Jonathan Edwards: Marks of a Work of the True Spirit

 

Joe Thorn reminded me of this comparison I gave my students some years ago based on Jonathan Edwards Marks of a Work of the True Spirit. It was at a time when there was some controversy about a revival that had touched several college campuses. Students at my school were anxious because it appeared as if the Holy Spirit had passed over us. When “revival” did come, some questioned whether it was genuine.

I have always maintained that it is not hard to bring “revival” to Bible college students. All you need is a hot day, a chapel service and an open mike. Wait long enough and eventually somebody will take the mike and confess to looking at pornography in the dorm. A round of other confessions will ensue, follwed by copious weeping. If I sound skeptical, it is because I am.

Skepticism, of course, is the default posture of the religious  establishment in every revival. It was the problem Edwards’ faced in explaining the “surprising events” that took place in his church. This explains the mostly negative perspective of his analysis. His work is an apologetic of revival phenomena designed to refute those who claimed that what had happened could not have been a work of God’s Spirit.

This is why I found Edwards to be such a help during the controversy. As a theologian and a natural philosopher, Edwards was a keen observer of both the natural and spiritual dimensions of human experience. He saw first-hand the phenomena he writes about in this treatise. He reminds us that it is ultimate fruit, not the phenomena itself, that should be used to test the genuiness of such activity.

For those who would like to read Edwards’ treatise, here is a link to the full text version on Google Books: http://books.google.com/books?id=f0cBAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA525&dq=marks+of+a+work+of+the+true+spirit&lr=&as_drrb_is=q&as_minm_is=0&as_miny_is=&as_maxm_is=0&as_maxy_is=&as_brr=1&cd=1#v=onepage&q=marks%20of%20a%20work%20of%20the%20true%20spirit&f=false

For those who are interested in learning more about Edwards, check out the Essential Edwards Collection edited and commented on by Owen Strachan and Douglas A. Sweeney (Moody Publishers). Strachan is managing director of the Carl F. H. Henry Center for Theological Understanding. Sweeney is professor of Church History and the History of Christian Thought at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. This project should not be mistaken for a kind of “Edwards for Dummies.” The commentary is beautifully written and does justice to the depth of Edwards’ thinking. These books offer a great starting point for those who want to learn more about America’s greatest theologian but will also be read with pleasure and profit by those who are already familiar with Edwards. To learn more about it check this link: http://www.mpnewsroom.com/?p=941

Special thanks to Joe Thorn for upgrading my original post with the cool retro look. I’m a sucker for parchment.

Advertisements

Published by

John Koessler

John Koessler serves as professor and chair of the pastoral studies department at Moody Bible Institute. His most recent book is The Radical Pursuit of Rest published by InterVarsity Press.

2 thoughts on “Jonathan Edwards: Marks of a Work of the True Spirit”

  1. I remember those events back in 1995 well. Honestly, some freaky stuff went down in the small chapel on Culby 2 back then, and writings of Jonathan Edwards and Iain Murray were very helpful to a number of us at the time.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s