Wilson H. Kimnach, Caleb J.D. Maskell, and Kenneth P. Minkema, editors. Jonathan Edwards’s “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”: A Casebook. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2010. 204 pages.
This book attempts to deconstruct the various dimensions of Jonathan Edwards’ famous sermon. In other words, it offers the social, historical and theological contexts for the sermon for the novice reader. Even for those practicing Christianity for a long time, the book offers key insights and asides with respect to the text in question. Included in the book are the authoritative/definitive version of the sermon; essays that tell how the sermon came about and place it in historical and theological context. It serves as a sampling of Edwards’ “theological, philosophical and personal writings to contextualize the sermon in the life and thought of the man; a number of contemporary and historical interpretations of the sermon; and a number of lesser devices (chronology, glossary, teaching ideas, and a brief list of suggested readings”. (Kimnach et. al. 12)
Turley, Stephen Richard. “Awakened to the Holy: “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” in Ritualized Context.” Christianity and Literature 57.4 (2008): 507+.
This journal article has a specific focus, namely to elucidate Jonathan Edwards’ sermon in the context of local history and Christian theology. In other words, the powerfully worded sermon was unusual at the time in which it was delivered. It struck awe among the listeners and induced them to introspect on their moral condition. The circumstances preceding the deliverance of the sermon are quite interesting. In the neighboring town of Suffield there was a renewal of Christian faith as evidenced from the addition of numerous communicants to the central parish there. This revival of Christianity spread to regions surrounding Suffield. It is in this context that “a number of clergy had banded together to stoke the fires of revival by instituting a series of weekday services, traveling back and forth between pious Suffield and impious Enfield”. (Turley 115) But nothing in the events leading up to the sermon would indicate the compelling logic and captivating imagery compiled up by Edwards. The surprising fact is that Edwards was not erstwhile renowned for making voracious speeches. Rather his mode of sermonizing is thought to be controlled yet authoritative.
In sum, the authorial team’s adoption of a ritual-theoretical approach “bridges the gap between the published text and the corporate setting of its original delivery in order to account for the sermon’s original efficacy.” (Turley 88) Attention is paid to the language of the pulpit and the psychological effects it has had on the audience. It is insightful of the authors to infer that
“the language of the pulpit occupied the listener’s identity while the numinous experience evoked the need for a covering of one’s creaturely profaneness, thus providing experiential confirmation to the sermon’s content and Christ invitation. The divided self was resolved in the listener’s adoption of the pulpit’s paradigm for interpreting life and the embracing of a new unified corporate order in Christ that embodied that interpretation of life in song and prayer.” (Turley 89)