December 31, 2005

Serious Resolutions

Are you ready to hear about all of the silly and superficial resolutions that people will have for the coming new year? Are you ready to see the plastic smiles of the news broadcasters as they bring up possible resolutions? If all of this superficiality sickens you this time of year, try reading Jonathan Edwards' resolutions. You will not see any news broadcaster bring up these kinds of resolutions:

51. Resolved, that I will act so, in every respect, as I think I shall wish I had done, if I should at last be damned. July 8, 1723.

55. Resolved, to endeavor to my utmost to act as I can think I should do, if I had already seen the happiness of heaven, and hell torments. July 8, 1723.

Wouldn't it be great to see these resolutions glowing on a big sign in New York as drunken people watch a ball drop, and who may be kissing people who are more of a priority than God in their lives (i.e. idols)?


paul said...

So Jonathan Edwards believed that if he didn't, "act so" that he might, "at last be damned"? No Christian would say that he might be damned if he didn't "act so", because no Christian finds assurance in his or her own efforts. Just a thought.

YnottonY said...

Hi Maki,

Anyone who knows the theology of Edwards knows that he believed in the perseverance of the saints and their eternal security. He is not saying that his acts are the basis for his justification, or that he could lose his salvation.

Edwards once said, in commenting on degrees of suffering in hell, that the damned in hell would give the whole world and more for the number of their sins to be one less. The damned do not have godly sorrow, but they must realize how they should have lived while in this world. There must be some sense of shame and regret there (hence the weeping Christ speaks of). Edwards is contemplating that kind of weighty idea as a spur for him to live to the glory of God in all things. If, hypothetically, Edwards should at last be damned, he would wish he had lived to the glory of God with all his might. So then, Edwards contemplates that hypothetical (albeit a hypothetical impossibility) as a cause for zeal in holy living. Edwards' idea is profound and worthy of contemplation. There's nothing wrong with the particular resolutions I cited, so long as one understands Edwards' reasoning on the subjects of heaven and hell.

If you do not already own this book, consider getting John Gerstner's Jonathan Edwards on Heaven and Hell by Soli Deo Gloria publications.

paul said...

Hello ynottony, thank you for your comments,

I realize that Edwards would, theologically speaking, profess to believe in the perseverance of the saints, which is precisely the reason for my commenting as such in regards to his resolution. I am not so sure Edwards was speaking hypothetically, and even still, speaking hypothetically leads to the same conclusion.

You propose that Edwards' resolution is putting forth the hypothetical idea that if damned, one would have wished to have lived a holier life, which spurs one to live a holier life now so not to have regrets if they are damned. This resolution is entirely adverse to Christian thinking. This resolution, and your explanation, still hints at the idea that righteous living forms at least some part of maintaining one’s salvation.

Would a Christian ever think that living more righteously now while on earth could help prevent them from being damned? The answer to this is no. Thus, why is Edwards putting forth the idea that living more righteously now is something he would have wished to have done if he was at last damned?

My continuing point is this, the cause, or motivation that spurs a Christian to holy living does not stem from a hypothetical notion of the possibility of damnation. A Christian knows that they are saved because of the righteousness of Christ imputed to them upon regeneration. As a result, they are motivated to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world out of love for God who first loved them. They do not suggest, not even hypothetically, that they might be damned if they don’t live righteously, or that they would have wished to have lived more righteously if they were damned. Why? That is because they know that by works shall no one be justified before God. If Edwards truly believed that his works formed absolutely no part of maintaining his salvation, then I do not think he would have worded his resolution as he did.

YnottonY said...


Edwards would not only "profess" to believe in the perseverence of the saints, he actually believed it and said nothing to the contrary. This resolution says NOTHING that undermines that doctrine. Once again, he's presupposing that the damned wish they had lived differently while in this world. They will remember the benefits they received while in this world, particularly the real opportunities that God gave them to repent (you hate this presupposition in Edwards, i.e. that the non-elect recieved well-meant benefits). Hell is like an eternal "I told you so." Edwards even thinks that those in hell will contemplate the bliss of those in heaven, and this will be a cause for further torment. The damned will wish they had lived differently. They will finally be sobered by the facts of God's word as they sit in permanent solitary confinement, and they will realize that their damnation is their own fault.

Now, Edwards contemplates those ideas as a genuine believer in Christ. He thinks that he should at least wish to live as damned wished they had lived while on this earth. He's virtually saying, "if I were among those who are finally damned, I would wish I had lived differently. Let me contemplate that fact and be motivated or resolved to living a sober and godly life with all my might." He is not saying or implying anything about the nature or doctrine of justification. He's not assuming that his works either gain initial justification, or sustain his justified status. His hypothetical contemplation does NOT lead to a synergistic justification.

You say, "You propose that Edwards' resolution is putting forth the hypothetical idea that if damned, one would have wished to have lived a holier life, which spurs one to live a holier life now so not to have regrets if they are damned." I propose no such thing. Not only are you misreading Edwards' words, but you are misreading mine as well. I am not saying genuine believers can ever be damned. I am saying that genuine believers can contemplate what it would be liked to be damned, and how they wish they would have lived if they were among the damned. That's his point. It's not complicated at all. You ask, "Would a Christian ever think that living more righteously now while on earth could help prevent them from being damned?" Of course not. Edwards has said nothing of that sort. You are accusing him of saying or implying that holy living keeps the saints justified. That is not only a complete misreading of his point, but it's slander.

You seem intent on misreading Edwards (cynically reading him in the worst possible way). Since you adhere to the OutsideTheCamp nonsense creed, you probably think that Jonathan Edwards was not even a Christian. And, if you think that, you no doubt think that I am not even a Christian. If you think that Jonathan Edwards was not a Christian, then you are suffering from such a degree of cranial/rectal inversion that your ears are no longer visible! It's complete lunacy to think such a thing. Given your OutsideTheCamp creed and mentality, perhaps you need to contemplate what it would be like to be damned. I assure you that you will wish you had not slandered all of God's great saints (which is precisely what the Outsiders do), or deliberately perverted God's word. You will also behold heaven and weep. You would also give the whole world and more for the number of your sins to be one less.

This new year, you need to (at least) resolve to repent of the OutsideTheCamp folly, and then encourage your associates to do the same.