Jonathan Edwards

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Appeal for contributors to Edwards Encyclopedia...

Got this e-mail today. If any readers are willing, it would be good to have orthodox and Reformed Christians contribute to the Jonathan Edwards Encyclopedia.

Dear Contributor or new contributor: We are pleased to inform you that the Jonathan Edwards Encyclopedia project is progressing well. Over the last 18 months we have edited hundreds of entries, which will be returned in the coming months to the contributor for review. However, there are still a number of entries to be written for which we invite you or your colleagues and students to submit a contribution. To volunteer, please make your topic selection of the list of available entries ( If an entry is listed and you have send your contribution it might have been overlooked--please resend at your earliest convenience. Please make your selected entry known to before October 30, 2015. Contributors' entries are due December 15, 2015 as we are planning to publish the encyclopedia in 2016. Many thanks for your participation and best wishes Adriaan & Ken

Man, who is but a maggot...

Where is sin? I've been reading Job and it struck me that this truth is completely absent from the church:

How then can a man be righteous before God? How can one born of woman be pure? If even the moon is not bright and the stars are not pure in his eyes, how much less man, who is but a maggot--a son of man, who is only a worm! (Job 25:4-6)

Do your children know they are sinners? Do you and your wife know how desperately wicked you both are--that your hearts are unbelievably deceitful? Do you preach for conviction of sin in your flock? Do you share Jonathan Edwards' conviction that the doctrine of original sin is the key to conversion and revival? 

It's always struck me that the Reformed church seems incapable of preaching the sinfulness of sin. Yet doctrinaly, we continue to pay lip service to total depravity. How can we do this? What good is it to have a tool that we are in principle opposed to using? The demons have more faith in total depravity...

Roman Catholicism is a medieval heresy...

Under the post, Repenting of parachurch, Baptist childhoods..., one comment elicited this response from your scribe. I posted it as a comment, there, but also put it here for the benefit of those who don't keep track of comments. (TB)

Brothers, allow me a few responses, although they must be hopelessly brief considering the weight of these matters.

>>Be careful when you sling around words like apostasy, idolatry (Per Calvin we're all "fabricum idolarum") and heresy.

We are careful. That is, careful--very careful--to keep them alive. The proper word to use concerning Roman Catholicism is 'heresy'. Read Joe Brown's Heresies. Reformed pastors and elders use this word following our Reforming fathers's example because Roman Catholicism is a system of doctrine that leads souls to Hell. Systematically.

The center of Rome's system is the merchandising of salvation through...

What do I have that I didn't receive...

(Tim, w/thanks to Michael for finding the text) Yesterday, our sermon text was 1Corinthians 4:7-16. Here the Apostle Paul rebukes the Corinthian super-apostles for bragging about their gifts and using them to diss Paul: "For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?"

During the sermon, I mentioned this closing section of Edwards'' sermon, "Christian Charity: The Duty of Charity to the Poor Explained and Enforced," in which Edwards answers common objections to sharing our gifts with others. Note particularly Objection IX and Edwards' answer. Since first reading it thirty or so years ago, I've never forgotten it.

Incidentally, note Edwards doesn't answer Objection I from an unregenerate man by exhorting that man simply to meditate on, and trust God's grace. Rather, he exhorts him to keep God's Law, trusting that Law to serve the man as his schoolmaster to Christ. This is the opposite of our pastoral method and preaching today in Reformed churches (at least)...

The PCA all gussied up...

And it will be, like people, like priest... (Hosea 4:9b)

"A feminized Christianity may work to attract a certain type of man, but

he’s probably not the man you want around when the local Imam starts

practicing taqiyya on your congregation."

(Tim, w/thanks to Tim R.) Here's an article about the effeminacy of the Christian church, today. The piece approaches the crisis by noting the attractiveness of Islam to real men, making the point that a re-masculinized Christianity is necessary to hold off the forces of Islamic jihad. But if faith in Jesus is for this life only, we are of all men most foolish. We love, worship, and trust Jesus, not because it's useful, but because we fear the Holy God and know our sin, we dread Hell's worms and fire, and we ache for Heaven's joy and peace in the presence of the Lord. And yet...

Reformed men and women need to understand how focused the PCA is on gussying herself up for this effeminate age. As a denomination, we are all about perfect pitch rather than men making music to our God Who is a consuming fire. No Delta blues for us; it's all Julliard, violins, pianos, and maybe the occasional acoustic guitar or mandolin just to keep the audience off-balance. As with music, so with preaching: we allow no danger and take no risk. After all, women don't like danger. It could hurt their child.

