I was raised as a Catholic, and, though I have since parted ways with Catholicism for personal reasons, I was taught to believe in a God that was loving and merciful, ready to forgive if only I would ask. There were rules, to be sure, that must be followed—i.e., The...
I was raised as a Catholic, and, though I have since parted ways with Catholicism for personal reasons, I was taught to believe in a God that was loving and merciful, ready to forgive if only I would ask. There were rules, to be sure, that must be followed—i.e., The Ten Commandments—but, even if I broke the rules, God's forgiveness was always possible, always reliable, always available if my repentance was sincere. Rather than this kindly and optimistic God, one who is always ready to forgive and hopeful that I will ask, Jonathan Edwards's God seems always ready to let people
fall into Destruction; as he that stands in such slippery declining Ground on the Edge of a Pit that he can't stand alone, when he is let go he immediately falls and is lost.
According to Edwards, when God's appointed time is reached, God "won't hold them up [...] any longer," but will, instead, let sinners fall straight into Hell. Edwards's God finds it "easy" to cast us into Hell, just like we don't scruple to step on a worm. Instead of eagerly awaiting our return to Him, Edwards's God is "angry" with "great Numbers [of people] that are now on Earth," and God's "Wrath [...] burns against them."
I am most familiar with Christianity, specifically Evangelicalism. I grew up hearing about God's love, mercy, and forgiveness. Edwards focuses on God's hatred of sin and the wrath and judgement that await the sinner. Before I read this sermon I had never thought of God as an "angry" God, but the more I study it, the more I realize that Edwards is also portraying God as just and merciful, since it is "God's Hand" that is keeping the sinner from Hell. Edwards was definitely very persuasive, and his rhetorical techniques are very effective. His horrifying metaphors and extreme imagery are very different from what I hear preached today.
Johnathan Edwards portrays God as a vengeful, angry God who, at any time, can take a person's life at will. He is portrayed as a God who does not tolerate sin and who will crush sinners. This God portrayed by Edwards is very different from the God that my particular denomination, Methodism, portrays. God is not an angry God. He is forgiving and kind and loving. No sin is unforgivable and any sin can be forgiven as long as one asks to be forgiven. Edwards portrays God as a God to fear and that should leave us quaking in our proverbial boots, so to speak. That fear alone should scare people into not committing sin, according to Edwards. In my denomination, God is to be feared, yes, but not to that extent. God is more forgiving and kind and gentle.