Joe Dantona's Reviews > Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God by Jonathan Edwards
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May 19, 2011

it was ok

There is much truth in this sermon. God's wrath is real and is leveled against evil and evil-doers.

Edwards takes John 8:23 out of context and changes the meaning. He was trying to make the point that people are sinful, therefore we are not only destined to Hell but are also "from Hell" in a sense and that we belong there.

But he uses a verse where Jesus is saying He is from Heaven and the Jews are not, and that is why they ought to listen to Him but don't.
Do we belong in Hell? What about "the fire prepared for the Devil and his angels"? Hell was not made for man. Man, made in the Imago Dei (Image of God), was made "to glorify God and enjoy Him for ever" (Westminster Shorter Catechism). But Edwards says, "The devil is waiting for them." This is a mistake! The devil is not sovereign over anything, let alone Hell. It is like a poor version of Dante's Inferno.
The problem with this sermon is that there is no gospel to it. It is right in all its details of sin and wickedness and Hell, but it does not offer the solution. Christ is mentioned but not preached. "Preach Christ crucified!" All we are told are repetitions of black clouds over our heads, but tell us what to do! Tell us how to be saved! What must I do to be saved? But Edwards speaks of a God who heartlessly laughs and mocks the unsaved-- and while the laughter of God in the face of evildoers' attempts against Him scripturally has its place, it is not in the way Edwards represents. "I have no pleasure that the wicked should perish," God says. "For God so loved," not hated, "the world." God's hate is one of justice, not of uncontrolled rage and bloodshed. God's hate is of sin, sinfulness and the obstinate wicked, but that does not nullify His love for the sinner.

That's my beef with it. I can't reconcile this sermon with the shepherd seeking the one lost sheep out of a hundred or Jesus looking on the crowds with compassion and saying, "How often I wanted to gather you under my wing!" Where is God's love offered out? God's wrath is real, but so is His love. His mercy is everlasting, and it must be preached. Edwards never tells us how to flee to Christ. He does not tell us to have faith, to repent. He does not tell us where to go from here. Any mentions of Christ's mercy or love are mere footnotes, simply tacked on post-its to a huge billboard of fury.

We are told of all these horrible monstrosities that close in upon us and the only given solution is: "Run."

But how can I run if I have not been shown the way?
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Elizabeth Your comment makes a lot sense. I even remember being angry at Edwards, when I first read it, for leaving out the other half of the situation (that is, grace). It wasn't until years later that I learnt of the context of the sermon: Edwards had faced much hypocrisy and remorseless sin from his congregants, and he had tried on numerous occasions to find some way to reach them. He wasn't trying to convert people to Christianity, nor was he trying to explain what God's relationship to people should be (or even is under normal circumstances). He was dealing with specific people in specific situations, and he felt that this fire-and-brimstone campaign was the only way to get their attention, to get them to stop taking God's mercy for granted.

If you're interested in Jonathan Edwards' take on the flip side -- on the beauty of grace -- I highly recommend his "Personal Narrative," in which he details his own conversion.

message 2: by Joe (new) - rated it 2 stars

Joe Dantona I've added "Personal Narrative" to my reading list. I don't agree that it was at all okay that he left the grace out of it, especially since this sermon so quickly and widely became a gospel presentation. But I would definitely be interested in knowing his personal motives over public rhetoric.

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