Charity and Its Fruits - Light and Heat

Due to circumstances beyond my control, our study of Charity and Its Fruits was canceled this evening. Lord willing, we will continue where we left off next Monday evening. If you're behind, this is a great chance to catch up. If you're caught up, I hope you will use this time to process and practice what we've learned so far. As no doubt you've already noticed, our progress will be slow but (mostly) steady.

That said, I'd love to use this little interval as an opportunity to expand a bit on a concept Edwards touched on briefly in this chapter, but which is a rather dominant theme in his theology and thought - light and heat. In our reading this past week we came across this passage:
"If persons have the true light of heaven let into their souls, it is not a light without heat. Divine knowledge and divine love go together. A spiritual view of divine things always excites love in the soul, and draws forth the heart in love to every proper object. True discoveries of the divine character dispose us to love God as the supreme good; they unite the heart in love to Christ; the incline the soul to flow out in love to God's people, and to all mankind When persons have a true discovery of the excellency and sufficiency of Christ, this is the effect. When they experience a right belief of the truth of the gospel, such a belief is accompanied by love..."
As George Marsden said in his biography, Jonathan Edwards, a Life, Edwards became fascinated with the biblical imagery of light from very early in his ministry : "The sermon Jesus Christ the Light of the World is a gem of his early writing, sustaining his favorite metaphor of light throughout. Light is a primary biblical image to describe God's love. Light was also familiar theme in both the preaching and philosophizing of an era so concerned with enlightenment. No one looked more intensely at the biblical meaning of light for his day than did Edwards. For him, light was the most powerful image of how God communicated his love to his creation. Regeneration meant to be given eyes to see the light of Christ in hearts that had been hopelessly darkened by sin." (See 2 Cor. 4:6.)

According to Marsden:
"The key to Edwards' thought is that everything is related because everything is related to God. Truth, a dimension of God's love and beauty, is a part of that quintessentially bright light that pours forth from the throne of God. Every other pretended light, or source of truth, is as darkness if it keeps God's creatures from seeing the great sun of God's light. The created universe itself is a dynamic expression of that light, yet sin blinds humans from acknowledging the source of the light that surrounds them. Having turned away from the true light of God's love, they now grope in darkness, inordinately loving themselves and their immediate surroundings, or chasing after false lights of their own imaginings. Only the undeserved gift of redemption, bought with Christ's blood, can open their eyes and change their hearts so that they see and love the triune God and the created universe as wholly an expression of God's creative and redemptive will. Only through the prism of the revelation recorded in Scripture can they discover the nature of God's creative and redemptive purposes. Once sinners experience God's love, they begin to love what he loves."
In a later sermon, A Divine and Supernatural Light, Edwards, in Marsden's words,
"related his most profound theological reflections on his understanding of true Christian experience. God communicates to humans, he explained, in an immediate way that goes beyond anything that natural reason by itself can attain. What distinguishes saints from the unconverted is that the Holy Spirit dwells with converted persons and so gives them the power to apprehend the things of God. They have in effect, a new spiritual sense. This new sense is not an ability to have visions, or to gain new information that goes beyond Scripture, or to experience intense religious emotions. Rather, it is the power necessary to appreciate the spiritual light that radiates from God, the power to hear the communication of God's love that pervades the universe. It is a power to appreciate beauty or excellency, specifically the beauty and excellency of Christ."
And this leads us to a passage from Edwards famous work Religious Affections, which I feel sheds much light on the subject of our current study - the light and heat of God as evidence of a true work of God in the life of a professing Christian:
"He who has no religious affection, is in a state of spiritual death, and is wholly destitute of the powerful, quickening, saving influences of the Spirit of God upon his heart. As there is no true religion, where there is nothing else but affection; so there is no true religion where there is no religious affection. As on the one hand, there must be light in the understanding, as well as an affected fervent heart, where there is heat without light, there can be nothing divine or heavenly in that heart; so on the other hand, where there is a kind of light without heat, a head stored with notions and speculation, with a cold and unaffected heart, there can be nothing divine in that light, that knowledge is no true spiritual knowledge of divine things. If the great things of religion are rightly understood, they will affect the heart...."
And so Edwards would have us understand that in the Christian sense, as light without heat, is no true light, so supposed knowledge and understanding of God, without love, is no true knowledge at all. Faith without works is death...and faith works through love. (James 2:20; Gal. 5:6)


Anonymous said…
I'd love to sit in on your study, Laurie. Are you lecturing, or have you developed discussion questions?

Regarding this post, I've always found Edwards' twin concepts of heat of light so helpful and compelling and so... biblical! It's often echoed, too, in the teaching of John Piper.
Jessica Watson said…
This is excellent, Laurie. Edwards delves deeper into this subject more than any dead theologian I have read. I think we have the Marsden biography floating around here somewhere. Something else I need to get around to reading one of these days!
Laurie M. said…
It took me three library checkouts before I finally broke down and bought my own copy. It was so packed with great stuff that I really needed to be able to write in it and make notes. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Besides its insights into Edwards, it offered a fascinating peek into pre-revolutionary New England. I do hope to pick up another bio of Edwards someday. Of all the "dead theologians" I've read, he's the one that I "click" with the most. He thinks in ways that really speak to me - perhaps that's why I've always had such an affinity for J. Piper as well.

The first two posts in this series were the two parts of my lecture for the first class meeting. No one had begun the reading yet, so I lectured for that session. I hand out study guides with some basic questions to promote assimilation of the information, and space for the gals to write their comments or questions as they read. During class we work our way through the study guide in a guided discussion interspersed with brief teaching points on my part. If while I'm preparing I find a point I'd like to further unpack - like the one here - I will begin with a brief lecture before we begin working our way through the study questions. We've got a great little group of ladies, who seem very engaged with the text, and I think it's sizing up to be a profitable endeavor.

I'm a teacher, but not a natural born public speaker, if you know what I mean. I take some comfort, however, in the fact that both Edwards and Piper wrote out all their lectures before delivering them. (Edwards MEMORIZED his! But kept the text in some form before him just in case. Piper admits to reading his, but in such a way that it's not obvious.)
jessica Watson said…
Okay. I'm sold. especially since I live in New England. John and I keep saying we need to make a trip to Northhampton one of these days.

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