Category Archives: Uncategorized

Upcoming Conference: Biblical Interpretation and Early Transatlantic Evangelicalism

A recent scholarly trend in Edwards studies has sought to remedy the glaring neglect of Jonathan Edwards‘ biblical exegesis. However, the same problem still exists for early transatlantic evangelicalism more generally.

To work towards filling this lacuna, the Jonathan Edwards Center Germany is co-hosting a conference with the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies on the topic of Biblical Interpretation and Early Transatlantic Evangelicalism. It takes place September 21-22, 2018 on the campus of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

The speakers include the conference hosts: the Director of the JE Center Germany, Jan Stievermann, and the Director of the Andrew Fuller Center, Michael Haykin. Joining them is a team of world-class scholars in the field (including notable Edwards scholars): Douglas Sweeney, Ken Minkema, Isabel Rivers, Bruce Hindmarsh, Crawford Gribben, Adriaan Neele, and Robert Brown.

Here’s the description from the conference website:

The objective of the conference aims to bring the historiography of early transatlantic evangelicalism together with the history of biblical interpretation. The goal is to understand the exegesis of various eighteenth-century exegetes in their intellectual, cultural, and religious contexts. 

Two recent academic developments have largely inspired the vision for this conference. The first is the recent interest devoted to Jonathan Edwards as an exegete. Scholars like Douglas Sweeney, Robert Brown, and Stephen Stein have shed important light on Edwards’ theology, ministry, and context by engaging his exegesis. The second is the publication of Cotton Mather’s Biblia Americana by a team of scholars under the editorial leadership of Reiner Smolinski and Jan Stievermann. These volumes (so far Vol. 1, 3, 4, 5, and 9 have been published) have yielded tremendous insight into early American literature, intellectual history, and religious expression.

However, more work is needed to understand the role of biblical interpretation in the early evangelical movement from a transatlantic perspective, as well as the important (but largely neglected) role of evangelicals in the broader history of biblical interpretation.

More information on the speakers, paper titles, schedule, registration, location etc. can be found here: http://events.sbts.edu/andrewfullerconference/

 

Robert W. Jenson (1930-2017): Heidelberg Alumnus & Edwards Scholar

Image result for Robert W. Jenson

Edwards scholar and Lutheran theologian Robert W. Jenson passed away on September 5, 2017 at 87 years of age.

Jenson received his Dr. Theol. in 1960 from Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg, the current home of the Jonathan Edwards Center Germany. He wrote his dissertation on Karl Barth’s doctrine of election under the supervision of Heidelberg Professor Peter Brunner (1900-1981), and he later studied with Barth in Basel.

Holding posts at Oxford University, Lutheran Seminary, St. Olaf College, and Princeton University, Jenson published several books and articles on systematic theology, the Trinity, biblical commentaries, and more.

Among his many publications was an influential monograph on Jonathan Edwards, America’s Theologian: A Recommendation of Jonathan Edwards (1988). Edwards studies was undergoing a renaissance at the time, due largely to the publication of his works in the Yale edition and the revival of interest among scholars in the fields of history, American Studies, and English.

Jenson however was one of the first to boldly ask whether Edwards was right and if his theology still holds value for today.

The title betrays his thesis: Jenson recommends Edwards as “America’s theologian,” and despite his flaws, American theologians and pastors today should take his theology seriously. He writes, “Edwards’ theology meets precisely the problems and opportunities of specifically American Christianity and the nation molded thereby” (3).

Many have taken Jenson’s recommendation seriously, and the strength of Edwards studies today owes a great deal to his legacy. From Heidelberg: ruhe in Frieden.

Kenneth Silverman, RIP

Kenneth Silverman, the award-winning biographer of Cotton Mather, has died. He was 81.

With his 1984 biography, Silverman showed Mather was a man, not a metaphor, not a cartoon villain, not a crude foil for American history. His work was especially notable for depicting the richness of Mather’s intellectual life and the daily, lived-out struggle of his physical existence.

For example: “However luxuriantly he lived in heaven,” Silverman wrote in one passage, “Mather had not lived affluently on earth, and had lost much. What he left behind, as set down in the inventory of his estate, was dingy and mean: pie plates, lumber, a crosscut saw, three old rugs, four old bedsteads, two old oval tables, two old chests of drawers, old china curtains, old quilt, old warming pan, old standing candlestick, red
curtains motheaten, broken stone table, broken fireplace dogs, broken chairs, broken pewter, broken spoons.”

