On judging Edwards–or misjudging him, as the case may be

September 8, 2005 at 11:13 pm Leave a comment

Apparently, Jonathan Edwards was not the most personable man in the world. Based on what I got from Marsden’s biography of him, he was a bit on the stiff and reserved side, had difficulty with socializing, and often seemed aloof.

That being the case, I guess it’s not really surprising that many people drew negative conclusions about him. His reserve was often seen as arrogance; his meticulous habits as evidence of excessive fussiness. His powerful argumentation and preaching zeal were sometimes viewed as conceited sophistry and exploitation of the people.

However, Marsden also points out the flip side–that those close to Edwards saw something completely different when looking at the same characteristics.

To them, his reserve in social settings indicated self-renouncing focus on God. His meticulous nature was evidence of staunch integrity and selfless discipline, and his relentless logic and preaching zeal revealed warm, passionate spirituality.

It’s not as if this was an earth-shatteringly brilliant point on Marsden’s part, or something. But for some reason it had a major impact on me.

Because, if there is one thing I am convinced of after reading Marsden’s portrait of Edwards, it’s that Edwards was a man of intense integrity and passionate devotion. His integrity, his discipline, and his fervor are three traits in him that I have come to deeply admire.

BUT, being the sort of judgmental person I can be at times, I have to admit that had I met Edwards in person, without having the insight into his life that I gain from having read his biography, I might very easily have judged him as an arrogant, legalistic snob.

And, you know, I think I would have been wrong.

Which makes me wonder how wrong I have been in so many of my judgments of other people in the past.

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Profile

profile.jpgI am working on my M.A. in Religion at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan. Besides having a big interest in theology, history, ethics, and the deep stuff of life, I am also very fond of Mediterranean food, snow, and the color red.

Email me: jamie.kiley@gmail.com

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