We both grew up in rural Alabama. Neither of us, me nor my husband, had ever stepped foot in New York City. But years of watching televised images of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the New Year’s Eve Ball Drop impressed upon our minds a magical image of New York’s Times Square. Here everything pointed to a great celebration so that Times Square seemed to us the epitome of all that was merry and bright.
In this setting called Times Square,
Festive music filled the air,
Happy people lost their care,
Bright lights sparkled everywhere,
Gleaming billboards made us stare. -Pam Eason
So enchanted were we with Times Square that we planned a family trip that would put us smack dab in the middle of it December 31, 1999 – the eve of the year that the world was supposed to end or at least be thrown into chaos because of the Y2K bug that would infect the computers that were, we learned, responsible for upholding our very survival. The new millennial crystal ball would drop and undaunted we would be there first-hand to see it, and perhaps, if the gloomiest of the dooms day prophets were truly prophets, we would be among the last group to witness this spectacular event.
Disappointment – The Times Square Effect
So now settled in our hotel and with my parents and our daughter in tow, we excitedly set out a day or so early to find The Destination. Without walking too far, we were pretty quickly confronted by the poster-plastered space, defined by dingy streets and lighted by gaudy marquees, that was Times Square.
“Is this it?” That short question verbalized the glaring discrepancy between the wonder we imagined and what we saw. So great was the discrepancy between our idea of Times Square we saw in our minds and the actual Times Square we saw with our eyes that now whenever we are disappointed because of the difference between our idea of a thing and the thing, we call it the Times Square effect.
Times Square and The Begotten
By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. 1 John 4:9 (NASB)
No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him. John 1:18 (NASB)
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16 (NASB)
The disappointment we felt because of this difference that we saw between our idea and Times Square was only possible because we humans have the ability to gather information, to generate ideas from this information, and to consider or ‘see’ these ideas. In other words, we use what we know to create an idea of a thing: our knowledge gathers to become the idea. We see our idea and use it for comparison. If our idea is a perfect reflection of a thing, as Jonathan Edwards explained in his Unpublished Essay on the Trinity, our idea would be equal to seeing the thing – our idea would be the same as seeing what really is.
Seeing the Perfect Idea of a thing is to all Intents and purposes the same as seeing the thing: it is not only equivalent to the seeing of it but it is the seeing it … (p. 87).
Edwards uses the creation and seeing of an idea – specifically God’s idea of himself to reason out and explain what he thinks it means that Jesus was begotten.
Therefore as G. [God] with Perfect Clearness, fullness, & strength, understands himself, views his own essence … that Idea which G. [God] hath of himself is absolutely himself. This Representation of the divine nature & essence is the divine nature & essence again … Hereby there is another Person begotten, there is another Infinite Eternal Almighty & most holy & the same G. [God], the very same divine nature (pp. 84-85).
And this Person is the second Person in the Trinity, the Only begotten & dearly beloved Son of G. [God]; he is the Eternal, necessary, Perfect, substantial & Personal Idea which G. [God] hath of himself; & that it is so seems to me to be abundantly confirmed by the word of G. [God] (p. 85).
Edwards follows his premise that Jesus is God’s perfect reflection of himself – God’s idea of himself – with his offer of these proof texts: 2 Corinthians 4:4, Philippians 2:6; Colossians 1:15; and Hebrews 1:3.
Times Square, God’s Idea, and Delight
and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased. Matthew 3:17 (NASB)
Our original idea of Times Square was faulty and our revised idea of it no longer produces delight for we no longer see beauty in it. But God’s image of himself is neither faulty nor disappointing. At every moment eternally, Edwards says, God has a view of his own essence – a perfect reflection or idea of himself generated from perfect true knowledge of himself and this idea shines forth as beautiful for God is beautiful.
This shinning forth of God’s beauty by way of God’s idea of himself results in God’s delight in his idea of himself – this shinning forth of God’s beauty produces God’s delight in the begotten son. In this way, the begotten son is the beloved son.
The Infinite happiness of the F. [Father] consists in the enjoyment of his Son: Prov. 8,30 [Proverb 8:30] … It seems to me most Probable that G. [God] has his Infinite happiness but one way, & that the Infinite Joy he has in his own Idea & that which he has in his Son are but one & the same (p. 88).
Edwards goes on the explain how this reasoning fits well with Scripture’s teaching that Jesus is the image of God, the light of the world, the wisdom of God, and the word of God – the Logos, and the truth, the revealer, of God. He follows these arguments with proof texts such as: Proverbs 8:22-30; Matthew 11:27; Luke 11:49; John 1:1, 18; John 5:20; John 8:12; John 12:45; John 14:7; John 15:22-24; 1 Corinthians 1:24; and 2 Corinthians 4:4.
Love, Times Square, and The Begotten
The Father loves the Son … John 3:35; John 5:20
… I love the Father … John 14:31
Though initially we felt a sort of affection for Times Square, Times Square felt nothing for us. But that is not true of God’s Idea – the Begotten, who is distinct from the ‘Begottor,’ receives and reciprocates love.
The knowledge or view which God has of himself must necessarily be conceived to be some thing distinct from his meer direct existence. There must be something that answers … And I do suppose … that this idea of God is truly God to all Intents and Purposes, & that by this means the Godhead is Really Generated and Repeated, (p. 80).
Edwards reasons that the delight the Father feels for the son is a sort of energy. He explains that there is an energy produced between the begotten son (the son begotten by the shinning forth of God’s idea of himself – the shinning forth of God’s essence) and God the Father. This energy that is breathed in and out “in Infinitely sweet and vigorous affection” is the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit, Edwards more than adequately reasons from Scripture is this Spirit of love shared between Father and Son.
The Godhead being thus begotten by Gods loving an Idea of himself & shewing forth in a distinct … Person … there Proceeds a most Pure act, & an Infinitely holy & sacred energy arises between the F. (Father) & Son in mutually Loving & delighting in each other, for their love & Joy is mutual … (p. 93).
The deity becomes all act, the diving essence it self flows out & is as it were breathed forth in Love & Joy. So that the Godhead therein stands forth in yet another manner of subsistence, & there Proceeds the 3d [third] Person in the Trinity, the holy spirit … (p. 94).
You won’t be disappointed.
For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:6 (NASB)
The Times Square Effect is the disappointment I feel between the idea and the thing itself. But sometimes the real thing can exceed my idea. Sometimes the real exceeds the imagined. I strongly suspect no matter how lofty, beautiful, majestic, or glorious your idea of God is, when you see his glory revealed in the face of Christ, that first view and each subsequent glimpse will greatly exceed your expectations.
Praying that this Christmas season, you will see the beauty that is God in the face of Christ.
Edwards, Jonathan, An Unpublished Essay of Edwards On the Trinity With Remarks on Edwards and His Theology by George P. Fisher, New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1903.
Scripture quotations taken from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, Used by permission.” (www.Lockman.org)