Paul's Passing Thoughts

Paris, Prayer, and the Evangelical State of Islam

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on November 17, 2015

project-2016-logo-4Let me clarify something in the beginning of this post: The Paris terrorist attack was NOT God’s will. Secondly, God didn’t use ISIS to judge Paris or France in general. Thirdly, stop praying that God will spare America from an attack if “it be thy will.” Trust me, it’s not God’s will that anyone dies ever. God hates death, period. And lastly, but by no means leastly, stop warning America to repent lest it suffer the same judgment from God. Westboro Baptist church much?

Why do Protestants, Baptists, Catholics, and evangelicals in general pray like this? Well, I could push the easy button and say it’s because we are among the most ignorant misinformed people on the face of the earth, and that would be true, but the fact is that these prayers reflect the worldview and doctrine of the Protestant forefathers.

What was that worldview? Simply stated, the material world is evil, and of course that includes material beings. Like all pagan religions founded on the garden disputation, the goal is freedom to perceive well-being without any real participation in it other than the disparaging of all things material. If you have been following our Heidelberg Disputation series, you know Luther believed that ALL spiritual perception comes through suffering. Ignorant evangelicals deny this theses out of hand because purist Reformation ideology has been watered down over time, but they at least function according to the original principles because as the saying goes, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” Hence, these prayers are grounded in the ancient idea that all things material are evil, and to the point that it is destroyed, goodness is perceived and experienced though not effected by any act of the homosapien, e.g., “I didn’t do it! The Holy Spirit did it!” Sound familiar?

Therefore, knowing that it is our “natural” inclination to avoid the suffering that would do us good, we take “not my will Father, but your will” (which is supposedly suffering) completely out of context and invoke it into prayer such as the aforementioned. It was certainly God’s will that Christ suffered, but that doesn’t make suffering a good thing, nor does it make suffering the primary epistemology. This bypasses God’s just character and His demand for justice in the world. So consequently there is little justice in the church accordingly, and it is replaced with “forgive others as Christ forgave you,” also taken out of context. Injustice is tolerated in the church for three simple reasons: 1. It’s God’s will 2. Suffering dissuades focus on worldly things and forces us to focus on God (Luther/Calvin) 3. Only suffering leads to increased spiritual well-being. So, yes, what happened to you when you were raped by deacon Don in the hallway closet was absolutely horrible! But…it is God’s will for you to suffer, we should forgive others the way we are forgiven, and if this event becomes public the church will be harmed, and per the Reformers as well, the church is the only way to heaven. If you don’t suck it up and forgive deacon Don, “people will go to hell and their blood will be on your hands.” Sound familiar?

As I am well reminded in my present research for the TANC 2016 project, the undisputed Doctor of the Church for both Catholics and Protestants is Saint Augustine who was an unabashed Platonist. It’s just this simple: Protestantism is fundamentally a Platonist religion, this is simply unambiguous history, and though most Protestants are unaware of this, the fact is often revealed in their mindless truisms, viz, stuff that happens really isn’t done by us if it’s a good work, God preordains death and disaster because everyone deserves hell and anything short of that is “grace,” and a general indifference to justice accordingly. Furthermore, this can also be seen in the average parishioner’s aversion to knowledge as unspiritual. This is a consummate Platonist principle; mankind cannot comprehend reality, and needs preordained gifted mediators to lead others unquestioned. In other words, knowledge is arrogance and refuses to “submit itself to God’s anointed.” This is right out of Plato’s philosophical playbook.

Take note of something if you will: while the present-day evangelical church is hellbent on following the Neo-Calvinist movement, note carefully their commentary on all things ISIS. Have you noticed the lack of outrage? In fact, how many posts would you like to be referred to that actually have a hint of endorsement of ISIS from the who’s who of the Neo-Calvinist movement such as John Piper and Al Mohler? Why is this? Because the fundamental worldview is the same: 1. The material world is evil 2. God preordains seers to obtain unity 3. Unity is based on the submission to authority granted to the seers by God 4. To enforce the orthodoxy of the seers is “just war.” Listen, whether Catholic or Protestant, history shows that enforcing orthodoxy by the sword has always been the policy of both. Read the Westminster Confession for yourself rather than taking the pastor’s word for what’s in there. Besides, he’s only telling you what Al Mohler and John Piper told him.

