Friday, September 10, 2010

Fear and Fervor

After reading excerpts from Jonathan Edwards', Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" there are a few items I would like you to reflect upon.

Make sure you treat this like a discussion, not just an individual response. I want you reacting to other people's ideas as well. Answer the following:

1. What images and figures of speech do you find most powerful and persuasive in Edwards' sermon? Why are they powerful (thus, what do they help to emphasize?)

2. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote that, "Fear is an instructor of great sagacity and the herald of all revolutions." Is fear a powerful motivator for human behavior? Please list some examples to back up your opinion.


  1. In the first paragraph under application Edwards says "there is a dreadful pit of glowing flames of the wrath of God" stood out to me. I never really thought that God had a "wrath" and I still don't believe that especially if there was nothing done to anger him. I think that it supposed to scare people so they wont do wrong and face that fiery pit of hell.
    I think fear is a powerful motivator because if someone is lets say, forced to rob a bank against their will they are going to do it becasue they are scared to die and want to continue living. But robbing a bank wouldn't be a usual act for that person. Also if a teenager is hanging out with friends and their friends want to smoke or something the person that knows it's bad isn't going to want to do it but is most likely afriad of what their friends will think if they don't.

  2. 1) I found that the sentence "...natural men are held in the hand of God, over a pit of hell..." provoked a very clear image in my head. I think this statement is persuasive because people fear where they will go when they die. Multiple times Edwards states that "...nothing but His hand that holds you from falling into the fire every moment..." "...there is nothing else that is to be given as a reason why you do not this very moment drop down into hell." To me these statements say that God should be put before everything else. Some other statements that struck me were "...a spider's web would have to stop a falling rock." Also "...nor is it willingly a stage for your wickedness to be acted upon..." "...much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect, over the fire..." were all powerful statements. I think Edwards wants to make the reader reconsider how they live their lives and if they are living their life to please God or to please others or their worldly pleasures.

    2) I definitely think fear is a powerful motivator. In the past I had a swim coach who tried to scare me by threatening to kick me off the team or out of practice if I didn't make a certain time, his threats motivated me to swim faster. Or when Fort Hood was under attack a woman was so afraid and trying so hard to save others that she didn't realize she had been shot until someone pointed out to her she had been in her back. During the Red Scare in the 1950's Americans were so fearful of communism in the government and in society that it caused movie stars to be blacklisted and people to be suspicious and accuse others of communism. The Salem Witch Trials are another example that fear turned friends and neighbors against one another and caused people to be falsely accused and put to death in some cases. When people are in a situation where they fear for their lives it causes them to go into a survival mode and do things by their body's instincts. Fear causes some people to make unwise choices even when they know better.

  3. I thought the sentence "...your healthy constitution, and your own care and prudence, and best contrivance, and all your righteousness, would have no more influence to uphold you and keep you out of hell, than a spider's web would have to stop a fallen rock." was really interesting. Not only does it have a great yet pitiful simile but it creates a image as well. He uses both these figures of speech multiple times and they are extremely effective. Other times these were used were lines such as "The bow of God's wrath is bent, and the arrow made ready on the string, and justice bends the arrow at your heart, and strains the bow, and it is nothing but the mere pleasure of God, and that of an angry God, without any promise or obligation at all, that keeps the arrow one moment from being made drunk with your blood." This is almost a sickening simile that creates a horrific image as well.

    Fear is a very powerful motivator. Humans tend to act on instinct and majority of those instincts tend to be to avoid subjects you fear. Sometimes these fears can be good, they can help you do better in school or a hobby, but other times they are not so good. The Salem Witch trials are a great example of this. Fear not only motivated people back then but it forced them to act and think irrationally, this is the main reason people died.

    Katy R- Don't you think that some teenagers would also fear smoking more then there friends? There friends can't kill them, smoking can.

  4. 1. I found that "have deserved the fiery pit," "fire bent up into their own hearts, "your wickedness makes you as heavy as lead, "would have no more influence to uphold you and keep you out of hell, than a spider's web would have to stop a fallen rock," "black clouds of god's wrath now hanging above your heads," and "you hang by a slender thread" some powerful images in Edward's sermon. I think these are powerful images because they are explaining God's wrath and help emphasize what hell is like. These images tell us that God holds us up in the palm of his hand and that as individuals we make mistakes but we can fix them. However, some people choose to constantly make those mistakes and have evil in them. This angers God and his wrath so if he wanted to drop your soul into hell, that is what hell would be like, and that is what his wrath would feel like.

