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About the Author
Sean Michael Lucas (PhD, Westminster Theological Seminary) is senior minister at First Presbyterian Church in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and the author of several books. He previously taught at Covenant Theological Seminary as associate professor of church history.
Sean Lucas surveys the main lines of thought in Jonathan Edwards’s major works and sermons to lay out the New England pastor’s grand theological vision and its direct connection to the Christian life.
Table of Contents
Part 1: Redemption History
- God’s Grand Design: The Glory of God
- God’s End in Creating the World: Creation, Nature, Fall
- The Great Errand of Christ: Redemption
- The Summum and Ultimum: Consummation
Part 2: Redemption Applied
- A Divine and Supernatural Light
- The Nature of True Religion: Holy Affections
- The Dark Side of Religious Affections: Self-Deception
- A Love Life: How the Affections Produce Genuine Virtue
- Means of Grace: The Ministry of the Word
- Means of Grace: The Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper
- Means of Grace: Prayer, Personal and Global
- The Christian Life as a Journey to Heaven
Jonathan Edwards’s work in his many roles–pastor, preacher, revivalist, etc.–is shot through with brilliant insights and personal struggle. Studies of America’s greatest theologian have capitalized on various features of his thought. Perry Miller has looked to Edwards’ prescience in speaking to our own times while John Gerstner described Edwards’ use of rational tools in theology. Others note his nuanced take on the Great Awakening.
Our aim is to cover territory that has not received enough attention: we will explore Edwards’s grand vision of and approach to the Christian life. On one level we will be looking at the grand theological vision of Edwards, that of redemption stretching back to eternity past and going forward in one sweeping movement of God. On another level we will focus on how the cosmic work of redemption applies to the individual Christian in his mind, affections, and will. Edwards held that a clear-sighted view of “the grand design of all God’s design” strengthens our understanding of how we are called to live in this world.
Part 1: Redemption History
1. God’s Grand Design: The Glory of God
We begin by looking at Jonathan Edwards’s response to the decline of extraordinary spiritual experiences in his New England Congregational context. As “the surprising work of God” in revival was beginning to fade, Edwards turned his people away from the mundane to a greater vision of God through long series such as his 1739 thirty-part sermon on Isaiah 51:8. This became “A History of the Work of Redemption.” In this work, Edwards seeks to enliven his hearers affections as he points them to God’s design in redemption, namely, the glory of the blessed Trinity.
That ambitious goal involved Edwards traversing the topic of the internal life of the Godhead using psychological analogies–God eternally contemplates a perfect vision of himself, seen principally in the eternally begotten image of the Son. Using a social analogy, we can also see that “God’s purpose in creating was to communicate the fullness of Trinitarian delight outside himself” and to have it then return to himself through the love of his saints in delighting in God’s glory.
The second part of the equation is…[To continue reading this summary, please see below....]
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God’s Grand Design: The Theological Vision of Jonathan Edwards