Jonathan Edwards argues for a faith that comes from our affections because our affections ultimately drive us. “The nature of human beings,” writes Edwards, “is to be inactive unless influenced by some affection: love or hatred, desire, hope, fear, etc” (1). True religion, according to Edwards, is one in which we are driven, compelled even, to seek after God with deep affection. Our faith simply cannot be motivated from a cognitive understanding of God. Edwards argues, “A person who has knowledge of doctrine and theology only—without religious affection—has never engaged in true religion. Nothing is more apparent than this: our religion takes root within us only as deep as our affections attract it” (2).
Sadly, many who call themselves Christian have affections for something or someone other than God. They have an awareness of God’s Word but it has not penetrated the dark places within the soul. Something else still masters over them. “There are thousands,” Edwards says, “who hear the Word of God, who hear great and exceedingly important truths about themselves and their lives, and yet all they hear has no effect upon them, makes no change in the way they live” (3). Edwards feels that no person will ever be changed by the Word of God unless he or she is affected because God has changed the heart, or more specifically, the affections of one’s heart.
1. Richard J. Foster and James Bryan Smith, eds. Devotional Classics: Selected readings for individuals and Groups (New York: NY, HarperCollins, 2005), 20.
2. Ibid., 21.
* This post comes from a paragraph of a paper written for the partial fulfillment of a DMin at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary. It has been redacted and modified for this website.