The New York Times praised the book, reporting, “An immense richness is what one feels first of all in reading ‘The Life and Times of Cotton Mather.’ Mr. Silverman has got hold of one of the most colorful men in American history, and he treats Mather with all the awe, sympathy and skepticism that he deserves.”

According to the New Republic, “The author seems virtually to have taken up residence inside Mather’s head and heart and the reader is repeatedly invited to see the world as Mather himself would have done — looking out.”

Mather scholarship, including that sponsored by the Jonathan Edwards Center Germany, has not been uncritical of Silverman’s work. Nevertheless, we owe a great deal to Silverman. He invited readers to think about Mather in all his complexities and contradictions. Generations of scholars accepted that invitation.

The Life and Times of Cotton Mather won the Pultizer and the Bancroft prizes. Silverman, a professor of English at New York University from 1965 to 2001, went on to write biographies of Edgar Allan Poe, Samuel F. B. Morse, John Cage, and Harry Houdini. His biography of Houdini, called Houdini!!! The Career of Ehrich Weiss, American Self-Liberator, Europe’s Eclipsing Sensation, World’s Handcuff King and Prison Breaker — Nothing on Earth Can Hold Houdini a Prisoner!!!, is especially well regarded. At the time of his death, he had completed a new biography of Emma Lazarus.

Silverman had lung cancer and died in New York City on July 7.

— Daniel Silliman

Pennington Award goes to Edwards scholar

This year’s prestigious James W.C. Pennington Award is going to Harry S. Stout, the Jonathan Edwards Professor of American Christianity at Yale Divinity School and the General Editor of the Works of Jonathan Edwards.

The Heidelberg Center for American Studies and the Faculty of Theology of Heidelberg University give the annual award to one outstanding scholar who has done stellar work on the African-American experience in the Atlantic world. The award is named for the escaped-slave-turned-abolitionist who received a doctorate from Heidelberg University in 1849. The award is funded by the With financial support from the Manfred Lautenschläger Foundation. The first recipient was Albert J. Raboteau. Subsequent awards have gone to Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, Laurie Maffly-Kipp, William L. Andrews, and John With, Jr. Stout is the sixth recipient.

Stout has written a number of books of interest to Jonathan Edwards scholars, including The New England Soul: Preaching and Religious Culture in Colonial New England, published in 1986 and The Divine Dramatist: George Whitefield and the Rise of Modern Evangelicalism, published in 1991. He has also edited a numerous critical volumes in the study of American religious history, including The Jonathan Edwards ReaderJonathan Edwards and the America Experience (co-edited with Nathan Hatch), Benjamin Franklin Jonathan Edwards, and The Representation of American Culture, (co-edited with Barbara Oberg), Reading in American Religious History, (co-edited with Jon Butler), and Stories of Faith, Stories of America: Religion in United States History (with Randall Balmer and Grant Wacker).

Stout will be speaking at the Heidelberg Center for American Studies on May 17, at 6:15 p.m. The title of his talk is “Lincoln’s God and the Emancipation Proclamation.” The talk is free and open to the public.

The German Lives of David Brainerd

Prof. Jan Stievermann, Director of the Jonathan Edwards Center Germany, gave a lecture on “The German Lives of David Brainerd: Jonathan Edwards’s Biography and the German Pietist Construction of a Protestant History of World Mission” at the Jonathan Edwards Center at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School last year. The talk is now available for download from the TEDS Edwards Center site. You can listen to it online here.

Here is a brief description of the talk from the TEDS Edwards Center:

“Recent scholarship on Jonathan Edwards and the Protestant awakenings of the mid-eighteenth century has paid much attention to the networks of communication between and mutual influences of revivalist clergy from different churches and regions of the British Empire, leading to the development of what Susan O’Brien has called a ‘transatlantic evangelical consciousness.’ By means of personal contacts, private correspondences, the exchange of devotional literature, and especially through the devotional magazines, early evangelicals across the Atlantic world learned to perceive local awakenings as parts of a single God-inspired phenomenon and to see themselves as members of an international community of Saints engaged in the progressive Christianization of the world. Unfortunately, we still know far too little about the personal correspondences as well as the print- and publishing networks that linked the circles of early Anglo-American evangelicals in Britain and its North American colonies to those of Pietist reformers in Continental Europe. Even less is known about a sense of communal identity that might have arisen from these exchanges. This talk will make a contribution to the comparative study of German-American revivalism by looking at the reception and changing appropriations of Jonathan Edwards’s An Account of the Life of the Late Reverend Mr. David Brainerd (1749) by different groups of German Pietists between the 1750s and the 1850s.”

