We Can If We Will

James P. Byrd

in After Jonathan Edwards

Published in print August 2012 | ISBN: 9780199756292
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199950379 | DOI:
We Can If We Will

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In Edwards’s thought, conversion was intimately connected to morality. Though the great moral philosophers of the Enlightenment claimed all people could be perfectly moral through their own efforts, for Edwards only the truly converted could be truly virtuous. Morality was closely related to spirituality. Only those with transformed affections could truly love as God loves. This intimate relationship between conversion and ethics then remained a persistent yet controversial theme in American theology. Historians recognize that successors of Edwards developed his ideas for benevolence in various directions, often agreeing but often departing from the “letter” of his ethical law to apply its “spirit” to urgent ethical issues. This chapter examines the connection between conversion and ethics in New England theology after Edwards, focusing specifically on case studies of slavery, war, and the biblical themes through which ministers envisioned these moral crises in relation to religious experience.

Keywords: Jonathan Edwards; war; moral philosophy; benevolence; ethics; slavery

Chapter.  6331 words. 

Subjects: Christian Theology

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