Jonathan Edwards and the Naughty Book

Jonathan Edwards

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


2 thoughts on “Jonathan Edwards and the Naughty Book

  1. Frog Orr-Ewing January 23, 2010 / 9:54 am

    Hi Lex
    you stopped too soon i want to know about the naughty book! Do you seriously think this is an argument for plurality in leadership of a single congregation. Perhaps more of a trait in human nature that few people recognise what they have in their church leader, but can only fixate on the flaws? Frog History seems to have exonerated Edwards!

  2. Lex Loizides January 25, 2010 / 8:39 am

    Hi Frog!
    Thanks for the comment. The next installment is about to go up and I think you’ll see that, as the story unfolds, Edwards’ isolated position as the Minister meant that he didn’t get the advice he needed to keep him from making the biggest leadership blunder of his life.
    ‘History’ quite rightly holds Edwards in high esteem, as do I, but not in this instance.
    Read on and let me know your thoughts.

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