And look, enforced orthodoxy is not only a Platonist fundamental, but has always been, and always will be a Protestant fundamental principle of orthodoxy. The American Revolution screwed that up, and hence, the Neo-Calvinist disdain for American nationalism. Yes, yes, I know the shtick, we have made Americanism a god, blah, blah, blah, but that is entirely disingenuous. Protestantism, like ISIS, is totally all about enforcing orthodoxy through the state, and ALWAYS has been, and ALWAYS will be. The tension between its church-state lust and filthy America is heard in this prayer…

“Hey America, you better ‘repent’ and turn to God (orthodoxy) or he will judge you! See, see, see what happened on 9/11? You guys better listen to us and do what we say!”

Yes, in the minds of the Neo-Calvinists, and they have as much said it outright, 9/11 was a backdoor enforcement of Protestant orthodoxy akin to the long lost glory days of the Protestant church-state under Augustine who they claim as “the one who returned us to the ancient faith” (B.B. Warfield). Indeed he did. And yes indeed, if America doesn’t start letting God’s anointed run the show, we can expect terror attacks in the future. Read their posts carefully; what did Al Mohler mean when he said “one man’s terrorist is another man’s patriot”?  Creepy much?

ISIS and evangelicals make strange bedfellows, but nevertheless, the tie that binds can be heard in their prayers.


TANC 2015 – Susan Dohse, Session 3 – Jonathan Edwards: Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

Posted in Uncategorized by pptmoderator on October 5, 2015

Jonathan Edward’s  famous sermon Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God delivered to a congregation in Enfield, Connecticut on July 8, 1741, is often the only thing written by him some will ever read. American literature courses in high school and college include excerpts, and maybe the entire sermon in literature anthologies. It is usually presented to portray the awfulness of the Puritans and their Calvinistic religion. This was not the only hell fire sermon he delivered, yet, it is the one selected to represent Edwards and the Great Awakening movevent.  Contrary to YouTube and others who do dramatic presentations of this sermon, Edwards was not a pulpit pounding, foaming at the mouth, shouting minister. All of his messages were delivered in his low voice, almost monotone, with little emotion.

The old Puritan Way was eroding in New England for political and demographic reasons. They were no longer the majority population and most people living in 1720  who were born in the Congregational churches took it seriously, but did not regard the ministry or church doctrine with the respect their forebearers had felt.  Congregationalism wasn’t dead; most Congregationalists were still very concerned with their souls.  They just did not respond passionately to traditional Congregationalism anymore.  Voila! Enter the First of the Awakenings sometimes referred to as the Small Awakening. The revivals caught on. They addressed the people’s desire to be passionate about religion again.  In the absence of a literal wilderness to fight against, New Englanders in the 1730’s and 40’s fought against a spiritual wilderness. Preachers such as Whitfield and Edwards fought against the apathy and religious complacency that had replaced the Puritan religious zeal. Puritan religious zeal was more and more being transferred to politics.

Edwards appreciated the religious revivals because it brought people back to church and got them passionate about religion again. After all, true conversion was connected to the church.  Edwards being the theo-philosopher, and amateur psychologist of his time, was given opportunity to study and document the psychological steps involved in religious conversion.  Pre-occupied by this documentation, he did not realize that many who came to church in fear of damnation, did not come to believe that they were saved and fell into despair. Some took their own lives, such as Edwards’ uncle,  Joseph Hawley, who slit his throat in despair of his soul’s damnation.  Is there any question as to why this awakening faded in 1735?

