The most important question we can ask…according to Edwards

There is no question whatsoever, that is of greater importance to mankind, and that it more concerns every individual person to be well resolved in, than this, what are the distinguishing qualifications of those that are in favor with God, and entitled to his eternal rewards? Or, which comes to the same thing, What is the nature of true religion? and wherein do lie the distinguishing notes of that virtue and holiness, that is acceptable in the sight of God.

For Edwards, this is the most important question that the people in his day can ask. And, I think it’s safe to say that he would think it the most important question for us to ask today.

Yet, at the same time, he noted, “there is no one point, wherein professing Christians do more differ one from another.” That would seem a pretty devastating indictment. If Christians themselves cannot agree on that which is the most important question they should be asking, we have a serious problem.

Although he didn’t phrase it this way, I’m reminded of Scot McKnight’s recent comments about evangelicalism and the Gospel. According to McKnight, the Gospel is the centering reality of evangelicalism. Yet, at the same time, evangelicals can’t agree on what the Gospel is.

Apparently the diversity and disunity of evangelicalism is not a recent phenomenon.

About Marc Cortez

Theology Prof and Dean at Western Seminary, husband, father, & blogger, who loves theology, church history, ministry, pop culture, books, and life in general.

Posted on May 12, 2011, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I wonder if atheism was seen as a viable option when Edwards was alive. Was there a significant part of the population that was questioning the existence of God? How would Edwards respond to the “new” atheists such as Dawkins and Harris?

    • As far as I know, atheism was not any kind of issue in Edwards’ day. He does deal in places with arguments for the existence of God, but not in the context of trying to convince atheists that God exists. It’s obviously hard to say how Edwards would have responded to modern thinkers, but I’m sure he would not have appreciated their argument that Christianity has actually been bad for the world.

  1. Pingback: Jonathan Edwards (roundup) « scientia et sapientia

  2. Pingback: Jonathan Edwards (roundup) | Everyday Theology

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