JE-mail: Correspondences on our Favorite Revivalist

Pastor Everhard,

I’m reading through Jonathan Edward’s book, The Religious Affections and even though I’m early into it (less than a quarter) I have to say hands down it is some of the best writing I’ve read in a long time. I’m so glad to have stumbled across your channel and to have been introduced to such a blessing in this man, Jonathan Edwards. One of the gems he tucked away in this book that snuck up and hit me with an uppercut of truth was when he talked about prayer as a means of expression in true religion. To paraphrase he says, prayer is not essentially a means to declare God’s attributes for the sake of his benefit, but for ours. In prayer and other outward expressions of worship the intent, in part, is to affect our hearts and the hearts of other people.

When I read that I thought wow, no wonder my affections toward God in many ways lack the fervency and vigor that I know that God deserves and commands. My lack of a consistent and hearty prayer life correlates to my lack of Joy (at times) in my Christian walk. I was very humbled by this truth. I could go on further but I’ll leave it at that. I’m marking up this book because there are so many questions I have about his theology and like I said I’m only a quarter through the book. His eschatology shines through and his anthropology (if that’s the right term) when he discusses the affections of saints in heaven, and the affections of the heart (inward motion of the soul) in relation to the external actions such affections have on the body; it’s all unchartered territory for me. So I’m really excited to read this book. It’s my first venture into Jonathan Edwards as I stated earlier and part of what motivated me was your Youtube channel and also having read A Theology of Joy.

Thank you for all you do and for the part you played in God’s economy to bring this work into my life.

Jevon,
Cape Coral, Florida

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Dr. Matthew,

I just wanted to take a moment to thank you for all your videos and specifically your information on the miscellany system of Jonathan Edwards! I have been taking my Bible reading to the next level by trying various note taking methods, but organization has been the Achilles heel of all my efforts. As a digital native, it’s easy to attempt to pair notes with some app, be that a Bible app or a productivity app. The unfortunate eventuality of this practice is the fragmentation of notes as well as the “vendor lock-in” of proprietary technology.

Taking things back to pen and paper is just the kind of meditative exercise that enhances time in God’s word. Indeed, I think of Deuteronomy 17:18 and how the practice of physically copying God’s word is the fit duty of one with the responsibilities of a king. Edwards’ indexing system is real app-killer for me though—it keeps things organized, flexible, and is doable in any Bible’s margin. This exercise has actually kindled a love for returning to well-practiced, cursive penmanship and fountain pens. I hope to make my notes last as an heirloom for my family.

Some ideas on extending the Edwardsian system I thought I would share if you use it yourself: You can start multiple miscellany notebooks by presuming a 1-entry-per-page rule (or whatever your smallest entry size is), and then offsetting your next notebook by the number of pages in the previous book. If you fail to exhaust all the entries you offset, no big deal. Much better to drop M93-M99 than to have a collision between 2 volumes. If you want to keep your entries more well focused to long studies through particular books, but you are running more than 1 study at a time, use the above method and bounce between a pair of notebooks. This will cluster the scripture studies in each book rather than interleaving them (but at the expense of carrying around extra notebooks).

Use an extra notebook to act as a master index of each of your miscellany volumes. This would tell you at a glance that M100-250 are in Volume 2, the navy blue Leuchtturm notebook for example. You can also add an inverted index which goes from enumerating “Vol. 1: M1 – M200” to indexing by content, such as “Romans: M33-45, M103-112”.


If you practice bullet journaling (a sort of life calendar productivity system), you can thread references to your miscellany entries in your daily or monthly logs. This has the added benefit of allowing you to cross reference what was going on in your life with your own scriptural insights. I suppose dates do this as well, but miscellanies are indexed by their ID, not their date.

Anyways, thank you for sharing the wisdom of the ages, both in God’s revealed word and salient personages through time. This journaling experiment itself has been massively impactful in achieving the Psalm 1 lifestyle, and you certainly were a laborer in that.

