The Spirituality of David Brainerd: A Summary and Critique
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SubjectBrainerd, David, 1718-1747
Edwards, Jonathan, 1703-1758. Life of David Brainerd
Jonathan Edwards published the diaries of David Brainerd with the primary goal of promoting Brainerd’s spirituality. Although Edwards’s publication of The Life of David Brainerd is his most popular work, Brainerd’s view of spirituality has received little critical attention from scholars. This study provides a theological critique of three central facets of David Brainerd’s spirituality. First, it examines Brainerd’s view of conversion as the beginning point of spirituality and concludes that, although his view of conversion was solidly reformed and evangelical, it tended to be passive and formulaic. Second, this study summarizes Brainerd’s view of love as the essence of spirituality. While Brainerd’s view of unselfish love for God that expels love for the world is orthodox, Brainerd’s articulation of the motivations of love tended to be reductionistic, and his approach toward God’s earthly gifts tended to be ascetic. Third, this thesis examines Brainerd’s view of evangelical humiliation as the daily experience of spirituality. While his understanding of the need for humiliation was rooted in the biblical truths of human frailty and remaining sin, it tended to emphasize these truths without complementary biblical emphases on humanity’s value and the Christian’s new nature in Christ. Yet, despite his weaknesses, Brainerd’s strong concern for genuine conversion, warning about selfishness in religion, and focus on humiliation are much needed emphases in contemporary evangelical spirituality.