Jonathan Edwards Confronts the Gods: Christian Theology, Enlightenment Religion, and Non-Christian Faiths

By Gerald R. McDermott | Go to book overview
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6

PARABLES IN ALL NATIONS
Typology and the Religions

Eighteenth-century deists imagined they had deflated the overweening pretensions of Christian theology. Toland, Chubb, and Tindal figured they had exposed traditional Christianity's universal claims as in fact restricted to a small corner of the planet and shown the volumes of Calvinist thought to have been the product of fanciful imaginations. The deists' challenge to orthodoxy was a formidable one: the God of orthodoxy, they avowed, had not revealed himself in history and the Bible. The true God whose will was enshrined in a few simple moral dictates could be discovered by the human mind. But the God of Calvin and Edwards was nowhere to be found in the real world because his supposed revelations were in fact chimerical. To put it charitably, he was silent.

The deists had thrown down the gauntlet. Jonathan Edwards eagerly picked it up and threw it back in the form of his typological system. God's nature, he declared through this system, is to communicate itself, that is, to flow out and diffuse itself throughout the creation so that its creatures can come to know its perfections ( EW, 430-31, 434-35). Therefore God is constantly communicating Reformed truths wherever the eye can see and the ear can hear. As the psalmist proclaimed, "There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world" ( Ps. 19:3-4). Types, Edwards pronounced, "are a certain sort of language, as it were, in which God is wont to speak to us."1 These types are words in persons,

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1
1. Types, 150. "Types" is one of three notebooks Edwards devoted exclusively to elaboration of his typological scheme. The other two were "Images of Divine Things" (hereafter referred to as "Images") and "Types of the Messiah" (hereafter referred to as TM). All three are published in

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