May 18, 2018
Below is the transcript of Prof. Pazmiño’s lecture to the new inductees of the Jonathan Edward’s Society:
Jonathan Edwards: His Educational Legacy
Prof. Bob Pazmiño
May 18, 2018
Andover Newton Theological School
Thank you for invitation to speak today wearing my lens as a religious educator in considering what in the world a colonial pastoral leader and theologian might mean for us all today in the 21st century.
In my field of education, Jonathan Edwards was one of 3 pillars of colonial education as adeptly identified by one of my professors, Lawrence Cremin, who was the President of Teachers College, Columbia University when I attended there in 1978 to 1981. Professor Cremin was a devout Jewish leader in NYC, a mesmerizing lecturer and Pulitzer-prize writer of educational history. The other two pillars were Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin with Edwards embodying evangelicalism or religious piety in the Reformed Puritan tradition, Jefferson embodying republicanism (not associated with the current Republican Party) and Franklin embodying utilitarianism. Their legacy anchored the educational landscape of their time as exemplars for the emerging nation of the United States.
As my colleague Mark Heim notes in his chapter “Outside Many Gates: Orlando Costas and the Ecumenical Church” in the work Antioch Agenda: Essays in Honor of Orlando Costas, a work I co-edited along with Daniel Jeyaraj and Rodney Petersen, Edwards was not simply a contextual theologian from New England. Edwards’ insights, thoughts and writings transcended New England to include the world and times well beyond the colonial period.
Edwards was educated at Yale, graduated in 1720, followed by two years of theological study in New Haven, a brief ministry in New York City, a tutorship at Yale, and then a call to the pulpit at Northampton, MA where he served as colleague to his grandfather Solomon Stoddard and then upon Stoddard’s death in 1729, as pastor.
As Andover Newton is about to change its permanent context from Newton, MA to New Haven, CT, what might Edwards’ educational legacy mean for the world, especially for all of you honored today and in the past as members of the Jonathan Edwards Society that bears his very name?
The evangelicalism of Edwards’ time was a new pedagogy connected with an enthusiasm and zeal for God, a piety we would name as spirituality today. The chief end of life was preparation for eternal life following the law discerned in Scripture. Each person was invited to have an internal dialogue with God and to have peace with one’s creator or maker. This new pedagogy was exemplified in his life and reflected upon in his extensive writings. Quoting Cremin “Edwards dedicated his life to comprehending, teaching and acquiescing in God’s unqualified sovereignty, excellency and infinitude.” According to Cremin, the Great Awakening supported by Edwards “has been portrayed as a religious, social and political movement, but was also a large-scale educational movement.” What then is Edwards’ educational legacy for us?
Three aspects of Edwards’ legacy stand out that are invitations for all persons of faith in our turbulent 21st century context. They suggest ways in which Andover Newton’s legacy is transportable or transplantable to New Haven and Yale where Edwards himself studied. Proviso: I will have you repeat the 3 invitations at the close of my talk.
Why are these three elements of Edwards’ educational legacy important?
I think from my observations of 32 years at Andover Newton, these invitations have been embodied at ANTS and more significantly in your lives and ministries as members of the JES.
Invitation 1- Embrace education of the heart
Education of our hearts, along with education of our minds and spirits, is crucial in our time as it was in colonial times. In my own writings, in Basics of Teaching, Edwards is noted for his attention to matters of the heart. The Puritan tradition in which Edwards stood embraced the preparation of the heart as Norman Pettit well notes in his work The Heart Prepared: Grace and Conversion in Puritan Spiritual Life. This day we celebrate your accomplishments of the mind in the academic endeavor of theological education and it is a great delight that will continue at the Baccalaureate service tonight and Commencement celebrations tomorrow. As faculty and staff our hearts are full of joy in this annual event. Joy is evident in your life journeys and the connections of your journeys to both the completion of your academic programs and in your current and future ministries as graduates of Andover Newton.
From historical perspective, the connection of heart and mind was not new to education even in colonial times because it was Aristotle who noted in his writings on Politics, Book 8 and Ethics Book 10 that “educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.”
What Edwards did in the U.S. context was to connect education of the mind and heart to his personal life journey, something many of you did in the Spiritual Autobiography course, in the Seminar of Theological Research and all are doing today in sharing some of your journey. I think all lasting academic research has some autobiographical connection that Edwards recognized and shared in his vast writings.
Proverbs 4:23 admonishes us all “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” We are all called, but especially JES members, to keep and set our hearts so that life can issue forth in a time when the destroyers of life, life as God intended it, are so evident globally and nationally. We are called to transform the destroyers of life in our time just as Edwards sought to do in his time.
We must ask, what is the heart? The heart is the essential nature of our person. For Edwards the heart, as it was for Augustine and the Puritans, is the spiritual core of our being that connects thought, affection and will. For Edwards, God gives new ideas, wisdom and desires in the heart reflecting Proverbs 23:7 (KJV) “As a person thinks in their heart, so are they.” For Edwards to know and love the truth as beauty was essential for all education.
