Physical Descent–No Claim to Spiritual Inheritance

How right is that saying that God has no spiritual grandchildren. Time and again in the history of God’s people it becomes clear that organic physical links to faithful believers of the past ultimately count for very little. What is vital are the deeper links of spiritual affinity. This story about a lineal descendant of Jonathan Edwards—obviously through one of his three sons—and her marrying a lesbian couple is clear proof of the above. According to a story in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review for March 6, 2006, “The Rev. Janet Edwards, 55, likens performing the ceremony to her famously orthodox ancestor, Jonathan Edwards, preaching to the Mohicans in the 18th century, when racism made Native Americans the object of scorn and fear. “I would say his acceptance of the Mohicans of the time is similar to my inclusion of gay-lesbian-bisexual-transgendered people now,” Janet Edwards said.”

Jonathan Edwards scholar Amy Plantiga Pauw, a theology professor at the Presbyterian Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, agrees with Janet Edwards and says that her argument is persuasive. “There is a kind of parallel—Jonathan Edwards was not afraid to challenge so-called respectable Christians of his time,” Pauw said.

While there may be some similarity in the outward form of the radical bent of Jonathan Edwards and his physical descendant, there the parallel ends. Jonathan Edwards would have been horrified by his descendant’s actions and her justification of sin. And, it bears remembering that some of Edwards’ leading opponents were family members who shared with him a common grandfather, Solomon Stoddard.

For the story, see Lara Brenckle and Rick Wills,“Embattled cleric cites ancestor’s example”, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (Monday, March 6, 2006) (; accessed March 8, 2006).

Thanks to Justin Taylor for alerting me to this story.