    2. Fear is a powerful motivator for human behavior. I think that humans tend to react differently when that "fear" is placed into scenario. Examples are if you had a test, some people don't really study and it doesn't phase them, however if the teacher said this test determines if you pass or fail the class, people react differently in the fear they might fail the class. Another example would be if there was a fire a good distance away from your house, but reports said it was moving in your general direction, you might not be close to it, but the fear that it could come to your house could make you want to evacuate the area. I also think that 9/11 was another example of how fear motivates people. We wanted to go to war, and we were afraid that something bigger, or something else could happen and that we were vulnerable after 9/11 happened.

    Samantha: The Red Scare is another great example of how fear motivates people.

  5. 1) I found that "natural men are held in the hand of God, over a pit of hell" was definitely the most powerful sentence because most normal people probably haven't really pictured this in their mind how it would feel to be held over a "pit of hell." I think this definitely puts fear in peoples minds and really makes them think that we really aren't always safe. Another statement that I found powerful was "The wrath of God is like great waters that are damned for the present; they increase more and more, and rise higher and higher, till an outlet is given;" I feel like this is something that occurs often like we hold something in for a long time and it just keeps building up until we finally explode like a damn sometimes does. I think Edward Sermon has a point by saying if you keep messing with God then eventually God will explode. But this may not be true.

    2) I definitely think fear is a powerful motivator of human behavior. I know when I have to make a decision I think about what could be the possible outcome if i choose the wrong thing. So I definitely put fear in my head. I agree with Katie P when she says sometimes fear can be good because I think it can help choosing the right decision and thinking before you act. Fear can also be bad in way because if you fear something so much and it actually causes bad things to go wrong then this is definitely not a good sign. Either way good or bad fear is a motivator for human behavior.

  6. 1) I found that what really stood out to me was in the beginning of the reading, Jonathan Edwards says "...they have deserved the fiery pit, and are already sentenced to it; and God is dreadfully provoked, his anger is as great towards them as to those that are actually suffering the executions of the fierceness of his wrath in hell". I have never thought of God as a very angry person. I don't believe that he is and the way that Edwards portrays God is very wrong. God is a very forgiving man but he is described in this piece as someone who wants his people to go to hell and doesn't care about what happens to them.

    2) I think that fear plays a major role in human behavior. I agree with Tarah M when she says that she puts fear in her head when making a decision. I know from experience that in a sense, our life revolves around fear. Whether it is a small decision like doing your homework and you have the fear of getting in trouble for not doing it or a big decision like marrying your spouse, you are always scared of the outcome because you want it to turn out right. Fear can be a good thing because it could prevent you from making a mistake but I think fear can also be bad because it could stop you from doing something your passionate about. Fear is a huge part of everyday life.

  7. The sermon brings up several powerful images. First,it made me picture hell as a giant pit of fire-almost like a volcano- with flames leaping up. I picture God's hand over the fire, holding us in the palm of His hand, able to drop us in at any moment. I agree with Katie P. that the image of a rock falling through the spider web was also very powerful. And, Edwards is saying that no matter how much good we do, if God drops us into hell, nothing will stop us. The images the sermon brings up are very intense and dark but too dramatic to be very persuasive. To me, the sermon is designed to create extreme special effects- not to really discuss our relationship with God.

    2) I have two thoughts about fear as a motivator for human behavior. On one hand, I agree that fear can motivate people. I know I've not done things simply because I was afraid I'd get in trouble if I got caught. On the other hand, I agree with Tarah that bad things come from fear, too. People can avoid doing things that might be really good for them or their lives because they're afraid of change. Also, fear can freeze people from doing anything at all. I like to think that people are motivated more by good- and want to make the world a better place.

