In their new book, The Theology of Jonathan Edwards (Oxford: 2011), the authors write: “Edwards was strictly orthodox in his commitment to a Calvinist conception of human sin and divine grace. Yet the tendency of the later notebooks was toward an appreciation of God’s presence and activity within non-Christian and secular cultures” (page 190, emphasis mine).
That word “yet” bothers me. It suggests that Reformed orthodoxy is something separate from appreciating the divine truth, goodness, and beauty in non-Christian cultures. I don’t doubt there are Calvinists today who mistakenly make this dichotomy, but historically it would be better for the authors to replace “Yet” with “Thus.”
As I explain in Lit! (chapter 5), an appreciation for non-Christian culture is part of what it means to be Reformed in the Augustine > Calvin > Luther > Goodwin > Edwards > Sibbes > Kuyper > Bavinck sense of the Reformed/Puritan tradition. But of course explaining Reformed orthodoxy, gospel exclusivism, and an appreciation for non-Christian culture is no easy venture. I was reminded of this yesterday when a literature professor suggested that my book was too suspicious of culture for many Christian readers! Alas.
It’s too bad Edwards died before he could make his attempt on paper.