Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Jonathan Edwards: Part 2

This is part 2 in a series on the life of Jonathan Edwards. To read the entire article or to see endnotes click here.

Academic Pursuits and Spiritual Wrestlings

At the age of thirteen, Jonathan showed significant academic promise in that he had already mastered the required languages for attending college. He thus left his immediate family to attend school at the institution that would eventually become known as Yale. As a student at Yale, Jonathan excelled academically but had a difficult time making friends with his peers. Part of Edwards’ social problems can be attributed to the fact that he was “undergoing the most intense spiritual journey of his life” and the immaturity and immorality of his fellow students was appalling to him. Edwards’ spiritual struggle was over the state of his own soul. His academic interests and pursuits had led him to question some of the very doctrines that seemed foundational to his faith, namely God’s total sovereignty. Edwards eventually had a significant intellectual and spiritual breakthrough in this area and was able to view God as absolutely just in “eternally disposing of men, according to his sovereign pleasure.”

In addition to Edwards’ “spiritual breakthrough,” his time at Yale proved to be extremely formative. As a student and later as a tutor he grew in his passion for seeking out knowledge. This led him to read widely while at Yale and seriously interact with the main philosophers and scientists of his day. This was a discipline that Edwards would continue throughout his life. In particular, Edwards was influenced by the writings of Isaac Newton and John Locke. One of the main things that drove this pursuit of acquiring knowledge for Edwards was his view of God. In other words, for Edwards any truth that he was able to find in philosophy or science ultimately was put there by God as a sign of “higher spiritual realities.” Edwards was eager to study the observable world and to bring it into a codified system. For Edwards, “everything [in the universe and the codified system] was a symbol pointing either to the need for redemption or to some aspect of God’s character and the redemptive love of Christ.” The key for Edwards to unlocking the mysteries of the universe was not found ultimately in reason or experience alone, but in the Scriptures. This understanding of God and the world, that he began to develop more fully while at Yale, would permeate his writings and sermons for the duration of his ministry.


Anonymous said...

"At the age of 13 he had already mastered the Biblical languages."

Wow! Edwards really was a serious student even as a young man. Makes me wish I grew up during the 18th century:)

Mike J.

Anonymous said...

I didn't know Edwards went to Yale. I thought he went to Princeton.