Saturday, February 19, 2011

Edwards On Free Will and the Fall (Part 6)

Concluding Thoughts on Edwards’ Endeavor

Some may find it hard to understand the restless intellect of a brilliant theologian of Edwards' caliber. I must confess that I myself have at times decided that I cannot fully comprehend many theological issues. The mystery of the trinity, the divine/human nature of Christ, and yes, the Fall, are just some of the issues that, though possible to understand in a limited sense, are impossible to fully comprehend.

Thus it is with many theologians who, when they look at the issue of the Fall, see immense difficulty. Once again: How could a righteous and holy Adam, who did not possess an indifferent will, but one that was necessarily good, come to rebel against God and against his better judgment? This is not a question that is unique to Calvinists, but is one that Arminians must answer as well. It does not, of necessity, represent a crux in the Calvinist worldview, for a worldview is not constructed upon conclusions, but upon evidence and facts. It would seem that the only way for this issue to in fact, not be an issue for the Arminian is if they can find a way to combat Edwards’ arguments against a neutral will. If such arguments cannot be answered, then the problem of the Fall is a problem for everyone - Calvinist, Arminian, and (sigh) Cal-minians alike.

It would seem that the question of the Fall represents something else. There are some things we can know about the Fall, for example, who was involved, whether Adam and Eve were righteous before the Fall, what was forbidden, what was the result of their disobedience, and whether or not the Fall was decreed by God. But there are also some things that elude us, as regards the mystery of the Fall, and it seems that such issues must be left where they are: issues we cannot fully understand - depths we ought not plumb - this side of Heaven. Certainly we can wrestle with the difficult questions, we can enjoy discussions and debates on such issues, but it would seem that if even the most brilliant Christian minds have found such discussion to be ultimately unfruitful, then how can we who stand upon their mighty shoulders, believe ourselves any better?

Our appreciation of Edwards’ writing in Freedom of the Will must be very great. It is brilliant, and, some have argued, one of the greatest apologies for the Calvinist view of the will ever composed. In addition, his companion work, Original Sin is a crucial writing in which Edwards defended (and some might say, still defends) the orthodox view of sin against the onslaught of rationalism over scripture of his own day.

I end with a quote from John Gerstner’s Mini Theology of Edwards, where he comments that the problem of the Fall became to Edwards an obsession in need of resolution.
As did Noah, Edwards became “drunk” on one occasion in spite of a life of exceptional holiness. And just as in the case of Noah, there was undoubtedly powerful temptation; so here the great intellectual theologian became intoxicated with the greatest theological problem in the entire Word of God.
If we ordinary Christians have not been overcome, it is because we have not felt as keenly the most irresistible temptation to solve the unsolvable. We have been spared not because we are better, but because it has been easier for us to realize that the problem is beyond us.[1]

[1] Gerstner, John H. Jonathan Edwards: A Mini-Theology. (Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Wheaton, Illinois, 1987) Pg. 39-40

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