But men? Real men don't wake up until they see why they're needed. And that need usually has something to do with danger--bullets, grenades, bombs, sexual predators, heresy, the wrath of God, death, and Hell.

But what have we done to Hell? We've turned it into the Narcissists' heaven. It's man getting himself forever, and what's not to like about that? No scared children. No women having hissy-fits over spiders hanging over the crackling fire. No worms eating a carcass. Just me, myself, and I forever...

Preaching to an effeminate age (II)...

(Tim: this is second in a series, with the first, here) It's in vogue for preachers to cop a posture of humility, today, but it’s almost always a counterfeit humility. While claiming to be speaking for God, they deny the

very authority of God and His Word that forms the only foundation they can

stand on when they say, “Thus says the Lord.”

Jonathan Edwards, the best-known preacher of the Great Awakening in Colonial

America, points to the difference between true and false


A truly humble man is inflexible in nothing but in the cause

of his Lord and Master, which is the cause of truth and virtue. In this he is

inflexible, because God and conscience require it. But in things of lesser

moment, and which do not involve his principles as a follower of Christ, and in

things that only concern his own private interests, he is apt to yield to


There are various imitations of (humility) that fall short of

the reality. Some put on an affected humility. Others have a natural

low-spiritedness, and are wanting in manliness of character. …In others, there

is a counterfeit kind of humility, wrought by the delusions of Satan: and all

of these may be mistaken for true humility. [1]

Edwards strikes an interesting note...

Preaching to an effeminate age (I)...

Then the Pharisees went and plotted together how they

might trap Him in what He said. And they sent their disciples to Him, along

with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that You are truthful and teach

the way of God in truth, and defer to no one; for You are not partial to any.

Tell us then, what do You think? Is it lawful to give a poll-tax to Caesar, or


But Jesus perceived their malice, and said, “Why are

you testing Me, you hypocrites?” (Matthew 22:15-18)

(Tim: this is first in a series, with the second, here) A few years ago, I was speaking with a friend who taught

theology at a respected evangelical seminary. We were discussing the response

of some Christian leaders to being confronted over their abuse of Scripture. I

expressed my conviction that the leaders’ commitment to turn from their sin was

only pragmatic, and that in time they would proceed to do the very thing they

had just promised not to do.

My friend was astounded that I could think these men capable

of deception. He went on to tell me why he thought I was susceptible to such

uncharitable thoughts: “Your problem, Tim, is that you spent too many years in

the mainline denomination with other pastors who weren’t even Christians. But

now, you’re back in the evangelical world and these men we’re working with are

believers. You should never accuse another believer of lying.”

Really? Never?

Slavery was the context for the birth of the spirituality of the church rubric, and thus the R2K (Radical Two Kingdoms) error...

In the deep South, Reformed people were adamantly opposed to any interference with the practice of black slavery and emphasized aspects of the tradition that favored confining the activities of the church to strictly "spiritual" issues. -George Marsden

(Tim) Where did R2-K Normative Withdrawalists come from? They like to claim the Apostolic Age, but the Apostles were persecuted and died at the hands of the civil magistrate, and it wasn't for their ministry of the Word and Sacrament during Lord's Day worship services. Certainly they can't trace their lineage back to Calvin's Geneva or Knox's Scotland. And they themselves deny a Puritan blood line and much of any affinity for Cotton Mather and Jonathan Edwards.

Some try to trace it back negatively, claiming it's the necessary lesson to be learned from certain errors of those who have given themselves to Christ's command to clothe the naked and feed the hungry. Men feeding the hungry and clothing the naked in the past were Quakers or suffragettes or Arminians, so there you have it: doctrinal heterodoxy proves the danger of Christians joining together to feed the hungry and clothe the naked.

Or it's bad when the church does it. Or bad when the pastor of the church does it. Or bad when the church and the pastor and the church officers do it. Or bad when someone preaches the necessity of doing it on a blog. Or bad when someone says its still normative today--the feeding the hungry and clothing the naked, that is--in such a way as to call into question justification by grace alone...

Read Edwards for yourself...

(Tim, w/thanks to Jake) For a number of years, Yale's been hard at it putting the works of Jonathan Edwards online, freely available for hoi polloi who can no longer afford the critical edition now running around $110 per volume

. It's an ill wind that blows nobody some good, though, and I suspect the high price of the hard copies is part of the reason all of us are now able to search the volumes online. So I'm happy.