  8. 1) I thought it was a powerful statement when it said, " and all your righteousness , would have no more influence to uphold you and keep you out of hell, then a spiders web would have to stop a fallen rock". This is saying that even if people try to be good and righteous that it would be pointless cause there wickedness will always outweigh it. I disagree with this. I think through good acts you can overcome your wickedness.

    2) I believe fear is a powerful motivator for human behavior. I know it is for me. In a situation where there is fear i will react differently then usual. Fear makes me think about the consequences of my decisions. For example in a situation where i am forced to make a choice fear impacts me. I think of everything that could go wrong. In the end though sometimes you need to take a risk an overcome your fears. Yes sometimes it will turn out bad but then other times your decision will turn out great. You cant let your fears control you.

  9. 1. I agree with Katie P. about the similes and metaphors being the most powerful. They just put a picture in your mind about what is holding us back from going down into hell with the spider web or the bow and arrow. Also it describes that the more that you do that is bad, the harder it will hit later like when Jonathan Edwards describes the flooding. The higher you make the water, the more it will flood and it will flood faster. This came across as really powerful to me.

    2. I do think that fear is a motivator because people don't want bad things to happen and they will do anthing to prevent that... anything. Take the Red Scare for example: People were scared of communists and they went on a witch hunt for communists. Same thing happened with the Salem witch hunts. Although, I do agree with Bailey L. about fear being positive because if you have fear of a consequence of something you might do that would be bad, you might not do it. It can also be negative by preventing you from doing something good.

  10. I agree with Lance. The statement " and all your righteousness , would have no more influence to uphold you and keep you out of hell, then a spiders web would have to stop a fallen rock" really stood out to me. i also agree with what he said that you can do good deeds to counter-act your wickendess. But you cant use that as like a last ditch effore to save your self. You cant live your whole life killing people then realize your going to hell then just go help out at an elderly home or something. You have to realize that what you've done is bad and you need to repent.
    I think that fear is one of the biggest motivators in peoples lives because when your afraid of something your judgement is all whack. You can't think clearly and you do whatever it takes to surivive, or for the survival of the ones you love.

  11. 1.) The sentence "That world of misery, that lake of burning brimstone, is extended abroad under you." really stood out. Imagery is powerful; whether expressed as a simile, metaphor, or any type of descriptive writing. If you can form a picture of, or make a connection to, what the author is saying then your comprehension of the text will improve dramatically.
    2.) Fear is definitely a powerful motivator for human actions! It's Fight or Flight; After 9-11 we, out of fear of being attacked again, tightened security in many areas - not just airports. We chose to Fight instead of Flight. We had to try and prevent this from occuring again in any way we could and that was all caused by FEAR.

  12. In Edwards's sermon, one motif that I noticed that was very powerful was fire. When I think of fire I think of camp fires, warmth and the idea of comfort. However, after reading the sermon it gave me a whole new perspective on the meaning of fire. He countlessly brought up fire and compared it with hell, and burning. This is why the motif was so powerful because Edwards used fire to put fear in peoples heads of hell.

    I completely agree with lance when it comes to fear. fear definitely puts you out of your comfort zone into thinking of the worst case scenario. This idea can sometimes be good though. One example of this is the fear of punishment. When you fear of getting in trouble most of the time you don't carry out on the action, which is good because if people didn't care about punishment there would be mass chaos. However, fear can also be a very bad thing to the point where it controls your life. I may have said this in another blog post but I am a strong believer of learning from ones mistakes. If you have fear of failing you will never get far in your life. This is because you will not have the courage to do anything because you will be worried about making mistakes. This is bad because if your not putting yourself out of your comfort zone you will not learn from mistakes. Overall fear can be both good and bad.

  13. In the sermon, Edwards is constantly referencing earthly forms of destruction. "they have deserved the firey pit" and "full of the dreadful storm, and big with thunder" are just a few examples of this. Edwards also constantly pounds on the fact that fire is whats waiting for us in hell, not necessarily any other type of suffering is waiting for the condemned

    Fear is defiantly a motivator for human behavior. I agree fear can be good or bad as Madison said. One of the biggest motivators in the United States is fear. Fear of rejection, fear of loss, fear of commitment, fear of attack, even "fear itself" as JFK said. But should we run from those fears? Some are definitely very intimidating, but it is our reactions to this fear that define us and our overall behavior.