— Ryan Hoselton

New work looks at Edwards’ exegesis

A new study of Jonathan Edwards puts Edwards’ biblical exegesis in its proper place.

Douglas A. Sweeney, Professor of Church History and the History of Christian Thought and Director of the Jonathan Edwards Center at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, offers a welcome contribution to Edwards studies with Edwards the Exegete: Biblical Interpretation and Anglo-Protestant Culture on the Edge of the Enlightenment.

9780199793228Years of research are apparent in this work, representing the fruit of Sweeney’s determination to understand Edwards through Edwards’ most cherished intellectual and spiritual exercise: biblical exegesis. Setting Edwards in his early eighteenth-century context, Sweeney reminds readers that “Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758) lived in a world strangely different from our own, a world imbued, often enchanted, by the contents of the Bible.” Sweeney doesn’t merely discuss Edwards’ view of Scripture but deals directly with his exegesis—his sources, methods, and conclusions. Sweeney then connects these insights to ongoing discussions concerning other areas of Edwards’ ministry and thought, such as his understanding of christology (in chapter 5) and justification (in chapter 10).

Jan Stievermann, Professor of the History of Christianity in North America at Heidelberg University and the Director of the Jonathan Edwards Center Germany, had this to say about the book:

“Much has been written about Edwards’ life and times, his theology, and philosophy. But so far we did not have a comprehensive study of what Edwards himself would have regarded as the foundation of everything else: his biblical exegesis. Drawing widely from the Edwards corpus, Sweeney offers us a highly learned and nuanced but also very readable account of Edwards’ multifaceted engagement with Scripture in the context of the early Enlightenment.”

Demonstrating the pervasive role of biblical interpretation in Edwards’ corpus and life, Sweeney’s work leaves scholars no excuse for marginalizing Edwards’s exegesis in treatments of his metaphysics, theology, and ministry.

— Ryan Hoselton

New book takes page-turning approach to Salem witches

Just in time for Halloween, there’s a new book out about the Salem witch trials.

It’s not clear  we needed a new book about the Salem witch trials, but it’s coming anyway. The Witches: Salem, 1692, is due out from Little, Brown and Company on Oct. 27. The book is written by Stacy Schiff, who has previously penned popular works on Antoine de Saint-Exupery, Véra Nabokov, Benjamin Franklin and Cleopatra. She won a Pulitzer for Véra: (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov) and achieved bestseller status with Cleopatra: A Life. Now she turns her attention to Puritan New England.

The jacket copy promises a book that is “as psychologically thrilling as it is historically seminal,” and says “the first great American mystery” will be “unveiled fully for the first time.”

Schiff, for her part, acknowledges a lot of historical work has been done on Salem, but says she wanted to take a different approach.

“Most of the really good books,” Schiff told Publishers Weekly, “are thesis driven: it was geographic hostility, or it was the trauma of Indian warfare, or it was conversion disorder. I felt that was cheating. The whole point is that you want readers to want to turn the page—you don’t want to tell them, here’s what you should be thinking . . . I wanted the reader to pick up the hints and put them together. Only at the end do I say, oh, yes—if you saw this and this and this, that’s how the pieces fit together.”

Some early reviews have been critical on exactly this point.

41+p60iyA1L._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_Library Journal Review reports that “Schiff’s goal appears to be creating a complete accounting—it’s hard to tell, though, because the work is weak in structure and organization and lacks a solid thesis.”

Kirkus faintly praises the book for being “intelligent and reliable,” but generally dismisses the effort. According to its review, “While Schiff has marshaled the facts in neat sequential order … she doesn’t have anything new to say or at least nothing that would come as a revelation to even general readers, until the final pages.”

Others found the narrative approach to the story of the Salem witches more compelling. Booklist Review, for example, calls Witches “a compulsively readable slice of Americana that will appeal to both book clubs and a wide variety of
individual readers.”

Some reviewers are also arguing that Schiff’s work is very thesis-driven, even if she doesn’t come right out and declaim it.

