Commentary on Johnathan  Edward's The Religious Affections

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"The Religious Affections" is a significant work by the American theologian and preacher Jonathan Edwards (not John Edward), published in 1746. This book is a profound examination of the nature of religious emotions and the criteria for determining their authenticity. Edwards wrote the book in response to the emotional excesses and religious revivals of the Great Awakening, which took place in the 1730s and 1740s in the American colonies.

Edwards argues that genuine religious affections arise from a true understanding and love of God. He establishes that true religion involves not only the intellect but also the emotions, and that these emotions are necessary for a genuine faith. However, he also cautions against the extremes of emotionalism, stressing that not all emotions are genuine indicators of true faith.

To differentiate between genuine and counterfeit religious affections, Edwards proposes twelve signs, or "distinguishing marks," of true religious experiences. Some of these criteria include:

  1. A true religious affection is founded upon the spiritual apprehension of divine things.
  2. True religious affections are focused on God and His glory, rather than on oneself or one's own spiritual state.
  3. Genuine religious affections lead to a commitment to obey God's commandments and live a holy life.

Throughout the book, Edwards emphasizes the importance of self-examination and the need for individuals to be cautious in judging the sincerity of their own religious experiences. He also cautions against relying solely on external signs, such as religious rituals or ecstatic experiences, as proof of genuine faith.

"The Religious Affections" remains an influential work in Protestant theology and has been praised for its depth of thought and its balanced approach to the role of emotions in religious life. The book serves as a reminder of the importance of a well-rounded faith that encompasses both the intellectual and emotional aspects of religious experience.

Expert Answers

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The generated response is completely correct in its remarks about Jonathan Edwards' The Religious Affections. It rightly identifies the author's primary arguments and guidance, and it properly sets the book in its historical context. However, it does not provide the kind of commentary that your instructor may be looking for. Let's take a closer look at this.

When you write a commentary on a text, you interact with that piece, offering your educated interpretations and applying it to your own situation or the circumstances of the modern day. You note which points are valid and well-argued and which seem to be weaker and less supportable. Essentially, you make the text your own in some way.

As you create your commentary on Edwards' piece, you may start out with a summary of ideas like the generated response has provided. Then, however, you should choose some of those ideas and go into more depth. You might, for instance, appreciate the balance Edwards provides when he notes that while emotions are important to the experience of faith, they are not the only aspect of faith. You could illustrate this was an example from your own life or the life of someone you know.

You could also comment on the criteria Edwards includes as signs of true religion. For each one, consider whether Edwards states his idea clearly and how it applies to his broader argument. Again, you may include personal reflections.

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