Friday, January 04, 2008

Paul Helm etc

There is an interesting online interview with Paul Helm here. In the interests of full disclosure I should say that Prof Helm was the external examiner for my doctoral studies (and actually gave me the degree!) so I have myriad reasons for praising him. He is - much more importantly - a fine scholar and reader of Edwards. Which makes these comments all the more amusing:

GD: This year marks the 250th anniversary of the death of Jonathan Edwards. What, in your assessment are the some of the key strengths and weaknesses of the great man's theology?

PH: The strength is also the weakness: a confidence in human reason which is in some respects breathtaking (the relentlessness of his argumentation in Freedom of the Will), in other respects ridiculous (his view of the continuity of things and people through time, as expressed in his Great Christian Doctrine of Original Sin). In many ways he is an archetypal 18thcentury figure. Interesting that the influence of the Enlightenment should reach so powerfully into the recesses of New England; there is irony here, an arch-conservative using the ‘latest thought’ (in Edwards’ case Newton and Locke), to assist ole’ time religion. Perhaps there’s a lesson for us.While one cannot but recognise his greatness Edwards has always seemed to me to have been a tiresome person, aristocratic, tactless and remote, and something of a know-all (justifiably perhaps!), but not someone I’d like to have had as a pastor. Sorry, I’m straying from your question.

Prof Helm blogs eruditely at Helm's Deep. When that article on Edwards on the Trinity appears it will feature here!


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