Resolutions, Edwards, and a New Year (Part 1 of 5)

Welcome to 2017. 2016 has been quite the rough year. It is that time once again to make resolutions.
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If anyone knows me well, they can tell you that I do not do New Year’s resolutions. I find them quite crude, and I find them to lack any particular vision of the person you, or I, are becoming throughout life. Instead, most New Year’s resolutions isolate a person’s life to this particular year, becoming near-sighted to what is right in front of them. Thus, we make stereotypical resolutions like, “I want to be happier,” or “I want to make more money,” etc. In particular Christian circles, it is common to hear a cacophony of spiritual things, “Read my Bible every day,” or “pray more than once a day,” etc. Most resolutions become sickening to us because we live and perpetuate life as a struggle for immediate results.

Since I finished my Fall quarter at Fuller, I felt the weight of all my studies and the consequent exhaustion and the pressure I put on myself. Thus, I planned to give myself space by removing myself from prepping for the next quarter and reading books that have a dual purpose, i.e. reading books for class and most other books that might enhance the quarter. However, I failed on this determination. It appears I cannot pry myself away from books and putting my hand to paper. I fairly quickly found myself compiling a list of books that I would read during the break. It ranged from nonfiction and fiction, yet I started out with my list of books which I find vital for me to read every year. I needed to finish the last two books: C.S. Lewis’ Problem of Pain and Karl Barth’s God in Action.

After those books, I quickly ran to Jonathan Edwards. Now Edwards, for many of us, has a pretty horrendous depiction of the venerable American theologian and pastor. What I mean is his sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” yet if you get beyond this sermon, Edwards wrote a great many of things to increase the faith of believers and woo his audience to the beauty of God’s grace in Jesus Christ, truly captivating the imagination. (To understand some of Edwards preaching, I encourage you to listen to Dr. Oliver Crisp’s lecture on Edwards Preaching. It is an hour and a half long, but it is worth it. But, I am biased to Oliver Crisp.) One of these works, which is of a more personal nature, is Edwards’ Resolutions.

Jonathan Edwards wrote this list of seventy resolutions while he was completing his preparation for ministry. The purpose of this list was to guide him throughout his life, providing a trajectory for the kind of person he wanted to be. Edwards took the time to pause and reflect on the nature of his work and the lived life he wanted to have while doing ministry. This kind of resolution making process is something I applaud, and I have decided to take it up. I’m not sure if I will even arrive at seventy resolutions. But, I will at least write ten resolutions over the next two weeks. I find this kind of thing appropriate for two reasons. 1) I’m in a similar position of Edwards in that I will soon be finishing up my masters and want to have something that gives me a trajectory for life with God and my neighbor. 2) We are at the dawn of a new year, and I hope to reorient you to another way of conceiving of resolutions.

Now, Edwards’ list of seventy resolutions can appear daunting because many of us struggle to write and accomplish even one resolution for the new year. However, the thought of doing seventy, many of them being daily resolutions, seems impossible. Unlike the resolutions that are self-contained within a year for many of us, Edwards saw these resolutions as his aims for life. Furthermore, the way many people propose their resolutions are impossible to track or truly achieve. Think about it, happiness is pretty elusive. However, Edwards’ sought to make his resolutions as concrete habits and ways of living among people. Thus, the way to truly measure them is through self-examination, as well as being disciplined.

To start this shenanigan, I will write out two of my resolutions, so this more than likely will be five posts. Then, I will give some reasoning for said resolution within each post. Nevertheless, I want to turn our attention right now to Edwards’ opening remarks. Edwards notes that the only way for these resolutions to happen is God’s initiative to bless the work Edwards determines to do to accomplishing them. Instead of imitating Edwards, I rather let the eminent theologians speak for me, acknowledging I have this same plea and hope to God.

Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do humbly entreat God by his grace to enable me to keep these resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to his will, for Christ’s sake. Remember to read over these resolutions once a week. (pg. 17)

Do you notice the precise wording? Edwards does not reject his ability to attempt the resolutions; nor does Edwards neglect God’s pivotal role in Edwards life. Instead, Edwards holds both God’s sovereignty and his ability to pursue x or y. Thus, Edwards asks that his goals would be “agreeable to God’s will,” while God enables Edwards to actually accomplish these things that he wills for his life. Moreover, Edwards brings to the forefront of his mind that all areas of his life must be under control by God and himself.

Resolution #1:
“Resolved, that I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God’s glory and to my own good, profit, and pleasure, in the whole of my life. [Additionally, I resolve] to do whatever I think to be my duty, and most for the good and advantage of [my neighbor] in general.” (pg. 17)

If you have the Resolutions, you noticed this sounds like Edwards. Well, it, in fact, is Jonathan Edwards words, with a minor twist. This resolution captivated my mind. However, I did change up one phrase because I find it truly unattainable. I think it is pretty straightforward, but, for the sake of clarity, I will say a little more. I’m a Christian; I won’t run from that. Because of this commitment to Christ, the epitaph of my life should be one geared toward loving God with my whole being and loving my neighbor. I think for many church goers this becomes very cliche. And it really is, when it is devoid of the immense theological weight. So, I wanted this resolution stated in a different way so as to cause in myself some conflict over what that looks like.

Resolution #2: Resolved, I begin and end my day by writing 500 words.

I suppose this is why many people get a blog because they want to write more. However, I don’t mean for the exercises to be on the blog; instead, I mean with good ole paper and pen. I’m a person who likes to live, think, and reflect on words. It is the vocation I want to do for the rest of my life: to be a wordsmith. Moreover, I want to go get a Ph.D., so it is necessary for me to work well with these nasty little buggers. The hope of this resolution is that from the focused practice I can have some sensible words for this blog or my own academic papers. Additionally, you only get better at most things from concentrated practice, and I am in need of a lot of it.

Published by Phil Worrall

Avid Reader. Ardent Thinker. Avowing Christian. Lifelong Adventurer. Lover of Wisdom.

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