What is an individual's reason for existence in Jonathan Edwards', "Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God?"

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think that Edwards seems to reduce what it means to have a purpose for existence to total submission to the will of God.  For Edwards, there does not need to be any other form of existence.  The Great Awakening was rooted in the idea that human beings have strayed from their original intent, and their basic purpose of existence has been lost.  In the sermon, one sees clearly that the reason for one to exist is to acknowledge failure and serve God in a capacity that reflects complete submission, absolute willingness to embrace that which is a part of their identity, and to ensure that God's arrow is not aimed at their own souls.  For Edwards, human consciousness is a practice of submission to the will of the divine.  Acknowledging the anger of God and doing whatever can be done to placate this condition becomes a major part of what Edwards wishes to do in his essay.  At the same time, it becomes clear that Edwards sees the individual as needing to assume such a position in being because of both their own sins and the sins of others, ensuring that for Edwards the only reason for one's existence is to submerge their own identity towards the will of the divine.


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