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

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 133:532 (Oct 1976)
Article: An Outline of the Apologetics of Jonathan Edwards Part IV: The Proof Of God’s Special Revelation, The Bible—Continued
Author: John H. Gerstner


An Outline of the Apologetics of Jonathan Edwards
Part IV:
The Proof Of God’s Special Revelation, The Bible—Continued

John H. Gerstner

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

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

For Jonathan Edwards, natural revelation is the power of God to damnation but never to salvation. Far from being another gospel, it merely revealed the necessity for the gospel. Edwards wrote,

I am persuaded if it were [researched] the result of the inquiry would be this: that he that thinks to prove that the world ever did, in fact, by wisdom know God, that any nation upon earth or any set of men ever did, from the principles of reason only without any assistance from revelation, find out the true nature and the true worship of the deity, must find out some history of the world entirely different from all the accounts which the present sacred and profane writers do give us….1

This point was, of course, made especially for the Deist. What real light the heathen may possess comes from tradition, and if they are devoid of this real light they most clearly reveal the need of it. The preceding article in this series discussed Edwards’s demonstration of the necessity and probability of special revelation.2

Christianity Mysterious

That article also presented Edwards’s view that as certainly as revelation could be anticipated, just so certainly it could be anticipated that coming directly from God to man it would appear mysterious and paradoxical in its form of communication. The clear and distinct ideas of Descartes could hardly be expected to apply to a divine revelation. (Edwards would never agree with John Toland’s work Christianity Not Mysterious, published in 1696.) It is not necessary to have clear ideas in order to be convinced rationally of the truth of a proposition. The mathematicians who are often convinced of surd numbers illustrate this truth.3 At the same time, the heart can never be set on an object of which there is no idea at all.4 Christ’s discourse with Nicodemus, in which He showed him that the mysteriousness of earthly things should prepare for greater mystery in heavenly things, can teach us more than Descartes at this point.You must have a subscription and be logged in to read the entire article.
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