It was sparked back to life in 1740 when the famous English Anglican minister George Whitfield answered Edwards’ request to come preach in Northampton. Whitfield convinced Edwards to preach the full revival.  What some do not know is the sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” was delivered by Edwards at least four times to four different congregations. He studied the make-up and psychology of each audience, and made changes to the sermon to accommodate each one. The first time he delivered the sermon was in his home church of Northampton and he was able to give the full sermon without interruption.  He repeated the sermon at Enfield, but his preaching reduced the audience to wailing, and loud crying, that drowned out the voice of Edwards before he could arrive at his hopeful conclusion.

In the sermon, he crafted his words, illustrations, and metaphors to inspire terror, to lead his listeners systematically and authoritatively to repent and humble themselves before the grace of a loving God in the hope of obtaining salvation.   His sermons were never concerned with persuading sinners to come to Christ or accept salvation. For the devout Calvinist only the arbitrary election of God determined who would be saved. (Voices of Democracy (2006)

The puzzles of his sermon:

  • He tells people they are in immediate danger of hell, urges them not to continue in their sinful ways, and seek a remedy for their sin. As a Calvinist, he cannot tell them to accept Christ and be saved—he doesn’t believe that. So the remedy is very vague, ie, “Therefore, let every one that is out of Christ, now awake and fly from the wrath to come.”
  •  The emotional nature of his sermon is a puzzle. Edwards disliked hysterical emotionalism that was often connected to these revivals. Remember the Three Bears principle.  He did not approve or encourage his listeners to cry out in church, throw themselves on the floor, or any other dramatic thing. But he could not get the congregation to calm down so that he could finish his message.
  • Puritan ministers usually did not deliver hellfire sermons. He usually focused on the process of searching for God’s grace, the technical points of how to read God’s word, and how to live godly lives.   They were not focused on hell and damnation because he assumed that most people in the audience did not know their state and so haranguing them about hell would be counter-productive.
  • Edwards tells them that very few humans are saved, and even says that most of their friends and loved ones who have died, are undoubtedly in hell. It’s puzzling that he admonishes them to seek the remedy.
  • It’s puzzling that being a Calvinist purist he included Arminian ideas: that God can change your heart (the Puritans believed that to be impossible because God never changed his creation); that humans can become good (Puritans thought that impossible); and that God can decide to save someone previously condemned to hell (again, Puritans believed your fate was determined before the world was created). He repeats that there is nothing humans can do to avoid Hell, and then says humans have to do something, ie, “Thus it will be with you that are in an unconverted state, if you continue in it.”  Saying if you continue in it clearly implies that you can choose not to continue in your sin, and thus can do something to save yourself.

It makes you wonder if Edwards would be surprised to know that “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” would seal his everlasting fame. It was only one of his hellfire revival sermons, and not indicative of the bulk of his work. If he had his druthers, he would likely have chosen his writings on the conversion process, the qualifications one needed for full church membership, even his study of spiders and rainbows to have lived on in popularity instead.

Regardless of this sermon, let’s take a look at the “afterglow” of Jonathan Edwards’ legacy.

Mark Driscoll preaches that God personally hates you and preached a sermon from Mars Hill that drew much comment and complaint.  Rick Holland in his book Uneclipsing the Son tells the reader that God is rightfully angry with us and at us, ie, “Our sin draws His wrath like a magnet draws steel.”  Jonathan Edwards’ sermon depicts an angry God, as does his treatise The End of the Wicked; and Driscoll, Holland and Piper follow in the bend of their beloved icon.

John Piper’s version of Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God after the bridge collapse in Minneapolis: “That is God’s message in the collapse of this bridge. That is his most merciful message: there is still time to turn from sin and unbelief and destruction for those of us who live. If we could see the eternal calamity from which he is offering escape we would hear this as the most precious message in the world. The meaning of the collapse of this bridge is that we are sinners and need to repent.”

