The inside flaps of the cover to George Marsden's Jonathan Edwards: A Life states: "Marsden reveals Edwards as a complex thinker and human being who struggled to reconcile his Puritan heritage with the secular, modern world emerging out of the Enlightenment." My latest reading exemplified this thesis, and I'm sure that was not the last time that this thesis will emerge in this book.
In my latest reading, two
issues that I came across were Edwards' reading of John Locke, and
Edwards' attempts to define the relationship of God to the natural
world. Regarding Locke, Edwards eventually departed from Locke's
critique of the doctrine of predestination, even though Edwards himself
initially struggled with that doctrine. The doctrine just made sense to
Edwards at some point, and he no longer wrestled with it.
relationship of God with the natural world, Edwards viewed the natural
world as an expression of God to human beings----to draw from the
Psalmist, the heavens declare the glory of God. Edwards was not a
deist, one who believed that God created the cosmos and then ceased to
be involved in it, for Edwards held that God was active in the world and
was sustaining it on a continual basis. But Edwards also shied away
from Puritan superstition----by which I mean an obsession with demons
and witches, and stories such as that about a man who grew a goat's horn
after stealing a goat. There was a spectrum around Edwards' time:
Isaac Newton, for example, had a worldview that deists would run with,
one that was deemed to be mechanistic, and yet Newton believed that God
was directly behind gravity----not just in the sense that God created
gravity a long time ago, but rather in the sense that God was behind it
on a continual basis. Moreover, there were some who maintained that the
universe was in the mind of God.
According to Edwards, when one
was spiritually illuminated, one could see how the universe fit together
and communicated God's glory and wisdom, as well as Christ's love.
Personally, I think that the universe is rather discordant, and that
many Christians read into it what they want to find, using mental
gymnastics when necessary. I much prefer the approach of God in God's
speeches to Job to Christian attempts to force harmonization on what
does not appear to be harmonious----the world is a strange and