Youtube Viewer, Phoenix AZ.


Help! I need a basic Edwards bibliography for seminary!

Dr. Everhard,

First, I would like to thank you for your YouTube channel. I happened upon it by chance and have been blessed by it ever since. Now, to the primary reason I’m sending this question. I have a question regarding research and Jonathan Edwards. I have just started at Covenant Baptist Theological Seminary on the MDIV track. In one class, I have to pick two reserach topics to create two bibliographies. I want to create at least one on Jonathan Edwards; however, I am not sure what topic to pick. Whatever topic I choose needs to be able to support 8-12 books, 20-30 articles (including dictionary and encyclopedia entries), and 8-12 Internet links (to substantial information). I was wondering if you could give me a few recommendations that I could study? In my undergrad, we were always given the topics, so I’m struggling to make my mind up on a narrow field. Thank you for any assistance you can provide.

For His glory and honor,
D.L.

***

Brother,

Well, the book section will be easy enough! Pretty much everything Jonathan Edwards ever wrote is here on the Edwards.Yale.edu site; this is the standard and most highly respected Edwards content available, utilized by all serious scholars. These are available both in print (volumes 1-26) and in digital form (volumes 1-72). Aside from that, you may consider the Edwards Studies online journal here. And there is an entire Edwards Encyclopedia available here in print so that covers that. Anything philosophical could be found in the Stanford site, highly regarded for sure.

As far as topics go, the world is your playground with Edwards! He wrote so much, you can do practically any topic you want: God, faith, Trinity, predestination, the will, baptism, Lord’s Supper, angels, revivals, preaching. Pick something interesting and dig in! If you need ideas, check his Miscellanies as a place to get started! Hope that helps!

Yours in Christ,

Dr. Matthew Everhard D.MIN.

Call for Papers! Get Busy! Get Writing! Get Published! “The Influence of Jonathan Edwards in the Early American Republic”

How George Washington did his hair | Smithsonian TweenTribune

The Influence of Jonathan Edwards in the Early American Republic:

Patriotism, Exceptionalism, and the Pursuit of Happiness

While Jonathan Edwards has been crowned “America’s Theologian,” his successors in the early republic can rightly be called American theologians. Known pejoratively as “The New Divinity,” the Edwardsean tradition was a socially-oriented Calvinism, confronting the most controversial and even volatile issues in their infant nation. With the ideas of Edwards and some of the most capable thinkers for their age, the New Divinity became the first indigenous school of Calvinism in American history, shaping the American theological tradition and helping forge the national identity. A volume that examines the influence of America’s theologian on America’s founding would thus fill a gap in historical studies and better explain the development of religious identity in the United States.

The editors of the proposed volume, Jonathan Edwards and the Early American Republic: Patriotism, Exceptionalism, and the Pursuit of Happiness are seeking chapter contributions of 5000-7000 words. Chapters should focus on the Edwardsean engagement with salient issues in the early American nation. Suggested topics include: political economy and the expansion of trade and/or capitalism; language, epistemology and the organization of knowledge; human rights, and thinking about war and peace; slavery and abolitionism; gender and the church; international relations; the social hierarchy; poverty and the marginal of society; anthropocentrism and ecological dominance; etc. Other related but not listed topics would be welcomed as well. The chapters shall be arranged into thematic sections. Contributors must be Ph.D., or at least ABD. Contributors must use The Chicago Manual of Style and conform to the norms of the Jonathan Edwards Center (see the Jonathan Edwards Studies Journal).

Deadline for Abstracts: 31 December 2020 (300 Words and CV sent to john.lowe.2@louisville.edu and obbie.todd@lutherrice.edu )

Answer to Authors: 1 March 2021

Full Chapters to Submitted: 1 June 2021

Jonathan Edwards Lectures at Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary

This past week, I had the opportunity to teach four lectures on the life and ministry of Jonathan Edwards. I taught three lectures on Edwards for the Spiritual Development PT11 and one lecture on Edwards as a preacher for Preaching the New Testament SH21.

