Dare I Disagree With Jonathan Edwards?!

You may also like...

10 Responses

  1. I appreciate the candor of this post. Your approach to the topic is, in my view, spot-on. While I would skip beyond Luther and dive directly into Romans 4, I like Luther’s explanation. The only question here, is are we understanding rightly what Edwards means when he says, “From hence it clearly and certainly appears, that great part of true religion consists in the affections”.

    I haven’t read Edwards extensively, but could he be drawing from 2 Peter 1:3-11, particularly verses 5-7 where Peter encourages a progression of growth from faith to love? If that is the case, then Edwards isn’t trying to suggest (though he might be leaving too much room for inference) that we are to find our salvation in our affections; rather, if our affections do not fall in line with our statement of faith that there may be cause for concern. Just a thought.

    Good post. Thank you very much for sharing in a manner that exemplifies having a disagreement or questions in a loving, Christ-centered, Scripture-focused manner. May the Lord Bless you and keep you.

    • Thanks for the comment Faithful. I do agree that our affections should fall in line with our confession. I also believe that our affections can be evidence of faith – faith without works is dead. My concern is the emphasis placed on the affections and looking to them to find assurance… Edwards has a point, if we have no affection for God, and we never engage him, and our affection is to idolatry (money, sex, etc.) – then we can see that we are probably not saved…but is that evidence of salvation where we find our assurance? I feel like I am so close to understanding something that my feeble brain just can’t quite connect…

      • I think you have it already. You’ve plainly and efficiently declared the Gospel of Grace through faith in Christ. From there on comes struggle against idolatry and living fleshly by continued walking in the Spirit (I’m borrowing loosely from Galatians 5:16-25). I don’t think Edwards is arguing for a measure of the strength or amount of affection, but the focus of your affections. If he is, then I’d agree with you fully in disagreeing with him.

  2. I appreciate the candor of this post. Your approach to the topic is, in my view, spot-on. While I would skip beyond Luther and dive directly into Romans 4, I like Luther’s explanation. The only question here, is are we understanding rightly what Edwards means when he says, “From hence it clearly and certainly appears, that great part of true religion consists in the affections”.

    I haven’t read Edwards extensively, but could he be drawing from 2 Peter 1:3-11, particularly verses 5-7 where Peter encourages a progression of growth from faith to love? If that is the case, then Edwards isn’t trying to suggest (though he might be leaving too much room for inference) that we are to find our salvation in our affections; rather, if our affections do not fall in line with our statement of faith that there may be cause for concern. Just a thought.

    Good post. Thank you very much for sharing in a manner that exemplifies having a disagreement or questions in a loving, Christ-centered, Scripture-focused manner. May the Lord Bless you and keep you.

    • Thanks for the comment Faithful. I do agree that our affections should fall in line with our confession. I also believe that our affections can be evidence of faith – faith without works is dead. My concern is the emphasis placed on the affections and looking to them to find assurance… Edwards has a point, if we have no affection for God, and we never engage him, and our affection is to idolatry (money, sex, etc.) – then we can see that we are probably not saved…but is that evidence of salvation where we find our assurance? I feel like I am so close to understanding something that my feeble brain just can’t quite connect…

      • I think you have it already. You’ve plainly and efficiently declared the Gospel of Grace through faith in Christ. From there on comes struggle against idolatry and living fleshly by continued walking in the Spirit (I’m borrowing loosely from Galatians 5:16-25). I don’t think Edwards is arguing for a measure of the strength or amount of affection, but the focus of your affections. If he is, then I’d agree with you fully in disagreeing with him.

  3. Derrick says:

    I perceive Edwards to not be talking about the assurance of salvation at all. He is not suggesting to look towards an affection for discernment of our faith being true, but rather simply talking about the effect that affections (namely love) has upon our Christian walk.

    He says ” From a vigorous, affectionate, and fervent love to God, will necessarily arise other religious affections…”.

    I would think he is not talking about affirming or validating our faith, but rather one of the results of an assured faith. Assurance of salvation is evident in Romans and other passages in the Bible. It would be difficult to have an affective love for God has he talks about, without an strong understanding of why God is worthy of such love.

    That said, he isn’t suggesting to look inwards either… but rather to more fully fix our gaze upon Christ, and the Father. For certain extreme exceptions aside, it is rather difficult to passionately love oneself. Ergo, when we gaze upon the magnificence of who God is and what he has graciously done for us on the cross, our hearts cannot help but overflow with love for him. This is what Edwards suggests will then flow into a love for good and a hate for evil and a love for our brothers and sisters.

    NB. It is worthwhile to note that we should restrain ourselves from jumping to the conclusion that the affections Edwards speaks of will be uniformly experienced by all followers of Christ. Our culture has strongly shaped our understanding of “affection”, “emotion”, and “love”. The stereotypical, overcoming, tear-producing, heart-wrenching love so often portrayed in the movies, while certainly is experienced by many believers at different times towards God, is not the norm of affections in the Christian walk and certainly shouldn’t be expected by everyone all the time. The one thing some movies do right is portray the unexpected nature of emotion. Likewise, for those who do experience similar affections towards our Creator, it is often in the most unlikely situations and least-expected moments.

  4. Derrick says:

    I perceive Edwards to not be talking about the assurance of salvation at all. He is not suggesting to look towards an affection for discernment of our faith being true, but rather simply talking about the effect that affections (namely love) has upon our Christian walk.

    He says ” From a vigorous, affectionate, and fervent love to God, will necessarily arise other religious affections…”.

