Wednesday, November 28, 2012

If People Can't Help What They Believe...

My latest reading of George Marsden's Jonathan Edwards: A Life covered a variety of topics: the growing influence of Anglicanism in early eighteenth New England, which concerned a number of Puritans; Jonathan Edwards' prophetic speculation, as he calculated that Christ would return in 1866 (1260 years after the start of the papacy, which Edwards dated to 606 C.E.) and viewed himself as one of those who would bring people to Christ in the latter days, through logical argumentation; Edwards' admiration for his future wife, Sarah, on account of her joy (an attribute he himself desired) and her enjoyment of God in solitude (something that he himself experienced); and how Jonathan Edwards----an educated man----could bring his sermons down to earth for his congregation by means of effective analogies.

There was a period of time when Edwards' sermons were rather positive, and that was when Edwards was seeking to encourage himself as he was struggling with negative thinking.  Edwards also had experience in trying to suppress resentment, and that was manifest in some of his sermons, which sought to teach people how to have a loving and forgiving attitude.  Edwards urged people to hate the sin but love the sinner, and even to live at peace with those who had different religious beliefs, for, as Edwards said, people can't help what they believe (page 97----in case you're interested in seeing Marsden's discussion and in tracking down his reference).  That's actually a provocative statement, and it inspires me to ask: Why does God judge those who don't believe in Christ, if they can't help what they believe?  And, if we should cut people some slack because they can't help what they believe, why doesn't God do the same?

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