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The Un-Protestant Jonathan Edwards?

On the other hand, Edwards, the greatest Reformed theologian between Calvin and Barth, systematically integrates justification and sanctification, faith and works, election and perseverance, forensic righteousness and mystical participation. This is significant not only for relations between Reformed and Catholic theology, but also for evangelicals and Catholics. Evangelicals have had their own problems putting asunder what God has united soteriologically (the pairs named at the beginning of this paragraph). Both they and their Catholic brethren will be surprised to discover that the evangelicals’ favorite theologian appeared to have swum at least partway across the Tiber-by integrating, in Catholic fashion, what many Protestants have left asunder.

Read the entire article.  Jonathan Edwards is best known for reading (yes, anointed bretheren, reading) his famous sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” which helped to spark the Great Awakening, the first of this country’s sucession of revivals.  He is thus an important figure for his spiritual heirs.

At the risk of oversimpifying the issue, any missional Christian who gives the matter much thought realises that there are two crucial elements in a church that is fulfilling its goal:

  1. The possibility of an individual responding to God’s call for salvation.  (And, if you haven’t, yes, you can.)
  2. The subsequent changes that come from entrance of God through Jesus Christ into a person’s life.

Reformed theology, strictly speaking, negates both, the first through its rigid view of predestination which denies any choice in the matter, and the latter through its focus on having one’s name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life as the “all in all” of salvation.  Without thinking along Edwards’ lines, the kind of revivals we have seen in this world would be impossible.  That’s why it bothers me that Reformed theologians and institutions are so much de rigeur in Evangelicalism.

For me, I spent a lot of time in college reading St. Thomas Aquinas.  Evidently he’s more “missional” that many of us suspected!  It paid off when I had to shift the theology away from strict Reformed on eternal security when I prepared LifeBuilders Essentials for a Pentecostal audience.


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