Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Biographical Sketch on Jonathan Edwards: Part One

This is the first in a series of posts from a paper I recently wrote on the life of Jonathan Edwards. For those who are interested in reading the paper in its entirety or are interested in seeing the footnotes click here.

Jonathan Edwards is known as one of the most prominent theologians and philosophers of the colonial time period. An obvious testament to his intellectual, philosophical, and theological prowess is that his works are still being studied and debated three centuries after his death. However, many people who are familiar with Edwards are only familiar with him as a theologian and thus there is a temptation to treat him as a transcendent figure outside of any real historical setting. The purpose of this paper is to provide a brief overview of his life by examining the historical time period in which he lived and some of the key events that shaped him as a person. As we better understand Edwards as a man who lived in a real historical context it will lead us to better understand his writings and thus should enable us to more properly assess what can be “appropriated” from his works, into our current setting, and what is “extraneous and nonessential.”
Edwards was born on October 5, 1703 in East Windsor, Connecticut into a family with a rich ministerial background. His father (Timothy) was a Harvard trained clergyman and his mother (Esther) was the daughter of one of the most powerful preachers in the Connecticut River Valley. Edwards grew up as the only son in a family with eleven children; he had four older and six younger sisters. Both his mother and father seemed to have a vibrant faith in God and sought to instill this into their children. In addition to—or as a means of—instilling their faith into their children, Timothy and Esther placed a priority on education and the rigorous training of the mind, especially for Jonathan. This area could have been overlooked in Jonathan’s young development because he grew up in a time of war and not one of peace. However, Timothy Edwards, even in the midst of serving as a chaplain during Queen Anne’s War, made sure to give attention to helping develop Jonathan’s intellect even if this simply meant encouraging Esther from afar in her labor of schooling Jonathan.

When Timothy Edwards returned from the war, God began to move in powerful ways through his ministry at East Windsor. During this awakening, we get our first glimpse into the remarkable spiritual capacities of Jonathan. Even as a nine year old, the young boy was so impacted by what God was doing that for months “he prayed secretly five times a day, spoke much of religion to other boys, and organized prayer meetings with them…He and his schoolmates ‘built a booth in a swamp, in a very secret and retired place, for a place of prayer.” However, his behavior was short lived and this experience later became one of the impetuses that drove him to understand the nature of true conversion.


Anonymous said...

Excellent paper. Thanks for sharing.

Mike J.

Anonymous said...

Good overview of his life.

Anonymous said...

Posted by: Ned Anderson

I have been reading your blog for a while, but have not posted on it before. I have wanted to read the Marsden book for a while so thanks for the encouragement to do so. The paper was a really helpful overview and made me more interested in Johnathan Edwards

Anonymous said...

I can't seem to open the link to the paper.

The Tinker said...

The Link should be working now.