Thursday, July 05, 2007

Did JE expect too much of Northampton?

Just came across this article and will post some notes on it if it is interesting.

Jonathan Edwards's Life of David Brainerd and the Northampton Dismissal

John Grigg


By the middle of the 1740s, the relationship between Jonathan Edwards and his congregation at Northampton had begun to slowly unravel. Prompted by Edwards's attempts to combat what he saw as a growing lack of spirituality, the debate became focused on the requirements for church membership and communion. Heretofore unnoticed in this debate was the role of Edwards's most popular work, the Life of Brainerd. Although the Life of Brainerd addressed broader questions such as Arminianism and enthusiasm, its central message was a real example of the normative Christian life. Edwards intended this to buttress his position on church membership but the impossible standard set forth in the Life of Brainerd instead contributed to the growing sentiment in the town for his dismissal.


Anonymous Jeff Waddington said...

I have thought that Edwards tended toward a Calvinistic perfectionism with his high, almost mystical, standard of the Christian life and the church. Perhaps this confirms my hunch.

1:00 pm  
Blogger Michael McClenahan said...

Thanks Jeff
What do you make of this


3:29 pm  
Anonymous Matthew D. Formby said...

If anyone would like to truly understand what Edwards expected from Northampton, it would be good to grab Josh Moody's "Jonathan Edwards and the Enlightenment" pages 33-40. Moody explains how though Christian perfectionism plays out in JE's preparationism, it is actually a Reformed perspective of faith that Edwards was seeking to salvage. Let me know what you think.

4:01 pm  
Anonymous Jeff Waddington said...


Thank you for reminding me about Moody's helpful discussion in his book "Jonathan Edwards and the Enlightenment." I have even published on Edwards' break with faculty psychology in favor of a "whole-souled" faith myself.

I am fascinated with Edwards' problems with infant baptism. As a Presbyterian I do not see infant baptism as dependent upon a doctrine of a comprehensive church (everyone in a particular geographical region is a member of the state church) or as being tied to the Constantinian settlement (the blending of church and state or the excessively close connection between the two), but as being grounded in God's covenant relations. So I am of the opinion that Edwards is wringing his hands here for no good reason.

6:47 pm  

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