16 June 2007

JE: 90th Most Influential American

Acording to the Dec 06 Atlantic Monthly, Jonathan Edwards is #90 on the list of the 100 most influential Americans in the nation's history. Mark Noll was one of 10 historians asked to compile the list.

"Forget the fire and brimstone; his subtle eloquence made him the country's most influential theologian." True enough (though something tells me it wasn't 'eloquence' that empowered his writing and preaching), and good to see the longtime stereotype continue to be overturned.

But 90? Really? Behind Mary Baker Eddy (#86), Babe Ruth (#75), Elvis Presley (#66), and Walt Disney (#26)? I like Mickey Mouse and home runs are fun in a way, but none of these people have given Americans a life-transforming vision of a Reality-encompassing and -sustaining God while simultaneously delineating the key to human happiness in the quiet contemplation of God's beauty. Heaven will adjudicate significance differently, I think.



ErinOrtlund said...

I don't know about others, but the first time I heard about JE was in high school English class. "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." I just thought, that sounds scary!

Dane Ortlund said...

Same for me - a gloomy, depressed misanthrope who sat around contemplating death and God's wrath, according to my ninth grade lit teacher. But as someone said, he knew his heaven better than he knew his hell ("Heaven is a World of Love" e.g.).

Eric Ortlund said...

Dane - Doesn't the list reflect who was actually the most influential, not who should have been? And surely Disney has (sadly) been far more influential in how we Americans think about God than a real theologian.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the comment E. No, I think when real influence is gauged Disney will be far down the list, and especially Elvis and Mary Baker Eddy. Have hearts been transformed through their lives? Certainly someone like Disney has influenced Americans and other Westerners culturally and in entertainment, and this is not wholly independent from how we as Americans think about God and religion. But the trickle down effect of Edwards through the ages and how he has affected lives, compared with the others I mentioned, is great compared to small, when the criteria that really count, which may be larfgely invisible to unregenerate eyes, are in view.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for reminding me that my labor in the Lord is not in vain, not a waste, not futile, but is filled with impact in actual history -- though I cannot always see that. In fact, I rarely do. But would I really want my role in history to be limited to what I can see, limited to my own lifetime, with no shelf-life beyond? I am reminded to be thankful for the God-given ripple effects of my life that go far beyond what I can see.


Anonymous said...

Where will Ortlund be on this list? That is the question! Edwards had influence in so many areas and the impact he had through his family is astounding! I might have to say the Ortlund family is in some ways a veritable mirror to the Edwards family especially this preacher who is moved out of Churches in order to sharpen the double-edged torch that God has given him to keep preaching the Gospel of God's Grace in the soul of sinner's as a mirror to God's Glory! Preach the Word Preachers and pick up those pens and write with every ounce of beattitudinally broken and blazing blood you have! There is a lot of God yet to be extolled, even until forever!