Jonathan Edwards and the Limits of Enlightenment Philosophy

By Leon Chai | Go to book overview
Save to active project

CHAPTER 6
Freedom of the Will

WE CAN ONLY IMAGINE the scene: Jonathan Edwards, on July 1, 1750, preaching his farewell sermon to the congregation at Northampton. At that moment he must have recalled what it was like when, more than twenty years before, he had ascended the same pulpit for the first time as Solomon Stoddard's successor. Now, as Edwards surveyed the faces of his audience, he would no doubt have recognized many of the same people who had welcomed him then as their new pastor. The same people would also have heard him when he delivered his sermons in November 1734 on "Justification by Faith Alone." Subsequently, they would have witnessed with him the remarkable revival in Northampton during the winter and spring of 1734-35. Still later, they would have experienced with him the tumultuous passion of the Great Awakening. But now these same people had, with equal passion, pursued and finally brought about his dismissal.

The immediate dispute between minister and congregation had revolved around the qualifications for church membership. Beyond the question of church membership, however, lay a larger issue. In a letter to the Reverend John Erskine, written just five days after the farewell sermon, Edwards implies that the basic reason for his dismissal had stemmed from his opposition to Arminianism. 1 If we take Arminianism as a belief in the conditional nature of divine grace (i.e., its dependence on God's foreknowledge of the recipients' faith), a particular attitude becomes indispensable to salvation. Nevertheless, the conditional nature of this relationship between divine grace and faith demands that those involved possess free will. If God alone can produce faith, on the other hand, the argument that divine grace depends on his foreknowledge of the recipients' spiritual condition becomes no different in substance from the Calvinist doctrine of irresistible grace. In either case, salvation follows solely from God's will. To refute Arminianism, then, Edwards must demonstrate the impossibility of Arminian free Will. 2

In addition, both form and content of the Arminian scheme dictate that this demonstration should be essentially rational. For to argue against the Edwards Arminian position simply on the basis of Scripture, in other words, will not suf

-94-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Jonathan Edwards and the Limits of Enlightenment Philosophy
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 164

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?