An Outline of the Apologetics of Jonathan Edwards Part III: The Proof of God’s Special Revelation, The Bible -- By: John H. Gerstner

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 133:531 (Jul 1976)
Article: An Outline of the Apologetics of Jonathan Edwards Part III: The Proof of God’s Special Revelation, The Bible
Author: John H. Gerstner


An Outline of the Apologetics of Jonathan Edwards
Part III:
The Proof of God’s Special Revelation, The Bible

John H. Gerstner

[John H. Gerstner, Professor of Church History, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.]

[EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the third in a series of articles delivered by the author as the W. H. Griffith Thomas Memorial Lectures at Dallas Theological Seminary, November 4–7, 1975.]

George Gordon has written, “It is not edifying to see Edwards, in the full movement of speculation, suddenly pause, begin a new section of his essay, and lug into his argument proof texts from every corner of the Bible to cover the incompleteness of his rational procedure.”1 Peter Gay has very recently written that Edwards was in a biblical “cage” and not a true son of the Enlightenment.2 Perry Miller, more than any other student of the Enlightenment, has admired the intellectuality of Jonathan Edwards. Miller sensed that in many ways Edwards was not only abreast of our times but ahead of them; nevertheless, he felt Edwards was reactionary in some respects even to his own age.

The Critique of Deism

This type of criticism goes back to the Deists of the eighteenth century.3 Matthew Tindal’s “Bible of the Deists,” as it was called, was entitled, Christianity as Old as Creation, or the Gospel,

a Republication of the Religion of Nature.4 For him and all Deists, natural revelation was a sufficient map for the rational voyage of life. Further revelation was unnecessary, an impertinence, and unable, in any case, to move beyond unaided reason. Nineteenth century Gordon and twentieth-century Gay are of the same persuasion. Consequently, all of them lament Edwards, with all his prodigious ability as a philosopher and natural theologian, bowing before the authority of the Scriptures as a little child singing, “Jesus loves me; this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” But for Edwards, this attitude was not one of simple piety alone but was also at the same time an attitude of the loftiest rationality. He refuted the Deists not by an appeal to faith but by rational analysis. He did not prove the Deists to be deficient in heart so much as soft in the head.

Consider, for example, Edwards’s refutation of Tindal. One of his “Miscellanies” carries the title: “The sufficiency of reason as a substitute for revelation.”5 Tindal’s argument w...

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