My interview with Professor Doug Sweeney:
A good review of a book I know pretty well!
Click on any picture below to enlarge.
The Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale is one of the world’s best. Unlike Harvard’s collection, you don’t need to wear white gloves. Once we were vetted, we were shocked by the freedom they give to scholars.
Here are a few things we looked at. First, is Jonathan Edwards Bible. Paper was rare, but Jonathan liked to write…a lot. You will see that the small sheet has the passage of Scripture and then two blank pages to take notes on what he was reading. And did he ever take notes! I did somewhat of a quick count of his handwritten notes on Genesis and each page has about 2500 words! On a similar size sheet of paper I write about 250 words.
Jonathan’s wife, Sarah, along with their daughters, made fans. When the fans were no longer of use, Jonathan would take the delicate scraps and weave them into a book where he could write down sermon notes, etc.
Doreen got choked up when she held Jonathan’s Bible in her hands. The word that kept coming to my mind was “humbling” as you see the great effort Jonathan exerted to make sense of God’s Word.
Fabric from Sarah’s wedding dress.
Our dear friend, Dr. Dave Mahan, is the director of the Rivendell Institute (www.rivendellinstitute.org) and teaches at Yale Divinity. Dave set us up with Susan Howe, who is a world-renowned poet. In 2017, she won the Robert Frost Medal for “distinguished lifetime service to American poetry.” Susan was a sheer delight to be with. We spent two terrific hours at her beautiful home in the country. Susan is candid about not being a Christian, but she is captivated by the beauty and respect for language she finds in Jonathan and Sarah Edwards.
I headed over to Yale’s Sterling library and was thrilled to see they have my first book.
Michael McClymond is Professor of Modern Christianity at St. Louis University. Doreen met Mike in college some thirty-five years ago! She had not seen Mike since, but he happened to be at Yale the same time as us. Mike told us about his various writing projects, one of which he happened to remember quoting my book, The Battle for Hell. Mike is a wonderful guy, expert on Jonathan Edwards, and graciously offered to be a resource for Doreen with her book on Sarah.
Check out Mike’s work here: https://sites.google.com/a/slu.edu/michael-j-mcclymond/
The great folks at the Overseas Ministries Study Center made our time fun and fruitful. Many thanks to Dr. Tom Hastings, Pam Huffman, Pam Sola, Michael Racine, Ray Sola, Judy Stebbins, and the ever present help of Chee-Seng and Sharon!
Check them out at www.omsc.org.
I will close with a foodie picture. This is Nica’s Market (www.nicasmarket.com), a terrific and reasonable place to grab a bite (or many bites!) to eat. The guy behind me seems skeptical about my choices, but trust me, they were good.
Some of you know that we came to Yale so Doreen could begin to do intensive research on Sarah Edwards, wife of Jonathan. Most of you know that Doreen’s first book is on the ministries/marriages of Jonathan/Sarah Edwards, George/Elizabeth Whitefield, and John/Molly Wesley. Doreen’s book is used as a required text by a professor of history and theology at Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS). It is gratifying to hear how the students appreciate Doreen’s hard work. Here is recent picture of Doreen speaking at DTS.
We usually stop in Dallas on our treks back east. Our wonderfully encouraging friends, Bill and Helen Reeves, welcomed us into their lovely abode on our way to New Haven, CT.
Our first big stop was in Knoxville, Tennessee. Doreen’s sister and brother-in-law live there. I was reminded that we were in the Bible belt when I stepped into the restroom of a Christian bookstore. I guess several biblical truths could work like “Go…and Make Disciples!”
We made it safely to Yale. Here is Dr. Ken Minkema, the Director of The Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale. We had a terrific and productive time with him.
I close this log with a few pictures from one of our study locations. These are from the Yale Divinity library.
A peek out our window…
Yesterday, we posted a picture outside of Payne Hall. Here is our living room:
Here is the huge balcony we share with one other apartment:
Princeton is a walking town, so we (gladly) do lots of it everyday. A few pictures of our walk with a couple of the University which is right across the street from the quaint town.
Some spots along our daily walk to the library:
You may have heard me mock pastors who say they are “married to the most beautiful woman in the world.” I like to jest that she must be getting very tired. Well, I think it is fair to say that the day the following picture was shot I could safely say I was married to the most beautiful woman in the library.
Doreen had no idea I was taking a picture, but now she will be on to me. She is doing research on Sarah Edwards, wife of Jonathan. As many of you know, her first book covers the marriage of Jonathan and Sarah, along with the Whitefields and Wesleys. I happy to say that the Princeton library carries her book along with two of mine.
The burial place of Jonathan and Sarah Edwards. Also, the graveyard for John Witherspoon, Aaron Burr, and many more.
My spot in the library:
I am finishing up a thirty-five year study of how to trust God in the midst of suffering. One of my final reads is Ralph Wood’s utterly amazing book on Flannery O’Connor. At my current pace, this 280 page book will have over 500 marginal notes. It is one of the most insightful and beautifully written books I’ve ever read. If you choose to read it, go very slow and bring out your pen!
Protestants don’t tend to believe in Purgatory. I have joked that looking at someone’s photos of their family vacation can feel like Purgatory exists. Hopefully, you will find this log more celestial in nature.
Packed and ready to go:
Dinner (and spent the night) with wonderful friends, Bill and Helen. A great restaurant Bill and Helen introduced us to:
“I think ironically American evangelicals often seem to be more followers of Benjamin Franklin that they are of Jonathan Edwards. They [evangelicals] admire practicality, friendliness, moralisms, easy formulas, and quantifiable results. And while these Franklin-esque traits aren’t all bad they sometimes contribute to evangelical superficiality.”
 George Marsden, “The Legacy of Jonathan Edwards,” Beeson Divinity School, Nov. 12, 2004. Emphasis added. The two major feeder streams coming early into American culture are the Enlightenment and Puritanism. See David A. Hollinger, “The Accommodation of Protestant Christianity with the Enlightenment: the Old Drama Still Being Enacted,” Daedalus, the Journal of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, 141 (1) Winter 2012 and Marshall Shelley and David Goetz, “The Weapons of War: an Interview with James Davison Hunter, Leadership Journal, Spring 1993: 14-15.
My piece on what Augustine, Bunyan, and Jonathan Edwards might have to say about addictions can be found here:
“I have heard it said a thousand times that people seek out religion in order to escape complexity and uncertainty. I was moved and instructed precisely by the vast theater Edwards’s vision proposes for complexity and uncertainty, for a universe that is orderly without being mechanical, that is open to and participates in possibility, indeterminacy, and even providence. It taught me to think in terms that finally did some justice to the complexity of things.”
Pulitzer-prize winning author Marilynne Robinson