Saturday, July 19, 2008

Religious Affections

Jonathan Edwards is one of the greatest theologians of all time. He's the inspiration behind John Piper's "Christian hedonism," and is at the very heart of the "Young, Restless, and Reformed" movement. Yet I must confess, I've never read a complete book by Jonathan Edwards. Sure, I've read a couple of his articles here and there, and have read his famous sermon, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," but I've really read very little by this great preacher and theologian. Lord willing, that is about to change.

For some time now, Tim Challies has been hosting a book club called Reading Classics Together, and they just started their next book. It's A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections, by Jonathan Edwards. And now that we have concluded The Courage to Be Protestant on this blog, I think I'll take a stab at Religious Affections. (In fact, maybe David Wells was good mental preparation for tackling Jonathan Edwards. Both of them are crazy smart!) Any of you are welcome to read along as well. If you do not own a copy of Religious Affections, you can read the text online for free at CCEL. I will personally be reading out of the two-volume Banner of Truth Works of Jonathan Edwards.

In the Preface, Edwards says the main purpose of his book is "to show the nature and signs of the gracious operations of God's Spirit, by which they are to be distinguished from all things whatsoever which are not of a saving nature" (p. 235).
I believe we should rejoice whenever someone confesses Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord (cf. Lk. 15:10). But how can we discern genuine conversion from false religion? What are the marks of a true believer, and of the authentic work of the Holy Spirit? This is what Edwards will try to explain.

In fact, it was his critique of false religion that struck me the most
in this opening section: "It is by the mixture of counterfeit religion with true, not discerned and distinguished, that the devil has had his greatest advantage against the cause and kingdom of Christ. It is plainly by this means, principally, that he has prevailed against all revivals of religions, since the first founding of the christian church" (p. 235). Satan is a cunning foe, and he knows that twisting true religion is often a much more effective strategy than eliminating religion altogether.

May the Lord kindle our religious affections and help us "guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure [of the gospel] which has been entrusted to us" (2 Tim. 1:14).


David said...

I'm with you on that! I've wanted to read Edwards forever... but never did. (Yes, I did read sinner in the hands of an angry God).

Wonder why he wasn't required reading in college.

M.L. McCullah said...

I really enjoy Edwards. I have read about 10-15 sermons of Edwards and his resolutions. Another excellent sermon by Edwards, which really displays his love of Christ, is Heaven is a World of Love. His resolutions have been my favorite read. He exposes himself as a man with difficulties and like passions that I can relate to.

I want to read this work and I have read the preface, but I am not sure I will have the time to read it (reading it may not be prudent at this time). I will do my best to keep up with any posts you write about this work and comment.