Jonathan Edwards on Beauty (Book Review)

“There is an infinite fullness of all possible good in God, a fullness of every perfection, of all excellency and beauty, and of infinite happiness. And as this fullness is capable of communication or emanation . . . so it seems a thing amiable and valuable in itself that it should be communicated or flow forth, that this infinite fountain of good should send forth abundant streams, that this infinite fountain of light should, diffusing its excellent fullness, pour forth light all around. . . . Thus it is fit, since there is an infinite fountain of light and knowledge, that this light should shine forth in beams of communicated knowledge and understanding; and as there is an infinite fountain of holiness, moral excellence and beauty, so it should flow out in communicated holiness. And that as there is an infinite fullness of joy and happiness, so these should have an emanation, and become a fountain flowing out in abundant streams, as beams from the sun.” JONATHAN EDWARDS (Works 8, 432-33.  Cited in Strachan & Sweeney, pp. 53-54).

Jonathan Edwards on Beauty, Owen Strachan and Doug Sweeney (Chicago: Moody Publishers 2010). 149 pages.

This small book is a lovely introduction to Jonathan Edwards’ thoughts on beauty. Beauty is a constant theme in Edwards’ theology, and so Owen Strachan and Doug Sweeney are able to present chapters summarizing his views on the Beauty of God, the Beauty of Creation, the Beauty of Christ, the Beauty of the Church, and the Beauty of the Trinitarian Afterlife. At the end of the book, they conclude: “The study of the radically God-centered nature of Edwards’s thought transforms our understanding of God and of beauty even as it shows us that the study of one is truly the study of the other. To study God is necessarily to study beauty; to study beauty is necessarily to study God.”

I have been using this book in my introductory class on Christian theology for several years now, and it is always the class’s favorite textbook. It is definitely written at an introductory level, suitable for people with no previous knowledge of Edwards. It is a very welcome resource.