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

By Gerald R. McDermott | Go to book overview

7
A POSSIBILITY OF RECONCILIATION

Salvation and the "Heathen"

Most students of early New England remember the Robert Breck affair as a bizarre episode in which western Massachusetts ministers in 1735 arranged to have a young preacher from Harvard arrested and carried off to jail on charges of heresy. Students of Edwards also know that the Northampton theologian agreed that Breck was preaching dangerous heresy and publicly defended the ministers' actions. What most historians have overlooked, however, is that one of the three Breck doctrines deemed to be heretical concerned the eschatological. destiny of the "heathen," and that it was this doctrine that seemed to bother Edwards the most.1

According to his accusers, Robert Breck ( 1713-84) had told his Windham County ( Connecticut) auditors that some portions of the Scriptures were not inspired, that predestination gave "no Encouragement to Duty," and that "the heathen doing what they could would entitle 'em to salvation." It was this last accusation to which Edwards devoted the majority of his attention in his published account of the heresies.2


Deism and the Scandal of Particularity

Edwards was probably not surprised to learn that Breck was a disciple of Thomas Chubb,3 the most accessible guide to deism in the 1730s. For as we saw in Chap

____________________
1
For the most recent overview of the affair and relevant bibliography, see EccW, 4-17.
2
A Letter to the Author of the Pamphlet Called An Answer to the Hampshire Narrative (orig. 1737), in EccW, 91-163. Edwards discusses Breck's objectionable teachings in 155-61.
3
A Narrative, 5; EccW, 6, 159.

-130-

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

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents ix
  • Abbreviations xi
  • Introduction - A Strange, New Edwards 3
  • 1 - Deists and the Scandal of Particularity 17
  • 2 - Edwards S War Against Enlightenment Religion 34
  • II - Strategies of Response 53
  • 3 - Our Noblest Faculty 55
  • 4 - Signatures of Divine Majesty 71
  • 5 - Trickle-Down Revelation and Religious Entropy 87
  • 6 - Parables in All Nations Typology and the Religions 110
  • 7 - A Possibility of Reconciliation 130
  • III - Strategies Applied 147
  • 8 - Judaism 149
  • 9 - Islam 166
  • 10 - Greece and Rome 176
  • 11 - American Indians 194
  • 12 - The Chinese Philosophers 207
  • Conclusion - Confounding the Enfightemnent 217
  • Selected Bibliography 229
  • Index 241
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