The saints in heaven as spectators of providence: Edwards and the tradition

Gerald McDermott


What goes on in the intermediate state between death and the final judgment is one of the mysteries of Scripture.  Catholics have traditionally been willing to say far more than have Protestants.  John Calvin, for example, was notoriously circumspect.  “It is neither lawful nor expedient to inquire too curiously concerning our soul’s intermediate state,” Calvin warns in the Institutes. These are “unknown matters” and beyond what “God permits us to know.”[1]  Scripture, he tells us, goes no further than to say that “Christ is present with [the saints] and receives them into paradise” to give them “consolation” after their suffering and labor on earth. “What teacher or master,” Calvin asked, [would be so presumptuous as to] “reveal to us that which God has concealed?”[2]  The answer to his question is Jonathan Edwards.

[1] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John T. McNeill (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1960), 997.

[2] Ibid.


Early Modern History

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