Jonathan Edward’s Vision Of Salvation -- By: John J. Bombaro

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 65:1 (Spring 2003)
Article: Jonathan Edward’s Vision Of Salvation
Author: John J. Bombaro

Jonathan Edward’s Vision Of Salvation

John J. Bombaro

[John J. Bombaro is the Resident Director of the John Newton International Center for Christian Studies in Carlisle, Pa.]

None but those that do live under the calls of the Gospel shall be saved.. . .That is God’s way and his only way of bringing men to salvation, viz., the Gospel.

—Jonathan Edwards, MS sermon on Matt 22:14

I. Introduction

Jonathan Edwards’s worldview consists of a vision of God in which the Deity accomplishes His purposes through a metaphysic of finality. Human beings are the central means by which God’s purposes come to fruition. Whether the saintly Paul, reprobate Judas, or the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, all human beings are valuable in themselves by virtue of their ontic composition and, especially, their functional role within God’s bilateral redemption scheme.

Is Edwards a misanthropist? No, he recognizes the dreadfulness of the doctrine of hell and laments that “‘tis a common thing for persons to go to hell.’’ Yet, in unison, he perceives and appreciates the revealed truth and even the beauty of double particular election. So, in the ‘‘Sole Consideration, that God is God,” Edwards resigns “All Objections to His Sovereignty,’’ and in light of its arbitrary “excellence,” he lovingly ascribes absolute sovereignty to God.1

Do men go to hell and suffer eternal torments? Not only does Edwards answer “yes”; he also says that it is necessarily so. But he no more than any of his predestinarian predecessors had any knowledge of who—while in their natural state—were elect and who were reprobate. However, a few things were certain to him by way of special revelation: (1) no soul since Adam’s lapse was, is, or will be, created with a holy disposition that unites them to God, save for the God-man Jesus Christ; (2) this same Jesus accomplished redemption through an atoning sacrifice of Himself; (3) the sum total of Christ’s redemptive purchase was the Holy Spirit; and (4) God applies the reconciling and regenerative benefits of Christ’s redemptive “purchase” (i.e., the Spirit) through divinely appointed gospel “means and ordinances.”

In the last point we find that Edwards thoroughly subscribes to the Reformation theology of theatrum salutis (forum of salvation),2 a theory which purports that the dissemination of the gospel word creates a “forum” in which God communicates Christ’s saving benefits by the Spirit thro...

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