  14. 1) In Edwards sermon, he says “The sovereign pleasure of God, for the present, stays his rough wind; otherwise it would come with fury, and your destruction would come like a whirlwind, and you would be like the chaff of the summer threshing floor.” This is only one of the quotes that shocked me. Because I am such a strong Christian, I don’t believe that God is destructive or angry. Yes, he sees that we do wrong, but he believes that we can do the right thing. He doesn’t get angry at our mistakes, he forgives us for them. On the other hand, I believe that John Edwards is trying to make a point when he wrote this. He wants to “scare” the sins out of people. I think that in his opinion that if he scares his audience, they will be frightened to sin.
    2) Most revolutions are started because of fear. In the American Revolution people were afraid of British control. In recent years, the war in Iraq was based on the fear of terrorism. We were afraid that terrorism would continue to grow. I believe that fear is the biggest motivator. Most revolutions happen because of the fear of something.

  15. 1. "The God that holds you over the pit of hell," stood out to me the most because isn't God suppose to give second chances. Aren't we suppose to give forgiveness because God says we should? It's the right thing to do so I don't think that God would hold someone over the pit of hell because he believes in second chances and forgiveness and so should we.
    2. Fear is definitely a big motivator for human behavior. It can be a negative or positive motivator, but most times than not it is positive. When you don't want to get in trouble because you are afraid of what will happen you use a scapegoat which is acting in fear. Also, I agree with Zach when he says that we all have fears of rejection, fear of loss, fear of commitment, fear of attack, and fear itself. But why should we run from the fears? Some are definitely very intimidating, but it is our reactions to this fear that define us and our overall behavior.

  16. 1. When he talked about "the fiery pit" is what painted the best image in my head. He says a lot of powerful things and is clear that he believes a lot in his words. He writes as if its fact even though it is just opinion and that by its self makes it a powerful.
    2. I agree with what seems like the majority in the thought that fear is a motivator for human behavior. In the movie "The Dark Knight" joker says that people true side is shown just before they die. Now i think thats a bit over the top but i do think that fear can motivate people to do a lot of different things.

  17. 1.) I found the sentence, "... and all your ritousness, would have no more influence to uphold you and keep you out of hell, than a spider's web would have to stop a fallen rock." I find this to be a powerful sentence because it created a really big picture in my mind that no matter what you do to avoid sinning you still sin. To not sin would be like a spider's web tying to stop a falling rock. If ou think about it, that's terrible, but it's true. It's so easy to sin.

    2.) I really think that fear is a really powerful motivator in both good and bad ways. I know that there is times in m personal expirences tha I have been scared to do things, but for the right reasons I would pushthrough the fear because I knewthat the out come would be good. For example, I'm really acrid of heights, but I was helping build an addition on a house in Guatemala. I knew that in order to make progress on building the addition I would have to climb up the ladder and spend some time on top of the first level in order to help partake in building this addition. So I pushed through my fear and did it. It defnatly motivated me to get the job done faster so that I wouldn't have to be on top of a tall building anymore!

  18. 1. The Images I found most powerful in the sermon were some of the metaphors used like "your wickedness makes you as if you were as heavy as lead, and to tend downwards with great weight and pressure towards hell" that shows how the people are damned to hell with no way of changing their fate. He also says "Men are held in the hand of god, over the pit of hell". this quote shows how much power god has over man.
    2.Fear definitely motivates people some examples are the cold war because people were motivated to make bomb shelters because they were afraid of a nuclear fallout. Also man is afraid of going to hell so because of fear they try not to sin.

  19. 1).The line that is most bold to me is "it is only the power and mere pleasure of God that holds you up." Another line, "The bow of God's wrath is bent, and the arrow made ready on the string, and justice bends the arrow at your heart,and straings the bow, and it is nothing but the mere pleasure of God, and that of an angry God...keeps the arrow one moment from being made drunk with your blood." These lines portray God as a very dark ruly Figure that acts likethe dictator of your life. I do not really know what to think of the whole thing.
    2). Fear is our number one motivator for sure. Every decision is made from fear, fear of being yelled at, fear of being killed, fear of just about anything can persuade us to do the most crazy things. When people are put in a situation that causes great fear they panick and lose all mind and go berserk to stay safe and or do something they reguraly would not do.

