Gratitude to God: Jonathan Edwards and the Opening of the Self
KeywordsAnthropology, Supernatural Virtue, Infused Virtue, Self-Relation
Abstract: The study of gratitude has become an increasingly important topic among psychologists to address the nature of human flourishing. Of more recent interest is how gratitude to God specifically functions within an account of human flourishing, with theologians seeking to provide a distinctively Christian account of the nature of gratitude. This article enters into the ongoing conversation by attending to Jonathan Edwards’s (1703-1758) theological anthropology and development of natural and supernatural gratitude. In particular, Edwards’s anthropology includes within it an account of how the self can, and should, enlarge to receive another in love. This “enlargement” is the creaturely mirror of God’s self-giving and is the supernatural response to the creature who has received God’s grace and been infused with divine love. As a supernatural response based on God’s action in the soul, this account of gratitude differs from its natural counterpart. On Edwards’s account, therefore, there is a need to develop studies that differentiate natural and supernatural gratitude. Furthermore, this article ends with a suggestion for a study that could pick up this task based on recent psychological studies that attend to how gratitude affects self-relation. On Edwards’s account of the enlargement of the self, as well as his notion of supernatural gratitude, there is meaningful research to be done on how these can help assess development in the formation of gratitude and human flourishing.
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