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December 05, 2004

The Fifth Day of Christmas: Jonathan Edwards by Perry Miller

Every year I send out with my Christmas cards a list of good things I have come across during the year. I'll post these one by one here.

5. Jonathan Edwards by Perry Miller, 1949. The subject's ideas are the focus and events weave in and out to illustrate them. Edwards's project was to combine the new philosophy of Locke with the data of the Bible and human behavior to find the truth and apply it to daily life.

I've written a number of webposts inspired by this book, including "A History of the Work of Redemption" and "Jonathan Edwards on True Virtue" and " Edwards on Perceiving God's Excellency" and "Perry Miller on Jonathan Edwards; Making God in Our Own Image; God's Morality versus Ours; The Mystery of Suffering and Predestination". I'll quote a passage from page 66 of Miller's book that is on the subject of "perceiving God's excellency":

Locke constructed mankind out of sensations in order to rebuke the passions of zealots... his frontier disciple [Edwards] remodeled the Lockean man into a being radically passionate in religion, and then made him available to the democracy: "persons with but an ordinary degree of knowledge, are capable, without a long and subtile train of reasoning, to see the divine excellency of the things of religion." All a man needs is his senses, which no one in Northampton was lacking; then perforce he perceives, and perception depends not on social status or a Harvard degree, it "depends on the sense of the heart."
I am intellectually persuaded of the truth of Christianity, but I keenly feel a lack of the sense of the heart. I have it to some degree, I suppose-- or I would not be a Christian, since the intellectual arguments do not convince everyone, but others perceive much better than I do even with my eyeglasses of the intellect. That, perhaps, is God's way of keeping me humble.

Posted by erasmuse at December 5, 2004 12:15 PM

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