And Edwards in the Woods

First I found Calvin in the yard. Then I found Edwards in the woods.

If you're like me, your most prominent memory of Jonathan Edwards is his hell-fire sermon, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God."

But Chapter 5 of Ravished by Beauty suggests we might better conceive of Edwards overarching viewpoint as "sinners in the hands of a beautiful God."

As a child, Edwards was known to build prayer huts in the woods. As an adult, says Lane, "he wrote of songbirds, flowing water, and the intricate movement of the stars. He spoke of seeing these things...as the voice of God, glimpsing what is held out to us by the divine hand."

If God can be seen in the beautiful world, as Edwards believed He could, then we humans have a clear role to play. We are what Edwards called "the consciousness of the creation." Lane further explains this, saying, ours is the "responsibility of discerning and articulating the aesthetic/moral character of the cosmos as a mirror of God's glory."

I was most fascinated by Edwards belief that this beauty went down to, as it were, the very bones of the universe. Lane notes that some of Edwards ideas were before their time and we are only just beginning to see scientifically how right he was.

I suspect Edwards would have loved String Theory; he spoke of the world as a "vast orchestra tuning up." I imagine he would have also loved our discoveries about the prevalence of fractals. Even our own brains exhibit this elegant design. Edwards would have called it an image of the glory of God.

Labels: , ,


Blogger Maureen said...

Perhaps another stereotype about the Puritan background dispelled?

Some credit Edwards with being the equivalent of a feminist; i.e., believer in gender equality -- can you imagine that in his day?! Perhaps it's not a stretch then to also regard him as a kind of early environmentalist; to be imbued with "the consciousness of the creation" seems something much deeper than is implied by "steward of Creation".

Edwards definitely had some fascinating philosophical ideas. The Stanford Encycopedia of Philosophy does a decent job of setting them out.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home