Retrieving Jonathan Edwards for Understanding
Religion and Spirituality in Human Experience Today
The next Global Jonathan Edwards Congress seeks to create academic space for a multidisciplinary discussion that retrieves and leverages the robust nature of Edwards’s insights into a religious experience that is both rational and spiritual for the benefit of the humanities, church, and society.
The revival of interest in spirituality
Since spirituality reflects underlying beliefs about human existence and experience, there is a need for global theological reflection on the nexus between spirituality and rationality. Although post-Enlightenment thought bears a specious character and prejudice against Christian spirituality—even Christians are overly self-conscious of this burden, even “disenchanted” with medieval and early modern Christian spirituality—with postmodernity has come a renewed interest in spirituality. Some of the finest and most penetrating analysis of the rational and spiritual nature of religious experience is found in the writings of Jonathan Edwards, “America’s Augustine.” See Strobel, Neele, and Minkema, Jonathan Edwards: Spiritual Writings, The Classics of Western Spirituality (Paulist Press, 2019).
Faith seeking understanding
Worldwide there are chairs for the study of spirituality in relation to healthcare, ethics, diversity, ecology and economics. This congress focuses on how Edwards’s appropriation of the classical Christian tradition of “faith seeking understanding” can be fruitful in dialogue with other academic disciplines and cultural trends in the current postmodern context. In Reason and the Heart, William J. Wainwright retrieves Edwards’s insight into the human need for transcendent grace in order to have a well-disposed heart and sanctified reason to see the beauty and force of true religion. Edwards’s holistic understanding of a rational and spiritual worldview offers resources for transcending current perspectives and integrating modern and postmodern approaches to our theme.