“So that whatever some have imagined and pretended about promises made to natural men’s earnest seeking and knocking, ’tis plain and manifest that whatever pains a natural man takes in religion, whatever prayers he makes, till he believes in Christ, God is under no manner of obligation to keep him a moment from eternal destruction.” (Edwards, 1)
When examining the quote seen above it becomes immediately obvious that it can be considered offensive to nearly every other major religion on the planet.
The reason behind this is that it contextually implies that so long as one does not believe in Christ the end result is eternal destruction since God is under no obligation to save them. Since belief in the divinity of Christ is primarily isolated to Christianity and its various iterations this selection of text in effect declares that individuals who are part of other religions are doomed to eternal destruction. This is despite any good they do on Earth as indicated by the phrase “whatever pains a natural man takes in religion” (Edwards, 1).
It is based on this that it can be stated that the concept of faith and religion espoused by Jonathan Edwards is “absolute” in nature which prevents possible alternative methods of thought from taking root. One way of looking at this is to think that Edwards views Christianity as the only means by which salvation can be attained.
The general theme of the work of Edwards is primarily based on the concept of sufficiently creating fear through the concept of damnation which in effect helps to persuade people towards a particular way of thinking. When reading through his entire sermon one cannot help but notice that he employs the carrot and stick approach wherein he combines the potential for eternal suffering and damnation with the promise for eternal salvation under Jesus. This is so long as people obey the rules of the Church and follow the teachings of Christ.
It must be noted though that the contextual basis of this particular quote is important when comparing it to the rest of the work of Edwards in “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”. This is due to the fact that it shows how black and white Edwards is making the concept of either salvation or destruction out to be.
For him there are no alternatives whether in the form of other religions, good behavior, or simply by living a good life. Under his thought process which permeates throughout the entirety of the sermon, the only one true way in which someone can attain eternal salvation is through belief in the Christian God and his teachings.
A comparison between the views of Edwards and that of modern day society shows a highly contrasting situation wherein it is generally believed that salvation is not isolated primarily through an absolute belief in doctrine. Instead it is believed that salvation can be attained through any number of possible ways and through a variety of religions (Cordry, 61). This contrast in the way of thinking regarding the concept of salvation is indicative of the social changes that have occurred since the times of Edwards. This is related to people becoming more open in terms of developing and understanding what it truly means to obtain eternal salvation whether through word or deed.
Cordry, Benjamin S. “A More Dangerous Enemy? Philo’s ‘Confession’ And Hume’s Soft Atheism.” International Journal For Philosophy Of Religion 70.
1 (2011): 61-83. Academic Search Premier. Web. 16 Sept. 2012. Edwards, Jonathan. “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” Jonathan Edwards Section.
Yale University, 2012. Web. 16 Sep 2012.