Epistemology: Locke & Edwards

Midterms are this week, starting in the morning, and while working on the study guide tonight I couldn’t help being struck with renewed enthusiasm for the CWIC program at BCS. Take a look at one of the prompts I get to answer (and these pictures for fun)…


Be able to explain how Edwards’ explanation of the “new sense” for God given by the Holy Spirit both reflects and diverges from Locke’s epistemology.

  • (Reflects:) In Lockean epistemology, all knowledge is a posteriori – ideas spring  either from “sensation or reflection.”
  • In Locke’s framework, then, we might say that “seeing [or hearing, or touching, etc.] is believing.” Edwards’ explanation of conversion reflects this framework because in Edwards’ model, the sinner is given a “new sense” of the heart in order to gain a “true sense of the divine excellency of the things revealed in the Word of God, and a conviction of the truth and reality of them, thence arising” (A Jonathan Edwards Reader, 111).
  • (Diverges:) “Edwards stands Locke on his head, for he uses Locke’s empiricist principle–that everyone must see with his own eyes–to establish, against Locke, that the intellectual certitude of the believer’s spiritual perception is greater than the certitude gained by mere human reasoning about God” (McClymond, Encounters With God, 17).

“We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).

[Why I tend to think Edwards was on to something:] “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).

I’ve decided enthusiasm is good brain-fuel. Midterms, here I come.