Why Jonathan Edwards Saw Economic Justice As a Gospel Concern

Greg Forster | August 22, 2016

Jonathan Edwards made economic justice a vital concern in his pastoral ministry, because he saw it as necessary to the proclamation of the gospel of salvation in Christ. Historical memory tends to neglect this aspect of his story. But at critical moments in Edwards’s pastoral career, concerns about economic justice played a pivotal role in his ministry—motivated by his desire for faithful and fruitful proclamation of the gospel.

Today, even those who affirm the need for both gospel proclamation and concern for justice often view them as competing priorities. More attention to one must mean less attention to the other, right?

We would benefit from a fresh encounter with Edwards’s confidence that these two imperatives cannot be separated, and his courage in living out that connection in a costly way.

Economic Justice and Revival

Though revival was always one of Edwards’s main concerns, few moments can begin to rival in importance the revival known as the Great Awakening. Edwards’s community in Massachusetts was part of an international religious phenomenon. His sermons stoking the fires of revival and his books describing its progress were being read on both sides of the Atlantic.

At the height of the Great Awakening, Edwards gave a sermon on how to have “spiritual…

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