Jonathan Edwards and Plurality of Eldership (Part One)
One of the shock stories of American church history is the apparently sudden sacking of the great Jonathan Edwards.
Many are surprised that someone of Edwards’ intellectual and theological calibre could go so quickly from ‘You’re on fire!’ (and news of the ‘fire’ had spread all around the English speaking world) to ‘You’re fired!’
There were a number of controversies, none of which directly arose from the revivals in the 1730’s.
Sometimes it is asserted that the controversy that led to Edwards’ sacking was around his insistence that admission to communion should be exclusively for those who were trusting Christ for their salvation.
This, Edwards felt, was clearly the Biblical norm, rather than allowing those who had a nominal faith. But the church disagreed and this indeed became the final straw.
But the communion controversy (and discerning true conversion), while important, wasn’t the original cause of bad feeling between Pastor and people. Something had happened earlier that Edwards had seriously bungled.
The Naughty Book
In 1744, a report came to Edwards that some of the young people (actually, late teenagers and several in their twenties) had got hold of an illustrated manual for midwives. This was a source of fascination, giggling (we’re told) and lewd comments. An increasing number were trying to gain access to look at the book and finally the matter was brought to Edwards.
What he did next leads us directly into our theme of the New Testament teaching on local churches being led by a plurality (several) of elders rather than just one.
For the next installment of this story read here
© 2010 Lex Loizides