Discipline · Theology

The 70 Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards

Resolution: a firm decision to do or not to do something.

Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) recorded 70 resolutions, self-imposed agreements to help manage his whole life, from his thoughts to his words to his eating and sleeping.

By today’s standards, most Christian’s would balk at such a high standard of piety and probably cry “Legalism!” or “Get Away From My Christian Freedom!”. It’s likely these same people “have enough dust on their bibles to write damnation with their fingers.” Ok perhaps that’s a bit pithy and harsh, but I’ve been known for worse. Besides, Spurgeon said it first, so take it up with him.

It’s no coincidence that a man so devoted to God and willing to take his life seriously enough to order it this way would also be remembered as one of the greatest American theologians. The influence of Edwards is felt today all throughout evangelicalism, most prominently recognizable in John Piper.

I do not believe Christian Resolutions are anachronistic pietism. Considering there are multiple exhortations from the Apostles for us to imitate them and others in the faith that live exemplary lives, I think it’s worthwhile to examine Edward’s resolutions and try to glean as much wisdom for ourselves as we can.

Introduction to the Resolutions

Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do humbly entreat Him by his grace to enable me to keep these resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to His will, for Christ’s sake.

Note: It’s not that Edwards is intending to honor these resolutions for the sake of his righteousness before God. If he were, that indeed would be legalism. Instead, Edwards is recognizing that he is “unable to do anything without God’s help” and therefore his keeping these resolutions is for “Christ’s sake” and not his own. It’s easy to imagine the more Edwards was able to hold to these resolutions, the lower he viewed himself and the higher he viewed Jesus.

It’s important to remember that we work out our salvation with fear and trembling, yes, for it’s a very serious affair, but we do so understanding that it is God who empowers us to both will and to do. This means the right-thinking Christian will attribute all his success to God and expect to earn no increase in merit for it.

“… so far as they are agreeable to His will” is Edwards’ saying he is fully aware in his humanity he might resolve to do something that is later found to be contrary to God’s will. This is simply the life we live with fallen and limited intellectual faculties and must not be overly dogmatic in any assertion we are making outside of the plain and obvious teaching of scripture. How many times have you made an emotionally driven resolution only later to realize you were entirely mistaken and wish to no longer be bound to your words? We must own that is a common experience to us all, and be aware of the danger of it.

That’s it for now. Resolution 1 will be coming shortly.

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