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We have a little problem with the reading. Some of the terms used (such as affection, soul of the will, inclination, spring of action) were deemed some what rhetorical. Some terms sounded like they are all speaking of the same thing. And a couple of people feel there were not much on the way of help us directly.

Someone mentioned that the “affection” should not be used to “judge” whether someone is a Christian or not. The distinction painted too hopeless a scenario for the non-Christian. It seems too “black and white” when proclaiming someone a believer or not.  Some one responded, “Is there a polite way to tell people about the judgment of God?”

Another mentioned “affection” is not legalism; it is not about what we do but what motivated us to do those things.

The rest of the discussion centered around three themes: firstly, whether the inclination can be measured; secondly, whether the inclination is an indication of faith; thirdly, whether heart comes first or exercise comes first (or heart leads to exercise or exercise leads to heart).

The following were extracts from the discussion (as much as I could remember, it was hard to remember and facilitate the discussion at the same time, and I add a few comments of my own):

Any measure can be dangerous because it creates legalism and danger of using those measures for success. Particularly, we may end up with actions with out heart.  On the other hand, without measure though we may indulge into mediocre, have more excuse for not progressing and deemed our faith powerless in front of adversaries.

Question: Is it better to have measures and risk the danger of having actions with improper motivation or to have no measure and cannot show evidence of progress?

Real measure is when you face a situation you can exercise the right action rather then just explain it theologically.

Exercises help us maintain our fervent during dry spell. There is always an inclination of not doing it versus doing it. It is not lack of inclination that we fact but the struggle between two pulls.

Dry spell is when you do not do things with the proper motivation. (An interesting not a aside, the scripture text this treaty by Jonathan Edwards based on is 1 Pet 1:8,” Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy,“)

The measure is for one own self evaluation only, it is not mean to be used to judge others.

There is no distinction between causal Christian and great Christian. The readings we have been doing the last three week all point towards that. There is a distinction between a believer and not a believer.  In fact the danger of the causal versus great distinction allows the potential of indifference. 

JE defined affection in the first part of the original article:“The affections are no other than the more vigorous and exercise of the inclination and the will of the soul “and he stated “If our wills and inclinations are not strongly exercised, then we are nothing.”

I think JE is talking about “motivation”.  Motivation of varying degrees (“But true grace has varying degrees”) and motivation towards different objects (“Just as worldly affections are the spring of worldly actions, so the religious affections are the spring of religious actions”). The degree may vary as some have a “weaker” inclination while others are more fervent. However, the inclination is always there.

More questions:

What are the minimal inclinations that we can see to affirm our belief?

Will our heart always has the “fire” or “fervent”? If not what does that mean to us?

It is a troubling though that we need to check our faith based on our “affection” but it also seems so serious a matter as to the faith in Christ Jesus does require vigorous concern.


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