The End for Which God Created the World
Updated to Modern English
Though rarely asked today, the question of why God created the world captured the thought and imagination of Jonathan Edwards, one of history's most profound thinkers. Using both reason and Scripture, Edwards determined that God created the world primarily as an arena for his eternal and innate glory to flow outward like a fountain and for his emanating glory to be received, praised, and enjoyed by the creatures he made. How he arrives at this answer is an amazing, worship-inducing journey. This version of Edward's classic treatise is a modern English paraphrase, designed to allow readers to meditate on the ideas Edwards illuminates rather than unraveling his long, dense sentences.
"Dollar has both polished the diamonds and given us the lenses to better behold them. Read, study, enjoy, and worship Christ through this book." - Jared Wilson
"Jonathan Edwards is, without question, one of the great minds of the Christian tradition. Unfortunately, Edwards is often lauded but rarely read, because he is such a difficult read, both in the depth of his thoughts and in archaic writing style. Jason does us a great service, making the first more accessible by updating the second. Reading these classic works allow your affections to be stoked by the Spirit!" - Edwards scholar Kyle Strobel
"Jason has blessed us by opening up the works of Jonathan Edwards withupdated style and vocabulary, so that we can benefit from perhaps thegreatest intellect ever produced by God's grace in our country and,therefore, contemplate biblically why the Lord our God has made allthings, including us, for His glory, which is our joy." - Dr. Harry L. Reeder III, Pastor/Teacher of Briarwood Presbyterian Church
"Jason has done an excellent job in making available to the church one of the most important of Edwards' works in accessible modern prose. It is my hope and prayer that this book not only introduces readers to Edwards, but more so to the Christ that Edwards sought to exalt. Soli Deo Gloria!" - Dr. Steven B. Cowan
Excerpt from Chapter 26 "Only One Ultimate End"
Consider what makes up God’s internal glory. Essentially, it is comprised of his understanding and will. We refer to the fullness of his understanding as his knowledge, and we refer to his fullness of will as his holiness and happiness. So, the whole of God’s internal good and glory consists in three things—his infinite knowledge, his infinite holiness (or virtue), and his infinite happiness (or joy).
To clarify, there are a great many attributes within God, according to our way of conceiving them, but all of them can be summarized beneath these three. The other attributes speak more of certain degrees, circumstances, or relationships.
For example, we have no conception of God’s power and the effects produced by it apart from describing the degree to which he possesses knowledge, holiness, and happiness. In the same way, the attribute of infinity is not a separate kind of good but rather an expression of the degree of good that is in God. And God’s eternality is not a distinct good he possesses but rather the duration of the good he possesses. Likewise, his immutability means that his goodness never changes.
Therefore, the fullness of the Godhead means the fullness of his knowledge, holiness, and happiness. This is the content of his internal glory. God’s external glory, then, must consist in the communication of these three things.
To communicate his knowledge chiefly means that God provides knowledge of himself to other beings. After all, the knowledge of God is the most essential area of knowledge and is necessary if created beings are to ever understand his fullness (as he understands his own fullness). So, the manifestation of God’s glory to the minds of his creatures—so that they see and know it—is not something separate from the overall emanation of his fullness. The communication of his self-knowledge, which forms the understanding of his creatures as they encounter it, is implied in the emanation of his internal glory. Thus, it is implied in the phrase glory of God.
To communicate his holiness or virtue principally means that God demonstrates to others how he loves himself and how they should also love him. God is the highest of all beings, and he knows it. True holiness is achieved when someone rightly loves and esteems the highest of all beings. Therefore, when God communicates his holiness, he is not doing something distinct from communicating the fullness of his internal glory. When created beings see and come to know God’s excellent qualities, it moves them to love him and highly esteem him, which makes them holy as he is holy. The communication of God’s holiness, then, is implied in the phrase glory of God.
Finally, to communicate his joy and happiness to people means that God expresses to them the joy he has in himself. In so doing, he is not communicating something different than the fullness of his being. God’s primary source of joy is his own glorious and excellent qualities, and if these are the things that make him happy, then these are the things that will make his creatures happy. Thus, the communication of his joy is not distinct from the emanating flow of his internal glory; rather, it is implied in the phrase glory of God.
To summarize, when God’s creatures know his excellent qualities, love him for possessing those qualities, and rejoice in him, they are exercising and expressing honor and praise to him in a proper way. They mirror how God feels about himself. So, their knowing, loving, and rejoicing in God can all be included under the one phrase the glory of God—the emanation of his internal glory. There are various aspects of this process, but all of them are signified by God’s glory, which is the one ultimate end of all his works.
Read the original version of The End for Which God Created the World online at the Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale University.
For a powerful and devotional analysis, see John Piper's book God's Passion for His Glory.