In the Minneapolis, Minn. Star Tribune, reviewer Hamilton Cain writes that “Schiff nimbly connects Salem’s fatal mania to subsequent witch-hunts, such as McCarthyism and the rise of Movement conservatism, revealing how close we remain to the specters and demons that stalked the Bay Colony more than three centuries ago.”

At the Atlantic, reviewer Adam Goodheart reports that Schiff re-tells the witch trials as befits “our own peculiar cultural moment.” She places the children at the center of the story, not unlike what one finds in wildly popular young adult fiction, like Harry Potter and Twilight. She also connects the hysteria to, among other things, problems of media and the uneven distribution of knowledge. Demonic possession is imagined as a matter of memes.

“The whole scholarly infrastructure of the 17th century—books, universities, learned societies—helped disseminate accounts of witchcraft and its dangers to the far ends of the Christian world,” Goodheart writes. “The judges in Massachusetts, and probably also some of the accusers, were deeply influenced by accounts of a witch outbreak in distant Sweden some years earlier. Witchcraft was science, and vice versa.”

Readers can judge for themselves at the end of the month. Or, for a sneak peak, check out the extended excerpt of Schiff’s book in the New Yorker.

“In isolated settlements, in smoky, fire-lit homes,” Schiff writes, setting the scene. “New Englanders lived very much in the dark . . . The seventeenth-century sky was crow black, pitch-black, Bible black, so black that it could be difficult at night to keep to the path, so black that a line of trees might freely migrate to another location, or that you might find yourself pursued by a rabid black hog, leaving you to crawl home on all fours, bloody and disoriented.”

Just in time for Halloween.

— Daniel Silliman

Jonathan Edwards in Oklahoma

Jonathan Edwards didn’t know of Oklahoma. The word wasn’t even coined until 108 years after he was dead. But do Oklahomans know Jonathan Edwards?

The question is surprisingly controversial at the moment.

A Republican Oklahoma state representative named Dan Fisher, who is also pastor of a Baptist megachurch, has proposed a bill that would defund the teaching of Advanced Placement United States History courses in Oklahoma high schools. AP classes are taught to about 500,000 high school students every year in the US, putting them on the fast track to college education. The AP guidelines for teaching US history was revised in 2014 and Fisher, like many of conservatives, is critical of the new framework.

“Under the new framework, the emphasis of instruction is on America as a nation of oppressors and exploiters,” Fisher said. “Now certainly we all know that we have our blemishes, and we wouldn’t want to withhold those. But we don’t want only our blemishes taught and not have a balanced approach.”

Fisher says the biggest problem with the new curriculum is what is left out: “the heroes from American history are pretty much omitted.”

One of those heroes, according to Oklahoma House Bill 1380, is Jonathan Edwards. Fisher is afraid Edward, along with others, is being kept out of the US history classroom. The legislation would require that Edwards’ sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” be taught to advanced high school students, along with two other Puritan texts, John Winthrop’s “A Model of Christian Charity” and the Mayflower compact.

Fisher’s proposal was passed last week by the Oklahoma house’s education committee with an 11-4 vote on party lines. The news was met with considerable scorn and outrage. Many on the left see this bill as an example of the American right’s head-in-the-sand anti-intellectualism. Conservatives, it is alleged, can’t handle the truth of American history. They want a of national ideology to overwrite the complexities of what actually happened.

Michael Hiltzik, writing for the L.A. Times, says that “For the right wing, historical truth matters for naught; what’s important is the ideological narrative, and if it fails to match their vision of an America shining the light of freedom and plenty on the world.”

“Oh, that pesky history of ours,” writes John D. Sutter, a CNN columnist, mocking Fisher and his cohort. “Why not just take a big ole’ eraser to it?”

At the Guardian, Stephen W. Thrasher says that this is a perversion of education to political ends. “Holding our children’s futures hostage by refusing them the opportunity to learn both the good and the bad is simply an effort to secure future votes,” Trasher writes, “not help children learn.”

That’s a pretty cynical interpretation of Fisher’s bill. While these are cynical times, there’s nothing in the text of HB 1380 that supports the idea that Oklahoma Republicans would require high school teachers to leave some facts out of their education plans. There’s nothing in the bill that says teachers have to teach America’s greatness without including any voices critical of that national narrative. There’s nothing that says the goal of education should be instilling students with a belief in American exceptionalism.

