As my readers know, I finished George Marsden's excellent biography of Jonathan Edwards. In this post, I'll talk about some of my experiences with Jonathan Edwards' works, particularly when I was in high school.
If my memory is correct, I first heard of Jonathan Edwards when I was in the eleventh grade. We read Edwards' sermon, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God".
The sermon itself did not make much of an impression on me, to tell you
the truth. I was from a denomination, Armstrongism, that did not
believe in eternal torment in hell. My family took that
doctrine in a rather generous direction, probably more generous than the
church itself intended the doctrine to be. One of my relatives thought
that no one in this life could be lost, since there was no solid
evidence that one religion was superior to another, plus there was a lot
of deception, and so how could God judge so many people for having the
Even though I did not take Edwards' fire and
brimstone sermon seriously, I did enjoy my eleventh grade English
class's unit on the Puritans. Eleventh grade was when we learned about
American literature, and the Puritans were unit one. Or, actually, we
started with Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, which
was set in the time of the Puritans, and immediately after that we
launched our study of Puritan literature. I could really identify with
the Puritans, in a number of ways. The eleventh grade was a
time when my own faith was really deepening. I read a lot of religious
literature, even carrying my Bible to school. I rested on the Sabbath
and the annual holy days. I took walks in nature as a way to get closer
to God and to appreciate the beautiful world that God made. Similarly,
the Puritans read their Bibles. The Puritans rested on a
Sabbath----only their Sabbath was Sunday, whereas mine was Saturday.
And Jonathan Edwards enjoyed taking long walks in nature.
not sure where exactly I first learned about Jonathan Edwards' nature
walks. Perhaps it was in our textbook's introduction to "Sinners in the
Hands of an Angry God"----the part of the book that gave us background
as to who Edwards was. But I obviously learned about it sometime in
high school, for I participated in an essay contest in high school on
what some aspect of American history can teach us about protecting the
environment. I chose to write about Jonathan Edwards' appreciation of
On a related note, when I was in the eleventh
grade, I enjoyed other things by the Puritans that we read as well: Mary
Rawlinson's story of being captured by Native Americans, and Anne
Bradstreet's pious poetry. As an adult, at the place where I am now religiously, I doubt that I would enjoy living in Puritan times----where
people are evaluating where I am spiritually and are judging me
negatively, where people get puffed up on account of their spiritual
experiences, where having an alternative worldview is considered heresy,
and where preachers use the fear of hell as a way to keep people in
line. I much prefer living in today's era. And yet, I do feel rather
nostalgic, warm, and cozy when I read about the Puritans, as I did when I
recently went through George Marsden's biography of Jonathan Edwards.
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