Those of the Calvinist bent inherited from John Calvin and Jonathan Edwards a picture of God who is constantly angry about something or someone and use portions of Scripture such as Nahum 1 as proof texts: “The Lord is a jealous and avenging God; the Lord takes vengeance and is filled with wrath. The Lord takes vengeance on his foes, and vents his wrath against his enemies.”

We fail to appreciate the difference between an angry God and a God who gets angry.  Jonathan Edwards is the poster child for the angry God group, ie, “The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked.”

According to a study which analyzed the results of a Gallup survey, belief in an angry God is “significantly associated with an increase in social anxiety, paranoia, obsession, and compulsion.”  When you are told repeatedly that you are totally depraved, worthless, and deserve God’s wrath, your mental, emotional, and spiritual health is in peril.  Who would want to join in a relationship with someone who is angry with you all the time? Edwards’ God is bound by His anger, and according to the theology of this American icon, has no choice but to be constantly angry at mankind, that’s His fundamental nature.

Consider this: God is not an angry God; God is a God who sometimes gets angry. A God who gets angry when anger is needed, like we see in Isaiah. God is angry at the hypocrisy of his children. He is angry with their evil deeds and ungodly behavior. But in His anger He gives the remedy: “[w]ash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight; stop doing wrong. Learn to do right, seek justice, defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.” (Isaiah 1:16-17) Quite a different remedy from the one of Edwards, isn’t it? “Therefore let everyone who is out of Christ fly from the wrath to come. The wrath of God is  now undoubtedly hanging over a great number of you.”

Consider this:  churches justify the spiritual abuse of their members because they work out of a place of anger, fear, and hate, thinking this is how God wants them to act. This is what ministers have been taught over the years, and this is what they teach to their congregations. So they pour out their wrath from a never dry well because they are embodying in themselves the type of God they believe in—a God who is fundamentally angry, and who has to be constantly angry otherwise He won’t be the omnipotent Being they need him to be, and want to be themselves, powerful and angry. (Zack Hunt)

We need God to get angry. When He sees oppression, injustice, spiritual abuse and tyranny in His house, we need Him to get angry because this is not the way He created us to be. God is not an angry God who wants His people to suffer, God is a God who gets angry when He sees His people suffer.

As believers, we are under the law of love, not under the law of condemnation. Let’s rejoice in that truth, let’s raise our hands and shout Amen to that truth of Scripture, not elevate dead men to hero status. Let’s refuse to make their false doctrines, their misrepresentations of God, and misuse of God’s Word as mission statements and church constitutions.

The insanity must end. We must continue to work to end it.  John 17:17 says, “Father, sanctify them through the truth, thy word is truth.”

Session 3, Blog TalkRadio Podcast

TANC 2015, Susan Dohse, Session 1 – Jonathan Edwards: An Introduction to the Man of Many Words

Posted in Uncategorized by pptmoderator on September 23, 2015

TANC LOGOI love history, and although I give my dear husband fits when I am preparing for our conferences, this studying and doing research does give me an element of enjoyment. This is also one of my preventive measures to staving off Alzheimer’s – engaging in mentally challenging activities. However, I am motivated by truth. That is the mission of TTANC, The Truth About New Calvinism.

For our new guests either here or in cyberspace, I will quickly introduce myself. My name is Susan Deborah Dohse. I was married to Wayne St. Denis for thirty-six years, and together we had three sons: Timothy, Benjamin, and Philip. Wayne passed away in December of 2009 of congestive heart failure and diabetes. The Lord blessed me with a new husband and so I lost my “sainthood” when I married Paul 4 years ago. I actually married him twice. We eloped on January 1st and, April 9th, had a public marriage ceremony to announce our union. I am in my 42nd year of teaching, and my present title is that of a Developmental Specialist. This means I get to play with babies whose ages range from birth to age three. I have taught every grade except Kindergarten and the first fifteen years of my teaching career was at Xenia Christian. Two children were added to my clan, Heather, and Paul Jr.  Together, Paul and I have four grandchildren, Blayne, Benjamin’s son, whom you will meet on Saturday, and Hannah, Jacob, and Joanna, who live in Puerto Rico with their missionary parents Heather and David.