If you actually read Fisher’s piece of legislation, it proposes that advanced placement history curricula in the state “shall include as part of the primary instruction” documents related to America’s founding. These are, in the main, defined quite broadly. The bill mentions “organic documents from the pre-Colonial, Colonial, Revolutionary, Federalist and post-Federalist eras,” and “United States Supreme Court decisions.” Where it gets more specific, the bill proposes requiring high school teachers to teach a varied list of historical texts in their advanced classes. Some of these certainly articulate conservative visions of America’s special place in the world, but not all. There are three Ronald Reagan speeches on the list, but two by Lyndon B. Johnson. This proposal would require students study women’s-rights activist Elisabeth Cady Stanton and abolitionist Frederick Douglass, John Steinbeck’s class warfare novel Grapes of Wrath and even the words of the black nationalist Malcolm X.

It’s silly to say this legislation would forbid the teaching of America’s dirty, conflicted and complicated past. While Fisher no doubt wants to reject a narrative where America is a “nation of oppressors and exploiters,” he has not proposed a curriculum that would suppress all accounts of oppression and exploitation.

If you read the bill, that’s just not what it says.

Of course, it’s not just Fisher’s critics who seem to struggle with basic reading comprehension. Fisher himself seems to wildly misunderstand the AP classes he’s criticizing. The AP framework doesn’t get into a debate about emphasizing or de-emphasizing “blemishes”; it doesn’t take a position on whether America is a force of oppression in the world or a city on a hill. It isn’t simply political. Instead, the guidelines for the advanced classes say the classes are to teach students how to wrestle with conceptual understandings of American history. The curriculum framework says “students should learn to use historical facts and evidence to achieve deeper conceptual understandings of major developments in U.S. history.”

The first part of this is the development of historical thinking skills. The skills are listed: chronological reasoning, comparing and contextualizing, crafting historical arguments using historical evidence, and interpreting and synthesizing historical narratives.

Something like “contextualizing” can, of course, be political. Historian Andrew Hartman writes that some of the influential historians who have advocated for transnational contextualization of history have had political motivations. In the “longstanding disciplinary efforts to place the American past in a transnational context,” Hartman writes, some have been “quite explicit that such an approach might soften how the nation projects its power to the rest of the world.” They believed that approach to history would have political ramifications. “An international perspective,” they thought, “would be a cure for an increasingly outmoded nationalist perspective.”

Most historians are more circumspect about the political potential of historiography. A more immediate and tangible reason to “internationalize” American history is that it provides perspective.

The Jonathan Edwards Center Germany is an example of this: One of the center’s objectives is to put Edwards in a transatlantic context. Prof. Jan Stievermann, the center’s director, has studied German Protestant receptions of Jonathan Edwards, looking at how the Puritan project was understood by its continental contemporaries. Others, including Prof. Peter J. Thuesen, of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, who gave the keynote address at the Jonathan Edwards Center Germany’s inauguration, have studied how Edwards was influenced by Europeans. Edwards is best thought of, Thuesen said, in a “complex web of connections linking him to the British Isles and Continental Europe — connections involving economic, political, cultural, and intellectual life.”

It seems unlikely that these contextualizations would make anyone more or less conservative. They’re certainly not committed to getting anyone to love America more — or less. The focus, pretty simply, is on improving the understanding of Jonathan Edwards by doing the work that historians do. Fisher seems to think the AP framework, which focuses on teaching skills like contextualization, is incompatible with teaching texts like “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” At least as the Jonathan Edwards Center Germany approaches it, this just isn’t true.

The second part of developing students’ “conceptual understanding” of American history, as outlined by the AP framework, involves organizing American history around big themes. The framework lists seven themes, which are quite broad. One is “Ideas, beliefs, and culture.” Another is “American in the world.”

A conservative might interpret some of these as politically objectionable. One is “Identity” and, according to the framework, that theme pays “special attention given to the formation of gender, class, racial, and ethnic identities.” The first three segments of the Identity section, however, are given to very traditional debates about America’s national identity at the context of the founding and the new republic, the context of territorial expansion and Manifest Destiny, and the context of America’s involvement in two World Wars and the Cold War. Another section focuses on “economic, political, social, and ethnic factors on the formation of regional identities.” Another, migration and assimilation. This is hardly a leftist curriculum; there’s nothing honestly controversial here.

