Jonathan Edwards’s Reshaping Of Lockean Terminology Into A Calvinistic Aesthetic Epistemology In His “Religious Affections” -- By: Hyunkwan Kim

Journal: Puritan Reformed Journal
Volume: PRJ 06:2 (Jul 2014)
Article: Jonathan Edwards’s Reshaping Of Lockean Terminology Into A Calvinistic Aesthetic Epistemology In His “Religious Affections”
Author: Hyunkwan Kim


Jonathan Edwards’s Reshaping Of Lockean Terminology Into A Calvinistic Aesthetic Epistemology In His “Religious Affections”

Hyunkwan Kim

Perry Miller’s seminal works have categorized Jonathan Edwards’s overall thoughts into a wholly Lockean influence.1 From the framework Miller established, a number of scholarly studies have been fostered.2 However, many scholars have pointed out that Miller’s

assertions went too far in identifying Edwards’s theological empiricism with Locke’s empiricism. For instance, Conrad Cherry indicated that “Miller frequently minimizes themes of Calvinist thought which were at the forefront of Edwards’s reflective concerns.”3 George M. Marsden also pointed out that “Locke opened up exciting new ways of looking at things” regarding a number of concepts, “yet Edwards was no Lockean in any strict sense.”4

This line of interpretation, which aims to counterbalance Miller’s thesis, attempts to place Edwards in a broader scholastic background. Norman Fiering has rightly traced Edwards’s metaphysical background to some of Locke’s intellectual rivals such as John Norris,

Bishop Berkley, and Nicolas Malebranche.5 John E. Smith explains that “Edwards’s philosophical stance can best be defined as a subtle interweaving of the Augustinian tradition and its later outcropping in the Cambridge Platonists, with one fundamental idea derived from Locke which he made the basis of his theological empiricism.”6

Ongoing scholarly discussions for identifying the influences on Edwards seem to conclude that Edwards drew from various theological and philosophical streams, and developed his own theological structure by using thinkers from various traditions eclectically. When it comes to Edwards’s original concept of religious affections, however, it does seem clear that Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding is probably the best source of inspiration for Edwards’s critical concepts. According to Smith, Locke’s emphasis on “sense” and his concept of “new simple idea” are essential for understanding Edwards’s concept of religious affections. Edwards transformed Locke’s new simple idea to develop his own concept of “new spiritual sense”—the characteristic of true saints who are graciously affected, according t...

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