Here are the links to these videos:

  1. Life and Influence of Jonathan Edwards: https://youtu.be/hMXJ_KYpxW4
  2. Edwards’s Personal Theological Project: https://youtu.be/rgsDmkY5TPk
  3. Edwards’s Seventy Resolutions: https://youtu.be/V5V8whFtlkA
  4. Edwards’s Preaching Ministry: https://youtu.be/usQk9cpALMc

Jonathan Edwards on Productivity: Personal, Pastoral, Professional

This week, I had an amazing opportunity to talk to Reagan Rose, the host of the Redeeming Productivity podcast. We discussed Jonathan Edwards, and his amazing system of information management and storage. We worked through his Miscellanies, Blank Bible, Notes on Scripture, and treatises. Give it a listen!

Reading Broadly or Deeply? Three Years in the Mind of a Genius

Photo © Tavis Bohlinger

 

By Matthew Everhard

Suppose you step into the entrance of an enormous library.  Like many, you feel enchanted by the possibility of learning. A bibliophile, your soul thrills at such unfettered access to human knowledge. Even the smell of books delights the senses. Each volume represents some small bit of knowledge or experience in a given field; one writer’s obsession for years or even a lifetime. But which books should you choose?

You reach out your hand, attracted by the look and feel of one volume, or provoked merely by the title of another. You are forced to make choices. You can take several books with you, perhaps even an armful. But the limitations of time and energy will force you to make some selection. You cannot read them all.

The Mountain Climber: Reading Broadly 

In some sense, all theologians choose between reading broadly and reading deeply. We could choose, for instance, to read quite widely from the whole range of Christian history: a little AugustineAquinas, and Luther here, and then a little bit of Warfield, Lewis, and Packer there. In fact, I would see great value in that sort of enterprise. I personally want to be well-read, and I think most other scholars, theologians, and pastors feel the same. I recently listened to a podcast with a theologian who took earned degrees in mathematics and law before engaging in the formal study of theology.

We call such scholars “polymaths.”

Reading broadly is a wonderful–and even glorious–choice. The polymath sees things from a high vantage point. She makes connections across fields; drawing sight-lines from one subject to another. She takes the way of the mountain climber to see things from an advantageous vista point. Yet choosing the high road of the polymath is still limiting and restricting in certain ways. One would have to skate quickly across the surface of some writers’ best works, and ignore many other primary contributors entirely. That library we imagined in paragraph one is enormous after all, and the broadly interested reader chooses books from multiple shelves, up and down the galleys, mastering no section completely.

READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE HERE…

John Gerstner’s Influence in Ascension Presbytery PCA: An Interview with Rev. Barry Woolner

ME: EdwardsStudies.com is chatting today with Rev. Barry Woolner, longtime PCA pastor in the Ascension Presbytery, and the guy who helped me find our new house in Pennsylvania! Barry is also a former student of Dr. John Gerstner, whose legacy still impacts many in the Reformed and Evangelical world to this day. Barry, before we talk more about Gerstner, give us a quick rundown on your own ministry career for those who don’t have the pleasure of knowing you. 

BW:  I was converted soon after I flunked out of Rutgers University.  I then attended Philadelphia College of Bible. They expelled me. I then attended Berkshire Christian College.  They threatened me with expulsion. I met Kathy at Berkshire; she had transferred from Wheaton College in 1971, before our Junior year. We were married in 1972.  We graduated in 1973 with B.A.’s in Theology. I attended Pittsburgh Theological Seminary from 1973 through 1976. I finished the standard M.Div. degree and most of the work for my Th.M. (in Jonathan Edwards studies).  I was the pastor of Glade Run United Presbyterian Church in southern Butler County, interim pastor at Meridian Presbyterian Church in Butler; I left the mainline Presbyterian denomination in 1982. I was assistant to the pastor and ruling elder at Calvary Presbyterian Church (EPC) in Butler, founding pastor of Westminster Reformed Pres Church (became OPC) in Johnstown, and then, assistant pastor at Gospel Fellowship PCA.

