Friday, March 03, 2006

Affections (viz. "Religious Affections")

affection. n. A tender feeling?

One of the problems that arises when reading someone who used the English language 250 years ago is the difference in the meaning of the words he/she communicated. Jonathan Edwards is a prime example in his use of the term "affection" to refer to something other than what our 2006 American minds tend to think, and as defines:

A tender feeling toward another; fondness.
Feeling or emotion. Often used in the plural: an unbalanced state of affections.
A disposition to feel, do, or say; a propensity.
Obsolete. Prejudice; partiality.
Even pulling a definition from Edwards' book The Religious Affections can be somewhat elusive. Here is a helpful insight into the meaning from this site:
[1] Affection is not the same as emotion.
Affection is a felt response to an object called forth by an understanding of the nature of the object. Plainly, where there's no understanding there can be no affection, regardless of how much emotion is present. (There was no shortage of emotion during the revivals.)

[2] Affections differ from passions.
Passions (a) are inclinations that overpower an individual, thus diminishing self-control
(b) captivate people. To be captive to a passion is to be passive. Such passivity is a denial of the active response-aspect of an affection. Whereas passion enslaves the will, affection is an exercise of the will. An affection is a response of the total self as the nature of something (someone) is apprehended.
And, yes, Jonathan Edwards did do a few other things in addition to preaching "Sinners in the hands of an angry God."

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