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

By Gerald R. McDermott | Go to book overview

11 AMERICAN INDIANS

The Devil Sucks Their Blood

Jonathan Ewards felt little but contempt for Native American religion. When trying to refute English Nonconformist John Taylor's notion of an innate human capacity for religious knowledge, he used American Indians as a trump card. What did Europeans find when they came to America and discovered a people who had had the benefit of thousands of years to develop this capacity for religious truth? Nothing but "the grossest ignorance, delusions, and most stupid paganism" (OS, 151).


The Devil's People

Like many colonials, Ewards regarded Native American religion as peculiarly satanic.1 He accepted the prevailing assumption that the Indians were a remnant of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel that had lost all knowledge of true religion and somehow made their way eastward across Asia and then by ice floes or land bridge to North America -- led all the way by Satan for the purpose of removing them from the gospel.2 Once settled in America, they had become Satan's peculiar people, and their religion nothing more than devil worship.3 Despite considering themselves free, they were in reality "the devil's captives" even more than the rest of

____________________
1
David S. Lovejoy argues that the seventeenth century "perfected the image of the American Indian as a subject of the Devil's kingdom" ( "Satanizing the American Indian", 621).
2
HWR, 155, 433-34. This was something of a consensus among colonial religious leaders such as Cotton Mather. DB, 11-12; Hutchison, Errand to the World, 39; Vaughan, New England Frontier, 20.
3
Sermon on 1 John 3:10, March 1756; HWR, 472. On the assertion that the Native Americans worshiped the devil, see also DB, 261.

-194-

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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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