Helm Replies to Lucas on the Nature of “Affections” in Edwards

Paul Helm wrote a very interesting critique of Edwards, one with which the HB has some sympathy. Sean Lucas replied by arguing that Helm had read too much into the noun “affections.” Helm has replied to Lucas by arguing that, in Edwards treatise on Religious Affections, an “affection” is more than Lucas suggests.

Helm writes:

“On Dr Lucas’s view of Edwards, anything that affects the mind is an emotion, for (according to him according to Edwards) anything that is any expression of a habit or disposition moved by a sensation that someone has is one.”

Among other interesting Helm also writes:

“if, as according to Dr Lucas is the case, any obedient response in a person’s life as a result of the supernatural indwelling of the Holy Spirit is a true religious affection, why does Edwards not simply say this?”

Indeed. The answer to this question opens up many other questions. One of the things I have tried to explore in Edwards’ work is just that question: If Edwards was simply re-stating traditional Reformed piety, why is it so hard to see the continuity? Has Lucas’ interpretation really made this problem go away?

In view of the large influence now being exercised in the evangelical movement by neo-Edwardseans (e.g., John Piper et al) and in view of the influence that Edwards himself continues to exercise, it is important to get this right. If (and this is a very big “if”) Edwards is to be the paradigm for Reformed piety, we need to be able to understand and agree as to what the goal is.

If, however, Edwards’ program for piety is as Helm says it is, then we have reason to continue to be cautious about his influence (and that of his popularizers).

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  • R. Scott Clark
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    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

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