If I were to take a survey such as what might be taken for the game show Family Feud, and ask people to name one thing they know about Jonathan Edwards, here is what I believe the top answers might be:

1) Who?
2) He wrote that anti-war song, Sunshine.
3) Wasn’t he the man who fell into the hands of an angry God?
4) I know, he woke up during that Great Awakening.
5) He’s running for President, isn’t he?

The young, restless, and reformed call him their “home boy”, and pastors elevate him to equal importance of the Apostle Paul. There is a Jonathan Edwards Institute in Princeton, New Jersey, a Jonathan Edwards Classical Academy in Whites Creek, Tennessee, a Jonathan Edwards Conference held by John Piper, Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale University which houses all his known writings, a Jonathan Edwards College at Yale, and a Jonathan Edwards Gordon Conwell Seminary. The list can go on. Just Google it. This Puritan minister of the 1700’s is immortalized, idolized, and almost canonized. The Puritan Board Blog holds Edwards in high esteem, and why wouldn’t they? It’s the Puritan Board. They extol his life and elevate his teachings to be on par with Scripture. John Piper rarely has an original sermon because of his heavy reliance on the theology and epistemology and writings of Jonathan Edwards. “Alongside the Bible, Edwards became the compass of my theological studies,” writes Piper. Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones made this claim: “I am tempted perhaps foolishly, to compare the Puritans to the Alps, Luther and Calvin to the Himalayas, and Jonathan Edwards to Mt. Everest. He has always been to me a man most like the Apostle Paul.” Author Stephen Nichols speaks of a lecturer who stated, “Next to Scripture, Jonathan Edwards’s Religious Affections stands as the single most important book for any Christian to grapple with.”

He is called the Prince of Pastors, America’s greatest theo-philosopher, and America’s Augustine. Do I even try to say something the least bit negative about this golden boy of the Puritans?

So, the Why question. Why study history in general and Jonathan Edwards in particular? We live in the here and now, the present. We are supposed to be planning for the future, our retirements, Christmas, our next conference, lunch. We plan for and perhaps worry much over the future. With all that we have to do today, and with all that we have to look forward to in the future, why bother with discussing someone from the past? Consider all the demands that press on us daily and the anticipation of what is. Peter Stearns said, “Any subject of study needs justification.” Why is Jonathan Edwards worth our study, worth your attention? What is the justification for my sharing what I have learned about this man?

Let’s look at it from this perspective: How can we evaluate war if the nation is at peace –unless we use historical material? How can we understand the role that beliefs play in shaping church history, and family life if we don’t study the impact of such historical figures as John Calvin, Martin Luther, Augustine, and Jonathan Edwards? Let’s use this analogy: Jonathan Edwards is our laboratory and the data learned from him and what he taught serves as the evidence in figuring out the answers to other Wh questions: Why is Protestantism, i.e. Christianity, pursuing New-Calvinism? What factors contribute to this resurgence? What elements of Protestantism persist despite change? When we unfold his record, it could provide some light on how New Calvinism works, and the road it is taking us down.

Jonathan Edwards, destined from birth to be a Puritan minister. His parents, Timothy and Esther Edwards, hearty Calvinists, believed in predestination and the sovereign will of God, but were not disposed to helping God define the direction, shape the will, and mold the mind of their only son, Jonathan. He had no other calling but that of a Puritan minister. His mother, father, and older sisters made sure that he would follow in the path of their father, Timothy, and grandfather, Solomon Stoddard. He was the fifth child of eleven, and the only boy. He was extremely loved and doted on but not spoiled. His father was a micro-manager and had the highest of expectations for his only son. He learned Latin at the age of 6, and before entering the Collegiate College of Connecticut, later named Yale University, at the age of 13, he would know both Latin and Greek. His father, Timothy, a teacher himself of Latin and Greek would see to it that his son would know the languages necessary to enter college.