  20. 1. "they have deserved the fiery pit, and are already sentenced to it; and God is dreadfully provoked, his anger is as great towards them as to those that are actually suffering the executions of the fierceness of his wrath in hell" Despite being agnostic, the first thing that comes to mind when I think of God is someone who normally isn't angry. I would for the most part see him as one who grants people forgiveness. Edwards' views of God for the most part, seem to mostly oppose that of popular religion. Like what Alec said, he seems to be writing as it is a fact although actually just being an opinion, but that seems to make it seem to me, a more powerful piece of text.

    2. I do indeed agree that fear is a powerful motivator for humans. Examples were seen with the Japanese Internment Camps during World War II due to the fear of potential Japanese spies looking for information on United States shores. The Red Scare of the Cold War can also be used as an example due to American fears of getting severely bombed by the USSR due to their own creation of an atom bomb, which soon led to bomb shelters and even drills to practice safety.

  21. 1) I think that the word "You hang by a slender thread, with the flames of divine wrath flashing about it, and ready every moment to singe it, and burn it asunder; and you have no interest in any Mediator, and nothing to lay hold of to save yourself, nothing to keep off the flames of wrath, nothing of your own, nothing that you ever have done, nothing that you can do, to induce God to spare you one moment" are very powerful because it basically says that you are helpless against God's wrath.
    2) Fear is a very powerful motivator in human behavior. People sometimes change the way they live because of fear. Also, we live in a fear based society with all of our security alarms and things like that.

  22. 1) Powerful, terrifying imagery is what makes Jonathan Edwards’ rant an effective piece. “The bow of God’s wrath is bent, and the arrow made ready on the string” and “hang by a slender thread” reminded me of belief in Greek mythology that at any moment the Three Fates might snip the string that is your life. The quote about our attempts at self-preservation saying “if God should withdraw his hand, they would avail no more to keep you from falling than the thin air…” says that people have no control over God’s judgment. God’s growing wrath is “like great waters that are damned for the present” and at any moment could swallow up the sinful world.
    2) Fear is an incredible motivator for human behavior. Hitler used fear to get people to do horrible things and to keep opposition down. I also agree with Samantha that the Salem Witch Trials are another example of this. People said and did things out of character in order to protect themselves or further an agenda. In everyday life, people obey simple rules such as stopping at stop signs or going the speed limit because they are afraid of getting pulled over. Lance is right when he says fear makes us think about the consequences of our decisions. Even a child learns to fear a hot stove. Fear imposed by someone else is a different thing all together. That kind of fear is only effective for so long and then people become numb to it. Their true motivation has to come from inside because the real test of a person’s character is how they behave when they know no one is watching.

  23. 1. The words that were most powerfull to me in Johnathan Edwards sermon were "they have deserved the fiery pit, and are already sentenced to it". This is disturbing because it has already been decided for the people. No matter what they do their fate has already been decided, and it isn't fair at all. He is very descriptive, and all of his words have to do with pain and fire. It is all very negative and depressing. He describes God as someone who is very angry and mean, and only want to hurt us.
    2. Fear is probably the biggest motivator in society. I agree with Stella, that fear is the main reason we blame others and create scapegoats. I think fear is helpfull in a lot of ways because it keeps people inline, because they fear the consequneces if they act out. I also think it is a bad thing, because fear keeps people from living thier lives fully and taking chances.

  24. 1. I felt that Jonathan Edwards idea of "destruction" was powerful because he said "as one that stands or walks in slippery places is always exposed to fall." This makes it seem as if we are supposed to fall. As I thought about this more it made me think we are supposed to fall so we know how to get back up time after time.
    2. I strongly believe that fear is a strong motivator in our lives because we have security systems so we don't get robbed. I believe this feeling of fear is passed down from parents to offspring, I say this because I can remember so many times in my childhood that I couldn't do something because my mom or dad were scared or feared I would get hurt, but one thing I also believe is that once you realize that your body isn't made of glass and almost everything can be replaced that you can truly live and experience life to its fullest.