A Defense of Edwards on a Mark of Regeneration

Just to show that I am not an Edwards-hater (though I may still have more to say about his view on the affections) I came across something today that defends him against what I would call a pernicious error.

Have any of you heard a contemporary Edwards follower say something to the effect that one way to know you are saved is that you would be willing to be damned if it be God’s sovereign will? I have been told such people are out there.  Here’s the quote:

Samuel Hopkins laid even greater stress than Edwards on the theorem that virtue consists in disinterested benevolence; but he went counter to Edwards in holding that unconditional resignation to God’s decrees, or more concretely, willingness to be damned for the glory of God, was the test of true regeneration; for Edwards, though often quoted as holding this doctrine, protested against it in the strongest terms.

So apparently it’s Hopkins, not Edwards who taught that.  More importantly, what do you think?  Is Hopkins right?  Indeed, if you read Edwards conversion narrative it seems that in his own experience, acceptance of divine sovereignty was a necessary precursor to his personal experience of saving faith.  Could it be that Hopkins jump from the conversion narrative to more speculative thoughts.  Not saying that I know of any connection there because I know nothing of Hopkins but I can see someone taking a logical leap from Edwards conversion experience and coming to believe that he believed that belief in a Calvinistic view of divine sovereignty is a necessary precursor or at least concomitant of true saving faith.  Maybe these folks haven’t given proper weight to a more mature Edwards.

For me, I find the Hopkins view deplorable, contingent on one variable.  If I believe in Jesus Christ and Him alone as the savior of sinners and my savior, then based on the word of God, I have every right to expect to go to heaven, not based on my own wish fulfillment but the promise of God.  To say otherwise is to make God arbitrary and a liar.

Now, I suppose there is one more way for someone who holds the Hopkins view to argue the point.  Suppose I die and go to heaven and found out I had a spurious faith, that my belief was like the belief of one of the devils?  Would I be content to to be damned if God determined my faith was spurious.  I suppose if God finds my faith spurious then I have no argument, but think of the consequences of this view.

But to entertain such an idea would seem to me to lead to nothing but skepticism when it comes to faith.  How can anyone ever know they are saved?  Now, revelation becomes an incoherent sham.  The bible reveals how to be saved, the Scripture is perspicuous, or clear, it tells us the truth about how to be saved.  We don’t believe in the power of our faith to save us, we believe in Christ.  How can one who believes in Christ doubt His power to save.  Doubt myself – sure, all the time, doubt Him – no, never!!

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7 Responses to A Defense of Edwards on a Mark of Regeneration

  1. Terry says:

    I cannot think of any Scriptures to support the position evidence of regeneration is willingness to be damned. I know Paul wishes himself cursed for his fellow Jews sake, but I do not see that as the same as what is being discussed here. Any Bible verses? It sounds like speculations based on philosophical ideas of what true virtue is. Did I miss it?

  2. jollyblogger says:

    No, I think you got it. I don’t know the context in which Hopkins said this, but I was talking to Josh one day and he said that he has heard the same sentiments expressed by some people he knew who were either Edwardseans or Piperites, or both. I think in addition to it being based on the ideas of what true virtue is that it is also built on having a high view of God’s sovereignty. Here’s a personal opinion and it may be a bit perjorative – but I get the impression that some of the extreme followers of Edwards and Piper would, at the least, find a person’s salvation suspect if they rejected a Calvinistic view of sovereignty. So there’s a certain logic that could follow from that – total abandonment to God means surrender to His absolute sovereignty, even if that sovereignty does not include you among the elect.

    • twiliter59 says:

      I believe that every particle of dust that dances in the sunbeam does not move an atom more or less than God wishes—that every particle of spray that dashes against the steamboat has its orbit as well as the sun in the heavens—that the chaff from the hand of the winnower is steered as the stars in their courses— that the creeping of an aphid over a rosebud is as much fixed as the march of the devastating pestilence [for example, of God’s plague of locusts upon Egypt (Exodus 10:13–14, 17–19)], and the fall of the sere leaves from the poplar is as fully ordained as the tumbling of an avalanche. He who believes in God must believe this truth. — Charles Spurgeon [Erwin Lutzer, Ten Lies about God: ‘And how you might already be deceived’ (W Publishing Group: Nashville, 1973), 105.]

      Note the last line in Spurgeon’s quote. It seems you are correct in your assessment.

  3. Tony says:

    More importantly, what do you think? Is Hopkins right?

    In my view, this is a classic “could God create a rock so big that even he could not lift it?” question. The “dilemma” fundamentally misconceives God’s nature in a way that effectively renders the question gibberish.

    The premise of the dilemma–that a person bestowed with the irresistible grace to love God’s will could be presented with a scenario in which God’s will would have her condemned–contains an inherent contradiction. God’s will being perfect, one cannot love it without God first calling that person; while one simultaneously cannot be called without coming to salvation. The violation of either principle destroys the doctrine of God’s sovereignty or of his perfection; in both cases, the result is a god unworthy of worship with a will that is certainly unworthy of our love.

    So, in having accepted the parameters of the question, a person has undermined the crucial premise of the dilemma because now she is being asked to evaluate her love for an entirely hypothetical–and wholly corrupted–“will” of God. This strikes me as an exercise in futility.

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