From an early age, religion was a preoccupation with Jonathan. He dated his interest in spiritual things to when he was 9 or 10, calling it “a time of remarkable awakening” when he had been for months concerned “about the things of religion and [his] soul’s salvation.” Moved to both private meditation and prayer, and religious exercises with other children, he often went to “secret places” in the woods, “a booth in a swamp, in a very secret and retired place, for prayer.” He later wrote, “I seem to be in my element when engaged in religious duties.”(Samuel Miller, Jonathan Edwards, and Perry Miller, Jonathan Edwards.)

He entered the Collegiate School of Connecticut at the age of 13, intellectually precocious, and an un-regenerate pre-teen who did not measure up to his father’s expectations because, although overly pious, Jonathan did not show a heartfelt love of God, which was the true sign of conversion.

He went off to school with ten other boys ages 13-15; typical age for boys to attend college during those days. The course work was rigorous, and life structured. Breakfast followed morning prayers, with classes through midday; an hour and half of free time after the noon meal and before afternoon classes, more prayers, Bible reading and explication. Supper came after early-evening recitations, with study hours from 9-11. Lights out at 11. Monday through Thursday first year students studied Greek and Hebrew grammar, sophomores began work in logic, and the upper classes moved on to natural philosophy, mathematics, and metaphysics. All students studied rhetoric, oratory, ethics, and theology. This puts the common core philosophy in a bad light, doesn’t it?

The final examination for receiving the Bachelor of Arts degree was: a student had to convince his rector of his expertise “in Reading the Hebrew into Greek, and into Latin and grammatically resolving said languages and in answering such questions in their systems of logic and in the principles of natural philosophy and metaphysicks.” Edwards did so well that at the commencement in 1720 he gave the valedictory oration, in Latin. He returned to work on his Master’s degree.

Scholasticism gave him satisfaction and recognition in the collegiate community, but not peace. Although well-read and informed in the reading and study of philosophy, particularly European high culture ( Locke, Descartes, Sir Isaac Newton, Henry More, Malebranche, the Cambridge Platonists, to name a few), he still anguished over the issue of conversion. In his Personal Narrative he reported his earliest religious experiences and wrote that just prior to going to Yale he believed that he had experienced spiritual transformation. But he lost his exuberance. He had at least four spiritual awakenings, he records.

When 16, he became bed-ridden with pleurisy and almost died. He wrote that it was a divine intervention, for God held him over the pit of hell and it was his sinful life that brought him to the verge of death. Believing, as all good Puritan Calvinists do, that experiences such as this is part of the sovereign will of God and part of the spiritual conversion process, he resolved to rearrange all things in his life to allow him to focus on Christ alone. He tried to renounce his former ways and obey the Lord’s Word. He “fell again” into the “old ways of sin” which led him to many great and violent struggles in his soul. He broke off all former wicked ways, all known outward sin, and applied himself to see salvation and to practice many religious duties. (Please note these words: see salvation and practice religious duty: they are important in the pursuit of salvation) Through self-searching he felt the need to change his attitude from “seeking salvation” to contemplation of Christ’s place and role in the world—develop a new awareness of Christ’s glory. Please note the first two steps one takes to conversion: recognizing how wicked you are by identifying all known sin, and contemplation of Christ’s glory. Now he needed to shift his attention to God. Only by turning to God would he be able to experience a true spiritual transformation. He writes that when he saw the once horrible doctrine of God’s sovereignty he was able to “see further.” His reasoning was that he “apprehended the justice and reasonableness regarding the doctrine of God’s sovereignty” and became “convinced and fully satisfied as to this sovereignty of God and his justice in thus eternally disposing of men according to his sovereign pleasure.” He found the breakthrough to being converted. Only through the full realization of the glory of the Divine Being did he develop new convictions about Christ and the work of redemption. He describes his mystical and existential conversion as “an inward, sweet sense” of the work of redemption, “a calm sweet abstraction of soul from all the concerns of the world.” His experience had been so overwhelming that he writes in his diary that “often he had a kind of vision, or fixed ideas, and imaginations of being alone in the mountains, or some solitary wilderness, far from all mankind, sweetly conversing with Christ, and wrapped and swallowed up in God.” (Diary, Works of Jonathan Edwards)