ME: So when did you first come into contact with Dr. Gerstner, and what were some of your first impressions about the man? How did he strike you as a person?   

BW: I did not meet him until seminary classes started.  The course that I took was a class on Jonathan Edwards’s book, The Freedom of the Will.  Dr. Gerstner was intense.  He taught in a way that terrified some students.  It was called ‘dialogture’. He would lecture and then ask questions directed to the class.  He would then interrogate a “victim” for minutes at a time. Once, when he pressed me intensely for several minutes, I interrupted the verbal assault on my poor brain and asked if I might be excused to go to the bathroom.  I was not allowed.

Dr. Gerstner was consumed by the idea that he needed to be as godly as God called him to be.  He would push us to be as consistent in our walk with Christ as we could be. He opened to us a world of both Godly and academic rigor that was, for many of his students, truly challenging.

ME: Tell us a little bit about what he was like as a professor, and what it was like to be in his Reformed Study Group. 

BW:   Dr. Gerstner was a teacher who expected you to master the material presented.  He hoped that you would agree with him. However, your grade did not depend upon agreeing.  One day he stated that he prayed for all of the students in his classes. He also stated that he prayed that we would all become as Reformed as he was.

The Reformed Group was a ‘secret’ group that was intended to include only those who were Calvinists and members of the United Presbyterian Church.  The group was intended to educate, provide fellowship and support for those in the struggle against liberalism. (A few others outside the mainline church were included, like Dr. Jack White, President of Geneva College).   We were asked to produce serious papers on assigned topics. One’s paper would be presented and then discussed. Given the number of people in the group who had earned Ph.D.’s in a wide variety of subjects from theology to nuclear physics, the discussions were academically challenging.

ME: What do you think are some of the most lasting and important impressions that Gerstner made upon you as a Christian and as a minister? 

BW:   By his life and written thoughts, he convinced me that God’s calling involved the totality of who I am, every nano second of my time, every thought that drifted through my head.  He was consumed by trying to understand the full meaning of the glory of God. His respect and love for Edwards came from the fact that he had found a fellow traveler, one who pressed on to know, love and live God’s Truth.   On a different and somewhat more practical note, I appreciated his view of debating. He insisted that the basic rule of debate was that you must state your opponent’s view in a way with which he or she would agree. You could not erect a straw man and then feel good by knocking it over.   

ME: Did you have a chance to read the new biography on John Gerstner by Jeffrey S. McDonald, part of the Princeton Theological Monograph Series? If so, what were some of your impressions? Did McDonald capture the whole man or did he miss anything? 

BW:   As you know, it is impossible to please everyone in the audience.  I read both his doctoral dissertation and his book. I thought that the book was well planned.  It discusses Dr. Gerstner’s influence and life decade by decade. I believe that McDonald’s critique of Dr. Gerstner’s published books was accurate.  My major complaint had to do with his depiction of Dr. Gerstner as anti-social, withdrawn, cold, etc. This is an utterly false portrayal. I contacted McDonald and we spent over an hour chatting.  I have written, and, along with others, will be disseminating our memories of Dr. Gerstner. It will be, on a smaller scale, similar to Luther’s Table Talk.  I will send McDonald my notes in hope of changing his mind.  

ME: Since this website is devoted to Jonathan Edwards studies, did you find yourself becoming more and more interested in the Northampton revivalist yourself through Gerstner’s influence? Gerstner, as we know, dedicated much of his writing and lecturing to the famed Great Awakening preacher. 