Don't allow anyone else to give your Edwards to you. When I was at seminary in New England, I took a course in Edwards' works under Richard Lovelace. One night (it was a small evening seminar), I well remember coming to the session with great anticipation, having read a good portion of Edward's harder truths that week. But then, Dr. Lovelace started the class with a statement to the effect that "Here, Edwards goes a little bit off the deep edge, engaging in his well-known penchant for negativity."

Yes, yes; that's the problem with Edwards. He's so negative you get an ulcer reading him. What we need today is something positive that people can relate to; something that will give people hope and not lead them into despair.

Well, if you've read Edwards, you know that there are few men in the history of the Church who are more...

Submergent men innoculate souls against the Gospel...

(Tim) It's hard reading the old guys. Think about Jonathan Edwards preaching any of his sermons to his flock in Northampton--any sermon at all, just pick one. In those days, the church wasn't a thinly sliced part of the town's demographic. Being reformed didn't mean smoking cigars, drinking single malts, keeping one eye on the Dow Jones and the other on the R. C. Sproul video. Rich and poor, young and old alike sat under Edwards' preaching and understood him.

Today, even pastors who spend our lives working with words are challenged just trying to read Edwards. If we'd been there to listen to him, the sermon's length, vocabulary, logic, and the prominence of biblical terrors would have left us stupefied. We would have left the church-house shaking our heads and clucking our disapproval.

The old guys require the reader to be literate and to have a heart knowledge of the Word of God. But who has the patience for such work today? And what congregation would put up with it?

Submergent wolves know this...

The pastor's divisive calling...

God has ordained the Sacraments to divide men...

(Tim) From The Huffington Post, here's some commentary on the congregational applause that greeted Senator McCain's statement at the Rick Warren pow-wow, that life begins at conception:

These are church people. What they say and

what they do often doesn't match....

As loudly as they may have applauded McCain's straight talk about

abortion, a lot of women in that audience have had abortions. A lot of

their mothers, their sisters and their daughters have too.

How do I know?

I know because evangelicals who've studied each other have shown

again and again that evangelical behavior differs very little from that

of the rest of the country.

The writer is correct to say the church is filled with women who have murdered their babies. Even if you don't believe the pollsters, do the simple math and you'll see that the over two-thirds of Americans who claim to be Christians have to account for the murder of millions of the babies murdered since 1973's Roe v. Wade. And although the writer doesn't mention it, the church is also filled with the men who fathered those children and demanded or acceded to their murder.

Acknowledging this, we need to keep some things in mind.

First, regardless of how they identify themselves spiritually or

theologically here on earth (membership in the PCA, for instance), like

unrepentant adulterers and thieves, murderers who refuse to confess

their blood-guilt and ask for God's mercy will not be in heaven. As the

Apostle Paul puts it so bluntly:

Or do you not

know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not

be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor

effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor

drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of

God. (1Corinthians 6:9,10)

Second, as a minister

of the Word and Sacrament, the essence of Pastor Warren's calling is to

be as constant and explicit in making this dogmatic pronouncement as

the Apostle Paul in the Word of God. He cannot fail to discipline those

who, while murdering their unborn children, attend his church and take

the Lord's Supper there.

Principles for Good Shepherd Band's leadership...


(Tim: from left, Philip Moyer, Mick Buschbacher, Andrew Henry, Jim Hogue, Jody Killingsworth) Church of the Good Shepherd is served by a wonderful group of modern-day sons of Asaph, church musicians who serve the Lord and their brothers and sisters in Christ faithfully each week, leading us in worship. They call themselves the Good Shepherd Band and on their MySpace page they've posted a statement of the musical principles we follow in our worship. To listen to their latest music, check out their web site. How our faith is strengthened through their hard work!

We believe that music used for worship

should arise from the context of the local church and should be

essentially pastoral: it should rebuke as well as encourage, it should

teach as well as emote. Consumer driven worship has its finger more on

the pulse of the pocketbook than the worshipper’s true spiritual

condition. Consumerism is driven by the mantra “The customer is always

right! Whatever the customer wants, the customer gets!” Apply that

principle to preaching and you lose preaching. Apply it to worship and

you get CCM.

We believe that music used for worship is

obligated to declare the whole counsel of God. It should lead people to

praise God both for His “Yes” and His “No”...

Just down the street from our church-houses...

