Tradition or scripture? That is the question...
"For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen." Romans 11.36
Overwhelmed by an extended series of revelations in early adulthood, Jonathan Edwards was catapulted out of the strict Puritan tradition in which he was raised and into an intensely personal relationship with God. The immediate effect was to drive him to the closer examination of scripture, both to make sense of his experience and to check the veracity of his Puritan inheritance. While he remained appreciative of the latter for the firm foundation it gave him, he warmed to the more liberating and relational possibilities which beckoned in his new identity as a thoroughly "biblical" Christian.
Aflame with a pastor's necessary zeal for the glory of God and the salvation of souls, Edwards quickly established himself as a powerful preacher and a compassionate minister. His eagerness to feed his flock, through communicating the mysteries of religion in ways they could understand, was matched by his willingness to engage with the brightest minds of his generation, both in his native New England and in "the old country" and its neighbouring continent of Europe.
While scientists, like Isaac Newton, and philosophers, such as John Locke, were lapping up - and indeed promoting - anthropocentric Enlightenment thinking, Edwards insisted on the pre-eminence of divine revelation and a closer relationship between God and creation. Such was his confidence in his convictions that Edwards was not afraid of taking on any scholar, on any topic, in any location. His prodigious literary output was matched by speaking tours, which made him a household name on both sides of the Atlantic.
Edwards' zest for engagement proves that he was not against his adversaries. It rather demonstrates his eagerness to enter the fray of intellectual ideas and scientific endeavour, in order to argue for a profounder, more transcendent enlightenment, which gave God his place as the living centre of existence, rather than as a peripheral observer. At the same time, it was reminder that our fallen state commends a more humble bearing among our fellow creatures and greater receptivity towards the grace of God, so that we might share in his eternal inheritance. As such, Edwards' teaching is remarkably applicable today, where society needs to restore God to his throne and repent of our destructive impact on creation - if we are to avoid judgment and receive our place in his Kingdom.