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

By Gerald R. McDermott | Go to book overview

9
ISLAM

The Left Arm of Antichrist

Toward the end of his life Jonathan Edwards launched a series of diatribes against Islam. This was not the first time, of course, that a Christian thinker had regarded Muslims with dismay. Edwards was continuing a long tradition of anti-Islamic sentiment that combined fear and loathing with curious fascination. Yet Edwards's hostility toward Islam evinced a new fervor and a new motive. His denunciations of the followers of Muhammad were unusually vitriolic because he considered Islam to be a foil for Reformed Christianity's most dangerous enemy: deism.


Aggravated Condemnation

In some respects, Edwards regarded Islam with a certain ambivalence. While he seemed to feel visceral hostility toward everything Islamic, he also wrote that Muslims are less blameworthy than wayward Protestants because the latter were brought up with greater light about Christ and true faith.1 Since God's judgment of Muslims will be "proportioned to their light," their condemnation will be less severe than that of those who knew more.2 Edwards also believed that Muslims have far more light about Christ than many "heathen" thinkers whom he roundly praised. The Qur'an, Edwards seemed happy to note, accurately portrays Jesus as a great prophet and messenger of God who was born of a virgin and without sin,

____________________
1
HWR, 489-90; MNB, 250.
2
"On the Medium of Moral Government", in Hickman, 2:488.

-166-

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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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