Now on the verge of complete conversion, on the edge of self-transformation according to his new and vivid experience of the sovereign majesty of God and Christ’s glorious work of salvation, he needed a stamp of authority to certify that these spiritual experiences were indeed evidence of conversion. He traveled from New York in 1723 to tell his father his spiritual odyssey. Without the approval of his father, the long and agonizing journey of the past two years might prove invalid. “Not long after I first began to experience these things I gave an account to my father of some things that had passed in my mind. I was pretty affected by the discourse we had together.” With his father’s final affirmation and approval, his son’s process of conversion was complete. In his Personal Narrative he tells his readers that after the discourse with his father, he went for a short walk, when “[i]t came into my mind so sweet a sense of the glorious majesty and grace of God…The appearance of everything altered. There seemed to be as it were, a calm, sweet cast or appearance of divine Glory in almost everything. God’s excellency, his wisdom, his purity, his love, seemed to appear in everything.” Although he writes that he does not know the exact moment when conversion happened, he knows that one day he had a “delightful conviction” accompanied by a “sort of inward, sweet delight in God and divine things” that he had never experienced before. He dated this remarkable change in attitude to the time between his graduation from Yale and his pastorate in New York.

It is important to keep the steps of his conversion in the back of your mind because we will revisit these again.

Throughout his life Jonathan Edwards spent a considerable amount of time and energy in fashioning the conduct and character of his person. At the beginning of his literary activity he kept to being the careful, organized writer, following the rules he wrote in his Cover-Leaf Memoranda where he would engage the reader, and gently lead them into some new dimension of belief. By the 1730’s he abandoned his rule book and became aggressive and assertive with the intent to expound serious Christian doctrine rather than just chronicle events.

The timeline of events from his conversion experience to his death revolve around Edwards establishing his ministerial authority. Called to be an assistant pastor to his grandfather, Solomon Stoddard, was a major role for Edwards. He was entering a territory with increasing social instability and potentially explosive situations. Corn, cattle, and land were central to the region’s interests and social divisions within the town had become significantly exacerbated. The Stoddard family controlled the military, the judiciary, and the church, and this control was a constant thorn in his flesh. Edwards did not long have the benefit of his grandfather’s counsel or authoritative position. On February 11, 1729, after 60 years in the same town and ministry, the great man finally died, leaving his 26 year old grandson to continue his work. Elijah’s mantle had fallen on his shoulders, but he was far from earning the respect it marked, for he would always live in the shadow of the Pope of the Connecticut Valley, his grandfather. From 1729 to 1743 he was on the rise as the sole pastor of the prestigious Northampton congregation that experienced awakenings in 1734-35 and 1740-42. Some historians calls these times the Little Awakening, and the Great Awakening.

His strategy during these years consisted of three elements: cultivate a patronage of influential people in Northampton, cultivate a patronage of influential people beyond Northampton, and continue to grow his self-confidence in the rightness of his personal beliefs as foundational to true religion. He accomplished this not through his preaching solely, but through his prolific writing.

The congregation of Northampton had to get used to a minister that was “stiff and unsociable”, a man of few words and a man reserved with strangers. He was never comfortable visiting people’s homes and making small talk. He wrote, “I prefer the study of books than to the company of people.” When they had spiritual concerns, he preferred to counsel them in his study, not visit them in their homes. Unlike his grandfather, who preached without notes and with much emotion, his pulpit manner reflected his constitution and habits. His voice was not particularly loud, but that did not diminish the fact that he commanded his audience with distinctness, clearness, and precision. He rarely moved his hands or looked out on his audience unless it was to stare at the bell rope in the back of the church, for he wrote out his sermons and read from his texts.

