Rationality and Spirituality:

Retrieving Jonathan Edwards for understanding religion and spirituality in human experience today.

The Global Jonathan Edwards 2021 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. However, although rationalism after the Enlightenment bears a specious character and prejudice against spirituality, such that even Christians are overly self-conscious of this burden, even “disenchanted” with medieval and early modern Christian spirituality, with postmodernity a new interest in spirituality has arrived. 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, for instance, Strobel, Neele, and Minkema, Jonathan Edwards: Spiritual Writings, The Classics of Western Spirituality (New York: Paulist Press, 2019). The congress aims to retrieve Edwards’s thought and tradition in order to further the discussion of what the fundamental nature of religious experience is, and the value of the rationality and spirituality of the human imago Dei for the humanities, church and society.

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.