An Encouragement to Read Jonathan Edwards’s The Religious Affections: How Sweet It Is! - page 1


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From the Fall 2017 issue of Knowing & Doing:

An Encouragement to Read Jonathan Edwards’s The Religious Affections: How Sweet it Is!

by Randy Newman, Ph.D.
Senior Teaching Fellow for Apologetics and Evangelism, C.S. Lewis Institute


plethora of pendulums swing within the Christian world, yanking believers from one unbalanced extreme to the opposite end with virtually no time to settle in the middle where, in many cases, the proper balance is found. One of those pendulum swings has been the ride between doctrine and devotion. At times we’ve insisted upon right beliefs with such vehemence that we’ve sounded no different from the current political firestorm. Some of us were “right” but we certainly weren’t righteous. At other times we so emphasized experience, we waffled about where the lines of orthodoxy really lie.
  Do we really need to choose only one of those — right beliefs or real experience? Doesn’t God call us to love Him with all our hearts and all our minds? Don’t the Scriptures call us to “taste and see” that the Lord is good? I find the Bible to be an amazingly balanced book, exhorting us to think right thoughts and live godly lives. In just one of hundreds of examples I could cite, Colossians 3 tells us to both set our “hearts on things above” and also to set our “minds on things above” (vv. 1–2 NIV).
  In that same chapter, we’re commanded to “put to death” all sorts of evil desires (vv. 5–10) and “let the peace of Christ rule” in our hearts (v. 15). That sounds rather experiential. But we’re also told to “let the word of Christ dwell in” us, which works itself out with such things as teaching, admonishing, and wisdom (v. 16). That sounds rather intellectual.
  And, oh, by the way, isn’t it intriguing that, of all the ways God could have chosen to reveal truth to us, He included a book! That’s far more cognitive and intellectual than some today want to acknowledge. I’ll push it further. Given the lofty things God’s Word says about God’s Word (consider the longest chapter of the longest book of the Bible, Psalm 119), shouldn’t we prioritize right thinking as an important part of exalting God and living lives worthy of our calling? I get nervous when I hear someone denigrate the importance of knowledge or doctrine or thinking in favor of emotions or zeal or “the heart.” Never mind the self-refutation of their need to use words and logic to convince others of the unimportance of words and logic. The biggest problem of that approach is that the Bible simply won’t support it.
  In fact, to say that the Bible is balanced between mind and heart is not quite right. The Bible is holistic. It doesn’t see thought and emotion as two different components of our being to be “balanced.” We are whole persons with our thoughts and feelings inseparably melded together. Even some of the central words of the Bible, used to describe our natures, are words that defy categorization into intellectual or emotional compartments. The Hebrew word often translated “soul,” nefesh, to name just one biblical term, refers to our whole lives with implications about the ideas we think, the emotions we feel, the attitudes we develop, and the lifestyles we practice.

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