I was just reading a little bit of a book by British academic Jonathan Edwards (note: not the famous one) called "A Preservative Against Socinianism" published in 1698. On page 16 Edwards says something that elicits my question:

For tho Socinus acknowledges that God at first made man after his own Image: yet he tells us that that Image, as we shewed before, consisted only in the Dominion which God gave him over the whole Creation: and that all other notions of similitude, whereby he may be thought to resemble God, are but Commenta Humana, the inventions of men; not any part of the Revelation contained in the Holy Scriptures. In short, that Adam was born a frail, mortal Creature, having only the bare faculties of understanding and will, but without the accomplishments of either; being neither endued with wisdom nor holiness: a pure rasa Tabula, capable indeed of any impressions, but having no characters either of wisdom or Righteousness, engraven upon his mind, by the finger of God, when he first dropped out of his hands.

He goes on to say in the next paragraph that the orthodox belief is that Adam was created with:

a perfect knowledge of God, himself, his duty, and all parts of creation: [but] Socinus will tell you that all this is a great mistake.

Was Jonathan Edwards unique in holding this position or was it a common one in his day? Does this particular point of theology have a name? Is this belief still held amongst any Evangelical groups today the same as Edwards did then, or has the general trend in Evangelicalism been in a more Socinian direction on this point?

(By the way, if someone wants to verify the quote, the book is on Google Books. I don't know how to link directly to the page number, so you'll have to scroll down to page 16.)

  • I don't know how you could reconcile that belief with "the tree of the knowledge of good and evil." – user23 Jan 14 '15 at 20:21

Edward's view is more or less the traditional view. To give an earlier example, St. Thomas Aquinas says the following of the knowledge of Adam.

And man was made right by God in this sense, that in him the lower powers were subjected to the higher, and the higher naturewas made so as not to be impeded by the lower. Wherefore the first man was not impeded by exterior things from a clear and steady contemplation of the intelligible effects which he perceived by the radiation of the first truth, whether by a natural or by a gratuitous knowledge. Hence Augustine says (Gen. ad lit. xi, 33) that, "perhaps God used to speak to the first man as He speaks to the angels; by shedding on his mind a ray of the unchangeable truth, yet without bestowing on him the experience of which the angels are capable in the participation of the Divine Essence." Therefore, through these intelligible effects of God, man knew God then more clearly than we know Him now.


Man named the animals (Genesis 2:20). But names should be adapted to the nature of things. Therefore Adam knew the animals' natures; and in like manner he was possessed of the knowledge of all other things.


However, it should be noted that "perfect knowledge" could only be attributed to Adam in a qualified sense.

Among modern Evangelicals, I don't think this is a very popular question in comparison to others, but I will leave it to another to catalog the individual opinions.

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  • I don't know why you didn't get an upvote sooner. Nice answer. – fгedsbend Mar 26 '15 at 19:14

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