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Jonathan Edwards’ Fountain Analogy of Creation

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, that so it should flow out in communicated holiness. And that, as there is an infinite fulness of joy and happiness, so these should have emanation, and become a fountain flowing out in abundant streams, as beams from the sun…
…The diffusive disposition that excited God to give creatures existence, was rather a communicative disposition in general, or a disposition in the fulness of the divinity to flow out and diffuse itself…
Therefore, to speak strictly according to truth, we may suppose, that a disposition in God, as an original property of his nature, to an emanation of his own infinite fulness, was what excited him to create the world; and so, that the emanation itself was aimed at by him as a last end of the creation.

A Dissertation Concerning the End for which God Created the World, from The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 1 (Banner of Truth), p. 100 (Read it for free HERE).

Summary: God’s glory relates to his fullness (in Hebrew it denotes weight). By way of analogy, God is brimming with beauty (holiness), love, and joy; and this love, beauty and joy, as it were, overflows into the act and substance of creation.

The danger here is Pantheism. If God is like a fountain, and creation is the overflow of that fountain, then creation itself is God (as though God were extending his being into creation). This is where the analogy fails. The point to make here is that God’s way of overflowing is through speech.

  • Psalm 33:6 By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host.

Jesus says that it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks (Mat. 12:34, Luke 6:45). In Greek, the word abundance here indicates an overflowing. The abundance of the heart overflows into the speech of the mouth. Whatever the heart is full of tends to come out in words. Using Edwards’ analogy, and relating it to Jesus’ words, the true analogy becomes clear. Out of God’s abundance he speaks creation into being. It is the overflow of his heart (who he is in himself) coming out of his (metaphorical) mouth.

Thus we avoid pantheism. The fact that creation is the overflow of God does not mean that it is God. Rather, creation belongs to God in the same way that our own speech belongs to us. Our words reflect who we are and our words belong to us. God’s words, which make the worlds, reflect his fullness (glory) and they belong to him.

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