Perry Miller in his biography entitled Jonathan Edwards describes Edwards as an artist working with ideas. In his writing Edwards addressed theological ideas that were the currency of his time. He honored complex ideas and ideals and their connections to the science of his time including Newtonian physics and empirical psychology. The theological ideas of interest to Edwards were the will, virtue, excellence, pleasure and sin. Education of the heart connected those ideas to life and to the hearts and minds of others. By the way, Miller in his work thanks the Library of Andover Newton for supporting his research (I wonder how many of us hear were supported by library staff in their academic work.)
One of Edwards’ resolutions that he began writing while pastoring in NYC when he was just 19 and 20 years old was “Resolved: To follow God with all my heart.” A second resolution: “Resolved also: Whether others do or not, I will.”
You as JES members all have explored and played with theological ideas during your study here. Education of the heart makes integration possible. Integration connects faith, personal and public life and ministry together with integrity. Education of the heart is concerned for the arts of living, loving and dying well in this world. These are as crucial today as in colonial times.
Edwards, as Miller suggests, also saw the shadows and corporate sins of his time that called for clarity and justice from a faith perspective.
First Samuel 6:7 reminds us that “God does not look on one’s outward appearance, but on our hearts,” therefore we can embrace education of the heart.
Invitation 2- Sustain self-education
Edwards along with Jefferson and Franklin exemplified an activist style of education that placed self-education and self-determined education at the core of the U.S. experience. This style was essential in the “new world” for survival and prosperity. It is noteworthy that Jefferson’s extensive library was sold to the Library of Congress that is actually displayed behind glass if you visit.
In many ways, Edwards’ education began after his graduation from Yale. Why is continuing self-education important to sustain? Whereas the content of your academic and theological wisdom may be secure and validated with the credentials of your well-earned degree soon to be conferred, the application and living out of what you have learned varies with your person that needs to grow and be nurtured. It varies with the persons you will be serving in the future. It varies with the particular context of your ministries, the community and society where you will be called to serve.
I know that continuing education can seem more of a luxury in stressful and transitional times, but it is more crucial to maintain perspective. Edwards addressed contentious issues of his time supported by his wide reading, research and writing.
Ezra stands out in the biblical record as a religious leader who in Ezra 7:10 is described as devoting himself to study of the law of the Lord, to observance of the law of the Lord, and to teaching of its decrees and laws in Israel. That required a life time of self-education and continuing education.
To sustain self-education, one must have a “teachable spirit” as Richard Osmer describes in his work by that title. Learn from others both educated and un-educated theologically. Learn from the beauty of nature that Edwards exemplified in his writings. Learn from the shadows of human affairs that call us to deeply care for others and learn from the earth that is our common home. Invitation two, Sustain self-education honoring Edwards’ legacy.
Invitation 3-Affirm our religious affections
Edwards’ writing and spiritual practices honored religious affections. Edwards gave priority to the affections of love and joy and Owen Strachan and Douglas Sweeney identified him as a “Lover of God.” It is noteworthy that First Peter 1:8 was a key passage for Edwards that reads: “Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy.” Edwards’ own description of his aesthetic transformation is a classic that I quote at length in my work Basics of Teaching because of his moving account of loving God while taking a walk in his father’s pasture and experiencing a deep and abiding joy.
In the academic enterprise that we honor today, and in the pursuits of our minds that we affirm in theological education, we may ignore our affections. In being rational, we may forget the passional dimensions of our lives. Today’s event and the celebrations of tonight and tomorrow honor the joy and even lament in a move from Newton Centre to New Haven.
Edwards, like me, considers the affective domain as essential to learning. We can affirm Edwards’ discussion of affections, especially the religious affections of love, hope, faith, and joy, combined with a commitment to truth, all of which are essential. Truth is currently under attack with claims of fake news and altered facts on a national scale, but “truth matters.” (to quote Bill Maher)
In affirming the religious affections we honor the place of spiritual play and imagination that invites us to take a walk, listen to music and even visit a museum, now that you have more time, with new eyes and ears attuned to the beauty of all creation gifted to us. Edwards maintained the connections of affections and feelings discovered in nature, art and music with theological thought and revelation.
Jesus as a Jewish teacher and prophet, reclaimed by Jewish scholars like Walter Homolka, affirmed our affections in his two great commandments restated from the Torah:
From Deut 6:5: You shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.
From Lev 19:18: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
Invitation three, affirm our religious affections.
Here at Andover Newton you have been immersed (as a Baptist I had to include some reference to immersion), in theological essentialism as an implicit educational philosophy in our curriculum. The educational essentials from Jonathan Edwards’ legacy have been shared with you all today. The battle cry of the essentialism is “Back to the Basics.”
All members of the JES, I will have you repeat those basics after me honoring Edwards’ legacy:
1. Embrace education of the heart
2. Sustain self-education
3. Affirm our religious affections
With those basics in hand, mind and heart, blessings for the road ahead.