Jonathan Edwards

Edwards (1703-1757), often described as one of the most original and powerful of American thinkers, is best known for his sermon, “Sinner in the Hands of an Angry God.” The attention this ferocious piece receives unfairly soils Edwards’ philosophical and theological reputation. It skews the radical notion that God’s influence on human affairs does not proceed by direct force but by aesthetic appeal. God reaches the heart and mind by way of beauty–and beauty conceived in a variety of natural and personal forms. His most famous line, “the will is as the most apparent good is,” deserves long reflection. No mechanical manipulation here. Questions quickly multiply. Where is will-as-agent in this formulation, not to mention freedom? Is the most apparent good an actual good? Why does it only appear? In my judgment, there is much wisdom and fresh insight still to be mined in his many volumes.