BW:   If you met Dr. Gerstner, you met Rev. Edwards.  My interest in Edwards pre-dated meeting Dr. Gerstner.  I had read some of Perry Miller’s works. I also read Sydney Ahlstrom’s great book on religion in America.  When I was briefly homeless during college years, I slept in the Stockbridge (Massachusetts) Congregational Church building where Edwards pastored.  Surely a pure pedigree! Dr. Gerstner did dedicate his life to bringing Rev. Edwards’s thought to the modern world. Mrs. Gerstner thought he spent a bit too much time interpreting Edward’s ‘goose markings.’

ME: This area of the country (Western PA) is probably the main hotbed for Gerstner’s teaching and influence. Of course, Ligonier Ministries was founded not far from Pittsburgh and Gerstner himself eventually became part of Ascension Presbytery, where you and I are ordained. Is he in any danger of being forgotten here in this area? 

BW:   As you know Matt, we will all be forgotten.  “Only one life will soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.”  The hope is that the Reformed thought that he espoused will more and more grow for the glory of God.  Dr. Gerstner did not want his name attached to any type of movement. That is why several of us had to vow, to Dr. Gerstner, not to write his biography.

ME: Do you have any recommendations for some of Gerstner’s own works? Are any of his books still important to you? 

BW:   I really like his practical books.  His short books on Edwards, his Reasons For Faith, Primitive Theology,Theology of the Major Sects, Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth, and his Theology in Dialogue are quite excellent.  

ME: Barry, thanks for checking in with us and for sharing your thoughts on the late Dr. John Gerstner. It sounds like he had a great impact on your heart and your life. 

BW: Thank you for allowing me the privilege of discussing Dr. Gerstner with you.  He is one of the great gifts of God to His Church. As R.C. Sproul said at his funeral, when Dr. Gerstner died, he entered heaven and was greeted by Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, Luther and Edwards.  “Finally among his peers.” Amen.

 

Adam Newcomb Boyd Interview: Author of Jonathan Edwards, Beauty, and Younger Evangelicals

Editor’s Note: Adam Newcomb Boyd recently published a new book entitled Jonathan Edwards, Beauty, and Younger Evangelicals published by JESociety Press. This book can be purchased on Amazon here. What follows is a recent interview with the author about his faith and life, as well as a synopsis of the new book.

Adam, give us an introduction to your own life and work for those not familiar. 

I became a Christian during my freshman year in College through an enthusiastically charismatic ministry.  After growing up with an under-applied faith, I was ready to be all in. I didn’t want to miss anything, and there were a lot of things going on with the charismatic movement at that time. At some point my brother Bobby handed me a copy of the Westminster Confession and I finally ended up at RTS in Jackson.  If you look at the school directories from those years you will see written in the description under my picture in year 1, “Assemblies of God;” year 2, “Non-Denominational;” year 3 “PCA.” It was a gentle, gracious education thanks to men like Knox Chamblin and Ligon Duncan. 

I grew up with my family running summer camps, first in Atlanta and then in North Carolina, but Ann and I were not interested in that. It was hard work, and we frankly lacked vision for the impact camps could have. Instead the plan was either missions or campus ministry until we were both struck by an oddly undeniable call back into camping. What we found was that a seminary degree was the perfect training for leading staff and developing a mission that was surprisingly effective for the gospel. We feel like we found a niche where Christians can learn to be a blessing to the world and unbelievers can see the beauty of the gospel.  

Tell us about the camps you run. How do you like doing ministry in a non-ecclesiastical setting? I bet you have a great opportunity to impact many people’s lives. 

Both our camps are expressly Christian programs. Our counselors are thoughtful believers who share a high view of the Bible and are growing in grace. It’s really fun to work with these guys, especially because our campers do not necessarily come from Christian homes. This is our 75th summer, and some campers come because of that tradition. Others come because friends are coming, etc., but the important thing is that they come back summer after summer. I heard someone say that a broken world view is like a broken bone. It must be handled very gently, with empathy. Many of our campers come from homes with broken world views and we have the chance to gently help them experience the gospel through friends and adventure. After they have been with us for seven or eight years, after they have learned to take risks in kayaks and on ropes, and make friends who are more like family because they live together, we see them becoming Christians. 

