03 November 2009

Edwards: The New Earth

Listen to Robert Jenson's synthesis of Edwards' vision of the new earth, in Jenson's 1988 America's Theologian: A Recommendation of Jonathan Edwards. Jenson is drawing out how earthy a vision of the new earth Edwards had, how physical, yet how inexpressibly glorious and happy it would be. Both--the sheer corporeality of heaven and the unspeakable joys of heaven--seem to be hazy concepts in evangelicalism today. Jenson focuses on Edwards' understanding of vision in the new earth. Fascinating--take just our eyes, our sight: what will it be like to have real, actual, physical eyes in the new earth, yet transformed eyes--'the perishable will take on imperishable' includes our eyes! Quotes are of Edwards, drawn from the Miscellanies (ellipses are all Jenson's).

This 'end is obtained by Christ's Incarnation, viz., that the saints may see God with their bodily eyes.' And this seeing also is among all mutually: 'in all probability . . . there shall be external beauties . . . altogether of another kind from what we perceive here, and probably these beauties will appear chiefly as the bodies of the man Christ Jesus and of the saints.' The very medium of heaven 'will be the light of the brightness of Christ's glorious body . . . , ravishingly sweet to . . . the external perception or sense' which the elect will indeed have. (181)

Obviously, Edwards here must struggle for language and concepts. What is to be posited is that, as bodies, 'in heaven the glorified bodies of the saints will be . . . most flexible, moveable and agile, most easily susceptible of mutation, both from the acts of the indwelling soul and also from the influence of Christ'; and that, as they are consciousnesses apprehending these bodies, both 'the medium' of sight and hearing 'be infinitely fine and more adapted to a distinct and exact representation,' and the 'organ . . . be immensely more exquisitely perceptive.' Edwards once speculated: the saints 'will be able to see from one side of the universe to the other' because they will see not 'by such slow rays of light that are several years traveling . . . from the fixed stars to the earth,' but by the light 'emitted from the glorified body of Christ.' (181-82)

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