Thursday, July 16, 2009

Jonathan Edwards

When you say this name to someone who is English they think you mean the triple jumper. In fact, he is an 18c pastor and theologian widely considered to be one to the finest American minds there has ever been. His name was never once mentioned to me by anybody at Vicar Factory (apart from one person who is mentioned later in this post). Nor, as it happens, did they suggest the wig and 'bib' as a jaunty look for the about town, modern London cleric. I discovered Edwards reading Pollock's biography of George Whitfield and Keller constantly quotes him in sermons so I bought a set of his sermons and started to read. The Church of England is kindly putting me through my paces doing an MA and for my next essay I am exploring some of the work of Edwards. 

Edwards was a genius. He thought and studied for 13 hours every day. No blogs, no mobiles, no important meetings -just study and prayer and preaching. He would perhaps consider what we now call ministry to be the strangest of things. He had so many thoughts all the time about everything that he had to take a pen and ink-well with him when he went walking in the woods. (No Bic biros then!). He also had a saint of a wife by all accounts who allowed him to study all the time. 

There are so many things worth mentioning about him. Recently, I have been pondering his 'Resolutions' which are worth a lengthy glance and we could advance no further than here and be the richer for it. He read through them once a week (and clearly wasn't much of a laugh on a Sunday -No.38!).

So, can I commend this fantastic man to you and here are some ways to get into him:

1. The iphone crowd may prefer a listen to start with and the resources here are the best introduction I have found. The Don Whiney talk on Edwards and the disciplines may get us all reading our bible and praying more attentively?

2. John Piper's book has a good introduction in God's passion for his glory

3. Three biographies you might check out. The Iain Murray I loved but more recently Marsden has produced what is widely considered to be the definitive work now in a shorter version. I might choose this as a first buy.

4. The Sermons of Jonathan Edwards contains many of his classic works. Recently, I read one called 'Hypocrites and prayer'. He wrote America's most famous sermon known as 'Sinners in the hand of an angry God' which if you have liberal sensibilities may shock you with the view that God is not an 'anything-goes' kind of guy.

5. The God-centred life is a great starter so is the Reader

6. If you really get into Edwards you may end up like my friend Steve doing a Phd on him and if you do then the resources of Yale will be all you need.

I hope this may introduce you to this amazing man. He's well worth the trouble.

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