Handling Theological Mystery, According to Edwards

In an age when many pastors are thoroughly confused about how to handle mystery, and many theologians offer less-than-satisfactory solutions, Jonathan Edwards offers some of the soundest advice around (though he may not always have taken it himself):

“Don’t perplex your mind with the secret decrees of God, and particularly about the eternal decrees of God with respect to yourself, prying into those secrets which are hidden from men and angels, laboring to unseal that book which is sealed with seven seals and which no man in heaven or earth is worthy or able to open or to look thereon. When men get into a way of perplexing their minds with such things, they are in a very unhappy way. The devil has ‘em in a dismal snare. Therefore diligently avoid such a snare and let the revealed will of God be enough for you. Mind what God commands you, what counsels and directions he gives. Let your whole heart be intent upon those things. This is the way for you to prosper. But if you entangle and tease your mind with thoughts about the secret, eternal counsels of God, you will be out of the way of your duty and in the way to your own mischief and will expose yourself to ruin.

From “The Reality of Conversion” in The Sermons of Jonathan Edwards: A Reader, ed. Kimnach, Minkema, and Sweeney, 102.

Trust the Bible; believe what the Bible says; don’t try to unthread what God has said and done.  God, it seems, has meant us to live with tension, unanswered questions, and mystery.  Remembering that will do a great deal to save the souls of theologians, and many others besides.


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