And of course the ones who come from Christian homes (about half of our campers) have the chance to see what their parents are teaching them demonstrated by counselors that they watch summer after summer. 

What drew you into the field of Jonathan Edwards studies?

Honestly, I found myself asking what is wrong with me? Why am I more entertained by Breaking Bad than Second Corinthians?  There has to be an ontological break in me and Edwards helped me find that break. So I started reading Jonathan Edwards because of a very narrow, very personal question. I have kept reading him because of the way he answers this and so many others. 

I love the perspicuity of scripture. Sadly, there is no perspicuity of Jonathan Edwards, and there is precious little perspicuity of his commentators. The good part about this is that reading Edwards requires me to slow down and think about what he is saying. The bad part is that it takes commitment, which is tough if Breaking Bad is coming on.

Who are some of your favorite Edwards scholars, and what books inspired you to go deeper with JE? 

I like some of the older guys: Conrad Cherry and Perry Miller are a great way to measure the growth in current scholarship and they help with a feel for some of the high points. More recently I have enjoyed JE Society’s The Miscellanies Companion, and your article there in particular. I also love Patricia Tracy’s historical lens, but Ronald Delattre was the most helpful on zeroing in on Edwards’s concept of beauty. His Beauty and Sensibility in the Thought of Jonathan Edwards is my first recommendation for understanding Edwards’s aesthetic. 

Hey! Thanks for the kind words! So you’ve written the new book Jonathan Edwards, Beauty, and Younger Evangelicals. Give us a brief synopsis of your overall goals. 

A lot of people understand that you cannot separate the head and the heart (the  18” truism). Edwards shows us why. He takes us on a journey through the veins and sinew that feed and bind these things together. He uncovers the neural pathways of inclination. I think this is what our younger evangelicals are looking for; some way of reconciling what they find beautiful (inclination) and their faith. The book is about that. 

It is also about Edwards’s method. He was too confident to be protectionist. He knew that new ideas could push us deeper into God’s world so he was never afraid to engage. Younger Evangelicals want that too. They want to engage with the world rather than hide from it, and we all know that; none of this is new. What is new (or forgotten) is the way Edwards shows us how to do that.

In the first part, you did some biblical exegetical work. What did you focus on? 

I wanted to show how the church has engaged with beauty throughout the history of redemption. The church wants what the Bible describes.  I wanted to show that these are not new ideas, they are not inventions to make the faith sound relevant. The beauty of God is fundamental throughout scripture. Christian faith is primarily about finding something so beautiful that we cannot live without it.

After that, you dove pretty deeply in the Religious Affections. Why did you choose that work among Edwards’ many treatises?

I think Religious Affections is more accessible to some readers. It’s organization is intuitive so I could spend time unpacking his syntax rather than his argument. I also felt that its close ties to the events of Edwards’s day gives another handle for a first-time Edwards reader to grab onto. It is easier to understand what people are talking about when you understand why they were talking. 

In the next main section, you do some comparison and contrasting to Newton and Locke. How does Edwards compare to these giants? 

He compares as an equal. Each had their chosen primary studies: physics and mathematics for Newton, moral and political philosophy for Locke and of course practical theology for Edwards. But their brilliance is shown in their curiosity and overlap into other fields. I spent some time on this because Edwards that overlap proves the confidence of his method. It also contrasts with the way we often engage new ideas. 

Towards the end of the book, you do quite a bit of pastoral application. Give our readers a taste of that. 

Let me give one example as a “quick taste.” I read somewhere that if you want employees tell them what to do. If you want leaders tell them why you do what you do. Matthew says that we (and our students) are the light of the world – we are building leaders. That is why I added a “why did we?” section at the end of most of the lessons described in the last section.  I added this for the readers, but I also included it when I taught this material at my church. The idea was to explain the content along with how we employ it in the way we teach. 

God’s truth is for God’s people so I wanted to help readers think through how they might make it accessible.