    I would think he is not talking about affirming or validating our faith, but rather one of the results of an assured faith. Assurance of salvation is evident in Romans and other passages in the Bible. It would be difficult to have an affective love for God has he talks about, without an strong understanding of why God is worthy of such love.

    That said, he isn’t suggesting to look inwards either… but rather to more fully fix our gaze upon Christ, and the Father. For certain extreme exceptions aside, it is rather difficult to passionately love oneself. Ergo, when we gaze upon the magnificence of who God is and what he has graciously done for us on the cross, our hearts cannot help but overflow with love for him. This is what Edwards suggests will then flow into a love for good and a hate for evil and a love for our brothers and sisters.

    NB. It is worthwhile to note that we should restrain ourselves from jumping to the conclusion that the affections Edwards speaks of will be uniformly experienced by all followers of Christ. Our culture has strongly shaped our understanding of “affection”, “emotion”, and “love”. The stereotypical, overcoming, tear-producing, heart-wrenching love so often portrayed in the movies, while certainly is experienced by many believers at different times towards God, is not the norm of affections in the Christian walk and certainly shouldn’t be expected by everyone all the time. The one thing some movies do right is portray the unexpected nature of emotion. Likewise, for those who do experience similar affections towards our Creator, it is often in the most unlikely situations and least-expected moments.

  5. davidjhutten says:

    Christian Greetings One Christian Dad,

    First of all I commend you for your bravery in making this post. I don’t necessarily think you need to be correct, or incorrect in your reading of Jonathan Edwards “Treatise concerning Religious Affection” in order for this to be a worthwhile discussion.

    I would like to make a few notes:

    First of all, I 100% agree with the comment by Faithful Stewardship – leap right over Luther, and into Romans 4 – in the sense that the Bible should really be awarded much more quotation in such debate than the creeds and confessions of a tradition. Not that those creeds and confessions don’t have their place, but the biblical language is ultimately what would solve the riddle of Jonathan Edwards statement. Unless we are looking at whether or not Edwards is fully Calvinist / Reformed. Is Edwards scriptural, and is that your reason for agreeing or disagreeing with him?
    To Christ-Followers (Christians- although this term is muddied up a bit these days by leagues of church-going persons who do not fully comprehend the gospel) it should be imperative to measure all things against the word of God. That is the message of 1 John.
    Secondly, Edwards is not completely Calvinist on his take of Predestination and Election, as hard as Calvin would be… that question I will leave there, but prefer to use Scripture to cast a light on Edwards comment that you quoted.
    Also interesting, the Sola Scriptura of the Reformation sometimes is too quickly buried in creeds and summaries of that very word of God. Luther did not desire to be followed, but to call men / leaders of the church back to following the word of God. We should not honour him, but honour his biblical cause!

    Galatians 2:20 states: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (ESV)

    In this light, when the born again, or renewed person in Christ looks into themselves they are no longer hopeless. They no longer find no equipment to “fight” evil and cling to good. The person who finds salvation in Christ will certainly mature in faith.

    “Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature.” – Corinthians 14:20

    Quoting: My concern is the emphasis placed on the affections and looking to them to find assurance…

    Aside from Edwards comments, how really is the disciple assured of their faith? I will leave it with this question and look forward to your response, as I am sincerely interested.

    I offer these comments for discussion 🙂 and enjoyed your post, look forward to more! Keep reading, keep writing, and most of all Keep in the Word!

    Blessings,

    D

  6. davidjhutten says:

    Christian Greetings One Christian Dad,

    First of all I commend you for your bravery in making this post. I don’t necessarily think you need to be correct, or incorrect in your reading of Jonathan Edwards “Treatise concerning Religious Affection” in order for this to be a worthwhile discussion.

    I would like to make a few notes:

    First of all, I 100% agree with the comment by Faithful Stewardship – leap right over Luther, and into Romans 4 – in the sense that the Bible should really be awarded much more quotation in such debate than the creeds and confessions of a tradition. Not that those creeds and confessions don’t have their place, but the biblical language is ultimately what would solve the riddle of Jonathan Edwards statement. Unless we are looking at whether or not Edwards is fully Calvinist / Reformed. Is Edwards scriptural, and is that your reason for agreeing or disagreeing with him?
    To Christ-Followers (Christians- although this term is muddied up a bit these days by leagues of church-going persons who do not fully comprehend the gospel) it should be imperative to measure all things against the word of God. That is the message of 1 John.
    Secondly, Edwards is not completely Calvinist on his take of Predestination and Election, as hard as Calvin would be… that question I will leave there, but prefer to use Scripture to cast a light on Edwards comment that you quoted.
    Also interesting, the Sola Scriptura of the Reformation sometimes is too quickly buried in creeds and summaries of that very word of God. Luther did not desire to be followed, but to call men / leaders of the church back to following the word of God. We should not honour him, but honour his biblical cause!

    Galatians 2:20 states: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (ESV)

    In this light, when the born again, or renewed person in Christ looks into themselves they are no longer hopeless. They no longer find no equipment to “fight” evil and cling to good. The person who finds salvation in Christ will certainly mature in faith.

    “Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature.” – Corinthians 14:20

    Quoting: My concern is the emphasis placed on the affections and looking to them to find assurance…

    Aside from Edwards comments, how really is the disciple assured of their faith? I will leave it with this question and look forward to your response, as I am sincerely interested.

    I offer these comments for discussion 🙂 and enjoyed your post, look forward to more! Keep reading, keep writing, and most of all Keep in the Word!

    Blessings,

    D