"For from the least of them even to the greatest of them, Everyone is greedy for gain, And from the prophet even to the priest Everyone deals falsely. They have healed the brokenness of My people superficially, Saying, 'Peace, peace,' But there is no peace. Were they ashamed because of the abomination they have done? They were not even ashamed at all; They did not even know how to blush. Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; At the time that I punish them, They shall be cast down," says the LORD. (Jeremiah 6:13-15)

(Tim) A few years after Yale was founded, a student spoke critically of one of Yale's tutors saying, "He has no more grace than this chair." Yale's response was swift: The student was expelled and, despite his apology (contra Wikipedia), Yale refused to reinstate him. Centuries later, Yale named one of her Divinity School buildings for this student. It's the only building ever named for a student who was expelled.

One of this student's contemporaries also attended Yale a few years earlier when Yale was just being chartered. At that time, Jonathan Edwards himself was caught up in the discipline of Yale's tutors. Their infraction?

They were promoting Arminian theology. Yale had been founded because of Harvard's betrayal of Christian doctrine, so no one involved in Yale's founding was about to let it happen again.

What does Yale discipline today?

This past year, a Yale art student regularly impregnated herself (artificially, with a syringe), then killed the babies she never knew by taking oral abortifacients--all of which she carefully documented with a video camera for display at a Yale art exhibition. Yale's administration was quite embarrassed and released a statement...

Covenant children and the emasculation of the church, with a tribute to my father...

…Abraham will surely become a great and mighty nation, and in him all the nations of the earth will be blessed… For I have chosen him, so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring upon Abraham what He has spoken about him. (Genesis 18:18,19)

(Tim) When the Lord entered into a covenant with Abraham, He was pleased for that covenant’s fulfillment to be dependent upon Abraham “command(ing) his children and his household… to keep the way of the Lord….” Still today, it pleases God to use means to accomplish his will, and he has declared the Church should be built up, instructed, and guarded by men—not angels. Where those men are missing or their work is soft and effeminate, the Church has suffered the removal of her vital manhood; she has been emasculated. (n. 1)

When we speak of the emasculation of the church, though, we are not saying she has been robbed of her Bridegroom nor that her adoptive Father has cast her out of his household. Christ is “faithful over God’s house as a son” (Hebrews 3:6 RSV), (n. 2)  and we have his promise that the gates of hell shall not prevail against her. So then, the Church can never be emasculated in any definitive sense, even though her officers may be characterized by a womanly softness and sentimentality.

Such, though, is the church of our time. About twenty years ago I heard Elisabeth Elliot Gren say, “The problem with the church today is that it’s filled with emasculated men who don’t know how to say ‘no’ to a woman.” At the time, I was floored by Elliot’s audacity, but now I realize she was guilty of understatement. Christian men today have a problem saying “no” to almost anyone—not just women. Preachers, elders, and Sunday school teachers place an overwhelming emphasis on the positive and have an almost insurmountable aversion to the negative.

In the mid-eighties, my father was asked to represent the pro-life side at a campus-wide dialogue on abortion held at the Stupe, Wheaton College’s student union. He began his presentation with the statement, “I am not here to represent the pro-life, but the anti-abortion side of this issue..."

Speaking positively about the difficult parts of shepherds' work...

(Tim) Here's a response to this comment left by a reader: "It seems that many in the complementarian community spend almost all their energy on the negative side of the equation."

Feminism is toxic and its relentless attack on Scripture and the Church doesn't give faithful shepherds a lot of opportunity to take their preaching and teaching somewhere else, avoiding this breach. We must focus our defensive work where the good deposit is under attack. In response to people complaining of the frequency of his preaching against fornication, Spurgeon said once that he'd stop preaching against it when people stopped doing it.

Pastors today aren't preaching or teaching against this heresy. And when we do, we do it half-heartedly making it clear to our flock and other shepherds that we wish the need for battle would go away because we're men of peace and love and grace, and we really don't enjoy beating up on women.

Now I may not have captured our critic's sentiments, personally, but from many years experience I know I've hit the mainstream. So think where we'd be if Calvin or Luther or Knox of any of hundreds of other shepherds had tried the positive approach in the darkness of Rome's shadow across the Middle Ages? What if Calvin had written his Institutes without the central thrust of opposing and exposing Rome? Would anyone read them?

The real issue isn't that many within the complementarian camp spend almost all our energy on the negative side of this equation, but that we live in an evil day much like the day of the Apostle Paul and Athanasius and Peter Waldo and John Calvin and Jonathan Edwards and John Newton and J. Gresham Machen and Martyn Lloyd-Jones and Francis Schaeffer, and that our work must follow theirs in being faithful with God's "yes" and His "no." And if our only "no" is said in opposing those who don't say "yes" often enough to suit our tastes, we're not really saying "no," are we?

Evangelical missions leader: "Muslims worship the true God."