His life was marked by rigid structure –rising early, thirteen hours of study in which he wrote treatises, and prepared his sermons. Edwards wrote in his diary in 1728, “I think Christ has recommended rising early in the morning, by his rising from the grave very early.” After the evening meal, he often devoted one hour engaged with his children in conversation and singing. He also wrote “I judge that it is best when I am in a good frame of mind for divine contemplation, or engaged in reading the Scriptures, or any study of divine subjects, that, ordinarily, I will not be interrupted by going to dinner, but will forego my dinner, rather than be broke off.” After family worship, he would return to his study for 2-3 more hours before retiring to bed. Much praise must be given to his wife Sarah, for she was glue that held the household together. She was responsible for running the household, discipline and instruction of their eleven children, and caring for the steady stream of visitors and apprentices, often overseeing their home and 50 acres while nursing one child and pregnant with another. When it came to the management of a household, it has been said that Jonathan Edwards had no common sense, often unaware of how many sheep they had, or the condition of their fields. It was Sarah that helped to make the man, Jonathan Edwards.

From 1744-50, he became embroiled in controversies and conflicts in which his downward spiral in the eyes of the town led to his dismissal in 1750. Edwards had inherited a church socially fractured and in spiritual decline. His effectiveness as spiritual leader diminished with each passing year. He was dismissed from his ministerial position and on July 1st 1750, he severed his formal connection with the church of Northamption. To pour salt on his wounds, the church retained him for another year, hiring him by the week to preach to a congregation that was having difficulty in obtaining a new minister, in no part because of the town’s reputation for contentiousness. In the summer of 1751, he moved 60 miles west of Northampton where he was to be the minister and schoolmaster at an Indian mission school in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

Finally convinced that his talent was writing, in a few short years he completed 4 theological treatises on topics of transatlantic interest. The strategies he developed after graduation from Yale were now being played out in the wilderness of Massachusetts.

The theme of his writing was the most important and urgent: the doctrine of God’s sovereignty and excellence. He now had the self-confidence and the growing conviction that he had the duty and right to communicate this message. He had internalized the message to the point where it was shaping him, the message became the man. The message of God’s sovereignty with its human counterpart of the need for total dependency on God dominated him to where he was convinced that he had a role as proclaimer of that message. Now his role became one of quasi-apostle. He journeyed from the desire to be heard, to one who felt he had the right to be heard, to this quasi-apostle, one who must be heard.

Now more than 290 years and 4,000 words of scholarship later, we see that the person of Jonathan Edwards was shaped not by his practice, but by his writing. Is it no wonder that the young, restless, and reformed are urged to “take up and read Edwards”? He fits well in their TULIP cult; since the TULIP cult works from the principles taught in the highly fallible writings and sermons of men, men such as John Calvin, and their home-boy, Jonathan Edwards.

Session 1, Blog TalkRadio Podcast

JC Ryle Verses John Calvin on the Separation of Justification and Sanctification

Posted in Uncategorized by pptmoderator on December 5, 2014

Originally published April 20, 2012

“Christ cannot be torn into parts, so these two which we perceive in him together and conjointly are inseparable—namely, righteousness and sanctification. Whomever, therefore, God receives into grace, on them he at the same time bestows the spirit of adoption [Romans 8:15], by whose power he remakes them to his own image. . . Yet Scripture, even though it joins them, still lists them separately in order that God’s manifold grace may better appear to us.” — John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1960), Bk. 3, chap. 11, sec. 6).

“But the plain truth is, that men will persist in confounding two things that differ–that is, justification and sanctification. In justification the word to address to man is believe–only believe; in sanctification the word must be ‘watch, pray, and fight.’ What God has divided let us not mingle and confuse” (JC Ryle, Holiness: Introduction).