SIGNATURES OF DIVINE MAJESTY
The Reason and Mystery of Revelation
More than anything else, it was its rejection of revelation that distinguished Enlightenment religion from all of its adversaries. Before the rise of deism, there were plenty of factions within what could be called orthodoxy that fought over the true form of orthodoxy and what the Bible really meant. But it was not until the rise of deism in the seventeenth century that substantial numbers of the intellectual elite openly denied the notion that God had spoken through the Bible. Soon "natural religion," which contended that God speaks only through nature and reason, became the most distinctive religious product of the Enlightenment.
Jonathan Edwards joined a host of orthodox thinkers who tried to defend the notion of revelation from its Enlightenment detractors. Edwards's arguments were not wholly dissimilar from those of his allies, but they showed greater subtlety and sensitivity to deist reasoning. He began his defense of revelation with a series of arguments for its necessity. Since he believed that reason was prevented by sin from leading human beings to the true God, he was convinced that revelation was necessary to supply what fallen reason could not. Only revelation had been able to provide true knowledge of God's nature and unity, God's works, Creation, government, his great designs, his will, rewards and punishments, the nature and end of human happiness, morality, life after death, the origin of sin, the future state, and the way of redemption (Misc. 128, Misc. 582).
Edwards argued that deists misunderstood reason when arguing against revelation. They wrongly presumed they knew such a thing as "naked reason." In real