The Central Principles of J.Edwards’ Thought – G.Marsden

JEdwards-MarsdenFound in the “Introduction” of George M. Marsden’s monumental and splendid work on American theologian, pastor, and missionary Jonathan Edwards, Jonathan Edwards: A Life (Yale Univ. Press, 2003), are these significant statements summarizing the theology and life of Edwards:

The central principle in Edwards’ thought, true to his Calvinistic heritage, was the sovereignty of God. The triune eternally loving God, as revealed in Scripture, created and ruled everything in the universe. …Edwards avoided allowing God’s rule to be thought of as a distant abstraction, as it could become. Rather, he emphasized that God’s very purpose in creation was the great work of redemption in Christ. Everything in the universe pointed ultimately to the loving character of the triune God.

If the central principle of Edwards’ thought was the sovereignty of God, the central practical motive of his life and work was his conviction that nothing was more momentous personally than one’s eternal relationship to God. …He built his life around disciplines designed constantly to renew that eternal perspective. In his sermons and writings he turned his immense intellectual powers to rigorously following out the implications of God’s sovereignty for understanding human destinies, as defined by his biblicist and Calvinistic heritage. If there is an emphasis that appears difficult, or harsh, or overstated in Edwards, often the reader can better appreciate his perspective by asking the question: ‘How would this issue look if it really were the case that bliss or punishment for a literal eternity was at stake?’ (4-5).

Our book club met to discuss this work this morning, and I regret that I could not be there to participate.

If you have not read anything from or about Edwards, you really ought to, since you cannot understand American Christianity or history apart from him. He is that significant a figure in the history of the church in this country. You are hereby encouraged to read this work (yes, all 615 pages!), or at least his abbreviated version, A Short Life of Jonathan Edwards (Eerdmans, 2008 – 176 pages!).

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