Jonathan Edwards and the Ministry of the Word: A Model of Faith and Thought

Nathan A. Finn
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However, the particular expression of his Trinitarianism was prompted by a critical engagement with some less orthodox elements of his Enlightenment context. To be perfectly good is to incline to and delight in making another happy in the same proportion as it is happy itself, that is, to delight as much in communicating happiness to another as in enjoying of it himself Edwards found an apologetic for the doctrine of the Trinity in the concept of divine communicativeness.

Edwards used divine communicativeness to solve a theological problem that fascinated him throughout his career: why did a self-sufficient God create? Thus every aspect of reality—nature and history as well as Scripture—was suffused with revelatory content and intended for joyful human appropriation. Why, for instance, was he so concerned with the religious affections, not only the treatise of that name but how he was concerned to convey truth using words and ideas that would tend to stir the appropriate affections?

A Model of Faith and Thought

Divine communicativeness was the foundation of his distinctive project. Indeed, Edwards thinks that intelligent beings were created with the very purpose of perceiving and taking delight in it. Perhaps an example would be useful. Traditionally, the beatific vision means that the saints in heaven are able to see God in some way. Edwards affirms this basic concept.

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But here is the distinctive Edwardsean twist: he thinks that one of the main ways this happens is that the saints in heaven observe the progress of redemptive history on earth. It seemed intuitively clear to him that 'glorified spirits' would have fresh input into this process in the form of new ideas.

Divine Communicativeness and Harmony

Thus, the saints and angels would forever know God more, love him more and enjoy him more, in an eternally upward spiral. The Scripture tells us that there is joy in heaven and amongst [the angels] upon the conversion of one sinner; and why not among the saints? Edwards thinks that the heavenly state is progressive and that the revelation funding this progression comes, at least partially, from witnessing redemptive history.

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See, C. But either in the calling of the Gentiles, in and after the days of the apostles, or in the future glorious enlargement of the church of God in the latter ages of the world. Log In Sign Up. Edwards identified several Antichrists in history. But if they are not, then they aren't truly ours and we cannot be held responsible for them. In the 30th sermon of series of The History of the Work of Redemption, Edwards proclaims the ultimate goal of the work of redemption is for the Church as follows: Hence we learn how happy a society the Church of Christ is: for all this great work is for them. Such were the fruits of his lifelong habit of rising at a.

This concept forms an important part of the beautiful sermon Edwards preached for the funeral of David Brainerd. Here we find Edwards explaining the blessedness of heaven, where the great reward will be our intimate conversation with Christ. And one of the main topics of this conversation will be the state of affairs on earth.

In other words, the saints in heaven are not just left to themselves to figure out the sometimes difficult-to-discern harmony of redemptive history. Christ himself interprets it for them. First of all, he recounts the discord that previously prevailed in his mind between the scriptural teaching of divine sovereignty and his own human reason:. It used to appear like a horrible doctrine to me. Moreover, it was not that Edwards had merely achieved a correct notional understanding of doctrinal truth. Trinitarian communication involves love and joy as well, and we see that Edwards is careful to add that his rational reconciliation was accompanied by the appropriate affectional response: 'I have often since, not only had a conviction, but a delightful conviction. But now, on the contrary, it rejoiced me. The sensory input is exactly the same before and after, but the supernaturally regenerate heart is able to appreciate the beauty of which it was previously insensible or where it had previously perceived dissonance.

I had then, and at other times, the greatest delight in the holy Scriptures, of any book whatsoever. Oftentimes in reading it, every word seemed to touch my heart.

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I felt an harmony between something in my heart, and those sweet and powerful words. I seemed often to see so much light, exhibited by every sentence, and such a refreshing ravishing food communicated, that I could not get along in reading.

Jonathan Edwards and the Ministry of the Word

He saw 'such refreshing ravishing food communicated …' in the fresh knowledge of God it conveyed to him. Notice also the words 'I felt an harmony between something in my heart, and those sweet and powerful words. And of course, Edwards does not neglect the affectional dimension; his main point was to say that reading the Bible gave him the 'greatest delight. Finally, Edwards explains how history and current events were grist for his apprehension of the harmony of reality. When I have read histories of past ages, the pleasantest thing in all my reading has been, to read of the kingdom of Christ being promoted.

But there is perhaps an even brighter note sounded when Edwards talks about his attitude toward current events of redemptive history:. I used to be earnest to read public news-letters, mainly for that end; to see if I could not find some news favorable to the interests of religion in the world. Edwards looked at the events of his own day expecting to see how Christ was advancing his kingdom, an activity he thought the saints in heaven were simultaneously occupied with.

Jonathan Edwards and the Ministry of the Word: A Model of Faith and Thought

This is why Edwards wanted the world to know about the Awakenings of his day, whether through his revival writings or through the news periodicals he promoted. To summarize the message of the 'Personal Narrative,' the believing soul is enabled to integrate all aspects of reality in a delightful experience of divine harmony. All the media of divine revelation are in perfect accord in a balanced exercise of head and heart—knowledge, love and joy—which is then expressed back to God and to humanity.

I think our theory regarding divine communication and the human appreciation of it helps to make sense of this important document. Edwards was many things, but above all, he understood himself as a minister.

God's Sovereignty in the Salvation of Men - Jonathan Edwards Sermon

Edwards draws the connection between his theology of divine communication and the interpretive role of ministers in 'The Great Concern of a Watchman of Souls. At this point, Edwards was knowingly departing from his direct inheritance. And I believe that those who have [been] thus eminently instrumental of carrying the blessed work of the gospel in this world, will be employed in still assisting and promoting the happiness of the saints in a glorified state Ministers—or at least those that have been 'eminently instrumental' in the work of the gospel—will continue to serve in very much the same spiritual capacity in heaven as they did on earth.

It seems Edwards could not imagine a heaven lacking the services of the human conduits that he believed were so crucial to the work of divine communication in this world. Finally, we consider the unfinished 'Great Works.

Jonathan Edwards and the Ministry of the Word: A Model of Faith and Thought

Indeed, much of the discussion tends to focus on the significant discontinuities between the 'Rational Account' and the 'History of the Work of Redemption. If it existed, that thread would surely be a potential candidate for a theory on Edwards.

Many scholars agree that Jonathan Edwards was the greatest thinker of his era and one of the seminal thinkers in American history. While this is undoubtedly true, it misses the reality that Edwards was a pastor-theologian; vocationally, the accent is on the former. While Edwards wrote significant theological and philosophical treatises that continue to influence Christian thought, his primary medium for communicating his ideas was the sermon.

Among the writings of Jonathan Edwards, both published and unpublished, his sermons are by far the most numerous. Indeed, sermons alone make up well over half his literary corpus…. Edwards was first and foremost a preacher and pastor leading souls to the truth as he saw it and interpreting the religious experiences of his listeners. His primary tool in achieving these goals was the sermon, the spoken word of God, which in the Reformed tradition that shaped him was the centerpiece of worship and religious edification pp.

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Jonathan Edwards and the Ministry of the Word: A Model of Faith and Thought [ Douglas A. Sweeney] on *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. Matthew Harmon reviews Douglas A. Sweeney's 'Jonathan Edwards and the Ministry of the Word: A Model of Faith and Thought' (IVP ().

Volumes 10 , 14 , 17 , 19 , 22 , and 25 of the Yale Edition of The Works of Jonathan Edwards are devoted to his sermons. Jonathan Edwards pastoral ministry Preaching. Email Not published. RT nathanafinn: Though a great theologian, Jonathan Edwards was first and foremost a preacher of the Word.