Jonathan Edwards on the proofs of the existence of God

2 January, 2023

Loginov E.
Vestnik Pravoslavnogo Sviato-Tikhonovskogo gumanitarnogo universiteta. Seriia I : Bogoslovie. Filosofiia. Religiovedenie, 2022, vol. 104, pp. 71-85.

Abstract: This article analyzes the proofs for the existence of God offered by Jonathan Edwards. The notes known as "Miscellanies" as well as several other documents are the subject of the analysis. Edwards admits that it is not easy to prove the existence of God because of the corruption of human nature. If we did not already know a theistic thesis, we could hardly discover it ourselves, with our own reason. But this thesis is already known, and our disposition toward order, our search for causes, and our thirst for justice point to a disposition to seek proofs for the existence of God. A study of the sources shows that Edwards used various strategies to justify the thesis of God's existence. I show that these strategies depend on different types of assumptions and produce different results. The cosmological argument from contingency is supported by the idealist argument, the Eleatic-style reasoning, and the ontological argument. The idealist argument is based on J. Locke's assumption that solidity is an intrinsic characteristic of physical things. Edwards shows then that physical things do not possess an independent existence, for solidity can be reduced to resistance, and resistance is always resistance to something. What might be called the Eleatic argument is to prove the existence of something eternal. It depends on the referential understanding of the term "nothingness." The ontological argument proves the existence of something necessary. It depends on the meaningfulness of the concept "there is non else besides him". The cosmological argument from contingency therefore can only justify the existence of something necessary, eternal, and immaterial. However, this is not sufficient to justify theism. The cosmological argument from causality is based on the self-evidentness of the law of causality and shows the existence of a necessary first cause. The various teleological arguments justify the claim that there is an intelligent creator. The analogy between the mind of the creator and the human mind serves Edwards to refute deism and justify the need for religious worship of God.