Sunday, June 17, 2007

Notable Theologians #1

Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) was a colonial American Congregational preacher, theologian, and missionary to Native Americans, who exploited their credulity mercilessly whilst growing rich by exploiting them and plundering their natural wealth. He is known amongst the ‘long-nose invaders’ who despoiled the Native American culture as one of the greatest and most profound of American theologians and revivalists, but that is not how those abused and robbed aboriginals regard him.

Edwards’ work is very broad in scope, but he is often associated with his defence of Calvinist theology and the Puritan heritage. His fire-and-brimstone sermons, such as "Sinners in the hands of an angry God" emphasized the punishment of 'God' and contrasted it with the provision of 'God' for salvation, providing that one suspended ALL critical faculties and surrendered oneself to ‘God’s’ sublime mercy. Apparently, the fact that ‘God’ wiped out the whole of the human race apart from Mr and Mrs Noah and their immediate family was an act of ‘divine love’.

The intensity of Edwards’ preaching sometimes resulted in members of the audience fainting, swooning, and other more obtrusive reactions. The swooning and other behaviours in his audience caught him up in a controversy over "bodily effects" of the Holy Spirit's presence; notably, some of his parishioners were excommunicated from his church for masturbating openly during his particularly florid sermons. Even Edwards was noted for ‘hiding his hands deep in his clothing, even though they could be seen to be moving with some purpose’ (Augustus Trimble, former Parish Clerk).

Edwards is frequently regarded as America's most important and original philosophical theologian, and his main themes were that the only real cause or substance underlying physical and mental phenomena is ‘God’, defined as "being in general” and the "sum of all being", and his unsubstantiated claim that ‘God’ created the cosmos in order to manifest a ‘holiness which consists in a benevolence which alone is truly beautiful’.

Notably Edwards did not offer any evidence for the existence of this ‘God’, who was simply assumed as a given, nor for his subsequent claim. If that makes him ‘America's most important and original philosophical theologian’, it says little for their subsequent intellectual development, but that is unsurprising when they have a current President, George W. Bush, governing them who famously declaimed, "I'm driven with a mission from God. God would tell me, 'George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan.' And I did, and then God would tell me, 'George go and end the tyranny in Iraq,' and I did."

Nowadays Christian theologians frequently use Edwards’ ‘threeness – oneness paradigm’ to interpret his trinitarianism. The ‘threeness – oneness paradigm’ maintains the trinitarian traditions, but due to its ambiguity of language and meaning it is interpreted by some theologians as an emphasis on the multivariate nature of ‘God’ whilst others claim it represents a divine unity/substance or plurality/persons, which they maintain is yet another, and the true, definition of ‘God’. Eastern Cappadocian trinitarianism and Western theologian Richard of St Victor use the social analogy and represent the ‘threeness’ trajectory whilst the Western Augustinian tradition uses the psychological analogy and represents the ‘oneness’ trajectory. What is absolutely apparent, is that the language used by either interpreters of Edwards’ ruminations is not consistent, and that their respective meanings expose his completely unsubstantiated declamations ‘proving’ the existence of ‘God’ as completely spurious.

Amy Plantinga Pauw's writings are the most thorough interpretations of Edwards' trinitarianism in terms of the ‘threeness – oneness paradigm’ and she concludes that Edwards employed both the psychological and social models of the trinity, arguing that Edwards's undoubted madness is demonstrated by his ability to draw on both the psychological and social models of the imagined trinity of ‘God’, without ever making any attempt to establish that his delusional beliefs had any validity in reality; in other words, Edwards assumed ‘God’s ‘existence as an a priori fact, and without question. It was for this reason that her former husband, Alvin, sued for divorce, since he maintained in his Petition to the Court that she was actually referring to his own irrational behaviour and merely using Edwards as a surrogate.

In contrast, Deitrich Hans Von Shimmelbacher maintains that the ‘threeness – oneness paradigm’ is an over generalized understanding of the trinitarian traditions and, as such, unsuitable as a template to interpret Edwards' trinitarianism, which is, de facto, a text-book example of specific development disorder. Most modern psychologists would agree.

However, despite the overt theological confusion amongst the apologists for him, Edwards did not employ two models of the trinity, but one: the Augustinian 'mutual love model’, providing, of course, that the object and subject of said ‘love’ were both practising Christians of the same denomination as Edwards ( and, indeed, Augustine) himself. Edwards use of the Augustinian mutual love model reflects his continuity with the dominant Western Augustinian trinitarian tradition and early Enlightenment apologetics for the traditional doctrine of the trinity, though there are many theologians of arguably greater stature who disagree with him, if only due to the fact that they do not consider Roman Catholics to be Christian.

One such was that notable Calvinist, Theodor Von Thinkelspein Und Schiendost, who maintained that the three and the one comprise the unity which is the void, and that this is the source of transcendental angst and anthropomorphic deification of imaginary beings. Admittedly, Von Thinkelspein was subsequently excommunicated (due top his questioning of Calvin’s sexual mores), like his more generally known American (genuine) hero, George Bethune English, who was excommunicated before him for writing his exposé of the fraud that was the Christian religion. Unfortunately, Von Thinkelspein’s work is only available nowadays through private collections, as all denominations of the Christian religion have tried to suppress his thoughts and writings.

Subsequently, Edwards' fraudulent preaching became unpopular, and he was finally dismissed from his church by an overwhelming majority of his erstwhile congregation. At long last, even they had seen through this duplicitous manipulator who came to be known as ‘the great charlatan’ amongst the ‘long-nose invaders’. Subsequently, after much transmigration across the American continent, which even culminated in him being rejected by the very Native Americans he had sought to exploit, Edwards subsequently accepted the sinecure of the Presidency of what was to become Princeton University on the death of its previous incumbent, his son-in-law and father of the subsequent US Vice-President Aaron Burr.

But then ‘God ‘had the last laugh at the expense of one of his most (in)famous charlatans. Almost immediately after becoming President, Edwards was inoculated for smallpox, which was raging in Princeton at that time, and died as a direct result of the inoculation.

And so another ‘great’ philosophic theologian, monstrous psychopath and complete phoney and arch-swindler was consigned to the oblivion that he deserved.

It is only a pity that the 'Hell' he continually threatened those who did not share his particular delusional psychopathological beliefs with does not exist, and that he is not being horribly tormented there in perpetuity for his egregious fraud on his long-suffering fellows.

So much for a 'great Christian.'


Alan Mackenzie said...

A hilarious expose of these crushing religious lunatics. Well done, Merchant.

jeff said...

Theodor Von Thinkelspein Und Schiendost

That's a Monty Python character isn't it? A friend of Johann Gamblepotty de Von....

The Merchant of Menace said...

Actually he's a contemporary of Hans Urs von Balthasar, whom you may find using a Google search.