Happiness is the End of All Creation1
What? I thought the glory of God was the end or ultimate aim for the existence of all things? How then does Jonathan Edwards get away with saying that “happiness” is the end or purpose or ultimate goal of all creation? Continue reading . . .
What? I thought the glory of God was the end or ultimate aim for the existence of all things? How then does Jonathan Edwards get away with saying that “happiness” is the end or purpose or ultimate goal of all creation? And that is what he says in Miscellany 3.
Edwards acknowledges that “the end of the creation is that the creation might glorify him” (Yale, 13:199-200). But he then asks, “what is glorifying God, but a rejoicing at that glory he has displayed?” In other words, what is the preeminent and most effective way of drawing attention to the beauty of God and ascribing to him the honor and praise that is due his name? How might we truly and most powerfully glorify God? In what way or in what human experience is God seen to be most glorious? Edwards says it is by enjoying him! He explains:
“Now what is glorifying God, but a rejoicing at that glory he has displayed? An understanding of the perfections of God, merely, cannot be the end of the creation; for he had as good not understand it, as see it and not be at all moved with joy at the sight” (Yale, 13:200).
Edwards isn’t saying that understanding God isn’t important. Of course it is. In fact, if one doesn’t understand something of God there is no possible way he/she can properly glorify him. One must know and grasp something of the character of a being that one proposes to praise. If not, what reason is there for praising such a being? Edwards’ point is simply that “understanding” is penultimate, not ultimate. There is something greater and more ultimate for which understanding is pursued. We study God, we explore the complexity of his personality, we observe his works in nature and salvation, not as an end in itself, but in order that who he is and what he does might cause us to rejoice and celebrate and find the highest possible satisfaction in this God. Edwards continues:
“Neither can the highest end of the creation be the declaring God’s glory to others; for the declaring God’s glory is good for nothing otherwise than to raise joy in ourselves and others at what is declared” (Yale, 13:200).
Again, should we declare and make known and tell everyone everywhere of the glory and majesty and beauty of our God? Absolutely! But why? To what end? Well, we want others to know of God’s glory and beauty so that in beholding him and experiencing all that he is for us in Jesus they might find maximum satisfaction and joy and life and peace and excitement. The purpose of evangelism, therefore, is enjoyment . . . of God! Edwards concludes:
“Wherefore, seeing happiness is the highest end of the creation of the universe, and intelligent beings are that consciousness of the creation that is to be the immediate subject of this happiness, how happy may we conclude will be those intelligent beings that are to be made eternally happy!” (Yale, 13:200).
Now, let’s be clear before we close. When Edwards says that “happiness is the highest end of the creation” he means happiness in God! He has no thought of the sort of happiness that sex brings, or that we derive from a good meal or a baseball game or from gazing at the expanse of the Grand Canyon. Those are truly good reasons to be happy, but they are not the happiness that is the ultimate goal of God’s creative work. God is the ultimate goal of God’s creative work, and his desire and passion is that we might enter into the joy that he himself enjoys in himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
So rejoice and be happy in God!