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Jonathan Edwards, Evangelist. Christ Exalted Sermons of Jonathan Edwards. The Essential Edwards Collection, 5 Volumes.
The Theology of Jonathan Edwards. The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards.
Apart from this regenerating vision, Edwards sees human nature trapped in its own semi-conscious rebellion against God, expressing hatred toward him in every act. Enlightenment rationalists thought they were conducting a disinterested search for truth. Edwards told them they were evading the real God by choosing to believe in a more manageable deity. In a comparatively few sermons, he used the rhetoric of hellfire, which Puritans shared with the Counter-Reformation, to drive home the sense of guilt, and give a compassionate call to repentance.
All things proceed from the infinite God, glorious in his divine beauty and excellence. All theories of salvation which call attention to human works Roman Catholicism or human ability Arminian Protestantism only detract from the grandeur of his love revealed to us in Jesus Christ, and made real in our hearts only by the illumination of the Spirit. Edwards had learned much from the scientific genius of Isaac Newton, but his theology was a radical attack on the clockwork universe, governed by immanent natural laws, which Newtonian physics seemed to postulate.
The philosophical framework Edwards adopted for this theological attack was a form of panentheism the concept that all creation has no independent existence from God, but is sustained as an emanation from his being. Today most Christians still think in terms of a universe which God has set in motion and placed under the control of inherent natural laws, although it is still believed that God may intervene and upset those laws if he chooses to work a miracle.
For Edwards, the world has no momentum which can sustain it apart from God, and he is in immediate control of every event from moment to moment. With this view of the universe, Edwards was, in a sense, ahead of his time. His view seems to anticipate the post-Newtonian physics of the twentieth century, in which all matter is ultimately seen in terms of interacting fields of energy, and the forces governing these are rather mysterious.
Though Edwards did not produce any summary work of systematic theology, he was surely a systematic thinker. Edwards was delighted when the Great Awakening in America seemed to be producing a renaissance of Christian experience.
Ebook Jonathan Edwardss Writings Text Context Interpretation
When the Awakening developed problems, however, he became a relentless critic, warning against extremes of emotion and sensationalism. He began by explaining and defending the Awakening—first in A Faithful Narrative of the Surprising Work of God , which reported what happened in his congregation in , and later in Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God In Some Thoughts Concerning the Present Revival of Religion in New England , however, he gave equal space to a critique of spiritual pride and theological aberrations which had developed during the revival.
In all these works Edwards defended the role of the emotions in the life of faith. While Charles Chauncy and other liberal critics sneered at the intense emotions generated by the Awakening, Edwards affirmed again and again that reason and emotion both have their place in the Christian life.
Jonathan Edwards's Writings: Text, Context, Interpretation
Edwards admitted that the Awakening had produced some bizarre experiences, but insisted that these did not discredit revivalism or an intensely felt piety. During the course of the Awakening, Edwards developed the distinctive eschatological outlook which motivated and directed American evangelicalism for the century. Up to this point, American Puritans had preferred classical premillennialism to the amillennial outlook of the Reformers. Sensing the profound impact spiritual awakening made on the church, and could make on a society, Edwards became convinced that the postmillennial outlook of Daniel Whitby was true to Scripture.
The future Edwards was aiming toward was one in which the entire visible church was spiritually renewed and unified, while all false Christianity both Romanism and Protestant rationalism was overthrown. Those who believed strongly in this goal, like Samuel Hopkins, Timothy Dwight, Lyman Beecher, and Charles Finney, were strongly motivated to attack cultural evil and unify the church to evangelize and transform society. American evangelicalism abandoned these goals at the end of the ninteenth century, opting for a pessimistic image of the future.
In America in the twentieth century, both evangelicals and liberals have expected ordinary graces and aimed at pedestrian goals. At such a time, we can hope that Christian activists will read Edwards to see the depth of spiritual renewal he expected as a prerequisite for transforming the church and the surrounding culture. And we can hope that they will also catch the vision of a theology which offers radical opposition to the basic principles of secular thought. Click here for reprint information on Christian History.
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