bible. King James Translation. John A Dickson Publishing Co.: Iowa, Iowa Falls, 1773

[1] Edwards, Jonathan. The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. I. Hendrickson Publishing: Massachusetts, 2003. P. 97

[2] Edwards, p. 97.

[3] Edwards, p. 106.

[4] The Bible. King James Translation. Dickson Publishing: London, 1932. P.1431.

[5] K.J.V p. 1431.

[6] K.J.V. p. 1447.

[7] Edwards, p. 106

[8] K.J.V. Matthew 5:14-16

[9] Edwards, Jonathan. The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. I. Hendrickson Publishing: Massachusetts, 2003. P. 97