Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Jonathan Edwards Center Mission

The mission of the Jonathan Edwards Center and The Works of Jonathan Edwards Online is to produce a comprehensive online archive of Edwards’s writings and publications that will serve the needs of researchers and readers of Edwards, to support inquiry into his life, writings, and legacy by providing resources and assistance, and to encourage critical appraisal of the historical importance and contemporary relevance of America’s premier theologian.

Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758), pastor, revivalist, Christian philosopher, missionary, and college president, is widely regarded as North America’s greatest theologian. He is the subject of intense scholarly interest because of his significance as an historical figure and the profound legacy he left on America’s religious and intellectual landscapes. His writings are being consulted at a burgeoning rate by religious leaders, pastors, and churches worldwide because of the fervency of Edwards’s message and the acumen with which he appraised religious experience. Yet for centuries, scholars and readers of Edwards have had to rely on inaccurate and partial versions of his writings. The Works of Jonathan Edwards, the critical edition of Edwards’s writings, was created at Yale University in 1954 to overcome these obstacles. But even as the Edwards Works is completing a 26-volume letterpress series, less than half of Edwards’s total writings will be available.

To provide the entirety of Edwards’s corpus on a global basis, we are creating The Jonathan Edwards Center and Online Archive, which will support and assist research and use of Edwards’s writings, primarily through a comprehensive, searchable online database that will contain the series published by Yale Press but also tens of thousands of pages of unpublished computerized transcripts--sermons, notebooks, essays, letters, and personalia--that the Edwards Edition has on file. Complementing these primary texts will be reference works, secondary works, chronologies, and audio, video, and visual sources. Simply put, no comparable online archive for an American religious figure will exist.

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Blogger Famillemoore said...

This is clearly an important venture. I hope that it will be of great value for all who use it. Here's a question, then: is Edwards' life as a pastor, husband, father and missionary likely to make as big an impact as his writings on propsective pastors?

8:46 am  
Blogger Michael McClenahan said...

Thanks for your question. I suspect the answer is that many people get very different things from Edwards - but most people are more influenced by his writings than his life. There is an obvious reason for this - the lack of a definitive, historical, accessible biography. Of course, Marsden's outstanding Jonathan Edwards: A Life may change all that. More on Marsden (and other JE biographies) at a later date.

Of course, his own biographical writings (particularly of David Brainerd) have been and continue to be very significant. Mark Noll argues in a recent work that Edwards' account of the 1730s awakening (which contains some very significant potted biographies) was much more significant than the sermons published around the same time.

9:20 pm  

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