(Tim, thanks to Jeff) Recently we published a short piece by Lucas Weeks critiquing the syncretistic statement signed by a number of prominent evangelicals titled, "A Common Plea." Others have also been critical of the statement and those who signed it, bringing a few (including Wheaton College's president, the Rev. Dr. Duane Litfin) to withdraw their names. When John Piper voiced his own criticism of the statement, he asked his friends to respond.

Unfortunately, Rick Love of Frontiers (an evangelical mission to Muslims) did so, and promptly dug his hole even deeper...

Sermons yesterday and today...

(Tim, w/thanks to Dave M.) Here's a good explanation why "modern readers" will find Jonathan Edwards' sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, "a difficult text." The explanation is from the most recent E-mail newsletter produced by The Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale University:

Jonathan Edwards' (in)famous (sic) sermon, "Sinners in

the Hands of an Angry God," is among the most anthologized pieces of

American literature. It is taught in most American literature survey

courses in high school and college as the classic example of a Puritan

sermon. As a result, it forms the only impression that most people have

of Jonathan Edwards.

In spite of the obvious benefits to the legacy of Jonathan Edwards

from this wide anthologizing, "Sinners" is a difficult text to engage,

understand, and teach. The language is relentless and challenging. Its

form and content is unfamiliar to most modern readers. Most of all, the

text itself is specifically designed to provoke fear and discomfort in

its hearers. All of these factors contribute to making "Sinners" a

difficult text to read in 2008.

But difficult texts are often important texts that careful study.

While "Sinners" is not representative of the full orb of Jonathan

Edwards' thought, it is Edwards' most famous text and will no doubt

continue to be studied and taught for many years to come.

Pastors and elders, would the souls under your care understand Edwards' sermon, or would they also find it "difficult?"

Was the preaching of Jonathan Edwards from heaven or earth?

(Tim) Preparing to preach tomorrow on Matthew 21:23 ff., the question the chief priests and elders of the people asked of Jesus reminded me of the attack of Charles Chauncy on Jonathan Edwards and the other preachers of the Great Awakening:

When (Jesus) entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to Him while He was teaching, and said, “By what authority are You doing these things, and who gave You this authority?” (Matthew 21:23)

Isn't this always the question the status quo, official Christianity, the powers that be, or Kierkegaard's "Christendom" asks of true heralds of Christ: "By what authority are you doing these things?"

So no, although there are clear and significant problems that accompany bypassing proper authority, particularly when it's ecclesiastical authority, the dangers of letting that authority silence you when you are a herald of the Gospel of Jesus Christ are much greater...


Edwards on false humility and the absence of manliness...

(Tim: a dear Christian brother writes:) I'm currently reading through Charity and Its Fruits by Jonathan Edwards and, in his Lecture VII, "The Spirit of Charity is an Humble Spirit," he mentions two things that I hope will be an encouragement...

[h]umility disposes men to be of a yielding spirit to others, ready, for the sake of peace, and to gratify others, to comply in many things with their inclinations, and to yield to their judgments wherein they are not inconsistent with truth and holiness. A truly humble man is inflexible in nothing but in the cause of his Lord and Master, which is the cause of truth and virtue. In this he is inflexible, because God and conscience require it. But in things of lesser moment, and which do not involve his principles as a follower of Christ, and in things that only concern his own private interests, he is apt to yield to others.

I feel that many evangelicals have no way of connecting the dots between humility and inflexibility in "the cause of truth and virtue." Not to draw too fine a point, but I think it is also worth noting that Edwards maintains this inflexiblity not only for God's sake, but also for conscience's sake. Conscience is constrained by the Word of God. I fear that there are far too few whose conscience is pricked by or who would blush at an easy departure from the inconveniences of Holy Scripture.

Two-volume Jonathan Edwards set for $39...

(Tim) Despite all the brilliant scholars, today, who show they're in vogue by dissing Edwards for his purported "immediatism" and "populism," my dear friends pay, them no heed. No heed at all.

Rather, put a finger in their eye by ordering Hendrickson's (thanks for the correction, David Gray) two-volume set of Edwards' works at the great price of $40 now being offered by Cumberland Valley Bible Bookstore, a place we like to do business. Drink from the well men like John Piper have been drinking from for many years, now. Apart from a Bible, it's hard imagining any Christian work you could buy that would provide the same bang for the buck. This is spiritual meat for your soul and the souls of your loved ones.

And by the way, the J. C. Ryle set on the Gospels they're also offering is some of the best devotional, expositional reading I've ever done. If you want only one set of commentaries on the Gospels, get this one.