Jonathan Edwards --> The road to unitarianism?

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blhowes

Puritan Board Professor
I was reading about Presbyterian history, in a section about "The New Divinity", and they had this to say about Jonathan Edwards:

The above are only a few of the chief points of the Edwardean system by which he sought to defend Calvinism but which became the basis for the destruction of Puritan theology in New England and eventually in the PCUSA.

It goes on to say that his teachings paved the way for unitarianism? Is this an accurate appraisal of Jonathan Edwards? :confused:
 

Herald

Administrator
Staff member
I'd like to see how they make their case. Edwards. I read the article and see assertions, but no supporting evidence.
 

Staphlobob

Puritan Board Sophomore
I'd like to see how they make their case. Edwards. I read the article and see assertions, but no supporting evidence.

Same here. Read it, went through all of the assertions re Edwards. But saw no substantiating evidence. It's not that what they say about Edwards was wrong (e.g., his wife's visions, his views regarding the American Indian, etc.), but there were no in-context quotes - not a single one - to make their claim. Kind of like a District Attorney laying out the accusations to the jury, but providing no evidence.

Perhaps they'll do so in the future. That would be interesting.
 

blhowes

Puritan Board Professor
It's not that what they say about Edwards was wrong (e.g., his wife's visions, his views regarding the American Indian, etc.),
Regarding the etc...

This was similar to the Islamic theory of being with the same fatalistic tendencies. And it thoroughly destroys Reformed covenant theology and subverts the entire idea of a substitutionary atonement.

Secondly, Edwards redefined sin and holiness. The former was defined as selfishness and the latter as disinterested benevolence. The concepts were torn away from their roots in God's word and particularly God's law to the eventual destruction of the concept of divine justice.

Thirdly, Edwards postulated that as God was holy and therefore committed to disinterested benevolence God was required as a holy being to do all things in order to achieve the greatest good for the greatest number, to maximize happiness in his creation. This placed God himself under law, a law defined by mere human philosophical speculations!

Fourthly, man's depravity and fallen condition was redefined by the distinction between natural ability and moral ability, man being viewed as possessing the former but lacking only the latter. Man's total depravity was now subjected to philosophical mutations. Man is able to do good but simply unwilling to do so.


I haven't read Edwards. Are these accurate summations of what he believed?
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
If you make one, uninspired man to be a kind of guru, you're bound to err. This is what the NE theologians did after Edwards' death. Edwards was mediated through Hopkins to a later generation. His philosophical work became the interpretive lens for the remainder of his theology.

Edwards was basiclly a very orthodox Calvinist. Read his theological work, read his sermons, and that fact is undeniably patent. He was a man of his times (as are we all). And too often, something we say or do is put to use later that we never thought of, or that is anachronisticaly interpreted.

Again, to go back to the "great man" problem. I see the same thing in a good man like Bahnsen, or Van Til, or even (yes!) Gordon Clark. The way these guys are venerated, before the earth mounds have barey settled on their graves--is it any wonder that every word they uttered is treated as an oracle? The good and the bad. Time will tell, folks, what works remain.

The New Divinity people are all forgotten. Their appropriation of Edwards' work and name will be obscured by the ages. Like our respect for Augustin, despite his imperfections or philosophy or chronological limitations, Edwards' timeless contributions will be long remembered. Those "orthodox" today who find grievous fault with him... oh well... I hope none of them ever get put on a pedestal...
 

blhowes

Puritan Board Professor
If you make one, uninspired man to be a kind of guru, you're bound to err. This is what the NE theologians did after Edwards' death. Edwards was mediated through Hopkins to a later generation. His philosophical work became the interpretive lens for the remainder of his theology.

Edwards was basiclly a very orthodox Calvinist. Read his theological work, read his sermons, and that fact is undeniably patent. He was a man of his times (as are we all). And too often, something we say or do is put to use later that we never thought of, or that is anachronisticaly interpreted.

Again, to go back to the "great man" problem. I see the same thing in a good man like Bahnsen, or Van Til, or even (yes!) Gordon Clark. The way these guys are venerated, before the earth mounds have barey settled on their graves--is it any wonder that every word they uttered is treated as an oracle? The good and the bad. Time will tell, folks, what works remain.

The New Divinity people are all forgotten. Their appropriation of Edwards' work and name will be obscured by the ages. Like our respect for Augustin, despite his imperfections or philosophy or chronological limitations, Edwards' timeless contributions will be long remembered. Those "orthodox" today who find grievous fault with him... oh well... I hope none of them ever get put on a pedestal...

Bruce,
Thank-you for your response and for putting things in their proper perspective. As I mentioned, I haven't read Edwards (except Sinner's in the Hands of an Angry God), but had only heard good things spoken of him. The commentary about him came as quite a surprise.

Boy, if you can't believe what you read on the internet...

Bob
 

Staphlobob

Puritan Board Sophomore
good man like Bahnsen

Even Bahnsen? Surely you jest! :)

Actually I think Bahnsen was truly a genius. I may not agree with him on every point, but I'm always blown away by his insights. This is even more true given the stress he was under (what with his marriage and all).

The same goes for Edwards.
 
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