“And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word.” (1 Kings 18:21, ESV)
The title of the sermon is The Unreasonableness of Indetermination in Religion. Jonathan Edwards preached this sermon in the summer of 1734.
Doctrine: Unresolvedness in religion is very unreasonable.
Two central propositions support the doctrine.
Proposition 1: Many persons remain exceedingly undetermined with respect to religion.
Edwards notes that some people never resolve the matter of truth. That is to say, they cannot determine whether or not historic Christianity is true. The point is fascinating when one considers the current postmodern milieu where some maintain that truth is either culturally conditioned or even non-existent. Our culture views truth as a “power grab.” The 18th century Enlightenment mind believed in truth and the necessity of propositions. Edwards argues that many people merely wavered between two opinions. A sad state of affairs.
All people have two options before them – heaven or hell. Edwards in essence argues that one must decide: “There are but two things which God offers to mankind for their portion: one is this world, with the pleasures and profits of sin, together with eternal misery ensuing; the other is heaven and eternal glory, with a life of self-denial and respect to all the commands of God.” One cannot have his cake and eat it too. For such a man is like the one referenced by James 1:8 – “double-minded in all his ways.”
Proposition 2: To continue thus undetermined and unresolved in the things of religion, is very unreasonable.
Indeed, the choice before all men is clear: “He hath given man so much understanding, as to make him capable of determining which is best; to lead a life of self-denial, and enjoy eternal happiness, or to take our swing in sinful enjoyments, and burn in hell forever.”
Edwards makes several applications, all of which are worth noting:
1. Inquire whether you have yet come to a full determination with respect to the truth of the things of religion.
2. Inquire whether you have ever yet come to a determination about religion with respect to the practice of it; whether you have chosen heaven with the way to it, viz. the way of obedience and self-denial, before this world and the ways of sin; whether you have determined upon it as most eligible, to devote yourselves to the service of God.
Edwards highlights four signs that indicate his hearers are halting between two opinions:
- To put off duty altogether.
- It is a sign of the same thing when persons are strict and conscientious in some things, but live in the omission of others.
- It is a sign that you halt between two opinions, if you sometimes are wont to be considerably engaged in religion, but at other times neglect it.
- It is a sign that you are halting between two opinions, if it be your manner to balk your duty whenever any notable difficulty comes in the way.
In this case, Edwards argues, “You are in the state of the stony-ground hearers, you have no root in yourselves, and like a tree without root, are easily blown down by every wind.”
Edwards urges his readers to trust Christ – to stop halting between two opinions. A final admonition leave his listeners in a tenuous position, with eternity hanging in the balance:
Those who live under the gospel, and thus continue undetermined about religion, are more abominable to God than the heathen.
The Unreasonableness of Indetermination is a classic Edwardsean sermon that highlights an 18th century mindset which is thoroughly biblical and Christ-centered. Oh, that the 21st century mind would gain the strength and fervency of worldview and passion for preaching as demonstrated by Jonathan Edwards!