Theology of Love or Hate

“I make seeking my salvation the main business of my life.” (editor, Perkins. 103).

At the time of the preceding statement, Jonathan Edwards neither had a full understanding of God’s redeeming love or the ability to convey the simplicity of salvation through the love of Jesus Christ. It is improper and unscriptural to imply that an individual must make the quest for eternal life a prolonged and protracted journey. This places the salvation experience, or the eternal life goal, in the same class as it would the lifetime crusade of a physician desiring to help and heal others. Jesus said in the gospel according to St. John 3:16-17 (NIV), “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” Yes, there is Divine judgement just as there has been since man’s first fall in the Garden of Eden. However, one must remember that before judgement, there was love. God made man and woman perfect. Sin required judgement be placed on man.

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God’s love lingered with man. Nevertheless, before the first raindrop of the “great flood” fell, God would again judge the world by his own law. Notwithstanding, God’s love was first shown to all inhabitants of the earth. When man rejected that love, judgement followed. As it is with any father, God does discipline his children. He disciplines, but with a loving hand. Edwards continually used phrases such as “always exposed to destruction,” “sudden unexpected destruction,” “anger and wrath of God,” and “the dreadful pit of the glowing flames of the wrath of God.” This does not present the New Testament message of Jesus’ love.

Prior to Jesus’ birth in that small stable in Bethlehem, the only means of atonement for sin was through the blood of a sacrifice. When Jesus took his first breath the old law of God ceased, and the new law began. Although there would be a thirty-three year wait for a resurrected savior, God’s love, not hate, was alive, walking the streets, and offering something that would now be free: eternal life through the Son. The “black clouds of God’s wrath,” as Edwards termed it, would be absent until the last breath would be exhaled on the cross, the skies would become dark, and an earthquake happened. When God turned his back on his own Son there had taken place an exhibition of love on the grandest scale.

I feel that Edwards, with all of his good intentions, was attempting to do again what the Puritans had failed at doing. He was trying to frighten his listeners out of hell instead of loving them into heaven. He was, in my estimation, saying, “You are too stupid to see it. Let me tell you what God wants you to hear. Believe me because I am a godly man, and you are not.”

In chapter three of St. John, Jesus began his talk with Nicodemus three times with “Verily, verily, I say unto you…” (John 3:3, 5, 11). I take pleasure from the manner in which the new international version (NIV) of the Bible translates it. It reads; “I tell you the truth…” “I tell you the truth…” “I tell you the truth…” Jesus was speaking. John 3:16-17 speaks of God’s love for man. As a matter of fact, it shows the type of love that Jesus spoke of when he said in John 15:13, “Greater love hath no man than this that he lay down his life for his friends.” It would take a father’s love for me to die for my son or daughter. Notwithstanding, God would lay down the life of his own Son. It was to be done for a people who would spit on him, beat him, berate him, and hang him to die. It required not hate but a godly amount of love. Edwards was failing to proclaim this. God’s message was and is that of love and life for the spiritually lost.

The “fierceness,” “anger,” or “fury” of God that Edwards ministered is true in relation to God’s response to sin. This is, however, God’s response to sin and to those that follow it. There will be Divine judgement. There will be eternal damnation. More important than this, however, is the fact that there is and will be, the love of God shows to persons such as Cotton Mather, William Byrd, Jonathan Edwards, and anyone else willing to accept it. Edwards read all of the New Testament. Therefore, in doing so, he read the entire third chapter of the gospel of St. John. It does not appear, comparatively, that he took as much pleasure in expounding on the hope presented by God than the damnation for the wicked. To illustrate the message that he wanted presented to the world, Jesus used an instance that Nicodemus could more easily understand. He referred to the Old Testament recording in Numbers 21:9 (KJV) of a promise that God gave Moses for the children of Israel. Serpents victimized the land, and death was imminent to all bitten. “And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he behold the serpent of brass, he lived.”

Jesus presented an equivalence of the Father’s plan for eternal salvation. He said in St. John 3:14, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up.” I fail, in my search of Edwards’ sermon, to find the love of Jesus Christ for mankind promoted. That love could have been in existence. It could be hiding beneath the crust of abhorrence that Edwards has for all things not consistent with the ways of God. In my personal theology, Jonathan Edwards will never truly exemplify a loving messenger of God. He does not appear to be a man with either a full understanding of God’s redeeming love or the ability to convey the simplicity of such love.

Editors, Perkins. The American Tradition in Literature: Shorter Edition in One Volume. McGraw-Hill College. Boston. 1999).

Works Cited

Editors, Perkins. The American Tradition in Literature: Shorter Edition in One Volume. McGraw-Hill College. Boston. 1999).

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Theology of Love or Hate. (2018, Aug 28). Retrieved from