Would Jonathan Edwards be a popular preacher today? Why or Why not? 

Expert Answers
pmiranda2857 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

No I do not think he would be popular today.  Jonathan Edwards, a Puritan preacher, was best known for his fiery sermons that focused on the unrepentant sinner's fate, burning in hell for eternity.  

The effectiveness of his sermons depend on a full acceptance and belief in God and His power. If a person does not believe that an all powerful, almighty God is going to punish you unless you mend your sinful ways,  then Edwards message has no meaning. 

Most people would not believe a man standing on a corner screaming "The end is near, repent, the end is near."  If you don't buy into the message, you just walk past him and think, "what a nut."   

In Edward's own words:

"There is nothing that keeps wicked men at any one moment out of hell, but the mere pleasure of God." -- By the mere pleasure of God, I mean his sovereign pleasure, his arbitrary will, restrained by no obligation, hindered by no manner of difficulty, any more than if nothing else but God's mere will had in the least degree, or in any respect whatsoever, any hand in the preservation of wicked men one moment." (Edwards)

The Puritans in the 18th century depended on God for everything in their lives. Many people don't have time for God in their lives. While the Puritan existence consisted exclusively of work and worship. They needed to please God with their actions, their community as a whole worked for God's grace and favor.

Today, there is more pleasure seeking without thought of consequence, more greed, and corruption, abuse, criminal behavior of all types.  Edwards would be a fringe preacher, meaning that he would appeal to his small circle of believers. But the fear tactics of the Puritans would not work today on a grand scale.  


afi80fl eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree with the last post, in that I don't believe society as a whole would readily accept his message or his philosophy.  Consider the most successful ministers on television today; do they preach hell and brimstone, or a message of hope, prosperity, and love?  I find that most people want to hear good things, about how God loves them, and how it's always okay to change, and that they're really not all that bad anyway.  Edwards would make everyone feel horrible, as they were all sinners and all hanging over the fires of hell by a delicate thread, as God studied them with a sharp pair of scissors in his hands.

If Joel Osteen, one of the best-selling religious authors and speakers today, wrote or spoke about the fact that our sufferings were due mostly to our own faults, would he have millions of followers?  Or, do you believe these followers appreciate his "you're okay, and that's okay" message?  Now, I'm not bashing the guy; what he says works for a lot of people.  And, that's the point... he's about as far away from Edwards as you can get, and since most people like his message, I think they'd reject that of Edwards or those like him.

It's probably a reason why there are few if any Puritans left today!

amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

What a great question!  It is also a difficult one to answer with any certainty, but based on his passionate convictions, the truth in his sermons, and his dramatic nature, I would vote for "yes".  On the other hand, he tends to be a little over the top with the fear tactics, and he uses a "let me scream this at you" in-your-face technique which would probably turn many parishioners toward other church families.  This having been said, there are enough people with varied interests and learning styles around today to support a preacher like Jonathan Edwards today.  While his delivery style may be overbearing, many would find his truth refreshing.  It's nice when someone comes along who isn't so worried about being politically correct all the time, that is, of course, as long as he isn't walking up and down the beach with a sign screaming, "You're all going to Hell" at the families and other beach-goers.  He would definitely need a church or a TV show.

hadley818 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I often ask my students this question, and the majority say that Edwards would be completely rejected as a preacher in today's society. Edwards' was known for his long sermons...some lasted several hours. Attention spans today are not that big! Many students say they are offended by Edwards' tone and his approach of using fear to persuade his audience is very unethical. The last poster made a really good point about today's television preachers. It seems that they are focused on more positive, prosperous ideas and not necessarily the idea of brimstone and fiery pits, which was Edwards' focus. Of course, Edwards would still have a few followers.

Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

While I agree that Jonathan Edwards would have a fairly limited appeal to today's church-going audience, I also believe he spoke with a passion and a forthrightness which would resonate with some people today.  We're almost almost always moved by people who are passionate about what they believe.  That passion would probably wear a little thin if one actually attended his church, but I'm guessing he'd have a large fan base on an occasional or more distant relationship--such as through television or at a revival or conference.

Read the study guide:
Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question