Making honest arguments, incidentally, is one of the skills the AP classes are designed to teach: “Based on their analysis of historical evidence,” the framework reads, “students should then be able to make supportable inferences or draw appropriate conclusions. AP teachers can expose students to a variety of sources to help them draw their own conclusions and inferences.”

To do this, AP teachers assume their advanced students come with a basic knowledge of American history. This seems to be Fisher’s biggest misunderstanding of the courses’ he has proposed to defund. There are not basic classes. These are not classes that every student has to have in order to graduate. They are classes for advanced students who know a little something about America’s history and are ready to be challenged to ask the kinds of critical questions that Fisher himself is trying to ask: How were these narratives constructed? What political influences were involved? How do different focuses change the narratives?

This was a point that several high school teachers who teach these AP history classes in the state have made.

“My job is to help students view multiple perspectives and evaluate what are the merits of each,” Matt Holtzen, an AP history teacher at Enid High School in Enid, Oklahoma, told Newsweek.

Janet Thomas, who teaches AP history at Booker T. Washington High School in Tulsa told the Tulsa World the new framework “requires a lot more critical thinking skills than the old test did …. It’s not just memorization of facts and dates. It allows students the opportunity to compare things across times in history and think critically about why certain things happened.”

If the framework doesn’t mention specific texts that Fisher wants to make sure are taught, that may be because they’re obvious to high school history teachers, according to Eugene Earsom, who taught in Oklahoma for 20 years before becoming the state’s Department of Education’s director of the social studies curriculum for seven years. Asked about Fisher’s proposal that advanced classes be required to teach John Winthrop and Jonathan Edwards and a list of other canonical history texts, Earsom said, “I don’t know of any history teacher who is worth his or her salt that doesn’t teach all of these already.” Edwards might not be taught in the advanced history classes, but that’s because his most famous sermon has already been taught Oklahoma’s high schoolers.

The political question remains open in Oklahoma, as Fisher’s bill is currently being revised, following the backlash. The controversy has already answered another question, though: Oklahomans do know Jonathan Edwards.

— Daniel Silliman

#Whitefield300

After 300 years, George Whitefield is trending on Twitter! Or maybe not trending, officially, but there’s a tweet-a-thon celebrating the evangelist’s birthday and religious historians and reformed evangelicals alike are pumping Twitter with Whitefield quotes and the hashtag #Whitefield300.

The social media campaign is largely organized by historian Thomas Kidd of Baylor University. Kidd recently released a biography of the famous revivalist of the transatlantic Great Awakening: George Whitefield: America’s Spiritual Founding Father, published by Yale University Press. On the group blog The Anxious Bench, Kidd notes that the excitement over Whitefield’s 300th anniversary far exceeds that of his 200th.

“Whitefield is being more thoroughly commemorated this year than he was in 1914,” Kidd writes. “1914′s commemorations were more muted. Of course, all of Europe was preoccupied with the outbreak of World War I.”

The growing attention to Whitefield over the past century parallels the increasing attention to Jonathan Edwards. The correspondence makes sense considering the fact that these two men co-pioneered the revivalist fervor in Britain and America in the early-to-mid eighteenth century. In recent years, historians (such as David Bebbington and Mark Noll) have attributed the emergence of evangelicalism in large part to their influence. Popular reformed evangelical pastors (such as John Piper and Steven Lawson) have commended them as exemplary ministers and spiritual guides.

George Marsden recounts the intriguing beginning of Edwards’s and Whitefield’s relationship in his biography, Jonathan Edwards: A Life. Edwards first wrote Whitefield in February 1740, inviting him to preach in Northampton. Whitefield accepted, and his preaching stirred Northampton just as it had in other parts of New England. Despite his excitement over his congregation’s response, Edwards had reservations about the genuineness of the enthusiasm. When Whitfield left, Edwards preached a series of sermons on the parable of the sower, warning the congregation to test their hearts and not facilely swing from religious zeal to indifference.

An imaginative recreation of Edwards and Whitefield's first meeting (from theblazingcenter.com).An imaginative recreation of Edwards and Whitefield’s first meeting (from The Blazing Center).

Whitefield was more comfortable than Edwards was with zeal and more eager to make use of the latest and greatest communications technologies. One can even imagine Whitefield making liberal use of Twitter and hashtags. Edwards, on the other hand, would more likely worry about the reliance on religious impulses and ecstatic experiences. The two men, despite their differences, advanced the same cause.

 

— Ryan Hoselton